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New to LA from NY - Looking for a Union Square Greenmarket Replacement

s
StarGazr1116 Jun 8, 2009 11:19 AM

Hi Everyone!

I just moved out to LA from NYC, where I was a freakish devotee of the Union Square Greenmarket on weekends. The produce is just amazing, and I was always able to find new veggies/herbs/etc. that I had never tried and was able to experiment with.

I was really excited about the farmer's markets out here, but I went to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market this past Sunday and was INCREDIBLY disappointed with the quality and selection of the produce.

Anyone have suggestions as to where I can find great, different produce on the weekends? Somewhere on the west side would be the easiest.

Thanks so much!!!

  1. n
    NYCnowLA Jun 8, 2009 11:31 AM

    a better bet on sunday is the beverly hills farmer's market. for a santa monica farmer's market stick to wednesday or saturday. the sunday one on main is (IMO) a brunch destination for families with a sprinkle of produce for good measure.

    also IMO, nothing compares to the Union Square farmer's market. that same vibe t doesn't exist here. it's just a different animal.

    2 Replies
    1. re: NYCnowLA
      n
      NYCnowLA Jun 8, 2009 02:19 PM

      LA FM's of course has superior produce to the NYC FM's, it's the atmosphere at the Union Square FM that make me long or it, that and the fact dogs are allowed!

      1. re: NYCnowLA
        Emme Jun 8, 2009 10:20 PM

        not huge, but i do really like the Beverly Hills FM... plenty of fresh herbs, good fruit/veg selection, and some interesting vendor/purveyors of some goods (crepes! breakfast burritios, tamales, fresh squeezed juice, kettle corn...)

      2. a
        annapurna7 Jun 8, 2009 11:34 AM

        Not on the Westside, but I would also recommend the Torrance Farmer's Market on Saturdays.

        1. Das Ubergeek Jun 8, 2009 11:35 AM

          The Santa Monica Sunday market sucks compared to the other SM markets. It's the equivalent of the 9th Avenue greenmarket. Nice if you live right there but nobody would travel for it.

          You want the Santa Monica markets on Wednesday (biggest) and Saturday, both at the 3rd Street Promenade and Arizona Avenue. There's a second Saturday market at Pico and Cloverfield which is just... eh.

          The big Sunday market is Hollywood, on Ivar between Hollywood and Sunset. Slightly smaller but still good are Studio City and Encino, if you're up in the Valley.

          Down here in OC, the big market is Saturday mornings in Irvine.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Das Ubergeek
            Porthos Jun 8, 2009 12:27 PM

            Second Hollywood farmer's market on Sundays. Blows the Union Square Greenmarket out of the water produce-wise and fruit-wise. Second only to SF's Ferry Building on Saturdays. The Hollywood farmer's market is much more affordable than either one. The exception is that ramps are not as pretty during season. Strawberries and corn are phenominal.

            1. re: Porthos
              j
              JPomer Jun 8, 2009 01:32 PM

              Third the Sunday Hollywood farmer's market. Not just for the amazing produce/fruit, but also chickens, there's a beef and pork guy, eggs, breads, etc., etc...

              1. re: Porthos
                m
                missyp Jun 8, 2009 05:44 PM

                I'm with Porthos. Having lived in NYC, SF and LA, I would rank the Ferry Building market first, followed by Hollywood, and then, somewhere after a number of other California markets, would I rank Union Square. (Sadly I have never been to the SM Wednesday market).

                Unfortunately, I've become sidetracked by the fairly weak Sunday Atwater Village market -- because it has Big Mista's BBQ, which is incredible and worth the reduced produce selection.

                1. re: Porthos
                  aching Jun 17, 2009 11:14 AM

                  I love the Hollywood FM!

              2. cinzia Jun 8, 2009 01:37 PM

                Hollywood Hollywood Hollywood - the best market by far, imho, then again, I refer to it as my church.
                For the westside, I think you want the Wednesday Santa Monica market -that's one of the biggies.
                If you google 'los angeles farmers markets' you will find a list of all the markets by neighborhood w/ days/times listed as well.
                But the widest selection will always be Hollywood and Santa Monica - I just think that the Wed. one probably has a wider selection given the number of chefs purchasing for area restaurants for the week.
                I've been to the Union Square and it's got nothing on us 365 days/year! Enjoy!!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: cinzia
                  j
                  JPomer Jun 8, 2009 02:01 PM

                  yeah, i meant to mention too, wednesday is THE day for Santa Monica Farmer's Market. Sunday is far smaller, with far less selection, buty agree with the above -- new york has nothing on us...we have markets and great produce all year long.

