Yesterday we went to the West Side Market in Cleveland. It is on the near west side, in a neighborhood called Ohio City, a quaint area which has become what most people called "gentrified." While there is an open air produce market in the summer, the market's meat and bakery stalls are indoors year round.
Pictures cannot capture the color, motion, and energy of this place, the small details which have to be experienced first-hand. Even something as simple as crossing the alleyway between the meat/bakery section and the produce is a sensory orgy, discarded smashed tomatoes lying in the snow, the smell of diesel exhaust in the lake scented air, the rattling of bags and squeaking of shopping carts, and the neighborhood ladies mingling with the suburbanites and chivvying the vendors.
Plus, the good looking young men who work in the booths truly understand that flirting oh-so-slightly with the fifty year old ladies is good for business, not to mention this lady's morale. And a lady who smiles at the vendor has a better chance of getting the pick of the produce.
Years ago, my father worked at the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland, and nearby was the Central Market, which was not nearly as well-known or large as the West Side Market. However, every year, my father would find some exotic produce for our Christmas stockings: pomegranates, star fruit, Clementines. And he made sure we had the opportunity to experience the markets, which were so much of the Cleveland tradition. Nowadays, the West Side Market has pasta, herbs, and more upscale offerings, such as artisan breads, bison meat and exotic cheeses, but the tradition is still there. Part of the fun is seeing what is available at a good price. And, of course, flirting with the vendors.