The Rochester Public Market can be noisy, crowded, and fishy, but that is part of the vibrancy and spirit that make it a unique experience. Where else in Rochester is it almost too crowded to move for hours at a time? To avoid the Saturday crowds, join a number of chefs that shop on Thursdays (it's also open Tuesday and Thursday mornings), when parking is much easier. A bonus: Market prices are often a fraction of grocery-store prices.
The Market is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, with a centennial party on June 4 and 5, 2005. There is a real sense of history here. Shoppers still travel the same cobblestone streets that in the early days would be covered with 2000 teams of horses from farms in Irondequoit and other suburbs. Now the farms are mostly in adjoining counties, and farmers leave at 3:30 in the morning to arrive in time for Saturday morning shoppers.
One farmer that comes from Williamson is Louie Chelini, who drives each week with his son, granddaughter, and other family members. I met Louie quite a few years ago when I learned that his corn was an ingredient in one of my favorite dishes, a corn chowder with lobster at Brasserie Restaurant. I've been buying a dozen or two ears from Louie every chance I get. I'll start asking him about the corn's progress months before harvest arrives.
In this anniversary year, there will be a sit-down restaurant returning to the Market. For decades there was Jimmy's, which served as a gathering place for politicians, activists, and other hungry people. Now Java Joe's coffee shop is expanding its slot along Commission House Row. Java's Café will be the first non-wholesale business open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch, featuring the produce of the Market.
These buildings on the edge of the Market near Union Street house some of my favorite haunts, like Rich Ports Bakery, Vince Giordano's Cheese and Olive shop, JonJohn's Kitchen, Fare Game, and a new tea vendor.