Tag underground market

The Secret Garden: Underground Food Markets

Add the word “underground” to anything and it instantly makes you feel like you’re a part of something special, something secret – somehow you’ve immediately upped the coolness factor.   Of course, “underground” also connotes something that functions outside of the law.  Foodies have been relegated to finding sneaky ways to get around the law with private, members-only underground markets because regulations require food to be produced in a commercial kitchen in order to be sold – a prohibitive expense for many.

The SF Underground Market emerged to create a marketplace that connects people who are making great products with foodies who are happy to access these special treats… health department be damned. As SF Underground describes it, “Think a farmers market, but at night, with music and drinks.” Sign up to check out their next market this Friday, April 16th.

It’s not just your farmers market that’s gone underground, however.  Take Chicago’s Charcuterie Underground – in 2009, Mike Sula of The Chicago Reader described them as “outlaw bacon curers and sausage grinders.”  The Charcuterie Underground consisted of two stay-at-home dads who smoked meat and made sausage for the love of it, somewhat illegally delivering about 40-60 orders to customers each month.  Sadly, the Reader article brought on some heat from the authorities and duo has since ceased operations.

Underground restaurants have also been shut down left and right. Take Seattle’s Gypsy – after years of operation and a feature on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Gypsy was shut down in 2008 for violating liquor regulations.  But the nature of underground is just so, and for every underground restaurant that shuts down, another one will pop up.

While the health department may be dismayed at these underground markets, noting that regulations are in place for a reason, fans of locally produced foods are quick to point out that those regulations were set in place to “check abuses by the very largest food producers.”* So along the lines of last week’s SideDish feature on locally–farmed produce, “Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?” I would prefer to support vendors I can actually speak to at an underground market over the FDA-approved brands in supermarkets that are mass produced.  What do you think? Do you have any underground market suggestions for your city?