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This week on Let’s Go, South Florida host Arlene Borenstein visits Yellow Green Market.
Watch this week’s episode of Let’s Go, South Florida. Host Arlene Borenstine and reporter Phillip Valys visit Hollywood’s Yellow Green Famer’s Market. Go to SunSentinel.com/letsgo
It’s Saturday at Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood, and customers taking shade from the summer swelter crowd around Monika Garone’s restaurant stall, clamoring to know why her fettuccine is purple.
“Because it’s healthy!” she shouts over the din of weekend warriors inside the 190,000-square-foot, tin-roofed market. At Trattoria di Vakis, which Garone and her husband Emiliano have run for five years, the main attraction is its colorful ribbons of vegan pastas, made with semolina and organic beet, carrot and spinach juices.
“A lot of my customers get pasta from supermarkets, so making it in front of their eyes is mesmerizing to them,” Garone says. “I’m glad we survived long enough to see this because we almost didn’t.”
Yellow Green buzzes with lively chatter, sizzling meat and Caribbean music on Saturdays and Sundays, and fresh food beckons from every corner. One vendor splits open fresh coconuts with a meat cleaver, plunges straws inside and serves them to paying customers. Another cook squirts water over white-hot charcoal at Llanera Woodfired Meat as flames rise to lick the bottoms of uncooked ribs. At Happytizer, an outdoor bar wedged in the southwestern corner of the bazaar, singer Neville Humphrey and his Caribbean Element Band play a jaunty cover of Bob Marley’s “Jamming.”
Trattoria di Vakis and other vendors have drawn big crowds since the sprawling open-air marketplace reopened this April after a spree of multimillion-dollar upgrades. Over its 13-month COVID shutdown, Yellow Green went on a construction frenzy, doubling the number of its vendor booths from 300 to 600. It also built four Seminole chickee huts for outdoor seating, added live-music stages and a suite of outdoor-only vendors.
Also new to Yellow Green: trendy Wynwood-style design flourishes, including faux-grass walls, soon-to-open shipping-container bars and Instagram-worthy “LOVE FOOD” sculptures perched on the market’s north and south entrances.
And that represents only half of Yellow Green’s ambitious expansion plans, general manager Mark Menagh says. Coming in summer 2022, a 44,000-square-foot indoor food hall dubbed the Station will debut with 30 restaurant vendors in a former tinting garage north of Yellow Green. Four months later, a 35,000-square-foot warehouse called the Nest will open south of the market and house vendors selling antiques and collectibles. Both buildings will be air-conditioned — unlike the tin-roofed Yellow Green, he adds.
Menagh says he decided to build a food hall when he realized the market, then bursting at the seams with vendors, lacked space to add more restaurants. The food hall will feature turn-key booths equipped with kitchen ventilation hoods, sinks, a storage area and refrigeration, he says.
“The idea is to give businesses the easiest path to open possible,” Menagh explains. “This was a big hurdle [at Yellow Green]. Here, you can’t deep-fry food because all the booths lack fire-suppression systems, so you’d have to cook outside. But we keep evolving all the time. We started as a farmers market, but South Florida wanted something more diverse.”
And to showcase more diverse vendors, Yellow Green needed to grow, Menagh says. Property records show Eyal Lalo, the owner of Yellow Green (and Invicta, a Swiss luxury watch company located behind the market), paid $7.5 million for land and buildings north of Yellow Green in June 2018.
Parking, now spread across two paved lots between Sheridan and Taft streets, has also doubled in price to $10 compared to $5 pre-pandemic. (The North lot charges an all-day flat rate of $10, while the South lot charges $10 every three hours.) The weekends-only market also closes in the evenings at 7 p.m. instead of 4 p.m., Menagh says.
Garone, though happy that her colorful vegan pastas are attracting strong crowds again, says Trattoria di Vakis almost didn’t survive. During shutdowns, Garone and her husband decided to rent a commissary kitchen in Miami and create a retail line of slow-dried vegan pastas, which are now on sale at Bravo Supermarkets in Pembroke Pines and Weston.
“If we didn’t make the dried pastas, we wouldn’t have survived,” Garone says. “But we had to keep going. We stayed in touch with our customers and delivered fresh pasta. It was hard but we made it.”
At their rustic pastry stall Wicked Bread Co., Eddie Diaz and his wife, Betty, are busy removing trays of cinnamon bread from the oven. A powerful cinnamon aroma perfumes the booth as Betty ladles dollops of icing over the loaves. Business has gradually picked up steam since April, Eddie Diaz says, which he attributes to skittish visitors waiting out the pandemic, but his pastries have flown off the shelves this summer.
“The best time to eat it is right here, out of the oven,” says Diaz, who recently sold his cinnamon bread in the Grand Tasting Village during May’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival. “We like to tell people it’s the best thing you never ate.”
Wicked Bread Co. is a side hustle for the couple, both high-school educators who teach job training and driver’s education for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Wicked Bread offers five cinnamon loaves ranging from the “OG,” topped with cream-cheese icing, condensed milk, maple glaze, chocolate or guava, to versions topped with s’mores and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.
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“People know cinnamon rolls as gooey, buttery, dense things, but our cinnamon loaves are pleasantly fluffy and soft,” Diaz says. “You’ll finish it all before you know it.”
At Happytizer, midday drinkers, mostly 20- and 30-somethings, crowd the busy bar with mugs of craft beer, while another couple shoots pool in the bar’s free-to-play billiard table. Since reopening in April, owner Donat Cloutier says many of his customer’s faces – masked or unmasked – have been new.
“Every weekend I make more than the weekend before,” Cloutier says. “These customers are different than my regulars [were pre-pandemic].”
Doubling the number of Yellow Green vendors around him means more competition, but it has steered even more traffic to Happytizer.
“When I first opened my bar, I was the second one at the market. Now there are six, seven bars, and I can’t complain,” he says. “My numbers are only shooting up.”
Yellow Green Farmers Market, at 3080 Sheridan St., in Hollywood, is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Parking is $10 all day on Yellow Green’s North Lot, $10 every three hours on its South Lot, and $30 for its VIP Lot. Call 954-513-3990 or go to YGFarmersMarket.com.