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Jul 31, 2010 06:36 PM

markets with fresh and organic produce in south park/north park

Hi All,
We are relocating from the Bay Area to San Diego in a couple of weeks. We're counting the days. We'll be living in the Burlingame neighborhood, and I was wondering if there were any local corner-type markets that would have fresh produce, meats, organic foods. I know about Henry's, Whole Foods and Trader Joes, but are there smaller, closer markets that might have those kinds of items.
Many thanks

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  1. Congrats on the move! We also relocated to San Diego after living int the Bay Area (Mountain View) for ten years. Be sure to check out North Park Produce. It's technically in Normal Heights but just across the 805 from North Park. In my opinion, this place is a gem! Your first indication that this is not a typical market is the Arabic and North and East African ladies in traditional garb. The produce is very inexpensive but good. The place has a feta bar (about 10 types) and a decent meat counter. Good bulk spices and other unusual/ethnic ingredients can be found here as well.

    There a small local "chain" called Jimbo's that focus specifically on organic produce (as well as other health foods). Don't ask for veal here. ;) Though I think the closest one to North Park is in Mira Mesa.

    Good luck with the move!

    1 Reply
    1. re: steveprez

      Thanks! 'm putting NPP on my hit list. Any place that has 10 different types of feta must be worth visiting.

    2. I love South Park - I almost moved there myself. One small challenge is that it is not as convenient to the major freeways as other neighborhoods, so your travel times are a little longer to some great food.

      You've mentioned the bastions of organic produce in San Diego on your post. Here are a couple more, plus some other suggestions.

      For organic, you can't beat the local farmer's markets. There are several every day of the week around the county, with the largest (i think) in Hillcrest, which is mid-city and not a long ride from South Park. The Little Italy market on Saturdays gets a lot of love here and is fairly close to you. Check the schedule here for other markets and locations:

      There is also a healthy selection of CSAs available in SD if you prefer.

      You can also check out People's Market, a co-op in Ocean Beach. It's small selection is good and top quality. They also have a lot of organic groceries and a great vegetarian cafe. It's not very close to South Park, but in reality, nothing is too far away if you life in the mid-city area.

      North Park Produce is good, but I find that the produce is not the freshest and needs to be used quickly. It also has no organic produce that I have ever seen. That said, I do like NPP for the feta, bulk tomatoes for roasting, persian cucumbers, flatbreads, Russian rye and other staples. My in-laws are Bulgarian and I can get lots of traditional foods they like. NPP has a Halal meat counter.

      For my money, I really like the mexican markets for selection and quality, but they are not organic. Pancho Villa's in North Park is good, but the real deal is going to Gonzales Northgate Market just off the 805 at Palm Ave (I thnk). It's about 5 miles from your new home and is not to be missed. Not organic, but fresh and the meat selection is fantastic.

      Lastly, for the finest produce just about anywhere, but not close to South Park at all, is Chino's Farm in Rancho Santa Fe. Excellent quality, many heirloom varieties, and probably the best examples you will ever get of whatever they are selling on any given day. And you pay dearly for the quality, but I have never regretted a purchase. Worth an occasional trip on the weekend. They are not certified organic, but do use sustainable methods and are generally accepted as "mostly organic". It's a treat to go to this beautiful stand and eat your purchase in the car on the way home.

      Welcome to San Diego!

      Chino Farm
      6123 Calzada Del Bosque, Rancho Santa Fe, CA

      Northgate Market No 21
      1410 S 43RD St, San Diego, CA

      Pancho Villa's
      3245 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

      OB People's Organic Food Market
      4765 Voltaire St, San Diego, CA 92107

      1 Reply
      1. re: Divamac

        Thanks. I've heard a lot about Chino's Farm, but Northgate and Pancho Villa's are new to me. This is great information. I'm really excited that we will have some good food options. Any recommendations on good CSAs?

        Pancho Villa's
        3245 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

      2. There is a brand new produce market on the corner of 32nd and Thorn. Small selection so far, with plans to increase number of offerings in the future. I got some lovely avocados there last weekend. Some organic items available. Nothing fancy, but great for a local spot.

        1 Reply
        1. The Thursday Farmers Market in North Park, in the parking lot of CVS.

          Hillcrest Farmers MArket on Sunday's.

          4 Replies
          1. re: normalheightsfoodie

            The closest organic produce will be the Thursday night farmer's market at CVS lot. Be Wise CSA delivers on Fridays in Burlingame/across from St. Augustine. Contact them to see if they have openings. North Park produce, while not organic IIRC, is a great ethnic marker.

            Welcome to the neighborhood, I'm a Burlingamer myself.

            1. re: Ewilensky

              Thanks so much. Appreciate the neighborbood welcome as well. We're really looking forward to the move.
              Did I read that right? An evening Farmer's Market? I'm in heaven. This is great. So, is Be Wise a good CSA?

              1. re: slt

                We've been pretty happy with Be Wise although this year we got root vegetables through early summer and tomatoes just hit last week so it's been a strange, delayed, season. Wife and I spilt a small box per week and have plenty of veggies to eat every night of the week. Fruit has been somewhat lacking this year (although we were up to our ears in strawberries for a bit).

                Yes, the North Park Farmers Market runs Thursdays from 3ish to sundown so perfect for pre-weekend shopping, Under new management from the same team that runs the one in Little Italy so quality of vendors and variety is WAAAAAY improved.

                If you see the guy with the brown and white boxer and the black and white mutt walking by, introduce yourself. We're out every morning and evening.

                1. re: Ewilensky

                  Absolutely. I'll be on the look-out...Likewise to you, but I'll likely have a crazy 6-year-old and 3-year old in tow...and possibly my Brit husband with the funny accent. Looking forward to checking out all these great suggestions.

