Food Fight: marranitos

Mercado Central and Burrito Mercado marranitos.

Mercado Central and Burrito Mercado marranitos.

There may be no Mexican sweet quite better than marranitos (Am I right or am I right?), the molasses cookies improbably shaped like pigs that are a panaderia staple. Like any recipe though, they vary. Texture, flavor, moistness -- even in how piglike they appear -- depends on where you get 'em. We put two heavy-hitters mano a mano and here's what we found.

Burrito Mercado wins some serious points for appearance. No question that's a pig, and an adorable pig at that, with an almost cherubic quality, and a glossy sheen. The flavor, unfortunately, doesn't rise to the occasion. It is merely sweet, with barely any detectable molasses or spice characteristic of marranitos (cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg are common additions). Its texture is spongy, almost yeasty. Cost: 69 cents each.

Mercado Central's marranitos, on the other hand, look basically like dull, warty, misshapen ovals. They could have been thrown Jackson Pollock-style onto a cookie sheet. However, their heft alone tells you they are a force to be reckoned with. (I weightlifted my bag of three as I walked out to the car.) They taste terrific, rich and dense like a awesome brownie, with distinct molasses and spice. Cost: 65 cents each.

The Winner: Mercado Central, hands down. Despite their somewhat off-putting appearance (which is, admittedly kind of a big deal. You want your pig to look like a pig g-damnit.), at the end of the day it has to come down to taste. They're also four cents cheaper apiece.

Burrito Mercado 175 Cesar Chavez St. Paul Phone: 651.227.2192 Hours: Mon-Sa. 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sun. 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Mercado Central (Panaderia El Mexicano) 1515 E. Lake St. Minneapolis Phone: 612.728.5401 Hours: 6 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily