For a while, I thought the headline of this blog post was going to be "NUVO Food Editor explodes in predictable Monty Python-esque demise." Manthan Market, the brainchild of Nathan Smith as we've previously covered
, is a means to connect downtown residents to a variety of international foods available around the city; Area ethnic restaurants showed up with tons of small plates and tasting options, and I cannonballed into that pool of flavor like a sixth grader on the first day of summer camp.
There was much more for sale than just prepared foods, like herbs and plants from independent farmers, handcrafted items like jewelry and other goods, and some community organizations chatting up attendees about upcoming events. The community market feeling was alive at Manthan for sure.
More importantly though: my God, the food.
As promised, a huge variety of ethnic and international restaurants showed up with a limited sampling menu of their most representative dishes, most in decent-size portions, and some in small tasting portions for less. For example, Barcelona Tapas served a variety of tapas for $3-5, or a tasting of the trio for $10. My friends got a huge scoop of fresh, hand-mixed guacamole for $4, Lino's served bites of Italian ham and cheese on baguettes for $2, and I also scored a gigantic piece of
galaktoboureko, a heavenly Greek custard dessert, for $4. The name of the game was accessibility, and all the vendors served at least one signature item for less than $5 and there were no entrance fees. I spent about $20 altogether and I felt like I was going have to be rolled to my car in a wheelbarrow—thanks, in part, to my food-sharing friends.
I can't pick anything to highlight in particular because I didn't have one lemon in the bunch, but I do want to give a special shout-out to Chad of Garbäage Salsa, because I owe him an apology. Chad, I lied to your face when I said I liked black olives. I do not, generally, like black olives on their own but I was intrigued by the idea of black olive salsa, and I'll try anything once. And I'll be damned if it wasn't one the most delicious things I tasted that day. I'm sorry for lying, Chad. Your delicious olive innovation deserves better.
The only real downside of the market was that, while most vendors came prepared with Square card readers, none could access wi-fi to process transactions. Of course, it was easy to grab cash at any of the nearby bar ATMs, but that seemed like it should be item number one on their list of things to fix.
That, and the fact that the tentpole tied-downs made it a bit of a klutz's death trap. Between the tents, the space was a little cramped so walking paths had to be negotiated carefully. Had they invited more than one beer vendor and the event been more crowded, this could have been a problem, though likely a small one.
Manthan came together beautifully, connecting hungry downtowners with the diverse foodscape that's one short bike ride (or even shorter drive) away for most. The plates represented everything from Spanish tapas (Barcelona's tortilla was to die for) to Jamaican Jerk chicken, homegrown purple jalapeños, handmade breads, and whatever else you could want.
The organizers are putting it back on the last Saturday of the month through at least September, with a goal to move the market indoors when the chilly weather arrives. All in all, it was great to see the market feeling of the event come together, with neighbors meeting up to share plates and explore tastes.
The next Manthan Market is coming up August 30th at the corner of College and Mass Ave.