One of the staples of Mexican cuisine (and of bar menus north of the border), the quesadilla can be found on almost every street corner and in every neighborhood market in Mexico City. Those served at Mercado San Cosme in Colonia San Rafael, however, redefine the quesadilla. Indeed, while this neighborhood market is far from being the city’s largest or most famous, it’s worth visiting just for a chance to eat at Quekas, an eatery housed in the market that makes some of the best quesadillas we’ve had in the city.
Quekas serves food on two floors of Mercado San Cosme, which is located on the northern edge of the neighborhood along busy Ribera de San Cosme. The ground-floor location – a small streetside stand where a few aproned women make fried quesadillas to order – mainly serves people on the go; there is no real seating and customers eat quickly while standing up. For a more relaxed and slower dining experience, we prefer to head up to the second floor, where there are several tables and chairs along with a second quesadilla preparation area. This location offers traditional table service and slightly more “atmosphere” (as in several large, flat-screen televisions mounted on the walls that almost always have a soccer game playing).
The restaurant serves a limited menu that includes tostadas and pambazos, satisfying sandwich-like concoctions created by filling bread that’s been soaked in pasilla chili pepper marinade with meat, potatoes, cheese and lettuce. But what Quekas is best known for – and what brings us back so often – are their quesadillas. In Mexico City, quesadillas are usually just corn tortillas folded over fillings and then warmed up on a flat griddle. (The tortillas used for quesadillas in Mexico City are always made with corn masa, unlike in Northern Mexico and Tex-Mex cuisine where flour tortillas are more commonly used.) Those at Quekas, however, consist of corn masa that is pressed into a round and slightly thicker patty, topped with ingredients, folded into an empanada-like half-moon shape and then deep-fried until crisp and golden-brown.
Quekas serves 15 different types of quesadillas, with a whole range of stuffings. Our favorites include the chicken quesadilla and one stuffed with potato, but we are also quite fond of the requesón (a type of Mexican cheese that’s similar to ricotta); the picadillo, made of potato, beef, carrots and peas; and the flor, which contains squash blossom. More exotic flavors include the huitlacoche, a black and gray corn fungus with an earthy, strong mushroom flavor, and the sesos, or pork brain. The flavorful crust of the quesadillas at Quekas, meanwhile, plays a starring role on its own, with a pleasing texture that’s crispy but also just a bit chewy.
The quesadillas can be served plain, but we prefer to order ours preparada, topped with lettuce, crumbled cheese and a bit of sour cream. Quekas’s quesadillas are not large – about the length of the palm of a hand – so we tend to order four or five in one sitting, with a couple of each of our favorite flavors. Not only are these quesadillas amazingly delicious, they are also highly affordable. Plain, they run just 7 pesos each, while quesadillas preparadas cost 9 pesos each, or still less than a dollar apiece – perfect for ordering a large batch on the spot and then taking some home for snacking on later.
Simple, yet so tasty, the fried quesadillas at Quekas are a reminder that great things – and great meals – can come in small packages.Address: North end of Mercado San Cosme (on Ribera de San Cosme between Gabino Barreda and Altamirano), Colonia San Rafael Telephone: +52 55 5535 1948 Hours: 10am-11pm (photos by Ben Herrera)