                  1. re: JPomer
                    cinzia Jun 8, 2009 04:25 PM

                    mwaahahahhahahaaaa! ; )

                2. h
                  houndofmusic Jun 8, 2009 04:58 PM

                  I'm also a farmers market fanatic and NYC transplant. As others have noted, the premier farmers market in LA is the Wednesday SM farmers market. For weekends, Hollywood on Sunday is excellent but not as good as Wednesday SM. SM farmers market on Saturdays (on Arizona) is decent. Beverly Hills on Sunday has convenient parking albeit somewhat slim pickins.

                  For more info on the markets, listen to Evan Kleiman's radio show Good Food on KCRW at 11am on Saturdays, which always starts with the weekly farmers market by Laura Avery who is the manager of the Wednesday SM market. You can also download podcasts of the show from kcrw.com or iTunes.

                  I would also recommend the Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook by Amelia Saltsman -- she makes very specific recommendations about what to get from the many different farmers who come to the Wednesday market. Amelia also has an eponymous website with some helpful links if you're really into the seasonal, locally grown food thing.

                  Other good sources of info about what to buy at the SM market are Russ Parsons of the LA Times and David Karp, who publishes from time to time in both LA Times and NYT.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: houndofmusic
                    cinzia Jun 10, 2009 03:05 PM

                    Oh good points Hound, good points!

                  2. s
                    StarGazr1116 Jun 9, 2009 07:32 PM

                    This is incredibly helpful information, thank you everyone! I'm going to try Hollywood this upcoming Sunday and I'll report back :)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: StarGazr1116
                      girlnotorious Jun 9, 2009 08:49 PM

                      Definitely try Hollywood Farmers Market.

                    2. s
                      StarGazr1116 Jun 14, 2009 02:45 PM

                      Thanks for the help everyone! I checked out the Hollywood Market this morning and was NOT disappointed. I still argue that it's not Union Square (at least in summer months, you've got me with the winter lack of produce) but I got some great produce at very reasonable prices. I really appreciate the recommendation!!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: StarGazr1116
                        Mr Taster Jun 14, 2009 03:29 PM

                        If you go back to the Hollywood Farmers market, be sure to check out "Ken's Top Notch Produce" on the south end, east side of Ivar. When at the peak, his nectarines and pluots are so sweet they taste like candy. Be sure to pick the nectarines with matte, ugly skin with lots of speckles and a heavy, sweet aroma. Speckles are sometimes known as "sugar spots" and are a direct indication of the sweetness.

                        Mr Taster

                        1. re: StarGazr1116
                          Das Ubergeek Jun 14, 2009 05:27 PM

                          You're right -- Hollywood doesn't have as many bums shnorring for change as Union Square.

                          Some things don't grow in California and some are just better (in season) in New York. No Jersey tomatoes out here, for example.

                          1. re: StarGazr1116
                            h
                            houndofmusic Jun 14, 2009 10:09 PM

                            I would be curious to hear what you bought and from which farmers, as there can be a significant range in quality within the market.

                          2. ipsedixit Jun 14, 2009 10:27 PM

                            Ditch the Farmers (ripoff) markets. Go to a grocery store, the ethnic kind.

                            Try any ethnic market in your local 'hood and you'll be amazed by the selection, price and quality.

                            We have real markets here in LA -- you know, markets the size of Wal Mart, that stock lots and lots of fresh produce.

                            Unlike NYC, Angelenos don't depend on "mom-and-pop" convenience store sized markets for their fresh fruits and veggies.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              j
                              JPomer Jun 15, 2009 08:52 AM

                              ditch the farmers' markets seems to mean ditch the small growers who work so hard to provide fresher, better produce than the factory farms that supply everybody else. Yes, the farmer's markets are often more expensive, but sometimes isn't it worth it to pay a little extra for something that, in so many ways, is worth more?

                              1. re: JPomer
                                Mr Taster Jun 15, 2009 09:52 AM

                                Ah you've both hit upon the Farmer's Market Conundrum™ (FMC).

