Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
Date Street Breakfast: Little Italy Mercato
Saturday mornings in our house almost always begin with a trip to the Little Italy Mercato at Date and India Streets (9 am -1:30 pm, rain or shine). We've been doing it since it first opened with 40 vendors in June 2008. It now has over 140 farm and specialty booths, and stretches from Kettner to State. Run by Catt Fields White, who also manages the North Park and Pacific Beach Farmer's Markets, the Mercato showcases local fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers, eggs, cheese, pastured chicken and meat and more. It's easy to graze your way through free samples, but if you want heartier fare, there are plenty of food purveyors to choose from.
On this spectacular December morning, the sun is shining, there's live music, the holiday spirit is in the air, and the colors are so pure they almost hurt your eyes. I have breakfast on my mind, and Poppa's Fresh Fish Company is where we head.
Today, Poppa's has five ceviches to choose from, shrimp, yellowtail, snapper, salmon and white sea bass, whole fluke out of Baja, sockeye salmon, Hood Canal oysters on the half shell, freshly made cherrystone clam cocktails, and live local sea urchins. I've got a full day of eating ahead of me, so I get three oysters to start ($2 each, $1.25 from 9-10am). I admire them for just a moment before slurping them down. Briny, sweet, incredibly fresh. Yum.
Next, a caffeine fix. Down to the end of the market, to the famous orange truck, Joes on the Nose.
There's a full menu of hot and cold coffee and tea drinks and smoothies, but we just get a couple of brewed organic coffees from the press pots ($1.75). I like my coffee strong, and this doesn't disappoint. Nice vibe there.
We stand around for a minute enjoying them, and then head back up the street to Masala Cottage for samosas. I get a veggie ($2), John gets a lamb one ($3), both with hot sauce. We sit down on the curb to eat and people watch.
The samosas aren't super crispy, but they are filling and delicious. Mine is stuffed with spiced potato chunks in their skins and green peas. I love the soft texture and homey flavor. John's samosa is filled with savory ground lamb; it's juicy and fragrant.
Walking back to the car, John laughs, "Don't you just hate winter around here?"
Little Italy Mercato
Date and India Streets
Saturdays, 9:00 am - 1:30 pm, rain or shine
Some vendors accept credit cards, bring cash. Metered street parking, some free lot parking (follow signs).
Poppa's Fresh Fish Company
Joes on the Nose
Masala Cottage Restaurant (brick and mortar location)
533 El Cajon Boulevard
El Cajon, CA
(619) 441-0778 No website.
Information about San Diego farmer's markets, including a schedule:
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