Does anyone else recall this nursery rhyme or is it just one of the thousand useless trivia bits rolling around my head?
If you recall a few months back, I had started what I was referring to as my "Weekend Guide." And then I can kind of let my guide… slide. Well, it's back. And this week's weekend guide is dedicated strictly to Eastern Market.
Since 1891 the open market has served Detroit and its suburbs and today hosts over 250 vendors from Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario. It's estimated that any given weekend sees almost 40,000 consumers flocking to the market, which would explain why parking can be a bit of a problem at this Motor City treasure.
This weekend marks Eastern Market's 45th Annual Flower Day. Greenhouses and nurseries galore use Eastern Market as a venue, and what better place to buy stock for your summer garden? Beautiful flats of flowers, vegetable and herb plants, and even trees can be found at Eastern Market for a song. Think about it. You're buying straight from the grower. No need for the significant mark up you'd find at a box store (even as lovely as English Gardens is), and chances are the plants themselves are not only healthier but cheaper as well! As a matter of fact, when I was at the Wolverine Greenhouses stall over Easter weekend, owner Bill Alvin was selling both his tomato and bell pepper plants for a buck each (yes, you read that right. One dollar. Per plant). That's Bill in the middle of the above picture with his daughter (left) and other greenhouse staff at Linden (Michigan)'s 2010 Summer Happening event. Wolverine Greenhouses is located smack dab in the middle of Shed 4. If you have a bit of a problem finding Bill, just look for Dave, a somewhat obnoxious guy who's known to frequent market patrons for wearing a yellow tie-dyed raincoat. Bill will be on his right.
Since your own vegetable garden probably hasn't yielded much of a crop yet, be sure to visit some of the many farmers with produce for sale. There are mushroom vendors (not the magic kind, sorry to disappoint), tomato vendors, pepper vendors, and even a honey vendor in Shed 4. He gives samples, so be sure to stop by and say hello.
Not much for gardening or vegetables? Never fear, meat and cheese is near!
While I'm relatively sure you that while you can't buy a real fat pig at Eastern Market, if you visit R.J. Meats on Gratiot, they'll have just about any cut of pork you want. Or you can pick your own chicken and have someone… *ahem*, another stall found at the end (or beginning) of Shed 4 (but then again, that could have just been an Easter weekend thing).
Butchers not your thing? Check out The Detroit Cheese Co. for a mouthwatering selection of… what else? Cheese. The Detroit Cheese Co.features over 100 selections of over 40 varieties of cheese. R. Hirt, Jr. Co. also features a wide variety of cheese and is located in the southeast corner at the corner of Market and Winder streets. They specialize in imported foods (cheese obviously included), but check out their selection of baskets on the second floor and the mish mash of other goods including toys, candles, and sweaters on the third floor. If you do happen to make it to Hirt's this weekend, be sure to ask about their cheese with the dill. I work nearby and a lunchtime excursion to Hirt's last Friday resulted in us making a lunch of cheese and crackers purchased at their counter.
Speaking of lunch…. All of this shopping and traipsing around is bound to make you hungry. Why not visit some of Eastern Market's wonderful restaurants?
Russell Street Deli is a favorite at our office. One of the best things about the Deli is its incorporation of local products such as Detroit-grown asparagus and spinach, and cream from local Calder's Dairy. Their soups are definitely original (West African Peanut Soup anyone?) but almost always delicious (just avoid the Cabbage Soup and you'll be fine). If you have the opportunity to sample their housemade Salmon burger DO IT, but the Smoked Turkey Special or their Egg Salad is just as delish. Now the Grilled Vegetable on rye is not only my personal favorite, but it's also a favorite of my friend Eve. And if recommendations from a bunch of attorneys and accountants isn't good enough, my cousin Maureen also claims Russell Street Deli as her favorite Eastern Market restaurant (and she's a yogi so there you go!).
Supino Pizza is another Eastern Market institution. Oven baked and generously sliced, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't enjoy a slice of Supino's pizza. Try the Bismarck. The guys at my office loved it. A pizza with an egg on it; who knew? And ladies, if you're not sold on recommendations from men, just take my elementary school friend Ann's word for it. She (and this is a direct quote), "Swear(s)… It is like no other!"
P.S. – Both of these restaurants are located in the southwest corner of Eastern Market, right next to Rocky Peanut Company and across the parking lot from R. Hirt, Jr. Co.
Eastern Market is also home to another institution within itself, Roma Cafe. Established in 1890, it's Detroit's oldest Italian Restaurant. While I've never dined there myself, it comes highly recommended by my friends Ryan N. and Chip.
Also recommended by Ryan N. is the One Pound "Oh My God" burger which is at, as Ryan said, "the place that bbqs outside with karaoke." That place would be Bert's Market Place Jazz, located in the center of Russell Street at the corner of Division. And yes, they definitely feature bbq and karaoke which makes it a must-see based on sheer entertainment value alone.
Craving something sweet? Then take Ann's advice again and trot all the way to the far (north-ish) end of Russell Street near Mack to the Milano Bakery & Cafe. Not sure what to select? Ann's default selection is a custard-filled cupcake.
Did I miss anyone's favorite Eastern Market business, store, or restaurant? Post it in the comments! I'd love to hear of new places to patronize the next time I'm over there.
Eastern Market is definitely a fascinating place to visit. The hustle and bustle makes for interesting people watching, without a doubt. But the best part of Eastern Market? It's local. So by buying just one item from any vendor, you're supporting a small business. And isn't that what it's all about?
P.S.– I've included links to all of the businesses mentioned if they went to a live website. Unfortunately, not every business had one.