There’s something enchanting about experiencing the rich, vibrant sights and smells of freshly-picked produce, floral arrangements, homemade bread, artisans selling colorful clothing, incense, and soaps, and more at Eastern Market on a sunny summer Saturday. For more than a century, farmers, grocers, butchers, and trinket sellers have been working the blocks around Riopelle and Rivard from the earliest dawn light, when the clatter of vegetable and fruit cases being unloaded is punctuated by the barks of the vendors setting up their booths.
With more than 200 vendors selling fruits, vegetables, teas, coffee, meat, mustard, and more, Eastern Market can attract at least 40,000 visitors on a busy summer Saturday. Experienced market-goers — some metro Detroiters have been buying their produce at Eastern Market all their lives — know three things: Show up early for the freshest produce, bring your own bags and cash, and don’t be afraid to haggle (respectfully of course). While the market operates from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., shops, restaurants, and bars on surrounding streets stay open later to accommodate shoppers after their produce purchases – so there’s plenty to do in the area from early morning until well into the night.
6 a.m. – Rise and Shine With a Solid Breakfast
Farmer Frank’s opens at 6 a.m. with the rest of the market, and the early shift is packed with market regulars and vendors taking a quick moment to scarf down a sausage skillet or a plate of bacon and eggs. Located just off Adelaide and smack in between sheds 2 and 3, usually packed the restaurant sources its produce and meat from vendors right in Eastern Market. Eastern Market staple and entrepreneur Frank Gjoka opened Farmer Frank’s in 2021.
7:30 a.m. – Get Those Greens
Vendors put their best feet forward for the early morning shoppers, so it only makes sense to grab your produce right away. Most of the action happens in sheds 2 and 3, with flower vendors, snack sellers, and even more produce spilling out into the parking spaces and walkways between the two. Take your time and stroll through the whole area and make note of which vendors to return to. Plenty of vendors will offer discounts if you purchase multiple items. While you’re ogling the greens and thumping the melons, don’t neglect some of the great food stalls, from locally made cheese and salsa to grow-your-own mushroom kits.
10 a.m. – Bloody Mary Time
For imbibers, no trip to the market can be considered complete without a bloody mary from Vivio’s. With more than a dozen varieties to choose from, the drinks run the gamut from classic to gargantuan; the Detroiter packs a punch with a monster-sized glass and a breakfast in and of itself, including sausage, an egg, asparagus, and more.
11 a.m. – Sundry Shopping
Two more Eastern Market treasures flank Vivio’s on either side. Since 1887, the DeVries family has sold gourmet cheese, tea, and other Michigan-made goods from the brick building at the heart of the market. Spanning three floors, DeVries offers plenty of wow factor. It’s also a great place to pick up unique home decor (sheet metal Christmas llamas, anyone?) and artisanal food from Detroit makers. (Pro tip: Grab an insulated bag to go along with your purchases. You’ll need it later, when the meat arrives.) On the other side of Vivio’s, the folks at Cost Plus Wine are friendly and knowledgeable and can recommend your next favorite rosé or riesling.
Noon – DJ Brunch at Stache International
Stache International looks like no other bar: an intersection of carnival and retro industrial styles, with technical artwork and a pair of pitch black carousel horses flanking the corrugated metal bar. Grab a coveted patio seat and watch the characters of the market sweep past while resident Saturday DJ Vince Patricola spins the perfect soundtrack for your adventures.
1:30 p.m. – Window Shopping
After gorging on bloodies and brunch, it’s time to stroll off some of that food. Grab a coffee from Germack or a lemonade from Bea’s and head over to the lush greenway of the Dequindre Cut, a former railroad track that now offers nearly two miles of paved paths for walkers and bikers. On the way back towards the historic market, stop by Savvy Chic and pick up some gourmet olive oil, table linens, or a new serving tray.
3 p.m. – Meet Your Meat
As you cross the pedestrian bridge over I-75, browse the colorful offerings from vendors lining the bridge. Then head into Gratiot Central Meat Market and gawk at the sheer immensity of the place. Chicken, pork, beef, turkey, goat, snails, salmon, and just about any kind of sausage you can think of can be found there. Be sure to grab some freshly made Pietrzyk Pierogis to stock the freezer for a quick weeknight meal.
3:30 p.m. – One Quick Drink
Back across the bridge, there’s a whole mini-market blossoming on Riopelle. Choose your poison: cocktails from Detroit City Distillery; goses, sour, and other fresh beer at Eastern Market Brewing Company, or any of a dozen German-style beers from Lagerhaus No. 5.
4:15 p.m. – Amazing Murals
Eastern Market has one of the highest concentrations of original murals in the Midwest. In fact, more than 100 murals have been created in the past decade alone. For a comprehensive list, download the Electrify app to find out about the artists and sponsors behind the market’s collection of murals celebrating Detroit food sovereignty, history, and culture.
6 p.m. – Wind Down at Dinner
Eastern Market has no shortage of restaurants to choose from. Amore de Roma, the city’s oldest continuously operated restaurant, began as a small cafe serving the market’s vendors in 1890. Since then this white-linen Italian restaurant has transformed to a staple of the old-school dining experience. If you’re feeling “burger and beer” more, Cutter’s is a must. Another old Detroit classic, this popular bar and grill serves no-frills classic American fare.
8 p.m. – Catch the Sunset From a Rooftop Bar
Stretch your legs and head across Gratiot to Collect beer and cider bar, a perfect spot to enjoy a pour of the German digestif Underberg (which Collect pours right from the tap). Take your post-prandial drink up to the roof for a killer sunset view.
9:30 p.m. – Laugh It Out
After smelling the smoke from the grill and hearing the Motown tunes pour from Bert’s Warehouse Theater and Restaurant all day, there’s still a chance to dig into a rack of smoked barbecue ribs, collard greens, Aretha Franklin “World Famous Fried Chicken,” while catching one of the two comedy shows at either 7:30 or 9:30 p.m.