Posted on Feb. 23th, 2016

Has the food diversity decreased in Union Square?

It has been many years since the Arts Council started to explore the intersection of food and culture in Union Square. As part of ArtsUnion, a project to spur the cultural economy of the Square, our food-related programming has thrived. We have seen Union Square become a recognized food destination offering food from around the world but unfortunately, the number of international markets have decreased.

When we launched the walking tours of the Square’s international markets in 2006, our guide included eight markets. We took people to Casa de Carne (meat house), a Brazilian market on 38 Bow Street open since 1999, and talked to our tour participants not only about meat, but also about Brazilian staples, sweets, and fruits like açaí and acerola. WellFoods Plus, a Halal market at 380 Somerville Ave open since 2006, was another destination, where people used to find goat meat and 60 different types of fish stocked in the freezer!

Less Brazilian and Bangladesh diversity

On average, the owners used to sell three whole goats, or 100 pounds, per day!

WellFood Plus, Halal Market Closed. On average, the owners used to sell three whole goats, or 100 pounds, per day!

Casa de Carnes, and WellFood Plus recently closed, as did Sherman Market, a local store which specialized in products that were locally grown and produced goods. We will miss these markets that have been stops on our tour and key parts of the multicultural landscape of the Square. We are sad to see them go. The question remains: Where did they go? What happened to the immigrant population that used to work in these stores? Where will their customers find the same variety of products? If we continue to lose small ethnic markets, we are at risk of losing the delicious flavors and cultural diversity of Union Square.

Walking Market Tours in Union Square

Six local international markets in the Square still offer quality products from around the world. Al Capone, Capone Foods’ owner, is still offering deli products including a large array of fresh pasta, prepared entrees, meats and cheeses in his delightful store. Pokey Casserly, Reliable Market’s owner, now offers sake, soju and Korean wine tastings since last summer in her vast Korean market. If you want to know more about the other international markets in Union Square join us on one of our walking tours. Discover what products people buy in Latin America, Korea, Brazil and the Middle East, and get a glimpse of the diverse cultural landscape in the Square!

  • Tuesday, March 22nd, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 9th, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 18th, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 12, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 28th, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

For more information and to sign up for a tour, send an email to: