It’s way too hot out.
The Lady Otter and I are wading through a crowd, weaving under awnings and past overflowing stalls. It’s like a cross between a narrow Tokyo market street and the New York Stock Exchange.
It’s dirty and loud. People are yelling. At each other. At the crowd. At us. Customers are bartering in two or three different languages.
Welcome to Boston’s Haymarket, an outdoor market where you can get everything from grapes to goat meat—and just about anything you can imagine in between.
It’s closer to strolling through an open-air bazaar in Calcutta than down the aisles of your local Whole Foods.
Sometimes the sights and smells are divine, and other times, they can be a little scary. Regardless, it’s always an adventure, and you never know what you’re going to find.
Haymarket is nestled between Fanieul Hall, Government Center, and the North End. It’s open on Fridays and Saturdays, rain or shine, year round. It’s where city dwellers go to get rock bottom prices on fresh food.
As with a lot of things in Boston, there are rules, and the only way to find out about them is to ask the folks who live here.
You can haggle with the sellers, but don’t ever (ever, ever) touch the goods without asking. You’ll be scolded—or screamed at. (Hello, Soup Nazi.)
On the other hand, keep your paws to yourself and ask nicely, and you’ll likely be given a generous sample of whatever you have your eye on.
We tried a quenepas, a sweet and tangy fruit that looks like a miniature lime, and liked it so much that we walked away with a bag of them. (Along with some mission figs, lychees, and a few slabs of amazing smoked cheddar.)
Buyer be(slightly)ware: While a lot of the food is super fresh, some of it is ripe to the point of just going bad. Always check your bag before you walk away from a stall.
Scenes from Boston’s Haymarket