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Officially known as the Ernesto Pugibet Market for the street its on, the classic San Juan Market can be a little difficult to find. Built on the old Buen Tono cigar factory site, you’ll hear that name for the San Juan Plaza at times. The market and plaza are so-called for the Christianized name of the neighborhood, “San Juan Moyotlan” – Moyotlan being the Náhuatl name for the even older neighborhood in Tenochtitlan, even then meaning “neighborhood of mosquitos.”
San Juan, the market, is most famous for selling “gourmet” foods, and in Mexico, that tends to mean imported and European foods. Indeed, the market does have hard to find canned and preserved foods – and an excellent selection of deli-style meats and cheeses. It’s also very well respected for the long-time relationships maintained by the butchers and fish-mongers. The market is a favorite among many of the city’s more upscale restaurateurs, too. You can find all kinds of products from other states of Mexico, plus some things from Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Often most impressive to visitors are the fruit and vegetable stands where produce is often more polished than in similar markets. It makes for great photos. And the vendors are also generous with samples of their fare, which is, of course, fresh and delightful. Weekends, you may just find the market actually crowded with international and out-of-town guests.
Originally a temporary marketplace for vendors displaced by a 1933 reorganization of city marketplaces, this site used to be a warehouse for Buen Tono cigar factory. The Buen Tono church just around the corner on the Plaza de San Juan is all that remains of that once very important local manufacturer.
For reasons known only to the vendors themselves, there’s not much by way of Mexican food. Lunches are primarily “baguettes,” although these can be rather good if you find yourself craving salami. Better baguette counters will even offer you a small glass of wine. Dessert can be a magnificent Italian mascarpone on a bit of toast with a dab of rather delicious rose petal jam. If you’re planning on lunch, remember, there are two Mercados de San Juan, and the other, Mercado de San Juan – Arcos de Belen is a very different experience.