Backpacking in Uruguay: Touring Mercado del Puerto, Montevideo

Backpacking in Uruguay: Touring Mercado del Puerto, Montevideo

I love the global and diverse appeal of markets the world over. Montevideo has it’s fair share and I visited about 4 or 5 markets in the city during my stay there. Whether it’s a food market or a goods market, I love my visits to them.
The best one for food was the trendy “Mercado Del Puerto”, situated down by the harbour in the Old City (Ciudad Vieja). That particular area of Montevideo is apparently a “no-go” area at night for lone foreigners due to poverty and robbery, so my hostel mate Wesley and I decided to eat there just before dark. However we also did an Irish Pub on the way and I later walked Panny Yu to her hostel in that area after I had moved in with my Uruguayan family. The market was safe and cosy and is mostly indoors. Trendy restaurants serving typical Uruguayan barbecue food and local beer are the norm. The atmosphere is fantastic.

The market is well laid out and very clean. You basically just rock over to a seat by each bar/restaurant and order from the bar. Some are slightly more posh with waitress service. We ended up at La Maestranza, a wee barbecue restaurant with a very pretty waitress who I believe was called Natali.

Wesley, who lives in Macao and is from China. I randomly met Wesley in the street in Montevideo and we hung out for 3 days! I hope to meet Wesley again soon, as Macao is only a boat ride from where I now live in Hong Kong.

The beer was Patricia – very popular and thirst quenching in Uruguay.

You buy beer by the bottle and share it in glasses. This is the cheapest option and the beer doesn’t get too hot quickly. At that time (November 2010), Montevideo was enjoying a hot summer.

Main entrance to Mercado del Puerto.
At the entrance to Puerto Del Mercado. We went there by bicycle, hired from the hostel and you pay a guy to look after the bike – this seemed to be the safest option.

You choose what you want from the many items on the menu – as much or as little as you want (and you can buy more if its not enough) and they fire it on the barbecue and cook it in front of you. When it’s ready they put it on a plate and you share it. Wesley and I both had similar tastes so no arguments! We chose Chorizo, Morchillo, Salchincha and Rincon – 4 types of cooked (pork or beef) sausage and meat. You get bread and sauce to eat them with.

The garnish, bread and crackers that come with it is free. So you only pay for the meat they cook and the beer. Tipping is optional, but we left a bit for the staff.

How it’s cooked. The smell is very appetising.

I’m never far from drama however and while this was all happening, a local video crew notice I’m foreign, and hear my accent so they come over and make a video of me. I had only started to learn Spanish and wasn’t great at it. But they ask me what I think of Montevideo. I said that I love the food, I come from Irlanda del Norte and I liked watching Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez in the 2010 World Cup. It was all over in a flash and I got on with my dinner. It was funny yo be interviewed as you can tell the camera crew are giggling at me!

The menu – prices are individual in Uruguayan Pesos. At the time my bus from Parque Rodo to Plaza Independencia cost me just 17 Pesos, and a 1litre beer was 100 Pesos so you can see the barbecue was quite cheap for what you get. Some of the options were meal deals, but Wesley and I chose the “pick and mix” idea, choosing our own and sharing them. We did this in order to get some variety for our money.
The chefs.
Some photos of the market around us, including the pretty waitress Natali sitting at the bar.

Devouring my awesome Uruguayan feast – the first of many I might add as I spent 3 weeks in Uruguay.

The market has an upstairs as well and I just popped up to capture a photo.

Our restaurant – La Maestranza. Well recommended. Seriously, as foods of the world go – you will love it! Uruguayan Parrilla (pronounced Parisha by the way). Yum!

Where – La Maestranza, Puerto Del Mercado, Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay

Cost – Around 300 Pesos each (Less than 10 British pounds per person all in, including the beer) unless you eat a lot more than we did!

What – A lively mix of pork and beef (and chicken) barbecued with spice and in different ways

Comes With – Bread, sauce and crackers

Beer – Patricia (100 Pesos for a large bottle which we shared – 4.8%)


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