Eat your way through Malaga’s refined and friendly food hall, which includes 22 fast-casual concepts under one roof.
The Mercado de la Merced is a short stroll from the famous Plaza de la Merced, where a monument erected in honor of General José María de Torrijos and 48 of his men stands. Torrijos was executed by a firing squad on the beach of San Andres by the order of King Ferdinand VII in 1831 after a failed attempt to overthrow the regime. Incidentally, the square also contains Pablo Picasso’s birth home, which is now a museum.
A destination within itself, the Mercado de la Merced boasts a variety of eateries preparing and selling delicious regional cuisine in a casual setting. It also has stalls that sell adult beverages, and Jo, Wally and I shared a bottle of El Nomada Rioja from Taninos Vinocateca.
We sat on colorful bent steel and wood barstools, designed by the innovative studio Design Club. The three of us shared empanadas, wine and mini ebelskiver pancakes.
Suffice to say, we returned a second time and probably would have returned a third had time allowed.
Here are a few of our favorites stalls at the mercado:
1. Beher Iberian Ham
This prized artisanal ham from the family-run business Beher is cured for at least 30 to 42 months and is made from black-skinned pure-bred pata negra (black-hoofed) Ibérico pigs so named for the hoof that accompanies each ham.
What makes this distinctive, silky textured meat unique is that the pigs roam freely in dehesas (ancient oak groves), grazing on grass for 18 to 24 months. When the oak trees drop their acorns in early fall, the piggies gorge solely on an acorn-rich diet until they reach their kill weight of 360 pounds.
I always look forward to the luxury of enjoying Iberian ham when we visit Spain, and it's incredible to watch it being expertly hand-carved.
2. Carnes & Cía Grill
One word: empanadas. Carnes & Cía brings the flavors of Argentina to Málaga. The empanadas are filled with meats that have been grilled Argentinian-style over coals, yielding tender morsels of smoky and succulent meat. Did I mention that they are accompanied with homemade chimichurri sauce?
There’s no denying that I have a sweet tooth and will always say yes to dessert. One of Pof’s specialties is delicious homemade mini ebelskiver pancake puffs, a treat originating from Denmark. Six warm, pillowy puffs are made to order and topped with a dulce de leche sauce, a dusting of powdered sugar and sliced strawberries if you’d like — what’s not to like?
While we were waiting for ours, Jo remarked about the young woman working there who was wearing a floppy white chef hat.
“How can she wear that on her head and still look cute?” Jo wanted to know.
The young woman reminded me a bit of Anna Paquin. We watched as she whipped up the mini pancakes. There were a few burnt ones sitting in the center of the multi-row concave pan the batter is put into.
“Well, that certainly isn't selling, it,” said the ever-candid Jo.
We never made it to the mercado during the day but saw an entire section of stalls that act as a farmers’ market during the day, where you can shop for fresh seafood, fruit, vegetables, meat and more. Wally and I, of course, were delighted with the whimsical designs on the closed stalls — it was fun to guess what lay within.
¡Buen provecho! –Duke