Is It A Farmer’s Market? Is It A Food Court?

No! It’s El Merkado at Koral Center
BY: LACEY STORER

Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to pick a place to eat and everyone in the group wants something different? Well, now there’s a solution to that. El Merkado, located at Koral Center on the Corridor between San José and Cabo at Km. 24.5, features more than 20 food stalls that have enough options to make everyone happy.

Pretty much anything you could want, they have. You can feast on tapas, barbecue, oysters and seafood, gourmet hot dogs, pancakes, sushi, gelato, pizza, baked goods and, of course (this is Mexico after all) tacos. The Office has a small cantina located on the bottom floor and Pan Di Bacco has one of the larger spaces, with a walk-up ordering station inside and a space that offers table service (the only table service in El Merkado) in the courtyard.

Upstairs there’s Blosson Brothers brewery, where you can see the vats of Pale Ale, Stout, IPA and more as the beer is cooking. Downstairs is The Wine Co., a temperature-controlled wine cave where you can taste pours of wine from around the world before buying a bottle of your favorite.

There are also a few places you can buy stuff to take back to your own kitchen. There’s a Santa Carmela market - it was still getting stocked when we visited, but has your basic American needs: your Coco Puffs, your Skippy and of course your Kraft mac and cheese. There’s a produces stall (but they could use more of that) and a small meat and cheese stall too.  Down the center aisle are several kiosks and carts offering small trinkets the ladies will appreciate, like jewelry, purses, soaps and teas. And if you feel like throwing a party, there’s even an event space with a bar that you can rent!

El Merkado is like nothing else in Los Cabos. It’s two stories of polished concrete, wrought iron finishings, with period light fixtures, the biggest damn ceiling fans you’ve ever seen, and even an old-timey cage elevator, all under a very cool corregated tin roof. This sophisticated space is filled with communal tables and dining areas so you can make friends with the people eating next to you. It looks and feels like something you’d see in some trendier cities in the States, which is sure to please some tourists and expats.

Opened last month, El Merkado has everything it needs to be a hit with both locals and tourists, except for one thing: An ambitious marketing plan. Right now the marketing team is relying solely on social media. You’d think that a new location this big would want to make a splash with radio, TV, print ads, skywriting … Or even a large sign! The “El Merkado” that’s painted on the side of the building (a silver metal structure that looks more like a poorly-executed fake warehouse than the cool place it is) is easy to miss as you’re zooming down the fourlane.

So far, it seems this social media-only strategy has gotten El Merkado off to a slow start. Some of the restaurant owners aren’t thrilled with the lackluster amount of business they’ve seen so far. They’ve banded together to brainstorm more ways to drum up business, and have come up with ideas like Arts & Culture Wednesdays and After Office Thursdays. They’re also talking about hosting singers and bands to draw in the crowds on their pretty patio.

“We’re not getting the people we should, but I think the place is beautiful,” says Fernando Hernandez, owner of La Osteria, the tapas stand in El Merkado. (He also owns another La Osteria restaurant and the Tequila restaurant in San Jose.)

There has been a strong show of support from the San Jose side. Fernando says people there were really excited about El Merkado opening since the city doesn’t have a main gathering space like Puerto Paraiso in Cabo.

Parking is a big issue. El Merkado is a TMO (typical Mexican operation) and doesn’t have adequate parking. They’re allowing the merchants to gobble up all the parking spots when they get there in the morning, which means you have to go on the hunt.

If you’re looking for something new to try, go ahead and take a drive out there. The variety is great and so is the ambience, and both make it worth the trip, and you can easily spend an afternoon sampling everything El Merkado offers. If you’re not on social media, the only way you’re going to hear about it is through this article so pass it around to your friends!