As in many cities, the tradition of outdoor food markets continues in Montevideo. On any day of the week there will be a market taking place somewhere close to your location. Just ask the staff at your hotel, a neighbor in your building, or a local shopkeeper – but don't use the direct translation of the work market, or mercado.... these are referred to as "ferias" in this part of South America.
It's a great local experience to walk through one of the ferias.... which mostly sell fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meat and fish. If you have access to a kitchen, you can save a bit of money by shopping at the feria. You'll also find just about any other edibles and household items you may need, as well as an assortment of clothing and other things. Some of the larger markets will also sell some touristy things such as t-shirts and hats.
Foods to look for include local cheeses.... especially "Colonia" cheese, which is much like a mild Swiss cheese. You'll also find local versions of other European-style cheeses, including parmesan, Sbrinz (aged and tangy), or Dambo (creamy and mild).
Don't expect to find a great range of tropical fruits despite Uruguay's close proximity to tropical zones; it's simply not the tradition. However, you will find a good selection of more local fruits and vegetables year-round. If you're seeking certified organic foods you won't find those at the neighborhood market, but there are a number of natural and whole foods stores scattered around Montevideo.
Some of the more notable local markets are:
Tristan Narvaja – Held every Sunday year-round, this is actually a huge outdoor flea market, although food is also sold in the central street. It’s not to be missed. See the separate entry on this feria.
Villa Biarritz – Held in the park of the same name on Tuesdays and Saturdays, this large market is a mix of food, clothing, crafts and household items. It’s in the neighborhood of Punta Carretas, so before or after visiting the market you’ll have plenty of options for restaurants and shops in the area.
In the Old Town you can also visit the more touristy Mercado del Puerto, which really isn’t a feria, but rather a collection of restaurants and tourist shops.