Since the 1950s, small family-run Latino businesses have called La Marqueta de Williamsburg, aka the historic Moore Street Retail Market home. But now some stalls in this Brooklyn public market on the edge of Williamsburg lay bare amid the stalwart vendors still selling spiritual potions, large quantities of exotic dried herbs, tons of Puerto Rican music CDs, and fresh produce ranging from plantains to cassava, twenty pound bags of rice to dried mackerel along with the pots, pans, and utensils needed to cook the resulting savory dishes.
Up until December 2008, this market was destined for demolition. Even here in Brooklyn, urban supermarkets have infiltrated the neighborhood offering at a cheaper price what could only be previously bought at La Marqueta. What can’t be duplicated is the personal attention and casual exchanges that can only be cultivated at a public market. Tables topped with red and white umbrellas cluster around Carmanita’s Restaurant, a take away joint at the back of the market with steaming pots of sopón de pollo con arróz (chicken soup with rice), sopón de pescado (fish soup), or sancocho, a spicy soup filled with pork, chicken, yams, and yucca.
Where else can you order Puerto Rican favorites right out of the frying pan like tostones, made from plátanos (green plantains) which are sliced, fried lightly, then crushed and placed back on the frying pan to be fried again to a crunchy golden yellow? Bacalaítos fritos (deep-fried codfish fritters), pastelillos (deep-fried cheese and meat turn-overs), and alcapurrias, banana croquettes stuffed with beef or pork round out the bill. The best part is you can ask questions and take your time ordering. Older men and families sit at the tables chatting even if they haven’t ordered anything.
For now the Moore Street Market’s future is secure thanks to cooperation between State and local officials and a generous donation by JP Morgan Chase. Beyond serving residents with culinary ties to their homeland, the market has served as a small business incubator, a venue for many families making the transition from backbreaking sometimes sub-minimum wage jobs to working for themselves.
Best Way to Get Here: Take the J or M local train from Manhattan to Brooklyn’s Lorimer station. Walk 2 blocks down Broadway and take left onto Moore St. Market will be to your right 3 blocks down.
Photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky