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Suggestions for Boston's Best Market Tour

I am going on a driving tour of Greater Boston's best non-chain food markets on Saturday. I'm skipping Chinatown because I can get there on the T... this is a driving tour.

Definite stops so far:
- Sevan, Watertown
- Russo's, Watertown
- Kam Man, Quincy

Any other suggestions for can't-be-missed markets? Is there a Japanese market somwhere? I would love to find a Greek market or a Polish/Russian/Eastern European market. Also would love Indian, Pakistani, Italian, Portuguese or Southeast Asian.

I also want the stop to be worth our while... no cramped holes in the wall with dusty jars and questionable boxes of frozen food that have been in the freezer for ages. I want truly inspiring, jaw-dropping markets that I haven't had the privilege of visiting yet.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge
    Wilson Farms in Lexington (although it's somewhat redundant of Russo's)
    Verrill Farm in Concord (to pay your respects)

    1. While you are at Sevan hit Arax.

      You can also hit the new Russian place in Needham, Baza (I think it the name).

      Karl's Sausage in Saugus.

      You'll be doing a lot of driving if you hit all those in one day.

      3 Replies
      1. re: StriperGuy

        After Arax, walk half block up Mt. Auburn to Massis: http://massisbakery.com/

        1. re: Taralli

          And as long as you're at it, Eastern Lamejun and Sophia's Greek Pantry nearby on Belmont. And the nut shop on Mt. Auburn (whose name I'm blanking on--Fastashi? something like that). Tabrizi Bakery (Persian) in Watertown Sq.

          1. re: Aromatherapy

            Was just in Greek Pantry and they have very little worth stopping in for. Don't quite understand how they stay in business. Also Eastern Lamejun does not have much that Arax and Sevan don't cover. Tabrizi bakery however is AWESOME and Fastachi is great too.

      2. In town (so save for T days) - Meat etc. markets by Polonia / Dot Ave; Bazaar in Allston and Brookline (East European); itaunas suggestions for Brazilian and Portuguese markets (some of these might be better by car - Everett/Chelsea, etc. - some are near U Sq, Smville and E Somerv). Union Square has a ton of markets, AND has an "ethnic markets" tour sponseresdby Som Arts Council, where the owners chat abt their food and stories. All of these suggestions can be researched on the board except maybe the SAC tour.

        1. by car...

          battambang market (se asian, lowell)
          sure pinoy market (filipino, quincy)
          patel brothers and waltham india grocery (indian, waltham)
          new england meat market (american, italian, and greek, peabody)

          by train...

          kotobukiya (japanese, porter sq)
          baltic deli (polish, south boston)
          euromart (polish, south boston)
          berezka (russian, allston)
          bazaar (russian, brookline and allston)

          lots of other options in the area but they are T accessible

          2 Replies
          1. re: galangatron

            My tour de food always includes Russo's, Savenor's, Formaggio, a stop at Christina's or Pensy's for spices, a visit to my man Carl at the New Deal Fish Market and a quick pop in to the live poultry fresh kill. Sometimes I'll go crazy and head over to Kotobukiya or to the Reliable in Union.

            1. re: galangatron

              I don't really find that Kotobukiya is worth a special trip unless you are specifically seeking out Japanese items. Most of what they have can be found in other places that are much more of a destination: Kam Man, Reliable, etc.

            2. And in the Southend:

              Syrian Grocery Importing Company
              (617) 426-1458
              270 Shawmut Ave, Boston, MA 02118

              1. Great topic. You are giving me so many places to explore. It made me go and pull a book from my shelf. Boston Food Lover by Lise Stern was published more than 10 years ago but, I still find useful tips. If you're ever in a used bookstore, it may be worth having.

                There is also a website at MIT for international students that I use when I'm researching topics like this. Of course I can't find the link this morning. If anyone has it, please share.

                1. I don't see that anyone's mentioned Capone Foods yet - great Italian market in Union Square, Somerville, with fresh pasta made to order in dozens of flavors and shapes, a small but well-chosen selection of cheese and salumi, imported European canned goods, and house-made frozen sauces and entrees.

                  While you're in Union Square you can also hit the Reliable Market for Japanese food, and La Internacional for Mexican.

