Venue Review: Theatre on San Pedro Square
Downtown dwellers and office workers can enjoy California's agricultural bounty again, now that the Friday farmers market on San Pedro Square has reopened.
The stands are just beginning to fill with late spring and early summer fruit.
While fruits and vegetables are the stars of the show, the farmers market is also a great place to grab lunch on the go. Baked goods, crepes made to order, hot tamales, Indian naan wraps and more are sold from stands interspersed with the farmers' stalls.
One of the newer arrivals is Fresh Catch Seafood. Partners Drew Krake and Carrie Pierce sell fish caught by commercial boats out of Monterey Bay -- and will grill that catch for you on the spot.
''We grill the seafood for free,'' Krake said. ''They just pay the price per pound.''
Salmon fillets, marinated in pesto or teriyaki, go for $19 a pound. Most are a little under a pound. They also grill milder white fish and skewered shrimp ($6).
In addition, Pierce sells bowls of thick, creamy clam chowder that she makes the morning of the market. ($6 for 16 ounces). The chowder was a hit, with big chunks of potato and a mild flavor from chopped clams.
If you're looking for a bargain, try the tamale stand across the way from the seafood stall. For $2 each, you can get a pocketbook-sized tamale stuffed with pork, beef or chicken in red or green chile sauce. The green chile was mild and flavorful, and the masa tender. Although chicken can get a little dry, the pork was moist and flaky. You can get salsa on the side to pour over the tamales, but I found the ''hot'' salsa bland, and it didn't add much to the tamales.
Another good choice is the crepe stand, where the sign out front advertises ''Just like in Paris.'' The crepe maker didn't have the same practiced hand I remember from street stands in the City of Light, but the thin pancake had a nice flavor, and the fillings were generous and tasty.
A ham, cheese and tomato crepe ($8) was loaded with cheddar cheese, ham and four to five slices of fresh tomato. They were out of sun-dried tomatoes for the chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomato crepe ($8), but they substituted artichoke hearts -- a good choice. The marinated hearts offered a pleasant tang.
As the season progresses, the selection of fruit and vegetables in the stands will get even better and the sun will shine more brightly -- making the farmers market the place to spend a leisurely lunch hour.
Downtown San Jose Farmers Market
San Pedro Square at Santa Clara Street
Hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Fridays through Dec. 14
Types of food: Tamales, Indian food, seafood, crepes and baked goods sold by vendors.
Average meal price: $2-$10
Good choices: Garlicky pesto shrimp skewers are tasty and easy to walk around with. Tamales are a great value at $2. One will satisfy even a hungry person.
Not recommended: Fresh fruit tart suffered from a tough crust.
Attitude: Most vendors are peppy and seem to enjoy being out in the sun.
Amenities: You can do the week's produce shopping on your lunch hour. If you want to sit down, though, you'll have to find a curb.
Drinks: Stands offer bottled water, juice and sodas.
Eat in car: India's Clay Oven wraps its dals and curries in naan.
Next-day edibility: Tamales steam well in the microwave when left in their leaves.
Who goes there: Downtown residents, plus city and office workers.
Credit cards: Cash only at most stands.
Parking: Metered street parking. Parking is validated at the Market Steet-San Pedro Garage.