One of my very favorite things about the city of Cleveland, is our West Side Market.
I have so many memories going there as a little girl with my mom and sister. It was always a special treat to stop at the candy store and get some of those “candy dots” or a smokie from whichever meat stand my mom shopped at.
Today, I live a little distance from the market myself, but it’s still my all-time favorite place to buy groceries and it is so worth the drive!
Shopping at the market is a very different experience than shopping at your typical grocery store. If you have never been to the West Side Market, you really should make it a goal to check it out when they reopen!
In the meantime, here are some things that you should know before you head out!
Tips for West Side Market Newbies:
Hours of operation! The market is NOT open every day! They are open on MONDAY & WEDNESDAY: 7am – 4pm and FRIDAY & SATURDAY: 7am – 6pm
Friday morning is personally my favorite day to shop, but it’s also the busiest! It’s also very busy right before a holiday!
Set Up: The market has two main sections; a produce arcade, which is an open air section where you can buy pretty much any produce your heart desires, and the Market House, which is a closed-in area where you can buy everything else.
If you are shopping in the winter, be sure to bundle up!
Every stand is owned by different vendors so you have a lot of choices when it comes to where to buy your food. This can be a little intimidating at first, but after a couple of visits, you will have a pretty good idea of where you prefer to shop. And you will love the variety available! You can find things at the market that are hard to find anywhere else.
Payment: Some stands, especially in the produce arcade, only accept cash, so be sure to have plenty of cash on hand. I also like to carry a notebook to keep track of how much I have spent.
BYOCart: There are no grocery carts at the market. I have my own cart and I have been stopped so many times by people asking me where I got it. I found mine on Ebay. You can google “shopping carts” and you’ll find a lot to choose from! If you are only buying a few items, you won’t necessarily need one, but if you are doing big shopping and you don’t want to keep running bags out to your car, I would highly recommend investing in a portable shopping cart!
Take your time! As you venture through the market, be sure to take your time and browse the stands. Many vendors will have samples for you to try and in the produce arcade, you can count on vendors calling out to you, vying for your attention. This is just part of the experience of shopping at the market. I used to feel bad for not stopping at every vendor and while you can’t possibly buy from everyone, don’t let that stop you from taking a moment to check them out.
For your first visit or two to the market, plan to spend a couple hours, if you can, so you can get to know the different vendors and what they offer. Talk to them. Let them know it’s your first visit. Most vendors are very helpful and friendly. They want to establish a relationship with you because they want you to come back to them! They may even give you a first-time visit discount. You will be amazed that by your second trip, many of them will recognize you and even address you by name!
Grab a map and circle your favorite places or jot down notes about what each vendor offers. You will soon get to know where you want to buy certain items and you can use the map to make your future trips more efficient.
Eat it now! You’ve heard it said that you should never shop hungry? Well, that is not a problem at the West Side Market! There are several places where you can stop and get something to drink and/or a bite to eat. Here are some of my favorites:
- Crepes de luxe – sweet and savory crepes!
- City Roast Coffee and Tea
- Steves Gyros
- Maha’s Falafil – awesome falafil! I also highly recommend their pita bread!
- Franks Bratwurst:
A word of caution: For the most part, shopping at the West Side Market is a really positive experience. It can be a lot of fun and you will really enjoy getting to know your way around. Always pay attention to how your food is being handled and to what you are being sold. The majority of vendors are very clean and honest, but it still doesn’t hurt to keep your eyes open.
In the produce arcade, tell the vendor that you would like to pick your own produce. On a few rare occasions, I’ve come home with a bag of moldy berries. If you take your time and pick your own produce, however, this should not be an issue.
I, like so many others, really miss the market right now. I hope you will do your part to support this precious Cleveland icon when it is back up and running and hopefully this information will help make that a little easier for you!
Be sure to check out the official West Side Market webpage for more information!
In the meantime, what is your favorite feature of the West Side Market? Do you have any other tips for first time marketers? Do you have any other questions about your first trip to the market? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments!