Dec 21, 2014

A stroll through the Soulard Market

Considering how often I visit Saint Louis and its historic Soulard neighborhood, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I waited until my birthday last month to make my first visit to the historic Soulard Farmers Market.

The Soulard Farmers Market is considered one of the oldest of its kind in the United States, dating back more than two centuries and pre-dating New Orleans’ arguably more famous French Market by a few years.  As often as I travel to New Orleans, I try to make a point to visit the French Market on every trip.  So, I was very pleased to finally tour Saint Louis’ Soulard Market which, by my comparison, seems more true to the spirit of the traditional open-air farmers markets in almost every sense.    

For starters, the Soulard Market seems to have a much greater number of vendors selling meat and produce – both locally grown and from around the world.  Even though we arrived early afternoon on a Saturday and the pickings were getting slim, we still saw many great finds and bargains. 

And if you’re shopping for fresh poultry, you won’t find it any fresher than this.  I guess even today some people prefer to do all the prep work themselves.

One of my biggest laments about New Orleans’ French Market is that its open air portion seems to be dominated by flea market vendors.  And you’ll find a fair amount of flea market stands at Soulard, too.  From sports jerseys to jewelry, sunglasses, candles and soaps, you can probably find it here.  In fact, my girlfriend found a very cool trilby hat that fit her style perfectly. 

At the center of the Soulard Market is the Grand Hall, which houses a number of indoor vendors, notably the Soulard Spice Shop, which has been a fixture since 1929.  This appeared to be the center of all market activity on the day we visited.  The scents from the spice shop seemed to be drawing everyone in from all corners of the market.   

The Grand Hall also houses a florist, meat market and a food and drink vendor called Joyce’s Corner.  I instantly took a liking to Joyce’s since they were serving booze – in particular, $1 Jell-O shots and homemade red-headed sluts served from a gallon milk jug.  Shots and shopping – a nice concept. 

But I found the meat market to be the most intriguing vendor in the Grand Hall.  This place seemed to have it all – and a lot of items that appealed to my Cajun palate.  Note the signs advertising alligator, andouille, crawfish, and even quail. It was like they picked a butcher shop in New Orleans and magically transported it to Saint Louis. 

The variety within that refrigerator is impressive, to say the least.  This is not your ordinary grocery store butcher counter.  And you have to love a place that proudly boasts they can fix you up with fresh coon meat. 

Of course, shopping can make one hungry – or thirsty – which is why Julia’s Market Café is such a great thing to have at the Soulard Market.  And, with beignets and red beans and rice on the day’s menu, Julia’s could have fit very easily into the mix of food vendors you’d find at New Orleans’ French Market as well. 

I also suspect Julia’s isn't kidding when they say they have the best Bloody Marys in Soulard (with so many bars in the neighborhood, that statement covers a lot of ground!).  Nonetheless, since we were past time for a breakfast drink, we opted instead to try their cherry bomb hurricanes. 

The gf stylin' with her new hat and sippin' a hurricane in the rare November sunshine.  
And on an unusually warm late November day, what better way to wrap up our visit to the Soulard Market than by enjoying a drink in the sunlight via the outdoor seating adjacent to Soulard Park?  The deck provides plenty of room for shoppers to eat, drink and people watch. 

I had only one regret about my first visit to the Soulard Market.  I wish I had brought a cooler, so I could take things home with me.  I'll be prepared next time.  

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