Monterey’s Wharf Marketplace opened one year ago, after Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle—an industry leader in premium produce and one of the largest independent lettuce growers in the country—secured a 10-year lease on the historic building which once housed the Standard Pacific Railroad Passenger Station. Modeled after Seattle’s Pike Place Farmers Market and San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza, the area’s first year-round fresh food hall, inspired by the bounty of local produce, sustainable fish and other fresh products, is an alchemy of history and healthy lifestyles.
The first time Edible Monterey Bay wrote about The Wharf Marketplace, its doors were not yet open. The space was a shell of its former life, filled with nothing but possibility, promise and the vision of Rick Antle.
Today, the old linoleum floors gleam. Light shines through open doors and windows upon a space fitted with cases and countertops, boxes and bins, filled to abundance in anticipation of local patrons and guests who will come to hunt and gather their fresh food for the day or the week.
Marketing Supervisor Carrie Crook enters the marketplace, carrying a wire basket filled with red-leaf lettuce, cauliflower, kale and romaine. She surveys the space and thinks about the produce and products sourced first from the Monterey Bay Area, then the Central Coast and, ultimately throughout California, to create a one-stop shopping experience where customers can find everything they need to make their meal.
Indeed. When tourists stop in from the Recreation Trail flanking the Marketplace, and locals make it a once or twice-a-week or more shopping routine, you are satisfying a need and serving up success. But when a diversity of local chefs makes it their source for what they want to serve from their kitchens, you’ve got this.
Executive Chef Mo Tabib from The Fish Hopper comes in once a week for fresh produce. Chef John Pisto picks up cheeses, wine and produce. Executive Chef Tony Baker from Montrio, and Executive Chef Todd Fisher from Tarpy’s Roadhouse come in for produce, as do Chris Shake and Sabu Shake Jr. from The Old Fisherman’s Grotto and The Peninsula Fish Market, Executive Chef Kent Specht from the Sardine Factory, Dana Carnazzo from Grapes of Wrath catering, and Chef Benido Carrillo from Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle. Chef Dominic Mercurio from Domenico’s on the Wharf comes in for produce, but he also loves our barbecue, which we do on weekends, weather permitting.
The lights come on at 7am, and guests slip into the station for a cup of Acme coffee and a fresh-baked pastry or scone, oatmeal or granola with fruit. Some tarry at the tables arranged for interaction, while others grab and go. Those who show up around lunchtime can select custom sandwiches and salads, soups, fresh fruit and cut vegetables.
By mid afternoon, snacks shift to complement the wine-tasting menu, which features nuts and olives, charcuterie and crudités, cheese and crackers paired with local wines. Customers also can forage the market for fresh fruits and vegetables, their bounty augmented by monthly truckload sales of the season’s fresh harvest—currently cherries, watermelon, stone fruits and soon garlic—as well as fresh-cut flowers from local growers.
The market features a fresh seafood station, sourced first in Monterey, followed by the greater Monterey Bay up to Moss Landing and Santa Cruz, followed by fish caught in California and, ultimately fish from the waters of entire West Coast.
The goal was to make The Wharf Marketplace a destination, not just an ordinary grocery store, but a specialty market, where people can take in the fresh bounty as part of their enjoyment of this area; where they’re not just buying something, but they are experiencing it.
To that end, Antle and Crook both encourage patrons to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or linger over a glass of wine later in the day, and take in what the Marketplace has to offer.
As The Wharf Marketplace reaches its first anniversary, the staff is planning a special celebration yet to be announced. They also are looking into catering breakfast and lunch, to hosting small-group private events, and to getting a new sign placed at the south end of their parking lot, so patrons can find them behind a daily line-up of 8-12 semi-trucks obscuring the building as they wait to load up local squid.
“We’ve come a long way in our first year,” says Crook. “We want to make sure everyone knows where we are.”
Wharf Marketplace • 290 Figueroa St., Monterey • 831.261.8807
Hours: 7am – 7pm, seven days a week, except Tuesdays, when the Marketplace closes at 3pm in deference to the Alvarado Street Farmers Market.
A fifth-generation Northern Californian, Lisa Crawford Watson has enjoyed a diverse career in business, education and writing. She lives with her family on the Monterey Peninsula, where her grandmother once lived and wrote. An adjunct writing instructor for CSU Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula College, Lisa is also a free-lance writer, who specializes in the genres of art & architecture, health & lifestyle, food & wine. She has published various books and thousands of feature articles and columns in local and national newspapers and magazines.