The last time I was excited about a public market, it did not end well. Despite immense community support, the San Diego Public Market folded after just two years, but since then, another has reignited that fire–Liberty Public Market! You can find an updated list of shops here.
When JP asked how a public market differs from a farmers market, I realized I never had to vocalize it, and went on to do a pretty poor piecemeal job. To avenge myself:
public market: n.; a year-round, carefully crafted, intentional and diverse medley of owner-operated shops, stalls and/or “daytables.”
“Year-round” is probably the most important distinction because it creates a sense of permanence for the former that the latter lacks. Now, back to the program! I went three times opening week and each visit was very different from the last. I have to say that it was semi-disappointing that not all the shops were ready and open, but it’s great that ALL of the shops are local.
Visit #1: Tuesday, March 22
JP and I went for dinner and it was semi-busy, but the items we tried were sub-par. Granted, there are some growing pains and hiccups during grand openings, so I’m willing to give each another go-around. I mean, Pike’s Place didn’t become what it is today overnight, right?
What will undoubtedly be the most frequented shop, it offers the majority of the seating in the market aside from the patio. By far, of all items that we tried, this was the most delightful, as expected. With over two dozen taps, it’s hard not to find at least one flavor for your fancy. JP and I order two beers, enjoy it while walking around the shops looking for our meal. There’s something classier about walking around with a plastic cup when it’s not red.
The most disappointing experience was here. I order a Parmesan pretzel and say yes to having it toasted. I wait a few minutes and nothing. Trust me, I’m a very patient person, but I just know when something goes awry. I want to be proven wrong, so I wait even longer. Eventually, the cashier looks at me apologetically and grabs my pretzel… untoasted… without my dip. At that point, I am already over it so I choose to fight only one battle. I grab my deli mustard, squeeze bottle for sure, and leave. The pretzel tastes stale, dry, and for the first time, I didn’t finish it. I left food behind! Yes, this is serious!
NTC’s very own butcher shop serving all-natural meats, but we try their slow-roasted pork sandwich. The bread istough and the meat, though tender, is bland when it isn’t too sweet.
There is a full-service restaurant adjacent to Bottlecraft that serves a daily-evolving menu made with only items found at the market. It’s a neat concept and the menu that day looked fantastic. If only I had seen it before I made my choices–some meat and cheese boards and an array of flatbreads.
Now, you no longer have to wait for them at your favorite farmers markets. We try three of their empanadas–beef, margherita, and chicken–and the filling of the first is the best. The rest was decent, less because of the filling but more because of the crust–it is slightly dry and overcooked. They have three sauces and, by far, the best one is the cucumber one.
I do like how they brand each empanada with initials so you know which one you’re getting. BF no longer stands for Best Friend; it now stands for beef. Or maybe beef came first. Hmm…
Visit #2: Friday, March 25
GTL and I haven’t had our regular lunches together in months, so it was nice to do that and give the new market a second chance. It wasn’t even my idea! The universe works in mysterious ways. =)
If anyone knows me, they know one of my vices is caffeine via the coffee bean. I try the cold brew on nitro and am not disappointed. Even the guys have banter, so I can get two fixes in one visit. There’s good flavor and they have other offerings like tea as well. Most notably, they have liquid sugar on the side, an exciting alternative to the packets.
This is what I really wanted on Tuesday, so today is the day! GTL gets the tacos (comes in threes), which are excellent, but I have always been a fan of the lobster roll. However, even though I have only tried the cold with-mayo version, today, I feel like venturing out, and try the warm with-butter Connecticut version. It’s quite good, but I now know I prefer the cold version. We both go for the mac and cheese and agree the lobster is great, but the pasta isn’t special. I am expecting the meat to be mixed in, but instead, it is just a healthy topping, a saving grace.
Eating here does come with a hefty price tag with market price meat, but I think it’s well-worth the try.
Visit #3: Tuesday, March 26
An old friend, QT, came into town whom I haven’t seen in a year, so of course I said yes to meeting up! The public market has quickly climbed the ranks in places to show out-of-towners, so luckily one of her friends recommended it too.
After throwing back some beers at Stone Brewing, we took a lap around the market. She had a big dinner, so we just perused and I bought myself a regular coffee this time. This gave me an opportunity to check out the other shops, take pictures, and see what else opened that week.
Their display went from whimsical to stocked. I don’t know which I like better. You? [Fishbone Kitchen]
I don’t know about you, but fresh pasta makes me so happy! [Pasta Design]
One of the more aesthetically pleasing displays, naturally, and what do you know? My favorites! [AE Floral]
It was all I could do but resist these scrumptious snacks. [Le Parfait Paris]
They’re still putting finishing touches on the market. I love how he’s doing it by hand. Kudos to you, sir!
I thought this was neat: a digital wall of trending local and public market news.