With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hartford Business: El Mercado Grocery

El Mercado grocer was not on the Sad City Supermarket Guide, but the Mexican restaurant Cuchilandia has been the subject of fawning both on this blog and on the radio. Yesterday we finally tore ourselves away from Cuchilandia and tried the Dominican restaurant right next to it, El Gran Dominicano. We also figured while we were exploring we might as well do a mini review of the supermarket since we are there at least once a week.

(Ed. Note: El Mercado is on the corner of Park and Babcock)

Rating: A Full Six-Pack
Pictured is one of the two lunches we ordered. A plaintain stuffed with ground beef and something we aren't sure what it was (we are very fond of just ordering things that look good without bothering to ask; it's all about the adventure), but it was very soft and doughy on the inside and also stuffed with ground beef. This plate and a bottle of water cost $5.50 and was more than filling enough for lunch. It was an excellent and a unique lunch. The second lunch ordered was a chicken dish with a heaping side of of rice and beans. Also excellent and more than an ample portion, this plate cost only $7.

The Good: A wide variety of Latin American and tropical groceries and produce that can't always be found in other stores. Unlike a small specialized bodega, El Mercado is a true supermarket in which one could do all their grocery shopping (and get lunch) if they wished.

The Bad: The grocery store can get quite crowded. The aisles are narrow and displays in the middle of the aisles can make them difficult for more than one shopper to navigate. The parking lot is also poorly configured with only one entrance and exit and when busy cars are literally jockeying for position to get in and out. It is best to park on Babcock Street if the parking lot looks busy at all.

BONUS: Since there are two great lunch places inside, there couldn't possibly be more right? Wrong again. El Mercado has another handful of small businesses operating within. Really it's like a little mall inside a grocery. There are a lot of religious icons in the store. From the pictured decoration in the food court to the store selling Jesus t-shirts, hats, and other knick-knacks religious icons are all around.

For futbol fans there is a good deal of futbol jerseys also offered for sale. Inexplicably, hanging amongst the futbol jersey are a couple of Jacksonville Jaguars #52 jerseys. We have no idea what that means or why they are there, but they are. There is also a music store offering CD's of Latin artists, a gold seller/buyer and a notary all under one roof. El Mercado really is a one-stop shopping experience. Sad City highly recommends a visit to El Mercado. Located on Park and Babcock.