One thing I’m always sure to do when traveling is visit food markets. It’s a delicious way to get a taste of the regional flavor and to mingle with the locals. Some of the best meals I’ve had while traveling were either at food markets, or I bought ingredients at the market and prepared the meals myself. Meals as simple as fresh meats, cheeses, and bread from an outdoor market in Orvieto, Italy; to “Greek pizza” and baklava at Kenosha HarborMarket in Kenosha, Wisconsin. So when I was planning to visit Grand Rapids, Michigan, last fall, I knew I needed to visit the Downtown Market.
Grand Rapids Downtown Market is a year-round, 24-vendor indoor hall. During the warmer months, there is an outdoor market, as well, featuring local farmers and artisans. I visited in October and only the indoor market hall was open; it was fine with me. I was there on a weekday, right after the lunchtime rush, and I practically had the entire place to myself. ArtPrize had just ended the day before but many pieces were still on display throughout the city; some were at Downtown Market, so I felt like I didn’t really miss out on ArtPrize.
The merchants I encountered were eager to talk with me about their products. I spent a great deal of time speaking with a young lady from Montello Meat Market. She explained that their meats are all-natural and all from local pastures. On certain days of the week, they conduct whole-animal butchery on-site and shoppers can watch the butchers in action (I’m really not into that sort of thing but I know others are). I was just amazed by the variety of meats available in their display cases. I spied everything from cubed goat to linguiça. There were so many things I wanted to buy at the market but it was the beginning of my trip. Instead, I just hung out in a comfy chair at Simpatico Coffee, enjoying my mocha and the complimentary wifi. I did make another stop at Downtown Market on my last day in Grand Rapids to pick up goodies for home, namely caramel corn from Dorothy & Tony’s Gourmet Popcorn; pecorino from Aperitivo; and cupcakes from Sweetie-licious Bake Shoppe.
As they say at Downtown Market, the “produce isn’t the only green thing” about the place. You see, Grand Rapids Downtown Market is the first LEED-certified market in the U.S. It was built using all recycled, repurposed, and reused materials; and built upon geothermal wells, which provide heating and cooling for the building, thereby conserving energy. It’s all quite fascinating.
Grand Rapids Downtown Market is a destination all on its own. It will become a regular stop for me on my future trips to Grand Rapids, and I’m especially excited to check out the outdoor market this summer.