This gracious, airy market, originally a train station built in 1868, is surrounded by cafés and souvenir stands. The best shopping deals are on locally made shearling items. The price: roughly a quarter of what they’d cost in the U.S. and Canada (e.g., bootie-style slippers are about $10). Vendors accept neither plastic nor bargaining.
Mercado del Puerto houses a few food shops and more than two dozen eateries. Restaurant choices run the gamut from bistros with brick walls and potted palms to simple beer-hall-like spaces with butcher’s paper-covered tables to counters whose high stools face flaming grills called parrillas.
One good choice is Cabaña Veronica, offering both a beer-hall-like dining room and a long grill counter.
Its drinks are Uruguayan: red Tannat wines, hard cider called sidra, or Patricia-brand beer. A dozen cuts of tender Uruguayan grass-fed beef include thick, marbled bone-in rib-eyes and succulent skirt steaks.
A side order of chile-sparked chorizo pork sausage or morcilla sausage will not be regretted. Morcilla comes in two varieties: earthy black and delicious, cinnamon-laced sweet.
Then there’s the chivito, Uruguay's favorite snack, a steak sandwich on a Frisbee-sized bun. Choose your toppings: ham, bacon, mozzarella, tomato, grilled onions, fried egg. If this irresistible creation is Uruguay’s national nosh, why is this country not a world power?