                  La Internacional Foods Corp
                  318 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143

                  Capone Foods
                  14 Bow St, Somerville, MA 02143

                  Reliable Meat Market
                  45 Union Sq, Somerville, MA

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: BobB

                    I love the Syrian Grocery Store! I bought my tagine and a bottle of rather hard to find argan oil there. Plus it's right next door to the South End Formaggio.

                    Another stop if you visit Savenor's in Cambridge is the Wine and Cheese Cask. While not as impressive as say Formaggio, they do have a nice selection of cheese and meats (and an incredibly friendly staff.)

                    1. re: BobB

                      I think Reliable is actually Korean, though they do have lots of Japanese products.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        You may be right. I always thought it was the other way around.

                        1. re: BobB

                          reliable market is definitely korean

                    2. If you are venturing west, e.g. to go to BAZA, drive to Wellesley Center and visit Wasik's Cheese Shop. They are terrific people, very knowledgable about cheese and food in general, very friendly and will give you tastes of Anything you want. This Saturday you will find some specialty things they get for holidays such as the Zola Creme, a cheese made with layers of marscapone and gorgonzola, just out of this world. Their own brand of crackers Are delicious, especially the ones to go with stinky cheese.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: emilief

                        What about places north of lets say Waltham? Any places worth driving to?

                        1. re: alphavulcan

                          The aforementioned Wilson Farms, in Lexington.

                          1. re: alphavulcan

                            Idylwilde Farms on Central St. in Acton.

                        2. Be ready of massive crowds at Russo's. I only go there on weekdays now, as everytime I went on a weekend (any time) the place was completely mobbed. Not a pleasant experience IMO when you can't even walk down an aisle without being blocked in front and pushed from behind.

                          1. Sorry to be a bit vague, but there is a third Armenian specialty store just a short block west of Sevan and Arax, also on the same side of Mt Auburn. It is well worth the extra few paces. Each shop has its strengths-- check out the prepared foods in the refrigerated cases at rear.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: rubysdad

                              Perhaps you are referring to Massis? (The full name may be Massis Bakery.) I especially like their spinach and feta boregs. They heat up so nicely in a toaster oven. Yum.

                              1. re: PinchOfSalt

                                Never quite understand why anyone would prefer Massis over Sevan or Arax. I just tried some of Massis' spinach boregs and they were smallish, with less filling and less flavor then the ones at Sevan.

                                My very favorite are the large ones that Arax occasionally gets from a bakery in Montreal.

                                I just have a hard time finding anything at Massis that I can't find at one of the other stores. Does anyone have a particular item that Massis makes/sells that is really better than the neighboring stores.

                            2. Christina's spice shop in Inman square
                              There's also an Indian spice shop in Central Square on Mass ave but I can't remember the name of it. This may be a place to go to on the T though.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: AnjLM

                                That's Shalimar India Food & Spices - 571 Mass Ave. It's next to Central Kitchen. I shop there from time to time. It's a good one.

                                1. re: BostonZest

                                  The Indian grocery stores in Waltham are WAY, WAY better.

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    Good to know. When I have a car available, I'll have to try those. Thanks.

                                    1. re: BostonZest

                                      You can get to those stores in Waltham via commuter rail, or bus #70 or #70A from Central Square. Short walk down to Moody street from the commuter rail station/bus stop.

                              2. Thank you for all the great suggestions. Driving between Quincy and Watertown took more time than anticipated, and by the time we made it to Watertown, hit the markets and had giant falafels at Fordees's, we had no desire to continue to trip to Russo's. Another weekend.

                                Highlights of my haul:
                                Kam Man - bag of shallots ($1.69!); bag of frozen lotus root, peeled and sliced (great for soups); deli container of fried eel (also great for throwing on top of rice); frozen chicken-and-lotus-root dumplings (have not been able to find these anywhere in Chinatown)

                                Massis - spinach and cheese boregs (great in the toaster for breakfast -- so fresh)
                                Arax - container of homemade apricot jam, huge bags of spices for cheap
                                Sevan - whipped french feta and red pepper spread; fried salted corn

                                That just scratches the surface, but these are the highlights that come to mind.

                                We also went in to Fistachi... from a market perspective I wasn't impressed, but it's a cute set up. We got some truffles and bundled ourselves in the car.

                                Thanks for the recs... obviously we have some more trips to plan.