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Aug 10, 2011 08:18 AM

How are San Diego farmer's markets?

I am visiting San Diego in September for the second time. I visited two years ago, splitting my time between LA and San Diego - But loved San Diego so much, I plan to spend all of my CA visit there this time. :)

All in all, I enjoyed everything in San Diego better than LA - Except for a totally phenomenal Sunday farmer's market in Hollywood. They had everything... tons of things that I, being from NY, have never been able to get a hold of. Such as... dozens of different varieties of grapes that are 10x sweeter and more delicious than the grocery store variety - Fresh dates just picked off the palm tree, freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, jujubes, and more... Not only did they have these fruits, but they had a huge variety of vendors selling them.

So I'm wondering, do any of the Farmer's markets in San Diego stand up to this? Or should I spend my Sunday driving to Hollywood to go back to this farmer's market? (I flew 3,000 miles... may as well spend one day driving 200 or so)

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  1. Generally, you'll get some superior ripe fruits and fresh veggies, IMO, way better than NY. The FM's in Little Italy or Hillcrest are the better of the lot.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cstr

      Thanks. Maybe my post was too long winded - Would you happen to know how either of those compare to the Hollywood FM in LA? Thanks!

    2. San Diego has more farms than any other county in the United States, we also have 42 weekly farmers markets spread out over a pretty large area. They're all a little different than the other and depend upon the focus and strength of the market manager

      The big market on Saturday is Little Italy. Prepared and non-food items are on one side of the street and farmers on the other. You can try things like fresh uni from local waters, delightful smoked fish and juicy citrus. This is kind of a "see and be seen" market during the summer, but if you're after Labor Day it should be down to a dull roar. I've found the crush of crowds somewhat discouraging this summer. I go to shop and pick up my produce for the week, not get trampled on by too many people in one location.

      The big Sunday market is in Hillcrest and while it has some of the same vendors as LI but has a different vibe and is (I think) a little more relaxed and a little less frenetic.

      Both of these market, while big, are alive and vibrant with people, activity, food and life. It's one of the reasons they're both so popular.

      The Thursday (or maybe it's Wednesday, I always forget) market in North Park is fun and funky with an eclectic mix of people and vendors.

      And if you're feeling flush, you can drive to the vaunted (and with good reason) Chino Farms in Rancho Santa Fe. Made famous by Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck, Chino Farms produce is legendary and 9.9 times out of 10 worth the price. Don't touch, they'll do the selecting and expect to pay cash only for anything you purchase.

      Whether or not the farmers markets in SD compare to Hollywood is probably in the eye of the shopper. I suspect ours are a different breed of market and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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

      2 Replies
      1. re: DiningDiva

        Great! Thanks so much for the advice! I will definitely check out Chino Farms too.

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

        1. re: kellaz

          Bring LOTS of cash to Chinos. Worth it. But I always spend way more than I originally intended, Of the two markets that DiningDiva described the Little Italy Market is most similar to the Hollywood Market in terms of energy and feel. I find our products superior.

          North Park Market is Thursdays. \

          Have a good trip.

      2. Little Italy and Hillcrest are great, but they are morning markets.

        One of the more fun ones is the Ocean Beach Farmer's Market because it is evening (4-8 on Wednesdays) and it feels like a street fair as much as a farmer's market.

        You can get fish tacos at the South Beach Grille, a burger at Hodad's, great drinks at a half dozen nice bars and great drinks at a half dozen dive bars.

        Hodads Restaurant
        5010 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107

        1. I've always heard that the Santa Monica mkt is best, but I haven't been.

          We're back in SD after 8 mo in Sonoma. The Marin County mkt is now my benchmark. It was abundant and beautiful and fresh-- even in December. In SD, I prefer Little Italy, mainly because of the Schaners and the gorgeous venue. Date St to the harbor is picture-perfect. Not to mention the fresh pasta from Kettner St and provisions from Mona Lisa. Totally beats the DMV parking lot (Hillcrest).

          That said, I took a farmer friend from TX with me to Hillcrest last week. Gary was the first certified organic farmer in Texas. He sells at 5 markets in TX-- 4 in Austin. He's been doing a CSA for almost 20 years. While he loved picking up stuff at Hillcrest he hadn't seen (padrones and dragon fruit) he warned me against old produce he saw throughout the market. Most of what he saw, Gary said, was tired and not fresh from the fields. The okra at one stand caused him to laugh out loud. What they were selling for $4 lb, he would throw away as garbage. Gary also pastures his eggs. He moves the enclosure around his pasture land daily-- and charges $5 a doz for eggs. I had paid $8 doz for eggs the previous week and the eggs were not worth it.

          I don't say this to diss SD or Hillcrest, it was just a sharp heads-up for me. To pay more attention. To ask more questions. To cultivate relationships with farmers like the Schaners so I KNOW what I'm being sold. Nothing worse than getting home with expensive produce and it tastes like it came from Von's.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pickypicky

            This is true. If you go to the Santa Monica market, sub-par produce is sold at sharply reduced prices. Not here.