Cultures around the world each have their own distinctive version of the public market. The Middle East has the souq, in Asia it's the night market, and in Mexico it's the Mercado. Established almost 50 years ago in Boyle Heights, El Mercado de Los Angeles is arguably the most authentic example of this sprawling Mexican market to be found north of the border. Despite its nickname, “El Mercadito,” or little market, there's nothing little about it, with three floors packed full of vendors hawking all kinds of Mexican wares. Food stalls offer elote, aguas frescas, raspados, churros and more, while clothing and craft shops have cowboy boots, traditional dresses, pottery and piñatas for sale. In the produce section, you can take home a wide selection of moles, meats and spices, as well as hard-to-find Mexican fruit, cheese and confections. Once you get tired of wandering the aisles, head upstairs for a sit-down meal at one of several restaurants, including El Mercadito Mariachi, which features performances from dueling mariachi bands. Outside in the parking lot, a large shrine dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, watches over it all.
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