          2. In addition to the North Park Farmers' Market, you're also within hailing distance of the HIllcrest Farmers' Market (Sundays, 10-2) and the Adams Ave Farmers' Market (Wednesday afternoons). HIllcrest generally has a great selection of fresh produce vendors, and you're likely to find just about anything you're looking for if it's in season. Parking can be a PITA but if you don't mind walking a couple of blocks, it's not that big a deal- I've also had much better luck finding parking close to the market when I get there later (~12:30 or so)

            The North Park and Adams Ave markets are smaller, and have a few less produce vendors, but you can usually find what you need at either of them.

            If you're feeling like an adventure be sure to check out the Little Italy Market on Saturdays- you'll have to drive to that one, for sure (the other 3 mentioned are biking distance, if you're inclined towards that sort of thing) but they now have 2 hours free parking at Washington Elementary, and I really think it's worth the trip :)

            Good luck, and I really hope you enjoy living/eating here!

            9 Replies
            1. re: Jenkay

              Thanks. I love the fact that there are Farmers Markets all over town. Ages ago I used to bike up to the one in PB and have my coffee on the beach. Now, I'm looking forward to checking out the more central markets. Many, many more markets in town than way back when.

              1. re: slt


                There are Farmers Markets every day of the week somewhere in the county. About 50 total.

                El Cajon is home to the 2nd largest Chaldean Christian population in the US and was one of five cities in the US where Iraquis could vote for their president in 2008. Many Mediterranean markets with Halal meats as well as restaurants in East County and popping up all over the county. (For example NPP is also in El Cajon, Poway and Chula Vista)

                I order a Market Bag from Specialty Produce
                (Top left corner of website- there are videos of prior bags). There is no obligation to order weekly, no waiting list to start and options of (very fresh) seafood, chocolates,bread and other local products. Plus you can shop in SP 7 days a week for things not included in the bag.

                1. re: Cathy

                  I just started getting the FMB from Specialty Produce, and I have to say, I'm *very* happy with them! I live by myself, and the bags are just the right size for me. The price is right, and I love being in control of ordering from week to week. I supplement what I get from them with goodies from the various farmers' markets I've mentioned- there's pretty much one within reach every day of the week now (I work in Escondido, so I can hit the one up there on Tuesdays as well) , which is fantastic.

                  San Diego's a great place to be when it comes to fresh, local, seasonal produce.

                  1. re: Jenkay

                    How's the selection at the Escondido FM? Any favorite or unique vendors you don't find at many of the other FM's? I didn't realize there was one there on Tues. I work N of there and may have to check it out as I drive S. Thanks for the tip.

                  2. re: Cathy

                    I love the farmer's market bag from Specialty Produce. It's just the right amount for us, and, along with the option to get fish from Catalina Offshore, it's a deal. I mean, how many farmer's market bags provide you with kaffir lime leaves from time to time? And, as of this week, they've started to include recipes in the bags. I didn't see it until we got home, so I don't know if this is a permanent addition.

                    Specialty Produce
                    1929 Hancock St, San Diego, CA

                    1. re: phee

                      The video seemed to indicate the leaves were a little bonus and so they tossed in a recipe...
                      I really like SP because it is supporting a lot of local businesses and farms.

                    2. re: Cathy

                      Heaven! Thank you....And my friends think I'm moving to a food desert! Ha.

                      1. re: slt

                        I'm a native San Diegan, but I lived out of the area for quite a number of years inlcuding 10 years in the Bay Area. I thought I was moving to a culinary wasteland when I moved back to SD. And in some respects I did.

                        From the raw ingredient standpoint you will find a lot to work with. The farmer's marekts are without doubt real gems. Can the match up to the Ferry Building? No, not even close, but the local markets have their own dynamic energy which really makes them worth patronizing. The produce, meats and other staples are generally good to very good and the prepared food sold at the local markets is good.

                        Pancho Vill and Northgate (43rd St. exit off the 805) are both very, very good for Mexican and latin products. Northgate is kind of like Disneylandia for Mexican food. For a large grocery store (they're the flagship for a chain out of Santa Ana) the quality of their produce is remarkably good and their prices remarkably low. I don't know that the Boney (formerly of Henry's) family owns Pancho Villa but I'm pretty sure they supply the produce to PV. Once again, very low prices for good to very good produce, especially on staple produce like onions, tomatoes, citrus fruit and Mexican fruits (mangos, papayas, pineapples, bananas). I prefer the masa at PV to Northgate but both are good. If you use your imagination a bit, or know a little about how American and Mexican cuts of meat relate you can find some excellent bargains on meat by shopping the meat counters at both markets. They sell Mexcian cuts almost exclusively, but almost all of them can be used for typical U.S. cooking. The bolillos (french rolls) at both PV and Northgate are very good, in fact, they are some of the best french bread in the city.

                        It'll be a schlep for you (unless you want to experience the Green Line trolley) but Vine Ripe market on Fletcher Parkway and Jackson recently reopened and have some of the best buys on produce in town. Usually very ripe produce.

                        Not too far from you, but probably not walkable, is Panchitas at 28th & C. Great little Mexican bakery. It's small and usually crowded, but grab a tray and tongs and pick out what you want. You will be surprised by how much you can get for less than $5. Plus, it's really good.

                        In terms of dining options tho', San Diego still has a way to go to be in the same league with the Bay Area or Los Angeles. We do casual well, but no much beyond that (yet?).

                        Pancho Villa's
                        3245 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104

                  3. re: Jenkay

                    Thank you. I feel like I'll be spoiled for choice!