One of my favorite things to do in Birmingham – especially in the summer – is to go to Pepper Place on Saturday mornings. I enjoy the people watching, shopping local, listening to music, and spending lazy mornings chatting with friends while sipping sweet tea out of a mason jar and getting fresh produce for the week. However, I continue to meet people in Birmingham – including locals – who have yet to experience Pepper Place, so included below are my top 10 pro tips (in no particular order) for all of the Pepper Place newbies out there.
- Watch the chef demonstration. See local chefs – including Frank Stitt, Chris Hastings, and Cliff Holt – host a live cooking demo each Saturday (beginning mid-April) at 9 a.m. These take place on 29th Street South (in the alley), and the best part – at the end, you get to sample whatever the chef cooks!
- Carry cash. While many of the makers will take cards, those selling produce or food/drink typically only take cash. While there is an ATM at the market, your best bet is to take around $10-$20 in cash with you.
- Go early. While the outdoor market is open from 7 a.m. – noon (rain or shine), I suggest going before 10 a.m., especially if you’re wanting produce that isn’t picked over. Also, it’s cooler earlier in the morning, and there’s less of a crowd (the crowd visibly picks up around 9:30 a.m.).
- Bring a bag or basket. While a few of the vendors have plastic bags, be eco-friendly and bring your own reusable bag or buy one at the market. If you’re going to be out and about after leaving the market, you might also want to have an ice chest in your car where you can store everything till you get home.
- Eat at the market. I have a couple of go-to’s depending on whether I’m wanting sweet or savory that day. If it’s your first time at the market, I recommend going to Hinkel’s booth and getting one of their pastries (like the almond croissant or cinnamon roll), and if they happen to have their doughnuts that day, trust me, get that. They’re cash only, so be prepared. Or you could try Hero Doughnut’s brioche doughnuts, The Heavenly Donut Co., or a treat from The Continental Bakery. If you’re more in a savory mood, you can usually try Homewood Gourmet, Big Bad Breakfast, or Pop’s Neighborhood Grill. Or it’s a hot day and you’re just wanting something refreshing, go for a gourmet pop from Steel City Pops or a cold sweet treat from Bendy’s Cookies and Cream, Magic City Sweet Ice, or Big Spoon Creamery. You can also stick around and have lunch at OvenBird, iCantina, or any of the surrounding restaurants in Lakeview or Avondale.
- Listen to the music. Each week, local musicians take the stage at Pepper Place, so be sure to check out the Front Porch Stage, the 29th Street Stage, and the Garden Stage. I like to grab my tea and pastry and find a chair near the stage and enjoy the music. My favorite Pepper Place band, Old Time Rhythm Method, has a very New Orleans type jazz sound, and whenever they play, the Steel City Swingers will come out and do the Lindy Hop to their music, which is so fun to watch.
- Dress comfy. Most Saturdays, it’s pretty warm out there (especially in the summer), so I recommend wearing comfortable shoes and clothes that breathe!
- Drink the tea (or the coffee or the soda). If you’re walking around the market and see people drinking tea out of large mason jars, head to Piper & Leaf’s booth. I’ll confess, I’m slightly obsessed with their tea (especially the Front Porch Special blend)…If you buy their mason jar ($10) and bring it back with you to the market, you only have to pay half price ($5) for a refill. Pro tip – you can get a coozie to fit this massive mason jar at Original B’ham Co.’s booth. While Piper & Leaf offers various flavors of tea, if you’re just wanting plain sweet tea, head to Y’all Sweet Tea where you can also get your tea served in a mason jar. And for those of you who are not fully awake without a cup of coffee, Red Cat and Seeds are usually out there and can sell you a cup of joe. And Mimi’s Sodas, Sprout & Pour, and Better Kombucha are also vendors at the market.
- Know what’s in season. Right now, you’ll be able to get strawberries and will start seeing other berries at the market. You’ll also be able to get all sorts of green vegetables. I can’t wait for the peaches, though – I buy a carton of peaches every week in the summer. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to what’s typically available in each season.
- Visit each of the market’s 3 areas. Especially during the spring, summer, and early fall, Pepper Place Market will span across 3 different areas: 29th Street South in front of Red Cat, the parking lot in between Richard Tubb Interiors and King’s House Oriental Rugs (where the Know Thy Farmer mural and the Dr. Pepper sign are located), and the parking lot adjoining OvenBird and Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery. There are also often vendors inside next to the Garden Stage, so be sure to check out all of the vendors at the market.
For those of you who are wondering about the bathroom situation, there are bathrooms at the market. They’re inside by Atmosphere Home Essentials. For answers to other frequently asked questions about Pepper Place, click here.
I also am excited to announce that Down in the Ham will be a vendor at Pepper Place this summer! Once our children’s book about Birmingham releases, we will be selling it at Pepper Place Market, beginning July 1st! So come by and see us while you’re shopping at the market this summer.
And if you’re at Pepper Place this Saturday for the beginning of their outdoor market, I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one with the curly brown hair drinking tea out of a mason jar (and probably taking lots of pics for Down in the Ham’s Insta).