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Mercado Hidalgo
Calle Victoria, Rio District, Tijuana

Just when you thought all of Tijuana's Zona Rio was turning into San Diego­style shopping strips, Mercado Hidalgo saves the day. You don't think of traditional central Mexican market squares and Tijuana in the same breath, but Mercado Hidalgo has become just that. Open-front shops around a town-square­like space bulge with foods and spices and piñatas and clay dishes and fresh cheeses and papayas and bananas and strange fruits, such as cherimoyas, and zapotes. People strip down eight-foot stalks of sugarcane, while others de-spine cactus paddles that look like green beavers' tails. Scattered through it all are regional restaurants like El Rincón del Oso, where goat meat is the thing. You can even take home grinning, skinned goat-heads to boil up for soup. The fruit shops have six different kinds of bananas and sweet edible cactus fruit (tuna) brought up from Zacatecas. The zinger is, in the middle of the square, sparkling clean public restrooms, and, built on top, a blue-domed chapel for the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patroness of the market.

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