Although known for its’ railroads, the stockyards, the sports and skyscrapers, the history of Kansas City began along the banks of the mighty Missouri River. In what is now called the River Market area of KC, the historic City Market still offers many shopping opportunities. Today’s City Market is built on the site of the original which opened in 1858. The current buildings were built in 1939 and restored in 1990. Everything from organically grown peaches picked the previous day to ethnic foods and farm fresh produce can be found here. The open air stalls of the Farmer’s Market fill with fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, and fresh baked goods each Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. One hundred and forty four stalls are booked in advance by farmers with standing reservations. Farm fresh goods, however, are just one of the things offered to the public in the River Market area at Fifth and Walnut just north of today’s downtown district. The Missouri River is just blocks away and the historic steamship Arabia museum is located within the district.
Ethnic cooks who seek the special ingredients necessary to make that special dish can find what is needed at several ethnic grocery stores and markets in the River Market district. Three of the top ethnic grocers in the area cater to generations of cooks who seek speciality items hard to find elsewhere. The top three are the Hung Vuong Vietnamese Market, Al Habashi Middle Eastern Groceries, and Carollo’s Italian Grocery.
At Hung Vuong, customers can buy the fresh produce, special spices, and other items that figure prominently in classic Vietnamese cooking. Although not as well known as other Oriental style cuisine, Vietnamese foods are delightful, rich in taste and delicious. Those unfamiliar with what goes into a good Vietnamese dish can dine at the adjacent Hien Vuong Restaurant to develop at taste for Vietnamese foods. Both the market and restaurant are within the River Market area.
If falafel and chick peas are more the taste sought, try Al Habashi Middle Eastern Groceries on Main. The best of the Middle East lines the aisles of this store that makes the customer feel as if he or she has magically traveled abroad. Whether cooking a curry, a gyro, or other Middle Eastern favorites, this is the store where cooks can find the ingredients needed to make the taste authentic. A large clientele of those native to Middle Eastern natives patronize this shop for a taste of home.
Italian grocerys were once a staple market in any area with a large Italian or Italian-American population but they are more difficult to find today. More than one Italian grocery can be located in the river market region but the best of the best if Carollo’s Italian Grocery. Traditional products – including virgin olive oils imported from Italty – can be found here. This shop is rich in the sights and smells of the past. Products found here are “the real deal” – no chain store, name brand imitations but rather quality ingredients that will go into the pot to produce authentic Italian dishes.
A visit to the River Market area and City Market offers a variety of shopping experiences. Artists often show their works here, especially on Sundays. Many other unique shops and markets are in the vicinity but food – fresh or ethnic – is the most common category shopped for here.