Café Mercadito Latino
219 Henderson Hwy.
If you want to feel the love in every single bite of your food, visit Café Mercadito Latino.
At the back of a little Central American grocery store, five eclectic tables with rickety chairs set against a kitschy backdrop and a loud, buzzing fridge create a strangely cozy ambiance where you’ll be exposed to the authentic flavours of El Salvador and Guatemala.
Begin your evening by taking a look at the display shelf fastened to the wall of all the bottles of hot sauce the owners have collected.
Rest assured, you’ll be in good hands, hot sauce-wise.
OK, now it’s time to order a (non-alcoholic) drink.
It’ll take a moment to decide, as the drink menu is extensive.
Because they didn’t have the cinnamon and rice drink I had originally ordered, I opted for the waiter’s favourite, “Tamarindo,” which mixes the sourness of tamarind fruit with extra sugar, ice and water.
It turned out to be a refreshing recommendation.
Café Mercadito Latino is famous for its papusas, which are essentially tortillas stuffed with cheese, refried beans and/or pork.
However, I am telling you here and now this place ought to be famous for more than just its papusas; they’re a hit, but they’re no one hit wonder.
The menu makes it really easy for you to try different things, so take advantage by ordering one of the various combination platters. They’re priced between $8.50 and $13.50, and they include three or four different kinds of food.
Mine had rigua, tamale and papusa.
A rigua is sort of like a corn tortilla, but made out of a corn paste, and is served with refried beans, coleslaw and salsa, while tamale is corn dough (and sometimes meat, cheese or beans) wrapped in a husk, and served with sour cream or salsa.
Corn was the name of the game on my combo plate (number 13). Other combination plates included burritos, enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas and many other options that I look forward to tasting.
When my meal arrived at my table, the owner and chef came to explain all of it, and to point out which sauces to eat with each food.
At first, I mistakenly thought that the portion was a bit small, and I regretted skipping out on an appetizer.
However, as I ate I realized that the portion was not skimpy at all, and that the food that I was eating was the kind of food that expands in the belly. So much, in fact, that by the time I had finished my combo, I felt like I needed to be rolled out of there.
There is a reason there is no dessert on the menu.
Since it’s better to grocery shop on a full stomach, take a gander at the market on your way out the door.
After all, “mercadito,” is Spanish for “market.”
There’s nothing else quite like Café Mercadito Latino in Winnipeg, and it’s only a short bus ride from downtown.
Not only is the food here to die for, but the owners of Café Mercadito Latino are lovely.
This is a family owned and operated restaurant (and market) worth supporting.
Café Mercadito Latino is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Published in Volume 67, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 28, 2012)