1. Dean’s Mediterranean Imports
Last March, Kate Zaidan took ownership of this international specialty market. Her dad, Dean, had run the shop for three decades. “I’m always on the lookout for new suppliers, and I really like to try to get things that are hard to find elsewhere,” she says—like the roughly 100 loose spices, or olive oils sourced from 15 countries (try the Saifan, a peppery Lebanese variety). Also worth adding to your shopping list: the thick, tart homemade yogurt; fresh-made hummus and tabbouleh; and house-roasted nuts. Oh, and a falafel sandwich to go. (513) 241-8222, mediterranean-imports.com
2. Fresh Table
For market-fresh meals without the manual labor, check out Fresh Table’s made-daily menu. Now in their fourth year, chef-owners Meredith Trombly and Louis Snowden serve eclectic, healthy prepared foods, with a focus on sustainable, local, and organic ingredients—many sourced from other market vendors. Free-range curried chicken salad made with an in-house curry blend, spicy grilled wild-caught shrimp, and carrot and Thai mango salad (inspired by a find at neighboring vendor Saigon Market) are staples. Or ask the chef behind the counter for a recommendation. (513) 381-3774, freshtable.biz
3. Madison’s at Findlay Market
Nothing can deter longtime market stalwarts Bryan and Carolyn Madison, not even a storefront set on fire during the 2001 riots. Madison’s fills general and niche needs, carrying milk from three local creameries, flours and prepared baking mixes from Kentucky’s Weisenberger Mill, specialty produce picks like lacinato kale and romanesco cauliflower, and a wall of organic bulk items from wheat berries to wasabi peas. And don’t miss the pints of Madisono’s gelato, made in town by their son Matt. Caramello with sea salt and lemon basil sorbet are house favorites. (513) 723-0590, madisonsmarkets.com
4. Butcher Shops
Meats are a not-to-miss market mainstay. Kroeger & Sons Meats (513-651-5543) carries a wide variety of handmade sausages and nitrate-free bacon, including peppered and thick-cut. Eckerlin Meats (513-721-5743, eckerlinmeats.com) is known for its goetta (they supply Oakley’s Sleepy Bee, among many restaurants). But if you’re craving a steak, they’ll hook you up with whatever cut you desire. Busch’s Country Corner (513-723-1333) specializes in fresh, free-range, all-natural Amish chicken—including wings (and seasonings). You’ll find turkey, rabbit, capon, and a selection of smoked and cured meats, too.
5. S+J Bakery and Café
Stefan Skirtz began his business doing catering and custom cakes, but a wide selection of breads and desserts, plus a seasonal, constantly-changing lunch menu—sourced almost entirely from market farmers and merchants—has since been added. Not to miss: the pistachio cannoli (the best outside of Boston, we hear), the goetta danish (puff pastry–wrapped Eckerlin’s goetta smothered in sweetened cream cheese, apricot, streusel, and icing), and the handmade baguettes (made with Moerlein spent grain and kneaded only by human hands, never a mixer). (513) 381-1286, sandjbakery.com
6. Blue Oven Bakery
The wood-fired oven on Mark and Sara Frommeyer’s farm puts out some seriously delicious breads—just try the apricot walnut cranberry loaf or the English muffins (wheat or white; moist, dense, and addictive). They locally source and personally grow as many ingredients as possible: “We’re not just bread; we’re a farming operation,” Mark says. Breads are snatched up quickly, so arrive early, especially for specialty items like the salty-sweet chardale croissant—swiss chard and kale from their garden, pine nuts, local ham, and a date topping. blueovenbakery.com; weekends only
Mother-son co-owners Renee and Jody Miller make dozens of fresh pastas, raviolis, and sauces for you to prepare at home—and baked goods that can be enjoyed right away. Pair the fig, marscapone, and prosciutto ravioli with the brown butter sage sauce, or cover the garlic-chive linguine with the vodka cream. For instant gratification, the stand offers build-your-own breakfast and lunch menus. From the bakery, grab a chess bar (a perfectly portable version of the pie) or warm up a hearty serving of the white chocolate bread pudding. (513) 381-5838
8. Bee Haven Honey
This family beekeeping venture has 26 hives—and counting—scattered around town. The buckwheat honey has a rich, strong molasses flavor; the wildflower a more mild, traditional taste; and the star thistle has hints of anise and almond. “We want people to really see the difference in kinds of honey. It’s not what’s on a grocery store shelf,” says owner Samantha Zurek Gordon. Spring honey is harvested mid-June, so grab a jar and a homemade candle, lip balm, or hand salve—and some bee pollen. “They say it cures everything,” she says. (513) 542-5621, beehavenhoney.com; weekends only
9. Churchill’s Fine Teas
Jerry and Kathleen Kern started their business because Kathleen, a London transplant, “has always had one gripe about the United States: no good tea,” says Jerry. That sought-after cuppa spawned a storefront with 265 varieties of loose-leaf tea—the largest selection in the Midwest—along with totally focused, one-on-one attention and expertise. Try the African Sunrise (green sencha with raspberry, lemon, and rose petals) over ice, or the Hot Cincinnati Spice (cinnamon pieces, sweet cloves, and orange peel) sold as black, green, rooibos, or black decaf tea. (513) 421-1455, churchillsteas.com
10. Gramma Debbie’s Kitchen
Owner Debbie Knueven Gannaway dishes out slow-cooked comfort food (like braised kale with cannellini or roasted beets and sweet potatoes with honey and coriander). But her all-natural, grill-ready poultry is perhaps the best reason to stop by the stand. Pick up some of her Caribbean jerk marinated chicken breasts or Caprese chicken burgers for your next cookout. Chances are good you’ll meet one of her grandkids behind the counter—and her son, Matthew Gannaway, runs Kroeger & Sons Meats next door. (513) 421-4726
11. Dojo Gelato
Cool down with a cup of gelato made fresh on-site. Or pep up with locally-roasted Deeper Roots espresso and coffee. New flavors rotate weekly and seasonally, but look for The Draper—Mad Men-inspired, with bourbon-soaked Amarena cherries, sweet cream, and orange peel. (513) 328-9000, dojogelato.com
12. Market Wines
Come for the curated four-wine tastings on weekends ($5), and expect to try some unexpected pours. Come back for owner Michael Maxwell’s encyclopedic knowledge of the more than 600 wines and 300 beers he stocks—and his knack for pairing you with your new favorite. (513) 744-9888, market-wines.com
Summer Market Essentials
Head to the summer farmers’ market shed for produce, plants, and more, fresh from local farms (Sat 8 am–2 pm, Sun 10 am–2 pm, April–Nov). Of note: Turner Farm returns this summer after a three-year hiatus; stop by their stand for organic greens. Wash down your market visit with a local brew in the biergarten. Moerlein is on tap every weekend, and other craft brewers will rotate through a sidekick slot. (Sat 11 am–5 pm, Sun noon–4 pm, May–Mid-Oct).
New Kids on the Block
Say hello to the market’s newest storefronts. Maverick Chocolate Co. is Cincinnati’s first bean-to-bar chocolatier, so you can watch the entire process and taste the results (like single-origin dark chocolate bars or chocolate with inclusions). Eli’s BBQ got its start with a market stand, and this month will open its second spot there—with the same menu and prices as the East End restaurant. Try the pulled pork sandwich with slaw, and pair it with a side of the jalapeño cheese grits.
Originally published in the June 2014 issue.
Photographs by Aaron M. Conway/OMS.