What to eat at the world’s best food markets
These venerable emporiums offer fresh, seasonal food with a taste of local culture.
Despite the increasing presence of supermarket chains on our streets, the humble old market is still going strong. Local shoppers visit regularly to pick up superior produce with a traceable lineage, while food-loving punters come from near and far to wait in line for whatever fabled foodstuff has most recently set Twitter alight. Food is just one part of a market's appeal, though. These places, often animated and occasionally scruffy though they are, serve up a slice of real life.
In the world’s most gastronomically inclined cities, the big-name markets are particularly tempting – and particularly labyrinthine. The level of choice can be baffling. So before you become bewildered by Borough or baffled by La Boqueria, check out our guide of what to eat and where.
Borough market is London’s biggest and best food market. But with the ceaseless crowds it attracts, it’s easy to overlook the top traders. From Brindisa’s beloved chorizo and rocket roll to Roast to Go’s roast pork and crackling sandwich – which gets the stamp of approval from superstar chef April Bloomfield – the cooked-to-order food gets lots of press, but the fresh produce here is not to be missed.
“... The true greats and the true heart of the market are the stalls focusing on particular and very special British products," said Sean Cannon, whose Cannon and Cannon charcuterie business regularly trades at Borough.
Among the standouts of those products are the Gorwydd Caerphilly stall, considered a towering champion of British cheeses. "To those who have not had the pleasure, this cheese is a world champion, and it is the only product available on the stall," Cannon said. "It has a creamy and undeniable 'tang.'"
Street food is an overused culinary descriptor. But here in the relaxed and informal setting of this Brooklyn-based outdoor market, street food not only fits the street food criteria – that is compact, quick to prepare and fit for immediate consumption – but it’s also delicious.
Caroline Mak of Brooklyn Soda Works, who sells a seasonal selection of fresh soda and sparkling juices on tap at Smorgasburg, recommended the lumpias (Filipino spring rolls) of Lumpia Shack. “They're super inventive and the ingredients are always top-notch – high-quality meats and fresh ingredients. Plus their sample plate is great for sharing, which is what Smorgasburg is great for – bringing friends and family to the market, and everyone gets a plate to share.”
Mak's favorite for the first meal of the day is Hash Bar. “They are run by the fantastic acclaimed restaurant, Egg, which as you can tell from their name, are focused on breakfast and brunch foods. Farm fresh eggs with your choice of meat on a potato hash ... yum!”
Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem
With a profusion of tantalizing smells and a cacophony of sounds, a trip to Jerusalem’s prized market – known locally as the shuk – is never dull. Once a tumbledown bazaar selling the best of Israeli produce, it has been spruced up of late. Now, trendy craft beer bars and internationally skewed establishments (think fish and chips, veggie Indian cuisine and espresso bars) have joined the coterie of produce traders, and its international profile is rising.
Among the selection of places to eat in and around the market, superstar Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi singled out Rachmo for its soulful home-style cooking, describing it to the New York Times as being “simply a worker’s eatery – as simple as it gets – but it’s buzzing with people eating in or taking the food to go.” Ottolenghi also sang the praises of the market, telling Food & Wine magazine that it is “A rowdy, modern restaurant that typifies everything that’s delicious and original in the current food scene. There’s some groundbreaking dishes, such as hamshuka – a deconstructed kebab – and tons of energy.”
La Boqueria, Barcelona
If you enjoy eating at all, there will be something to please you here in the busy belly of Barcelona. With its heaped mounds of fresh fruit, rows of hanging jamón ibérico and endless supply of produce, this market has proved such a draw for out-of-towners that big tourist groups are reportedly banned so locals can take care of their shopping.
Counter cafes and tapas bars serve the freshest of fare, and two names tend to crop up in blogs and online reviews again and again: Bar Pinotxo and El Quim de la Boqueria. The chef behind the latter, Márquez Durán Quim, sums up the enduring appeal of food markets, saying, “When I travel abroad, I always go to the markets of the different places because it is there, in the markets, where you really find the essence of the culture of each country."
Among the dishes at El Quim that have food bloggers raving are the BocaQuim sandwich (pork loin, asparagus, onion confit, Modena reduction and fried egg) and the mushrooms in port wine. With limited bar stools and plenty of hungry souls wandering around, you’ll have to hover around El Quim and wait for a space to open up.
Pike Place Market, Seattle
As emblematic of Seattle as the Empire State Building is of New York or black cabs are of London, this boisterous market is one of the city’s top tourist draws. But no amount of tourist hype can diminish its status as the city’s premier culinary destination. Out-of-towners go for the spectacle of the fish market, where burly overall-clad mongers fling around their fish, but there are also plenty more old-fashioned artisans here too, as well as low-key traders quietly testing out delicious new concepts.
Erin Andrews of indi chocolate, which trades in the market, named Uli’s Sausage as one of her current personal favorites, but suggests visitors go there with an open mind. “The market is much bigger than you would think, and the best way to explore is to get lost. Come visit us in the Down Under section and you’ll be surprised at all the market has to offer.”
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:
Related Topics: Travel