Today I want to share the Caribbean Farmers Market with everyone, a gem of a market that is easy to overlook. The market is located in a run down strip mall at the corner of Covington Highway and South Hairston Road, that was formerly home to a Wayfield shopping market.
If you’re unfamiliar with the routine of sitting in the car, while scanning ragged strip mall parking lots, for signs of life— you may be new here. Many of Atlanta’s best ethnic and unpretentious restaurants await being discovered in the ruins of former malls, abandoned shopping centers, and hollowed out former super stores. But don’t let the markers of failed capitalism, and white flight in these meager surroundings fool you into missing and opportunity to eat eclectic!
One day after being stuck in traffic at the light, I detoured from Covington Highway, into the old Wayfield parking lot. From the outside the store doesn’t look like much. The paint is faded on the roof, and the sign reads ‘Farmers Market’ in large letters, with only a small logo with the words ‘Carib’ above them. Underneath the poor signage hides an answer to a question I had long had about this stretch of Dekalb county —— how are there so many Jamaican restaurants?
Seriously, if you could handle the heart burn, you could theoretically taste a different jerk joint every night of the week. I’m guessing it would take you at least a month to exhaust what’s available in a 10 or 15 mile radius! So I waded 5 steps into the Caribbean Farmer’s Market, and immediately understood what was powering this jerk flavored phenomenon. I describe the market to friends as a less chaotic, and nearly all black version of YDFM (Your Dekalb Farmers’ Market). YDFM sets the gold standard for nearby markets, but the popularity of the store can keep your from fully exploring what they have to offer.
In this farmers’ market however, there would hardly be any competition to slide by, or reach around in the spice aisle. This is a bonus because the spice aisle is extensive and you’re gonna want some room to roam from the whole allspice to the fenugreek, cumin, and oversized bags of Himalayan sea salt. There were no waiting lines to have my fish scaled, and I breezed through checkout with a few pounds of fresh, delicious looking Norwegian mackerel. If I was cooking for someone, I certainly wouldn’t have passed up the live crawfish, silk snapper, or even the oxtails and goat meat. This isn’t to say the market doesn’t get busy at other times, I hope they do, but the quiet afternoon that I visited was the perfect introduction to this Caribbean wonderland.
When I speak about my instant swoon over the Caribbean Farmer’s Market, the first question people ask is about the prices. You can take a look at the photos I took while I was visiting, and I’ll list the entire tiny haul of food that I bought with prices. I should add an important disclaimer that this is only a small cross section of the quality products they offered. I went in, not intending to shop, but I couldn’t help but notice the great spices, seafood, meats, and random items I’d seen nowhere else.
The drawbacks were that the veggie selection seemed stronger than the fruit offerings, and there were what looked like some restaurant spaces that were out of operation. Also good to note that many of the items are strongly Jamaican influenced, but the crossover and merge of influences in the Caribbean make it possible to shop here, even when making a variety of African and Asian dishes as well. Check out the haul below and let me know what you think!
Baba Root Drink
Uncleaned Norwegian Mackerel
Scotch Bonnet Peppers
Total spend: $27.49
The Caribbean Farmer’s Market is located at the intersection of Covington Hwy and S. Hairston Rd. They’re open everyday except Sunday from 9am, and they have a website as well.