While traditional food markets have been the mainstay of countries in Europe and Asia for centuries, residents of North America have been able to hold their own with some truly world-class venues offering artisanal products and fresh, heirloom produce. Here are 10 of the most famous, historic or unique markets in North America.
1. Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, Boston
Faneuil Hall grew out of the older Quincy Market as the city’s food choices expanded. Today both locations offer visitors and Bostonians alike a veritable food playground. Faneuil Hall has dozens of sit-down restaurants with cuisine as varied as sushi, pizza, seafood and ethnic choices such as Greek, Indian and Chinese. There are also food stalls with produce, grocery items and homemade food, as well as specialty shops selling one-of-a-kind items.
2. South Street Seaport, New York City
This Manhattan institution is the location of little cafes, shops and engaging street performances. Historically, it supplied the city with freshly caught fish, but now entertains tourists and locals alike with its variety, as well as being an excellent place to catch a harbor tour. A small town-style farmer’s market is held here on weekend days, providing fresh produce, meats and dairy products. There are also special events such as cultural festivals and concerts.
3. Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, San Francisco
This market is held near the waterfront every Saturday and reflects the Asian influence on the city in the ready-made street foods on offer. Customers will find delectable Korean and Japanese finger foods in addition to the more commonplace hamburgers and hot dogs. Unusual produce from foreign countries can be found in more than thirty vendor stalls. Mushrooms, pomelos, squash blossoms and cactus pears head the list of unusual ingredients.
4. La Merced Market, Mexico City
A bustling and vibrant microcosm of the city itself, this market offers the very best of fresh produce, as well as ready-to-eat food items as it has for hundreds of years. Extending for several blocks, the market is covered and protected from the elements. There are hundreds of stalls with dozens of different blends of mole sauce, handmade gorditas and sopes, exotic herbal ingredients and even housewares and clothing.
5. Pike Place Market, Seattle
This world-famous market is a century old and encompasses nine acres in total area. Customers will find antiques, clothing, flowers and artisan-made craft items, as well as superb and unusual produce and a dazzling array of seafood. Storefronts offering traditional Chinese medicine and handicrafts can also be found. Customers should plan to arrive early in order to have their pick of the finest items, as this market is popular and fills quickly with avid shoppers.
6. Crescent City Farmer’s Market, New Orleans
Held on Saturday mornings in New Orelans’s warehouse district, this farmer’s market focuses on fresh produce and locally caught seafood. Expect to find unusual ingredients such as goat meat sausages and heirloom fruits and vegetables, as well as freshly caught catfish and crawdads. There’s always fresh bread to be found, as well as artisanal goat cheese, pastries and even potted varieties of heirloom plants, so customers can grow their own fresh ingredients.
7. Union Square Greenmarket, New York City
Union Square is the city insider’s go-to place for finding bargains of all kinds, and this farmer’s market held Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday is no exception to the rule. Nearly 1,000 different varieties of seasonal produce are on offer, grown only a few hours north of the city and harvested, in some cases, only a few hours before arriving at the market. Unusual cheeses, cider, Amish-made butter, obscure produce varieties and dozens of different ready-made street foods will keep shoppers enthralled.
8. Jean-Talon Market, Montreal
Located exactly in the center of the city, this public street market offers fresh local produce as well as top-notch imported items. Expect to find fresh cheeses, maple syrup and poutine right next to prime Venezuelan chocolate and olives from Greece. Vendors thoughtfully offer free samples so customers can make an informed decision. The market is located near Montreal’s Little Italy, so there are many Italian ingredients on offer as well.
9. Green City Market, Chicago
This seasonal market moves indoors during the frigid winter months, but spring through fall is the perfect time to sample some fresh and unique items in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The organic produce here is purchased by some of the city’s top chefs, and customers will find items as widely varied as steaks or sausages made from elk meat and artisanal cheeses. In the winter, look for the market in the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where the market’s 55 vendors continue to sell their excellent wares.
10. St. Lawrence Market, Toronto
This market is housed in two buildings that each have their own distinct purpose. St. Lawrence Market North is the site of the weekly antiques and farmer’s markets, while St. Lawrence Market South specializes in vendor stalls that house delis, bakeries, fishmongers and meat shops. An endless array of produce and food items is on offer daily at the market. There are also special events hosted by the market that seek to educate customers in cooking techniques and ingredient preparation.
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