Best Open-Air Market - 2002
Soulard Farmers Market
Often imitated, never duplicated, Soulard Farmers Market, a St. Louis fixture since 1838, is today the lone survivor of what once were numerous public markets in the city. Although other open-air markets pepper the metropolitan area -- Clayton and University City have them, for instance, and a fantastic little gem has sprung up in Edwardsville -- Soulard's is the best and largest. Farmers still tote their goods to the market as they did when the market first opened, selling produce, poultry and very early bootleg P. Diddy T-shirts. The vendors bark out bargains; customers respond accordingly. No wonder -- the cost of produce here is often lower than at local supermarkets, especially if you know where to look and which vendors to frequent. One's got perfect late-season tomatoes; another's bursting with fresh garlic; the best eggs in St. Louis can be had here. Add in the most diverse clientele in the city -- you're just as likely to see Abercrummy yuppies as you are scrappier people, and, especially on Saturday mornings, you'll find a remarkable range of ethnicities: Bosnians, Argentinians, Ethiopians, Vietnamese, Chinese and a host of others. Although the market's known mainly for its produce, it also features a butcher shop, a host of trinket vendors -- even a pet store. It's also one of the best -- and most overlooked -- places to take out-of-towners.