Chef Karen Small's approach to local belongs on a t-shirt: "Don't mess with us. We're from Cleveland," she says.
Small's 15-year-old Ohio City bistro Flying Fig is well known and widely appreciated. But Market at the Fig (2523 Market Ave., 216-241-4243, theflyingfig.com), the next-door market the chef opened in 2010, is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated gems in the area, dedicated to supporting local, artisanal food producers and purveyors. Despite its small dimensions, the market is a treasure trove of Northeast Ohio-produced food goodies, complemented by an impressive selection of snack, beverage and gift items.
The chef's dedication to sourcing from area farms and purveyors is evident on the menu next door, but it's perhaps clearer at the Market, which offers a full range of high-quality local meats, cheeses, honey, maple syrup, roasted coffee and nuts. When you buy local products, "you're supporting the local economy and its people," Small says. She works hard to find local products to fill the store's shelves to the ceiling, but "it's more of a labor of love." Her respect for quality is clear: "If I don't eat it, I don't want to put it into someone else's stomach," she says.
There are cheeses like gouda from Mayfield Creamery and chevre from Mackenzie Creamery. Enticing jars showcase fermented items like Cleveland-based Wake Robin's kimchee and red cabbage slaw. Truly local, quality meats are stocked in abundance here, originating not from factory farms, but rather small, family-owned farms. (Tip: If your butcher tells you that their meat comes from a "farm in Sandusky," that's a pretty good sign it's coming from one of Northwest Ohio's many Confined Animal Feeding Operations - or CAFOs - which are large factory farms.) At the Market, you can select from any number of pork options from New Creation Farm in Chardon, a family farm dedicated to sustainable, natural farming, whose products have no MSG or nitrates and where the animals are raised on non-GMO feed. The inventory of New Creation's pork products varies, but generally includes Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, bratwurst, country ribs and cottage ham. Miller Meat's grass-fed ground beef also is sold here.
The shop also sells a variety of mouth-watering sandwiches. The Muffaletta is $10 and worth every penny. Other beauties include a delicious grilled eggplant sandwich loaded with tomato pesto, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, olive salad, pickled fennel, caramelized onion and balsamic vinaigrette on foccacia. A stellar French ham sandwich on a crunchy baguette is straight out of a Parisian bistro, with gruyere, greens, sweet pickles, butter and Dijon mustard. The sandwich breads are provided by Lakewood's Blackbird Baking Company, with whole loaves of select breads available for purchase as well.
The market also offers fresh-baked cookies ($2) like sea salt and dark chocolate or rolled oats with dried cherry.
To top it all off, this cozy spot happens to be a great place to grab a gift for that special foodie in your life, such as locally grown Shagbark Seed & Mill popcorn kernels or hazelnut Choc-a-tella. There's a great selection of wine and beer by the bottle, with options at every price point. Catering from the Market is available for any meeting or event.
Small says she's excited about the young energy in town driving the demand for local products made with care. "There are so many people working so hard here," she says, citing the Cleveland Flea and the Cleveland Bazaar as groups that were leading the charge in 2013.