A typical weekly pre-lunch break goes a little something like this:
I grab a tote bag, some cash, and my library card. I stroll until I reach the library, pick up or drop off my books or CDs, and continue on until I reach 9th Street. I know, I know, I said I’d keep a schedule. But the Market won’t be open then.
The 9th Street Italian Market began in the 1800s as produce stands, cheese shops, and butchers sprang up to meet the needs of the people living in an Italian boarding house developed in the area. Since then, the market has evolved to include more than only Italian specialty shops, but many of the founding businesses are still standing and thriving.
On my way for a visit, I assess my cash situation, typically under ten dollars. Once there, I do a walk-by of “my stands” then challenge myself to see how much I can buy with the money. Sound fun? Oh, it is! Sometimes, I leave there feeling like I stole something, carrying so much produce I can hardly carry it two blogs without shaking arms.
That is one side of the market- the sort of gritty, have-to-be-in-the-mood-for-it, so-cheap-its-almost-free produce side. And it’s awesome. The street is lined with produced stands on the eastern side (note: most cash only). Some stands are fresher than others. Some stands are even cheaper than others. You learn the vendors and they remember you. It is charming in a way. Parisian street produce markets it is not, but it is a hugely unique feature of this city that I would sorely miss if we were without.
Then there’s the specialty food product side. First, both sides of the streets are packed with cheese, pasta, and chocolate shops, as well as countless butchers, spice shops, and even an olive oil shop. Wander into any cheese shop, and you will leave stuffed with samples forced on you in a way only Italians can muster. And you already know about my adoration for the kitchen tools shop. Then, there are several Mexican specialty shops featuring classic snack foods like tamales, restaurants, and even a tortilleria, one of my favorite places.
The Italian Market is a must visit! It is especially a treat during the week when the crowds are slimmer; My secret enclave is a secret no more. But, that is selfish of me. Go! Enjoy! And have fun with the vendors. They are a fun, albeit a sometimes rowdy bunch.
Here is a map of all of my favorite spots. Save it to your phone for when you visit. I wrote out an official “Culinary Walking Tour” over on MapQuest’s blog, Parachute. So head there for the full, tasty experience.
Mini Philly Italian Market Guide:
Visitor’s Center: 919 S. 9th Street
“Official” produce vendor hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Sundays: 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
-Still visit on Monday’s; Some stalls are open.
-Tuesday-Sunday, your best bet is to arrive closer to 9 to make sure the stalls are all open. Also better to arrive before 3:30pm since some stalls close down if business is slow.