                                Back in the days before farmer's markets were the fashionable domain of celebrity chefs, the markets were a place where you could buy better quality produce at a lower price than the supermarket (no middle man). At the cost of convenience, the farmers got a fair price and we got better quality produce. Sounds like a fair trade.

                                Nowadays farmer's charge as much or more than the supermarkets. I'm all for supporting local agriculture but I also wish that farmer's markets haven't become such a victim of their own success.

                                My best advice is to get to know the local growers personally. Once my wife and I drove up to a fruit farm last year because we really wanted to see where the magic happened. Now they always give us a great discount whenever we see them.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: JPomer
                                  ipsedixit Jun 15, 2009 09:59 AM

                                  "Yes, the farmer's markets are often more expensive, but sometimes isn't it worth it to pay a little extra for something that, in so many ways, is worth more?"
                                  __________________________________________________________

                                  Nope.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    Das Ubergeek Jun 15, 2009 10:37 AM

                                    There you and I differ, then. The quality of the produce -- especially the fruit -- I buy at my local farmers' market far exceeds the quality of the produce in the ethnic markets I patronise, mostly because even an ethnic market needs its produce to be shippable (meaning, in most cases, not tree-ripened).

                                    I will pay more for strawberries that are top-quality and picked the night before. The strawberries, as an example, at even an excellent ethnic market like Wholesome Choice or Vallarta are substandard and woody. That means I go to local growers or

                                    And my experience echoes Mr Taster's -- as I have built relationships at the local farmers' markets, the prices have come down. Combined with my own education, this results in very low prices that are absolutely competitive with ethnic markets -- for example, I learned that second-quality apples make perfectly fine pie, so when it's apple pie time, I buy second-quality apples which the farmers are happy to get rid of for rock-bottom prices.

                                    The other thing is that complaints have a much more immediate effect at farmers' markets. I was given bad eggplants at one of the vendors, and I said something the next week. It was refunded immediately (to be fair, this would happen at a market too) and an inspection of the eggplants took place right there with a culling right in front of me. That wouldn't happen at, say, Vallarta -- you would get "Oh, sorry about that, here's your money back, we'll, uh, pass it along to the produce department."

                                    In any case, if you're happier at ethnic markets, ipse, go for it. That's the nice thing about life -- there are enough people who think like you, and enough people who think like me to keep both options open. And, of course, there are enough people with wooden palates to keep the likes of Ralphs produce department in business.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                      j
                                      JPomer Jun 15, 2009 11:16 AM

                                      ah, you must drive the Hummer too, Ipsedixit. My mistake

                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                        Porthos Jun 15, 2009 07:09 PM

                                        As with anything else, if you know your stuff, you can find vegetables and fruit at farmer's markets for much fresher and cheaper than even 99 Ranch Markets.

                                        For example, I've been buying by gai lan, on choy, and daikon radish tops at farmer's markets for $1 to $2 for a large 1-2lb bunch. This is even cheaper than Ranch 99 at its best. Also, I've bought gai lan from the SM farmer's market with a very thin and tender stem. The sweetness of that bunch of gai lan was much more striking than any gai lan I've purchased at 99 Ranch.

                                        Cherries are easily cheaper and sweeter than what you'll find at 99 Ranch. I got 2 lbs of Ranier cherries for $4 this weekend. The whole bunch was amazingly sweet. And while corn is pretty good at 99 ranch, it's even sweeter at the FM and just as cheap.

                                        But yes, it upsets me to see brown onions being sold for $2/lb at farmer's markets when even Bristol Farms sells theirs for 99 cents/lb.

                                        99 Ranch does have amazing variety and just as amazing prices but farmer's markets aren't always rip offs and they can be a source of higher quality produce that is just as affordable as the treasure known as 99 Ranch.

                                        Edit. After dinner tonight, I have to add summer squash at $1/lb and large vine ripened black plums at $2/lb as things I can get better at farmer's markets than 99 Ranch.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          cinzia Jun 16, 2009 04:01 PM

                                          Frankly I'm shocked to hear "ditch the farmers markets" from someone on Chowhound period. I shop at the Hollywood and/or Plummer Park Farmers Markets, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and, when needed, 99 Ranch, Silom or Bangkok Market (love them for my thai and other cooking but just not close enough). But first and foremost is and will always be H'wood for me. And first and foremost in general will always be farmers markets where the produce is picked and driven in by the farms. It is just picked fresh and I really enjoy getting to know some of the farmers or, at the very least, knowing where my produce is coming from and that it is picked at the peak of ripe/freshness and driven a relatively short distance. Compared to the 'ripen en route' of many grocery stores or the additives enhancing the color or flavor because they were picked too early....no thanks.

