PLEASANTON — There are farmers markets and then there is the Pleasanton Farmers’ Market.
It’s not that vendors at other markets don’t offer as fresh of produce as they do in Pleasanton. Most do.
The difference is the venue for a pleasant Saturday morning excursion just a relatively short drive away centered around a farmers market is unparalleled. That’s because it is set in historic downtown Pleasanton with its laid back feel accented with plenty of trees on Angela Street just off Main Street.
It’s hard to say what the biggest attraction is — 60 plus vendors that last weekend included only two booths that didn’t offer food items or fresh flowers (one was a knife sharpener and the other was a remodeling contractor) — or the seemingly endless dining options that almost all have patio or sidewalk seating plus unique shops.
It’s a true Saturday morning gathering place making it ideal for people watching as well.
The year round market held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the heart of Pleasanton’s downtown is as complete as they come with small farmers from coastal valleys, the Northern San Joaquin Valley and even locally in and around the Amador Valley bringing their freshest offerings to sell amid a healthy mixture of other vendors with specialized baked breads and flowers to other edible concoctions.
Take the drive over the Altamont Pass to downtown Pleasanton that you reach by exiting at the Hopyard and heading south where it turns into two lanes before it crosses a creek and through a neighborhood of whimsical Victorian-era style homes before T-intersecting into Main Street. There’s plenty of parking off and on street although you are likely to end up parking three or four blocks away from the actual farmer’s market.
That may sound like a pain but it isn’t given the stroll to get there takes you past interesting architecture, whimsical cubby-hole style shops, and enticing restaurants.
We brought an ice chest with frozen bottles of water to keep what we bought fresh on the way home as we ended up combining the trip with a stop at the San Francisco Premium Outlets (it was a zoo as always) off Interstate 580 by taking the El Charro Road exit.
But the outlets were a mere sideshow to the main event — a farmer’s market with the biggest selection you’ll find within a couple hour’s drive in a setting that remains pleasant even in the summer heat.
There are things you will find in Pleasanton you may not find at other farmer’s markets including a mobile rotisserie where the vendor had people standing six deep to get a chance to buy a whole chicken for $17.95 as well as ribs.
The vendors offered every vegetable, fruit, and nut grown under the sun in this part of California as well as fresh bakery products, fresh salmon and other catches, fresh cut flowers, vinegars, spices, and more.
We opted to have lunch on the patio of the Cocina Mexico Aquaria along Angela Street where we enjoyed our selections on the patio on a mellow late Saturday afternoon while people watching those at the market in front of us. It came to less than $25.
Each of the three dozen dining spots in the downtown Pleasanton area have unique options and ooze with ambiance whether it is al fresco dining or rich and warm interior settings.
But when it comes to setting standards, you can’t beat the Blue Agave Club that rightfully bills itself as the go-to place for high end Mexican cuisine.
They live up to their brag by taking traditional Mexican dishes that tend to get borderline run-of-the-mill in many restaurants and make them special as well as by offering unique signature creations. To give you an idea of pricing, the lunch menu as an example offers nine burrito choices ranging from dark chicken meat cooked in spices in an 8-inch flour tortilla wrapped around a variety of ingredients and topped with sauce and melted Jack Cheese for $14.95 to Bay Shrimp with Del Mar Shrimp with the rest of the works for $18.95. All burritos are served with fried black beans and rice. And that’s for starters.
Dinner is a tad pricier ranging from $21 to $29.95 for most entrees. The only item I can speak to honestly are the vegetarian enchiladas. The two I was served were light yet filling and definitely healthy. It is several cuts above a cheese enchilada — the typical meatless enchilada offering in most Mexican restaurants. It was filled with zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and corn and topped with red and green sauce. It is served with rice and pinto beans.
Then there is the stunning remodeled home that serves as the restaurant. But by far the best ambiance is the massive outdoor dining court in the front yard under massive shade trees separated from the Main Street foot traffic by a white picket fence. The people watching and outdoor dining experience matches the cooking and presentation of the food.
There is a reason why reservations are recommended. The restaurant’s website is at www.blueagaveclub.com.
The Pleasanton Downtown Association has an incredible user friendly website at pleasantondowntown.net that lists all shops and restaurants with basic information and even hours as well as quick links to individual websites. The site also lists what seems to be a never ending list of reasons for people to go to downtown Pleasanton through special events such as the April 15 Bunny Hop Scavenger Hunt and monthly midweek street parties in the evening of the first Wednesday of each month to weekly summer concerts.
Downtown Pleasanton is always bustling with people proving the best way to get to someone’s heart just may be through their stomach along with a healthy dash of entertainment via window and store browsing (that often leads to purchases) and people watching.