Student’s Guide to the Farmer’s Market at IX Art Park – The Cavalier Daily
With the fall weather approaching, it’s the perfect time to explore one of Charlottesville’s most popular attractions, the Farmer’s Market, to relax with friends or relax in solitude. The Farmer’s Market at IX Art Park, located a short walk from the Downtown Mall, is one of many markets in the city. Other markets include the Charlottesville City Market and Farmers in the Park. As a newbie last Saturday, I was surprised to see the abundance and variety of vendors. Not only is the market a great way to eat delicious local food and shop from local businesses, but it’s also a way to give back to the Charlottesville community.
The market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is home to over 60 local vendors selling artisan goods, fresh produce, prepared meals and more. The website provides a comprehensive list of all vendors and some COVID-19 policies to follow, including keeping a six-foot distance from others and masking up.
I showed up at 9am and was surprised to find the market already packed with visitors and vendors. It was great to see the Charlottesville community come together – families, pets and students.
During my visit, I was able to visit three food vendors that sold authentic Mexican tacos, sweet and savory Greek dishes, and classic homemade American pies. Highly recommend all three as they were all delicious, fresh and locally made.
The first vendor I visited was Mexican Tacos, and they sold various Mexican foods including tacos, burritos, and tamales with various meat and filling options. I had two tacos – one chorizo and the other birria – topped with onions, cilantro, pico de gallo and spicy salsa.
Even though it was only 9am, there was already a line for this vendor, so I knew I had to give it a try – and it didn’t disappoint. The meat and tortilla were fresh and warm, and the toppings and salsa mixed well with the juicy meat toppings to create a nice crunch and flavor. Unless you’re allergic to a certain topping, I highly recommend finishing your tacos with all of the topping options to fully enjoy the dish. Next time I will try the burrito, a popular choice among the people before me.
Ambrosia, the second vendor I visited, was recommended to me by a friend, and it sells quiches, baklava, and many other authentic Greek dishes. I didn’t get to try their baklava and other desserts, but I had the chance to try one of their delicious quiches. With a variety of flavors to choose from, it was a tough choice, but I ended up buying the quiche with caramelized onions, Brussels sprouts and bacon. The sweet and savory fillings of the quiche mixed beautifully with the savory custard, and the Brussels sprouts created a nice texture and chewy against the creamy filling. It was a shame that I only tried one option, so I will definitely try other quiche flavors and maybe grab one of their desserts when I visit the market next time.
Fourth-year college student Kacie Park, who has been visiting the market weekly since the summer, has tasted more of Ambrosia’s dishes. One of Park’s favorite dishes is baklava, a dessert made of thin, crispy dough flakes interwoven with a sweet nutty filling.
“My first time at Ambrosia…I saw this lady furiously stuffing pies, quiches and baklava into tiny cardboard boxes, so I just stopped to say hello, and she kind of rolled me up, and tried his famous baklava,” Park said. “After that, I go there every week, every Saturday to buy a box of baklava for my closest friends and family.”
After Ambrosia, I finished my first farmer’s market experience with a sweet finish at Family Ties and Pies, a vendor that sells homemade American pies. Like Ambrosia, there was a huge variety of sweet and savory options to choose from, making it nearly impossible to decide which one to try.
In the end, I decided to try one of their most popular pies – the Apple Crumb. Besides the basic ingredients for baking a pie, apple crumbs are made with local apples, pecans, cinnamon, and brown sugar, making this the perfect fall pie. The sweet custard and soft apples of the filling pair perfectly with the crumbly filling, both in flavor and texture. Family Ties and Pies sells different sizes of each flavor, including a “cute size,” which is small enough for one person but big enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Overall I saw and heard lots of friendly conversations between customers and vendors which was a great way to start an early Saturday morning. I was also able to engage in conversations with some of the vendors, which lifted my spirits and made me feel closer to the Charlottesville community.
Fourth-year education student Jennifer Cheung, who visits the farmers’ market weekly, uses the market as a space to relax and refocus after a hard week of school.
“There’s just a lot of joy in being in an environment that’s so engaging and social and delightful and fun,” Cheung said. “It’s a place where I feel a lot of anxiety, or even just like when undergraduate pressure is so high, it’s a way to get out of myself – to be active but not tired, to socialize but not anxious, to be enjoying things without wondering if my time is wasted.
The incredible variety of options and high quality products earn my recommendation to anyone visiting the market. Not only will the food satisfy your cravings, but the conversations you engage with the vendors will enhance the whole experience and bring joy to your Saturday morning. The Farmer’s Market at IX Art Park offers a delicious and welcoming outing to enjoy Charlottesville’s fall weather while supporting local businesses.