Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
REALNEO Knows and Loves: West Side Market... "Best in World"
Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 02/19/2006 - 19:48.
"The Best Market in the World" is how a vendor at Basketeria describes the West Side Market, and he's close enough for me. Historic, striking, convenient, accessible, friendly, quality, fresh - a landmark and asset beyond measure - the West Side Market is a regular part of the lives of people in NEO who live right.
"Best Market in the World", says this Basketeria vendor
Even though NEO has some nice other farmers-type markets, like the Coit and Miles Markets, and the 'burbs have nice, new McMarkets, not all of them combined offers the variety and quality of food found at the West Side Market, and none of them approach the degree of authentic, rich, sensory-overloaded, inspiring, congenial community offered at W. 25th and Lorain.
Dressed for the "Best Green Beans in the World"
Regulars, you know what I mean and can just scan my picks and pics below. But, if you don't hit the Market at least once a month, read on... a trip to the Market is easier and a lot more fun (and cheaper and way better) than hitting your 'burban chain food-warehouses, especially when bundled with a few more activities in the area (hit Talkies or Great Lakes, Whiskey Island, Hecks, Tremont... email me at norm [at] realinks [dot] us if you need more suggestions around the corner).
If not the world's best, the bison at Russ is close enough...
Parking around and at the West Side Market is usually easy - the lot can get crowded at busy times but on off days and hours you can find street parking nearby or in the parking lot get close to the Market and be in and out in no time. There are many approaches to shopping here - many people start by grabbing a brat or hot dog and going in the balcony... I tend to go to the same specific vendors that I know and love... shop until I can't carry any more bags, and then hit the car and home to cook up some things I bought.
While there are a number of fish vendors, I shop most at Kates - always fresh, clean and helpful - my catch of the day was fantastic, huge, sweet dry scallops
I like to start shopping inside, where I tend to load up on smaller, lighter items that are easier to lug around... lots of people bring little carts to ease this load. I'll usually start on about the same route each visit. First stops... bison at Russ, seafood at Kate's, and bacon and smoked meats at Kitchen Maid... can't lose.
My mom always bought Kitchen Maid ham when I was a kid, and it is still as good - nice to have such connections with the past in NEO
My favorite bakery is just across the aisle - Vera's! Sweets on one side and savory on the other - Europe comes to mind, as is so fitting in this place in Cleveland. Try the multigrain bread with pumpkin seeds, if they have any left... I missed out on that this week but scored a nice baguette.
All good at Vera's!
From here I realize I am far from a creature of habit, as the sights, smells and creative impulses of the West Side Market can draw me in any direction. Consider this is where the chefs shop and shop like a chef - what looks fresh today... what haven't I tried in ages, or ever? There are so many specialty vendors with new worlds of flavors to explore, I set out for a nice compliment to scallops... and am very pleased by Ohio City Pasta's offerings of saffron pasta and lobster cream sauce.
Ohio City Pasta has been around (in the West Side Market) long enough to take credit for elevating NEO's appreciation for how amazing pasta can be, for several generations
One key to great cooking is using fresh, high quality herbs and spices and for the dried variety you can't beat Urban Herbs. I make a point to stop here each time I'm at the Market to add a few items to my pantry - it really is better to have five kinds of salt than just one... try the pink Hawaiian Sea Salt next!
Variety is the spice of life, and I like it hot - Urban Herbs has 1,000s of fantastic herbs, spices, grains, rices, beans and scores of peppers of every heat
When shopping the Market, timing is everything... and hitting it around 3PM in the afternoon has distinct advantages. If you're looking for a bargain, many vendors want to dump what they have left... if you're in a hurry, the crowds are long gone. On this Saturday, I was done buying my essentials in a few minutes and just poked around the market for a while to see what else caught my eye.
Rita pickles peppers, and everything else imaginable... pregnant paradise!
Rita caught my eye with a glittering case of bright, perfect olives and peppers and pickled vegetables that calls out "you want me" - while I can usually resist, the fresh muffeletta salad connected with me and brought thoughts of New Orleans and Mardi Gras and I thought how few (if any) places in NEO can I get muffaletta salad and I gave in - and it is as good as in New Orleans. And it is time to head out to the fresh produce area, before I am tempted to any other distant stands.
The folks at Chuppa's are extra- friendly and they always have great quality
Buying produce can be tricky, at the market. Quality varies from stand to stand and it is not unusual to have a few rotten apples or strawberries at the bottom of your bag when you get home,if you are not careful. That said, if you know how to buy fresh fruit and vegetables it is hard to do better than the Market. My first fresh temptation is perfect, thin, firm asparagus at Chuppa's - a reliable and friendly stand.
Kristi's is the place for potatos, onions, garlic, and shallots, and yes the fresher the better applies to 'taters! Kristi's is the best!
Another stand I've gone to since I was a kid - right by the door to the parking lot - Kristi's has the best assortment and quality of potatos, onions, garlic and such in the area. It is worth stopping here last and piling 20 pounds more great food on before hitting the car (or RTA, in which case 10 pounds may work better).
If DeCaro's says they're the world's best green beans, I'll believe em... even in mid-February (these are from Florida)
But before heading out, don't forget to shop down the back side of the produce area - over by the flowers (bought your significant other flowers lately???) - where some of the best produce is found. I couldn't pass up the green beans and veiled vender at DeCaro's, and it's hard to imagine anywhere but Basketeria to find organic turnips and so much other goodness. Time to head home and eat. Meet me at the West Side Market in person next week... Saturday at 3?
To feel extra-good about shopping at the West Side Market, make sure you stop by Entrepreneurs for Sustainability awarded organic and natural foods produce masters Basketeria.