Markets from Philly to Boston

Two weeks ago I was in Philadelphia for my cousin Maggie's wedding. Our hotel was just a few blocks away from the famous Reading Terminal Market and we ate most of our non-wedding meals there. The market has a long history and a wide variety of vendors, ranging from produce, smoked meats, and local cheeses to donuts, cheesesteaks, and falafel.

Back in Boston we don’t have the exact equivalent but things are changing. The Haymarket (an outdoor produce market) has always been a great place to get very ripe fruits and vegetables at bargain prices, but it is only open Friday and Saturday and the open air location can be really cold in winter (or fall or spring). Organic produce can be hard to find there but is showing up more often. Be prepared with cash, especially small bills and quarters. Alongside the Haymarket there are also shops selling fish and Halal meats, a few ethnic groceries, and a pizza place.

Over the summer the Boston Public Market opened next door to Haymarket. This indoor space is reserved for local-artisanal-seasonal-organic-fancy etc. I generally love that kind of stuff, but I’d read some mixed opinions online and wanted to check it out for myself. Mom and Dad were in town so I brought the whole family. (excuse Mom's hair, it was windy)

The new Boston Public Market was very clean and the decor was a modern sort of “cheerful industrial”. It is open every day. There was cohesive signage, a demonstration kitchen, and nice bathrooms, but it still seemed to lack something - more affordable lunch options? grime? authenticity? That’s actually pretty unfair - a new market can’t manufacture a long history and the character will develop with time. I’d rather shop “cheerful industrial” than “faux historical/ disney mainstreet”.

I liked the selection of vendors but hope there will be more next year. We ate some lovely cider donuts and sampled the Daniele salami (that we used to drive down to a Providence, RI market for). The honey vendor had a demonstration hive right in the building. A number of local farms were selling produce but the prices were a little higher than at the farmer’s markets in my neighborhood. Of course those farmers markets are outside and don’t have bathrooms.

We would probably have gotten lunch at the market because the food smelled amazing, but there was a major seating shortage. There were people actually sitting on the floor to eat - which is a huge testament to the cleanliness of the floor, but really means there should be more tables and chairs. And you can’t drink wine there. (I was with my parents after all) Luckily the North End is just across the greenway and they have plenty of nice places to sit, eat, and enjoy a bottle of wine.

I'll definitely be back - Haymarket is probably the best place to find the sour Seville oranges I need for marmalade and the mushroom selection in the Public market was really tempting. In nice weather I can imagine picking up lunch to eat out on the greenway. Parking in various garages on a Saturday morning isn't too bad if there aren't events, but I'll probably just take the T if I'm on my own.