Mercado Little Spain: A Taste of España in New York

We had just descended from the nature-architecture combo of the High Line, an elevated greenway and park in western Manhattan, when two of my sisters Ana Fe and Honey suspiciously remembered they needed to run some encargos–orders or pabilins to the uninitiated. You see, we were informed some beloved aunts–of no blood relations, but of choice—together with their octogenarian full-of-life close friends, have furnished a kilometric list of well-being creams, skincare lotions, perhaps specialty ointments—all top-of-the-line, only available and sold in better exclusive ladies stores. Hudson Yards was just the perfect haven for quality. We, the accompanying gentlemen suspected it was just an excuse to shop. We will never know.

Edu Jarque, the author, at the street entrance.

When the pair went off to accomplish their mission, we noted a sign that spelled out Mercado Little Spain. Intrigued, it was our best discovery of the day. The name sounded vaguely familiar, as I recalled it was immortalized in Forbes Magazine as one of the 10 Coolest Places to Eat. In short, Mercado Little Spain has often described as a love letter to this European country. We learned this location within the concrete jungle was established by Chef José Andrés, twice included in Time’s 100 Most Influential People List, awarded the Outstanding Chef and Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation—among many other accolades. Not to mention the two Michelin-starred minibar.

He was aided by his friends and colleagues Albert and Ferran Adrià, brothers who are both established in their culinary fields and were the force behind the classic El Bulli, a Michelin three-star restaurant repeatedly voted as the top in the world for several years.

Mercado Little Spain is a culmination of their culinary genius and offers the best products tapping heirloom recipes and the most desirable restos of the country—all under one roof. It was a definite ode to the largest and well-known mercados in Spain. We have memories of La Boqueria in Barcelona, which was established in 1217, and San Miguel in Madrid, which garners 10 million visitors annually, with 7 Michelin-star chefs on site.

A chef works on his specialty paella.

Reminiscent of the marketplaces, what awaited us was a bustling scene for family and friends to gather and socialize while surrounded by the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of España. And mind you, this was not during their peak hours. Just imagine how lively this sanctuary would be at Tapas O’clock.

The Market proper—the heart of the entire operation—were faithful representations of farm stalls and food stands, restos, and bistros, wine bars, and dessert parlors, from all over the nation. As a matter of fact, we sighted a huge map that detailed the specialty of each Spanish region. This attracted a lot of the Spaniards either residing in the city or on tour.

We even overheard one traveler boasted that a certain dish had the best version in his pueblo. Another one proudly praised that nothing can beat her Abuelita’s paella. Suffice to say, the pride of the place was very much alive, wherever we turned.

The roots of Spanish food, as illustrated by infographics, come from the plains and mountains, where veggies and fruits, livestock, and poultry are sourced and the sea—home to 3000 miles of coastline and 3000 ways to prepare seafood masterpieces.

Read the full story written by Edu Jarque in Lifestyle Asia’s November 2020 edition titled, Rising Together.

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