I’m taking a little break from writing about my Hawaii trip. I just went to the Little Italy Mercato Farmers Market here in San Diego several weekends in a row and it is always worth the drive to check it out. It is actually a 25-30 minute drive to downtown San Diego from my house and seems so out of the way when I have a local farmers market by my house open at about the same time but it’s worth it.
The Little Italy Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8:00am to 2:00pm on W. Cedar Street and goes on for at least 5 blocks from Kettner Blvd to Front Street.
My sister has a monthly parking pass in the area, so we don’t deal with parking though it’s a 10 to 15 minute walk from her parking structure I don’t mind strolling through downtown San Diego. Otherwise there are some paid lots and street parking in the area. I first heard about the Little Italy Mercato Farmers Market from my cousins when they told me about eating live sea urchin! And yes, that was the main reason I made my way to Little Italy the first time.
With over 150 vendors, the sea urchin is not the only thing people go to the farmers market for. According to their official website this is what you’ll find:
CERTIFIED FARMERS MARKET fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers, eggs, cheese, pastured chicken and meat and more from more than forty California FARMERS on W. Cedar Street from Kettner Blvd to Union Street and FOOD PURVEYORS fish, oysters, bread, sauces, olives, pasta, coffee, pastry and more PLANTS orchids, fresh flowers, bedding plants DINING crepes, paninis, smoothies, organic popsicles, Thai food, coffee drinks and local chefs¹ specialties to enjoy along with the LIVE MUSIC. At the top of the market from State Street to Front Street, check out the MercARTo artisans, crafts and gifts. MANGIA BENE!
We started at Kettner Blvd and W. Cedar St. and made our way to Front St. While walking through the crowds and checking out several booths, we made our first stop at Poppa’s Fresh Fish Company for some fresh sea urchin or should I call it uni? It’s cracked open, cleaned, and served in the shell on a paper plate. They have condiments on the table for you, but I prefer to eat it just as is. There are usually two to three pieces of uni in each shell and can be scooped right out with a spoon. There are usually people who come up to me to ask about how it tastes and what it is. And honestly, my best answer is that it tastes like the ocean. I know, that’s not very descriptive but that’s all I’ve got. I guess if I had to I’d say it does not really taste fishy but rather salty sweet (is that umami). It has a creamy texture and kind of melts in your mouth. It’s worth giving it a try! They are also located at several farmers markets throughout San Diego. Check out their website for locations.
Satisfied with some uni, we picked up some fresh orange juice as well as some kale juice. I love uni but I don’t need the flavors to stay in my mouth all day. With our drinks in hand we grabbed lunch at La Creperie and Seb’s Panini’s.
La Creperie is a single booth with one guy working the booth. We first tried it for the first time because of the line, and now it is one of my favorite stops at the farmers market. I love savory crepes especially when the crepes don’t have the sweet flavor with the savory fillings (that’s what I usually find with Japanese style savory crepes). My usual order is the “Vegetarian Knock-Out” with mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese. He always asks me if I want bell peppers and onions as well; yes please. I also add an egg (over easy) in there, i know it’s no longer vegetarian but I just like my vegetables. It’s served in a cone on a plate, so I guess you start eating it like a sandwich but it can get messy so don’t forget to grab a knife and fork and grab a seat at some tables nearby. La Creperie is also a restaurant in North Park.
At Seb’s panini’s we might have gotten the wrong panini which was a little disappointing. Sorry to whoever got our tuna melt (if they’re vegetarian). The Carpri Panini had mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, and olive an Herbes de Provence. We were a little sad to find ourselves eating a vegetarian panini but I had already eaten quite a bit of the panini when my sister told me she ordered a Tuna Melt (ooops).
With our stomachs full, we got a coconut and continued to walk the rest of the farmers market. We picked up some flowers for the house. There are quite a few flower and plant vendors with quite a variety. We ended up at a booth with these pretty orange sunflowers and marigolds. We were told that they were freshly picked that morning. My mom loved the flowers and actually asked me to pick up more next time I’m there. They also make their way to several farmers markets in San Diego throughout the week.
There really is a little bit of everything, but if that is not enough there are many great restaurants and stores in Little Italy to check out after the farmers market. When some of my friends came to town to visit, I took to them to Extraordinary Desserts after eating at the farmers market. And with my sister and cousins, we took our time walking back towards our car and walked along Embarcadero past Waterfront Park, Maritime Museum, USS Midway Museum, to Seaport Village.