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Mercado San Augustin in Tucson

November 7, 2013 , , ,

I was told that Tucson’s Iron Chef had left Lodge on the Desert to be the chef at a new brasserie opening west of downtown Tucson at the Mercado San Augustin. The space will be renovated before opening, but I decided it was time for me to investigate what is happening at the end of the trolley line.  For years Tucson has poured tax dollars into urban renewal known as Rio Nuevo to update and improve downtown.  This often stalled project is finally showing some signs of progress.  Next year we will have a short, but very cute tram that will run through the University, downtown, and end on the west side of the freeway exactly at Mercado San Augustin.  There is building like crazy at the end of the trolley line; Residential condo lofts are being erected.  The area is showing obvious signs of growth.  The Mercado is part of that development.  New and highly desirable businesses are springing up along what will be the route of the trolley. I am encouraged by what I found at the last stop.

Mercado San Augustin is modeled very much on the open markets of Mexico.  In fact, on Thursday afternoons there is a farmers market held in the courtyard.  The small stands and store fronts offer unique food choices along with clothing, art, and jewelry.  There is a communal kitchen available for rent to producers of food products who need  reasonably priced access to a professional facility in order to  create small batches cost effectively.  I sampled two kinds of cake at the Dolce Pastello Cake stand.  Both the caramel and the chocolate were rich, delicious, and reminded me of Mexico.  In fact, the whole open mercado with snow cones, coffee specialties, and a cake stand reminded me of Mexico when I was a kid and visited open markets with my parents.  I used to be crazy about the markets in Guadalajara and Mazatlán in the 1960’s.  So in a certain way my trip west of the freeway was a flashback.  You might also say that I have seen some good news for the future of business development of downtown by using a sense of history and place.

I talked with María Elena about Day of the Dead, which was just last week.  The altar is still up at La Estrella Bakery where she works. There are still sugar skulls in the case for sale.  We talked about how the holiday is celebrated and why it is a chance to teach children that death is not something to fear.  Business is good at the bakery for this holiday because pan de muertos is featured on home altars, and sugar skulls are not found in the regular bakeries around town.  La Estrella has wrapped up a very busy Day of the Dead season, but customers stream in for hot tamales, baked goods, and basic grocery items from around the neighborhood.

What do you think?

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It’s a fascinating part of the US, one I know very little about!


November 8, 2013

Conquistadores and Jesuits..



November 8, 2013

love the mercado….. wow.. such cool stuff. Love your photos


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

November 17, 2013

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