Valley Farms Market, now in its 65th year, and operated by the third generation of the Marso family
“You’re going to Spring Valley?” she told me, “You know, the best kept secret in San Diego is a Spring Valley meat counter. It makes the best carne asada….”
9040 Campo Rd, Spring Valley
A couple nights later, a wide strip of citrus and spice-marinated flap steak sizzled in my cast iron, about to prove her right. I’d chop it up for tacos, made on corn tortillas recently pressed by a Chula Vista tortilleria. Then dress it with local avocado, onion, spicy salsa, and San Diego brewed IPA.
Sadie Rose breads are part of the market's dedication to local products.
It made a fine meal, with every component purchased at Valley Farm Market. This year marks the 65th this third-generation grocery operated by the Marso family has held down its corner spot on Campo Road in Spring Valley. And while I’m sure the market has brought value to the community for most of its years, from my perspective the third generation’s the charm.
Behind the vision of Derek Marso, an ex-NFL defensive lineman, the store has become my kind of place. Beginning with that meat counter. One the left side you’ll find marinated meats including that celebrated Imperial Valley carne asada ($12.99/lb.), tandoori chicken, and teriyaki ribs. On the right there’s seafood such as Scottish salmon, wild-caught swordfish, and local halibut. In a freezer to the side are frozen game meats, from elk to boar. And in the center, you’ll find the good stuff: choice and prime grade steaks.
An aisle endcap promotes Ring of Fire hot sauces, made in El Cajon.
But it’s not just the meat that attracts me to this market. It’s a dedication to local products. On one aisle, I spotted breads from the Oceanside bakery, Sadie Rose. At the end of another, fiery hot sauces made by El Cajon’s Ring of Fire brand. I found Julian pies, locally roasted coffee beans, San Diego county wines, and it almost goes without saying, beer. In fact, one of my favorite finds in the meat case was a supply of thick, house-made bratwursts flavored with Second Chance Beer Co.’s roasty gold medal winner, Tabula Rasa porter. That made for another satisfying dinner at home, plated with thick spears of asparagus.
Which must be some sort of theme surrounding the produce section, where I found the most jumbo heirloom tomatoes I’ve ever seen. Just one would be large enough to make a small pot of marinara, which I topped off with a package of large, house-made Italian meatballs, also made by Valley Farm.
An assortment of jumbo heirloom tomatoes
I spent most of the week well fed by one fantastic, independently owned grocery store, and I didn’t even get to Mr. Morso’s not very well kept secret: the BBQ feasts he cooks up on the smoker outside. That’ll be a story for another time. And possibly a visit to the newer sister market in Windansea, which boasts its own meat and fish counter.
And if you’re reading this online, take note: Valley Farm Market is offering a special orange honey marinated corned beef the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. Order some now, while supplies last. I guess the secret’s kind of out.