Market Scene: 77 Flea Market in Brownsville, TX

[Photographs: Meredith Bethune]

Don't believe anyone who says going to the 77 Flea Market in Brownsville is just like being in Mexico. Yes, it's located very close to the border, but the large selection of cowboy hats and boots and Rio Grande Valley delicacies like hot Cheetos smothered with queso should serve as a pretty good indicator that this particular market is distinctly Tex-Mex.

Several stalls sell hot Cheetos topped with Texan queso—a Rio Grande Valley specialty

The market operates every Saturday and Sunday from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. in a dedicated covered space located near an elevated highway. One hot weekend afternoon, we snaked through the rows of over 2,000 vendors, who sell a vast array of electronics, clothing, books, herbal remedies, sunglasses, piñatas, kitchenware, jewelry, bags, chickens, parakeets, hamsters, and, of course, food.

Homemade emapandas de cajeta were the highlight of the trip to the flea market.

There were piles of produce including nopales, avocados, tropical fruits, and Rio Grande Valley oranges and grapefruits. Mexican food trucks pull into their spaces with tables and chairs, forming makeshift restaurants. Vendors ringing bells weave through the market selling paletas and other frozen treats. Strangely, there are also plenty of state fair-themed foods, like funnel cakes, pizza, and chili powder-dusted spiral potato chips on sticks. The highlight was the empandas de cajeta—flaky homemade butter cookies filled with subtly salty caramel. Don't pass those up if you're ever in Brownsillve—I'm considering driving back just for another round. Click through the slideshow to see the sites.