If you are a chef living and working in San Diego, then Specialty Produce is your happy place. If you are not a chef but love good food, welcome aboard; Specialty can be your happy place too. This produce wonderland welcomes the public and has come a long way since its cold, stark warehouse days.
The dictionary definition of “Special” means better, more significant, or otherwise different from what is usual. Ding, Ding, Ding, that’s it in a nutshell.
You can get carrots in the supermarket, but can you get top-shaped Thumbelina carrots or tiny micro carrots? How about heirloom carrots in a spectrum of colors, peeled with the little green tops left on, ready to cook? There is only one place that has all these and so much more.
Not able to make it to a Farmers Market this week? No need to wonder what fantastic produce you might have missed. Specialty has a whole walk-in cooler dedicated to what local farmers have to offer.
I love miniature versions of vegetables! From microgreens to edible flowers for garnish, they have a section filled with a massive offering of tiny delights.
I wanted to make a Mojo Sauce for an article I was writing about the best Cuban Sandwiches in San Diego (The Cubano Kings). The recipe required bitter oranges. I called Specialty, and they told me to come on down.
Specialty has put some lipstick on the pig over the years, making the shopping experience delightful. Don’t get me wrong, this place was “special” even back in the day, but it was and still is a working warehouse complete with forklifts and pallets.
In the old days, you would bundle up and try hard to stay out of everyone’s way as you shopped. Now they have all the comforts of a high-end market, including beautiful signage, numerous checkout stands, and a wall of monitors playing larger-than-life videos of local farmers and chefs. It is visually stunning and adds a nice touch.
Produce is one of many things they do well. Specialty has a whole section of hard-to-find groceries. The spice section far exceeds anything you can find elsewhere, and large bins of grains and beans abound. Unique condiments and sauces line the shelves.
I roast a lot of oysters and use a bed of salt to stabilize them so the good stuff won’t spill out. The correct salt is rock salt, as the crystals are more significant and won’t cling to the shells. Try finding this at the grocery store… don’t worry, Specialty has your back.
I could spend all day talking about everything they carry and how many new things I have discovered there, but I want you to experience this place on your own. Every time I go, I find something extraordinary.
The people that keep Specialty running are some of the kindest and most knowledgeable people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I am always greeted with a smile while checking in. The workers in the warehouse are never too busy to lend a hand, and the check-out people send you out the door feeling like you can’t wait to come back.
When it comes to price don’t let the warehouse fool you. This is not a bargain, big box store experience. What is a fair price for a gorgeous box of squash blossoms or fiddlehead ferns? To me the price doesn’t matter, I am willing to pay for it because I am in the business of wowing people. I believe the prices reflect the quality and unique nature of many of the products they offer.
Please take the time to check this place out. I have been around the block, and this is the only market like it in San Diego or possibly anywhere else. Specialty Produce is a local treat; we are lucky to have it in our backyard.