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Apr 10, 2008 07:34 AM

SF Civic Centre Plaza Farmers Market: worth a trip?

I have come across a couple of mentions of this Sunday market but not on CH. Is there a reason for that, ie. is it missable? If not, what is good? (FYI, we will be hitting the Ferry Plaza FM hard on Saturday, April 19). TIA.

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  1. The Heart of the City Farmers' Market, as it's called, is both Sundays and Wednesdays, and definitely worth going to. Wednesday is better than Sunday because there are more eats like All-Star Tamales, Art of the Falafel and the waffle truck there. It has it's share of organic vendors (and some of the same ones as the Ferry Building FM), but overall it's priced more for real people and is stronger in Asian produce. Grab a length of sugar cane from the Hmong vendor!

    The best game in town, IMHO, is the Alemany Farmer's Market (it's almost as old as me), but it's a PITA to get to by public transportation.

    1. Are you shopping or looking for a tourist destination? Civic Center is not a particularly charming area, and the farmers' market is functional, selling fresh staples rather than charcuterie or organic produce. I'd go there if I needed mushrooms or salad greens on a Sunday and had forgotten to go to Alemany.

      1. As a visitor (I don't remember how long your trip is), I don't know that I would say it's a must. However, it does give you a different point of view of markets in this city.

        I've written about this a couple of times for Bay Area Bites -- I love this market. I particularly like that Phan Farms (Asian vegetables from near Sacramento) and De Santis Farms (really great, unique citrus from the Central Valley) attend this market.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Fig Newton

          Thanks, all. I'm going to try to fit this in, as I do enjoy FMs and it sounds like it would be an interesting counterpoint to FPFM. Too bad we're not going to be there on a Wed, XY, but will definitely get some sugar cane to gnaw on as we walk. I've heard about Alemany and it sounds great but the transpo issue has precluded a visit on our too-short (only 4 days this time) visits so far. Windy, we've been to the area before to enjoy the wares at Larkin Express Deli and ogle City Hall, so are mentally prepared :-). Great review, FN -- I've added your blog to my growing list of resources for good things in the Bay area!

          1. re: grayelf

            I agree, FN's review was very informative, though wrong on one score: the Alemany Market is much older, dating back to 1943 (as kind of a municipal "Victory Garden") and has been at its current location for more than 60 years. I posted a link above which has a fascinating account of its history.

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              Thanks XY, I wonder if the technicality about the "oldest farmers market" may be when they were certified ... I'm sure someone originally told me that fact but I'll have to check my notes.

            2. re: grayelf

              There are numerous reports on Chowhound about the Civic Center farmers market ... I know since I did a few.

              That being said, Windy summed it up exactly. It is for locals to buy produce at a lower price than Ferry Plaza. However, there won't be the unique products that Ferry Plaza offers.

              Since you like farmers markets then it would be worth your while. I like farmers markets so I visit them great and small. The vendor that sells almonds is both at Ferry Plaza and the Civic Center and they are very good.

              Otherwise I wouldn't direct a visitor there ... or Alemany ... because how many of you folks going to buy lettuce or a live chicken.

              1. re: rworange

                rwo, clearly I need to brush up on my searching skills -- I couldn't find anything on it, doh. As for buying a live chicken, prolly not (might be construed as a weapon on flight home) but would love to see some again in a market... shades of mercados in Mexico.

                1. re: rworange

                  As far as unique goes, when was the last time you bought balut at FPFM, or a length of sugar cane, or a live chicken, or a even Belgian Waffle from a truck. At HOTC you can also get three or four of All-Star's excellent tamales for the price of a plate at Primavera.

                  "how many of you folks going to buy lettuce or a live chicken.".

                  Any vendor at FPFM will tell you they also see more of their share of lookie-loos, too: "Kee-rist, Marge, would you pay $4.00 a pund for THOSE ugly tomatoes?"

                  At let's face it, RW, some of us have a soft spot for Farmers Markets that make a positive social contribution, and don't simply indulge gourmands.

            3. A unique product is those almonds ... sold both at FP and HOTC.

              A visitor cannot buy these online. They are not sold outside this area. No one grows a finer almond. It is something a visitor can easily bring back home.

              Walk into almost any Mexican market ... US or Mexico ... and fresh sugarcane is available. Any area with a Filipino population will have balut.

              This is not the only place in the country to buy live chickens ... though the thought of getting one of those by airport security to bring home does have a certain appeal to me.

              There are prepared food vendors at both markets that have their pluses and minuses. I've had those waffles at the Oakland market ... they aren't all that. I'm no Primavera fan.

              You know from my constant rants that I dislike FP because it no longer really accomodates the farmers like it did in its old location and is more geared to visitors.

              A visitor to FP will have a larger take-home selection available of a number of local to the Bay Area products. If someone is interested in just being a lookie-loo it depends on what they are looking for. I always go to farmers markets as I said because I think they are colorful and it interests me. HOTC isn't even representative of the local farmers market scene ... which I can say having visited almost every one in the Bay Area. It is a market that caters primarily ... and thankfully ... to the lower socio-economic demographic and people living in SF looking for a bargain.

              The poster in question is like me in that he/she is interested in farmers markets. I said in my other post that for that poster it seemed like a good stop. I in no way discouraged that. For other visitors I would also gage their intent to recommend or not.

              2 Replies
              1. re: rworange

                FWIW, I loved the FPFM when we went in November as tourists, but at the time posted elsewhere that I would go every weekend for produce, fresh products, meat etc if I lived in SF. Maybe that is only because I haven't had the opportunity to check out the other FMs in town but I was very excited by the selection, quality and myriad organic options, not to mention the many things to nibble in situ. The prices didn't strike me as too crazy, perhaps because I was comparing them to our FM prices in Vancouver and they were pretty similar (random sampling). The "real" FMs here pretty much only sell organic so the costs are higher. It would be interesting to see a farmers' market that DIDN'T focus on organics, and if that means that mostly neighbours shop there, that's cool with me. It might be a chance to observe the locals in one of their natural habitats, something we often miss as visitors :-). As for uniqueness, I don't remember seeing sugar cane at FPFM, and since I haven't seen it in a FM period, for me that would be unique. So I'm thinking both FMs back to back would be great for different reasons. Now let's hope I can pull it off.... visit too short... too many things to see/eat/do...

                1. re: grayelf

                  Then you should go. The FPFM is like Neiman Marcus, and the Civic Center market is like Target. There's a lot of great stuff there, just isn't the same demographic. FWIW, I used to work farmer's markets growing up in SoCal and I can tell you none of them looked like the FPFM - CC is much more representative of an "everyday" market.

              2. I like it. Alemany's bigger, yes, but the setting at Civic Center's more majestic (and much more accessible via public transit).

                I think a fine (low key) day would be to spend a sunday would be to take BART to the farmers market, walking to the blue bottle kiosk in Hayes Valley, walking back, shopping, then going north on Larkin, grabbing a banh mi, and then turning onto polk, walking out to aquatic park, and then walking back to the ferry plaza via either embarcadero or chinatown/north beach.

                In other words, it's missable, but you'd be missing a part of what makes SF SF. It's worth going to for the contrast, if you like farmers markets, and if you want to see another side of the city (one less touristy).