                                          1. re: cinzia
                                            trolley Jun 16, 2009 05:09 PM

                                            some people, no matter what, do not see the value of buying local and organic. i worked with a bunch of people who thought i was "stupid" for paying an extra few bucks for local organics. and for a while i thought maybe they were right. there are better deals to be had out there like some CSA delivery but then you have very little choice. when the pediatrician told me that i should feed my little guy organics only for the first year of his life my beliefs were confirmed that pesticides can have a negative impact on the human body.

                                          2. re: ipsedixit
                                            Mr Taster Jun 16, 2009 04:22 PM

                                            So ipse, are you saying that you are unwilling to pay higher prices at farmers markets for quality of produce that absolutely cannot be duplicated at the supermarket level? (I'm not thinking about durable produce like apples or bananas which can taste good from the supermarket, but rather about in-season and ultra ripe produce like tomatoes, peaches and strawberries which cannot survive the industrial shipping process)

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster
                                              ipsedixit Jun 16, 2009 10:32 PM

                                              Nope, not saying that at all.

                                              Just saying that the way FMs have evolved nowadays, most are a ripoff.

                                              If you want truly local and organic, go CSA. Ditch the FM -- it's amateur hour.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                j
                                                JPomer Jun 17, 2009 10:08 AM

                                                Again recommending ditching the Farmer's markets and defining them as 'amateur hour?' ??? As if the farmers who grow and sell in Hollywood, on Sunday, for example, are amateur farmers?
                                                It's so hard to imagine anybody with such a negative experiece of something so positive. So once again, I would encourage all to shop their local farmer's markets.

                                        2. re: ipsedixit
                                          b
                                          bulavinaka Jun 15, 2009 08:16 PM

                                          After reading through the thread, I'm still scratching my head wondering why I would want to consider ditching the FMs and instead go to the ethnic grocery stores? I think they complement each other well. Many of the ethnic stores do have great prices - places like 99 Ranch have serious buying power. I've found most of their produce to be very fresh, but I have no idea of the sourcing. Many ethnic stores also sell their produce because a certain percentage of it is on its last legs. However, if you stick with stuff with high turnover, you're usually going to do well. Organic? Forget it. Specialty produce? Depends on the ethnic makeup of the customer base. But things like specific varieties or special fruits are nonexistent. I think because we are blessed by our geographic proximity to so many fantastic sources and options for produce, it would be a shame to forsake one for the other strictly on the criterion of price. And as DU has already mentioned, how the heck can I ever find a supermarket strawberry that even slightly resembles the wonders of say, Harry's Berries, even on a bad day?

                                        3. e
                                          epop Jun 15, 2009 11:22 AM

                                          As a former NY'er who thought I was getting great produce at the Greenmarket I can promise you that just about everything you'll buy at any farmer's market in California beats just about everything out East.
                                          I can't understand what you're disappointed about at the Santa Monica Market. Everything is so much fresher and tastier here.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: epop
                                            Das Ubergeek Jun 15, 2009 11:27 AM

                                            He went to the weird Sunday morning one on Main Street that's half crafts, half hot-food booths, and little in the way of great produce. The other markets in SM are much, much, much better.

                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                              e
                                              epop Jun 16, 2009 09:44 AM

                                              You're right, I read the post quickly and assumed it was the Saturday.

                                              I was in NYC recently and I couldn't believe how horrendous the spring offerings were. Yet it was packed.

                                            2. re: epop
                                              trolley Jun 15, 2009 08:09 PM

                                              agreed! i once paid $14 for a bag of mixed greens at the Greenmarket and this was back in 1996! i also vote for the hollywood market on sundays for the vast selection. of course nothing beats the ferry building in SF or the prices at the farmers markets in santa cruz but hollywood is way better than Greenmarket.

                                              Ethnic markets are great in LA but the produce is usually not organic or local. now a days you can find good deals at the farmers markets but you just have to really look for them.

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