East End Market: Orlando’s Go-To Destination for Sustainable Artisan Foods, Craft Beverages, and the Locavore Community

East End Market Orlando

Usually, a market is just a market. But sometimes, all the right ingredients—people, merchants, location, community, mission, passion, social entrepreneurship—blend perfectly, and a market becomes more than merely a place to buy stuff.

Such is the case at East End Market in Orlando’s Audubon Park neighborhood. Opened in November 2013 by John Rife, a commercial real estate developer, small business advocate, and proponent of locavorism, the market is a hub for sustainability-minded purveyors of artisan foods, craft beverages, and other goods, as well as the community.

The market merges local enterprises, local products, and emphasis on communal events, education, and constructive business and lifestyle practices. East End’s specialized vendors, gathering spaces, events space, demonstration and incubator kitchens, on-site caterer, locavore restaurant, and robust garden contrast starkly with today’s standard single-mindedly sales-oriented shopping and eating destinations. It’s reminiscent of the agoras and forums of ancient Greece and Rome, where commerce was tightly interwoven with local culture, socialization, recreation, politics, and other community interests and activities.

“East End Market serves as a third place, not home nor work, but somewhere to relax, learn, and especially enjoy the tastes of our merchants’ seasonally conscious menus,” says Heather Grove, the market’s community manager.

The merchants provide an intriguing, high-quality selection of food and beverages, most offering for-here and to-go options. Local, organic, and otherwise sustainable, wholesome sourcing is a priority across the board.

La Femme du Fromage sells artisan cheeses, many difficult or impossible to find elsewhere in town. The friendly, knowledgeable owner, Tonda Corrente, is prized by customers as a source of information and guidance. She also teaches classes on wine and cheese pairing.

Fresh produce, eggs, honey, and more from Central Florida farms using natural growing and raising methods are available through Local Roots Farm Store. It has Florida craft beers on tap and wines by the glass, too.

Olde Hearth Bread Company contributes freshly baked goods made with unbleached, unbromated flours and free of preservatives and artificial flavoring. The foods are prepared by hand with minimal automated production.

East End is also home to Houndstooth Sauce Company, offering sauces, marinades, dressings, and more, plus live-action opportunities to sample those used on the sandwich and salad menu; Lineage, a craft coffee roaster; Fatto in Casa’s authentic Italian sweet and savory items; Kappo, a sushi restaurant serving omakase while diners watch the chefs assemble simple dishes that spotlight the freshness and quality of the ingredients; Skyebird’s juices, smoothies, kombucha, and raw food menu; and Cuisiniers, acclaimed chef Jamie McFadden’s catering company, which caters on and off the premises.

The restaurant Txokos (that’s cho-kos) is aptly summed up by its seemingly contradictory tag line, “Traditional Basque modern kitchen.” Its namesake are gastronomic clubs in Spain’s Basque region dedicated to cooking, kitchen experimentation, and eating socially. Basque traditions, including small plates called pintxos, meet contemporary cooking practices, and the garden out front supplies herbs and produce. The Spanish wine list perfectly complements the food.

Another 10 or so local retailers, service businesses, and organizations have set up shop at East End. Bookmark It carries books by local authors and hosts readings. Some other tenants include interior design firm Blue Daze Designs, garden shop and florist Porch Therapy/99 Market, furnishings store Old, Inc., photography studio By the Robinsons, food events and marketing agency A Local FolkUs, and foodie magazine Edible Orlando.

East End reaches out to consumers, food entrepreneurs, and outside small businesses in Central Florida in a number of ways. Its event space features rearrangeable furniture, room for up to 150, a demonstration kitchen, rustic charm derived from reclaimed wood and antique décor, and catering by Cuisiniers or market vendors.

Courses and events include diverse programming that jibes with the market’s ethos. Among other things, it hosts readings by local authors, film screenings, concerts, yoga classes, healthy pregnancy classes, food-centric kids’ activities, tastings, pop-up dinners with featured chefs, culinary instruction, nonprofit fundraisers, and how-to presentations for aspiring food entrepreneurs.

The latter have affordable access to East End’s incubator kitchen for testing menu concepts. During the annual Feedback Fair, food entrepreneurs open pop-up shops at the market to trial their products, concepts, and branding.

In an inclusive spirit, and to augment the on-site options for patrons, some merchants partner with external businesses in logical ways, selling their goods. For example, the Olde Hearth bakery stocks preserves from local producer Sunshine Emporium.

And the market goes forth into the community, like when representatives served merchant food and drinks at the Mennello Museum of American Art’s annual Indie-FolkFest. They also spoke to attendees about Central Florida folk foods like coontie flour, tupelo honey, mamey sapote, and paw paw.

“No matter the occasion, there seems to be an underlying theme that we are building an awareness and appreciation for the social and environmental fabric of our community,” Grove says.

East End has certainly carved out and successfully filled its own niche in Orlando, a city with a thriving locavore scene and strong interest in artisan foods and craft beverages.

The Audubon Park Garden District is a pivotal area for these interests. It’s well worth a stop for city visitors, to sample the delectable selections at East End Market, but also for the many other local businesses. A few notables offering craft beverages and foods include Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour, Stardust Video and Coffee, The Smiling Bison, Blue Bird Bake Shop, P Is for Pie, and Bikes, Beans & Bordeaux. Harry P. Leu Gardens, a beautiful botanical attraction, is there too.

Eric Mohrman is a freelance travel and food writer. Coincidentally, he enjoys traveling, eating, drinking, and writing. He lives in downtown Orlando and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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