Years ago I used to live in the Inner Sunset and shopped at the 22nd. and Irving produce market often because it was cheap and the produce was always nice and fresh. This weekend we were in the neighborhood and it was convenient to stop there for the week's produce. Was I in for a surprise!
Well, it is completely changed on the inside, although just driving by it looks like any other Chinese produce market - which is what it used to be. NOW, the first thing you see on entering is a giant pyramid of all butter/no chemicals panetone - over a pound for $1.99 (it was really good too - toasted and well buttered), a carton of bacala, sacks of risotto and Indian basmati rice with a freebie spice assortment givaway, and whole grain kasha (hard to find). Venturing further in you find a fine selection of teas, coffees, polenta, a huge selection of odd dried beans - I think I counted 4 different lima beans to choose from, cheeses (kashkaval! I couldn't believe it - the cheese manager at Bi-Rite did not know what kashkaval was), about half a dozen feta choices, huge institutional size cans of dolma for $4.99, tons of Italian pasta, and a huge selection of what New Yorkers call "appetizing" items: odd but fascinating jarred salads, condiments, preserves, pickles, and bizarre delicacies of many nations.
I had to ask myself: did the Chinese owners take on a Separdic Jewish partner at some time? The Mediterranean influence is striking. Whoever is ordering their non-produce items is very savvy too: the goods seem universally to be without nasty chemicals and do not have a shopworn look. Except for the produce, it's as if Haig's on Clement was wildly expanded and brought into the 21st. century. You get a wild feeling of schizophrenia. I love this place.
The produce, although still nice and fresh, as in years past, is no longer a bargain. Their produce prices are exactly average. Less than Golden Produce on Church at Market but more expensive than K & J on the south end of Divisadero. But the non-produce items make the 22nd. and Irving produce market an almost one stop shopping destination for my kind of home cooking.