Market Scene: Hillcrest Farmers' Market in San Diego, CA

[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

San Diego's temperate climate and long growing season means locals can enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables year-round. In this land of plenty, regular visits to farmers' markets are the best way to enjoy the bounty of the seasons.

Several markets exist throughout San Diego county, with at least one open daily. My favorite location to browse for local eats includes the quirky Ocean Beach Farmers' Market (which is more like a street fair) on Wednesday evenings, the bustling Saturday morning Little Italy Farmers' Market, and the largest of all: the Hillcrest Farmers' Market, which runs from on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Hillcrest market packs in 125 vendors, featuring a variety of locally grown produce, plus specialty items like organic cheese, nuts, flowers, truffles, coffee, and fresh meat and seafood.

One half of the farmers' market is full of food stands, offering everything from a sweet treat to a full meal. International eats are well represented. Among the options are Ethiopian sambusas, gyros and souvlaki, crepes, paninis, empanadas, Russian blinis, and all manner of Mexican food.

One of the food stands offering full meals is Bubba's Asian BBQ. On the menu: lemongrass chicken, ribs, shrimp tacos, pulled pork tacos, spring rolls, shrimp papaya salad, and more.

Another option is this chicken platter from Flavors of East Africa. Served with rice, collard greens and nyoyo (corn, beans, and hominy), this meal makes a hearty lunch that's packed with robust flavors.


One of the tastiest treats available are the Thai pancakes (kanom krok) from Saranya & The Black Thai. These creamy, custardy treats are made from a silky coconut milk batter that's poured in a custom pan. At five for $1, they're particularly difficult to resist.

Samples abound at the market. Everything from a slice of citrus to a tiny cube of cheese can be toothpick-impaled. One of the most popular snacking stations is the Baba Foods table, where over a dozen types of gourmet hummus can be sampled. With flavors like spicy black bean and avocado and cilantro, I betcha can't try just one.

Joe's on the Nose (already profiled on SE) is a popular spot to stop for a specialty latte or smoothie. Browsing the market is even better when you're sipping a Lava Flow smoothie (pina colada over strawberry).

Another option for coffee is Divine Madmen, where serious coffee lovers can purchase Blue Mountain or Bali Peaberry coffee ($40/pound). The San Diego-based specialty coffee roaster also offers more moderately priced beans by the half and full pound, plus coffee by the cup.

In Season Right Now:

Citrus Fruits Root Vegetables Apples Mushrooms Avocados Squash Peas Tomatoes Hot Peppers Cheese Nuts Potted Herbs