Whenever I travel to a new city, I like to visit the market to get a taste of the local culture. This is easy enough in Europe and Asia, where nearly every town has a market. I’ve sampled fresh honey in Portugal, cured meats in Madrid and langos in Budapest; bahn mi in Vietnam, miso katsu in Japan and murtabak in Singapore. My mouth waters thinking about all those delicious treats!
It can be hard to find a comparable market in the U.S., where Wholefoods and Walmart still reign. This is slowly changing, as some shoppers switch from big suburban grocery stores to weekend farmers’ markets or have farm-fresh produce shipped directly to their homes through services such as The Fruit Guys. Another shift is taking place in the cities, where old indoor public markets are being revitalized. One such building is the West Side Market in Cleveland.
Opened in 1912, the beige brick Cleveland landmark was fully restored in 2004 and has become a major tourist attraction in part thanks to features on cable television. In fact, I first learned about the market through an episode of “Man vs. Food” where the host enjoyed a gyro at one of the 100 stalls.
After browsing the outer arcades packed with gorgeous fruits and vegetables, we wandered the aisles and marveled at the diversity of regional specialties on offer. While we wanted to sample one of everything, we limited to ourselves to two dozen handmade pierogi and some Irish soda bread to enjoy at home. Then we queued up with several dozen others for lunch at Steve’s Gyros; the lengthy wait was forgotten within the first few bites. The pillowy pita was stuffed with succulent hand-carved lamb and beef and doused with a tangy tzatziki sauce that took the gyro from great to extraordinary.
Before leaving the historic market, I couldn’t resist an Ohio Buckeye cupcake, a fun twist on the popular candy. This place would be trouble for me if I lived any closer!
Note: Most of the photos in this post were captured with my new camera – my very first DSLR! Just three of the photos were taken with my old point and shoot. Can you tell the difference? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!
What are some interesting markets you’ve visited around the world?