West Side Market Cleveland
Has anyone ever been to the west side market in cleveland? i am going tommorrow for my first time and i want to know the best places to go! meats, dairy, bread, produce etc.. thanks!
Good lord yes, I would venture to say that MOST of our Cleveland CHers have been to the market. I myself go every other Saturday. It's quite busy there, which can be good for a newcomer as you're forced to move more slowly and look at what's around you. Everyone has their favorite stands and can make their own recommendation but half the fun is figuring it out on your own, even if things are "eh, that was ok, probably won't go there again."
I will start off by saying that we almost never buy produce from there. As I understand it, they buy from the same place that the large grocery stores buy from, but they don't get to pick what they want til the big guys have made their selections, so sometimes it's of questionable quality or at least must be used very promptly. Never buy any produce from someone who won't let you either point at the exact items you want or actually pick them up yourself and hand them over for bagging. I find the Basketeria to be one of the good stands for produce.
My standard hits are City Roast coffee for coffee beans, Kaufmann's poultry for chicken, and sometimes duck, Jim's Meats for pork products, DA Russ for bison (we generally don't eat beef anymore and have subbed bison products for beef), Michelle's bakery for bread and Ohio City pasta for fresh pasta, sometimes a jar of their puttanesca sauce. For fish mr. rockandroller goes to Kate's (I hate fish; I'll eat it once and awhile but can't deal with buying it). Also every trip includes a visit to the small Mediterranean grocery in the corner, where we buy our imported Greek cheeses and olives. I also buy my olive oil there (all we cook with and/or eat in our home is OO; EV for dressings and marinades, regular for cooking).
To nosh while shopping I often go to the juice stand right next to Michelle's for a glass of fresh squeezed juice and then over to Maha's Falafil for the best falafel sandwich in Cleveland (IMO).
Generally, I find a lot of the prepared, take-home-and-warm-up type foods to be kind of lacking. There's a stand selling quiche that I've tried twice and it's just kind of "eh" to me. There's a stand selling Mex food like enchiladas and I found those to be "eh" too, though they do have good salsas if you're into salsa.
I buy my dairy at my local farmer's market so can't help there.
<<As I understand it, they buy from the same place that the large grocery stores buy from, but they don't get to pick what they want til the big guys have made their selections, so sometimes it's of questionable quality or at least must be used very promptly.
Nearly ALL the produce is bought from wholesalers, like about 80% of the produce in the midwest.
Some of the vendors purchase first quality produce that is the equal of what you'll get at the large supermarkets or even Heinen's.
Some of the vendors buy the surplus and that needs to be used fairly quickly. And generally the lower quality products are priced accordingly.
When I was there every week, I could list out all of the places to go to and which ones to avoid. There are at least a couple of the produce vendors that you have to watch where their thumbs are while they are weighing, However, Saturday's visit was my first trip in a couple years.
Personally, my preference is for markets like Detroit's Eastern Market where you have a combination of farmers and peddlers. You generally get a good mix of produce without the ridiculous prices that you find at some farmers markets.
I'm only personally familiar with some of the prepared foods. Orale sells great Mexican food. O'Reilly's has a lot of great baked goods. The products at the Pierogi Palace are very good.
There are several stands with leiberwurst but one features it more prominently and has won some awards. It's good stuff.
I think the general impression of the produce vendors is that the quality is on par with supermarkets. If you pay attention though you can probably save some money. Basketeria is one vendor with a reputation for having exceptional produce. Kate's is generally considered to be the best fish vendor.
I've also heard good things about the gyros, bratwurst sandwiches and falafels. And there's a new sandwich place that just opened. If you try them, please report back.
City Roast for coffee, The already mentioned Mediterranean grocery for cheese and vinegar, and the amazing spice shop in the middle......their Vietnamese cinnamon is superb.
There's a fantastic cheese shop simply called "The Cheese Shop." If you're a cheese fan at all, stop there, the variety and depth of their stock is astonishing. Ask for Lisa, if she's there, she knows all.
Maha's falafel was already mentioned, so I'll second it - better falafel than I had in the Middle East, no lie.
As for bread, pretty much all the bakery stands are quite good, so snoop around a lot before you commit to a loaf, there's a lot to see.
rockandroller1 is quite correct about the produce, the WSM is not a farmer's market. It's amazing how many Clevelanders are still under that misconception. Buy only what you're can use in a couple of days, tops. The prices are great, but it's almost all on the verge of turning (of course with things like cantaloupe and avocados, that works out superbly, everything's fine to eat that day). There's an organic stand near the entrance to the left that's a wonderful and astonishingly inexpensive exception, though, be sure to find it. I can't remember if it's the aforenamed Basketeria or not.
Oh, and near Maha's there's a bakery stand that has awesome apple fritters that'll go beautifully with your City Roast coffee. And if you do get anything to eat on premises, eat it on the mezzanine. The view is fantastic.