Is Dallas a good food town? A debate that has been waged across dinner tables and blog comment sections. No matter which side of the fence you fall on, ask yourself this question: how was the debate framed?
Most likely, you discussed restaurants. Is our BBQ as good as the Hill Country? Is our Italian up to snuff? Is our sushi really as good as NYC and LA?
All valid questions. But restaurants alone do not a food culture make! Markets are an integral part of any food culture. And guess what – Dallas has fantastic independent markets in every part of the city.
This is not meant as an indictment of the “gourmet” grocery stores that have sprung up across the Metroplex. They do offer some combination of convenience and quality. But they can’t replicate a market.
Let’s put it this way: My market, TJ’s Fresh Seafood Market, has been in business 22 years, most of it next to Whole Foods. Clearly someone thinks there is a difference between a grocery store and a market!
So what is the difference ?
Markets are small businesses which can’t deal with turnover like big corporations. Many of Dallas’ markets have had the same core staff working for years. My first job was at Kuby’s 15 years ago. I still see the same faces when I walk in today. You think there is a jagwurst question they haven’t been asked? Market staffs are experienced and knowledgable.
It’s “Farm To Table,” not “Farm To Central Distribution Warehouse To Table”
Grocery stores tend to order in large quantities. Product often go to a distribution center and then are shipped out to individual stores. Markets tend to order in small quantities right to their location. Produce, meat, dairy…it’s almost always going to be fresher in a market.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
It’s damned hard for an independent market today! So you should get fantastic personal service – or the market will be out of business. Become a regular and they’ll probably remember your name. They’ll remember your favorite items, email you when something you like (or they think you’d like) comes in. Walk into Veritas Wine Room a few times and they’ll remember your name – even when you can’t.
If You Seek Unique…
Try finding Miso Happy Chocolate with red miso, tahini and black sesame anywhere but Dude, Sweet Chocolate. Thumann’s natural casing hot dogs anywhere but Hirsch’s Specialty Meats & Sausages. Pastosa Fresh Pasta (flown in from Brooklyn) anywhere but Jimmy’s Food Store. Pure Ground’s Fresh Chevre anywhere but Scardellos?
Support our local markets. It’s fun, its old school, its hip, it’s fresh and chances are you might find a new favorite food…or make a new friend who will feed you really well.
Jon Alexis is the owner of TJ’s Fresh Seafood Market and one of the very few fishmongers in Dallas. He is also a regular contributer to craveDFW.