Just an 11-minute train ride from Flinders St station, you arrive at Footscray. Directly opposite the fabulous fresh food market, Footscray Station has recently been refurbished. There are escalators and lifts for ease, if like me, you have brought along your shopping trolley. Follow the signs for Irving Street, as you exit you will see the market directly across the road.
Footscray is a suburb renowned for it multicultural atmosphere. Today it is a brilliant mix of Asian, specifically Vietnamese and Filipino, African, one of the best French restaurants in Melbourne Small French Bar 3/154 Barkly Street (only open in the evenings). Throw in long-term Italian establishments such as T. Cavallaro & Sons. 98 Hopkins Street 'Melbourne's best Cannoli and Italian cakes', since the 1950's. My favourite for that mid-shopping cup of coffee and something sweet - just across the road from the market, easy enough to pop across and return to the hustle and bustle of the market.
The key attraction for me is the produce market situated at 18 Irving Street, although taking up almost the whole block. The number 82 tram stops outside (from Moonee Ponds) and there is plenty of car parking on site.
The atmosphere is electric, with stallholders calling out their specials, vying to grab your attention. Within the market are a number of fresh fruit and vegetable stores, all with an amazing selection of products for any Asian dish that takes your fancy. I am still in awe and every trip is a discovery of something new. I must admit, I've been doing some homework prior to each visit in order to understand the produce better.
The produce is varied, the freshest it can be outside growing it yourself and amazingly cheap. As with every market, take the time to walk around and decide which stall is best for you. I found the standard and cost are similar, so I was on the look out for the smallest queue at the checkout.
Alongside the fresh produce, you have you fish, meat and poultry suppliers. All stock many staples I am used too, along with specialised cuts not quite so common. There are eels, fish heads and all forms of crustaceans. This area is not for the faint-hearted as it can be a little confronting to see meat, poultry and fish products in their more natural state. Personally, I feel it is important that we remember where our food comes from.
Having gathered your fresh produce, you can pop into one of the 'Asian grocers' also on site.
Whether you're on the lookout for bulk supplies at a budget price or that ingredient you haven't seen outside of Thailand or Vietnam, I'm sure you will be very pleased you made the trip. I could spend hours in one store alone, it is so intriguing. It is a mystery how I all of a sudden realised I must have 10 kilos of rice!
Whilst there is a strong Asian influence, you will have no problem finding all your needs, whether it is European and Australian. With purveyors of nuts, coffee beans, cheese counters, cold meats, pasta, cans, bottles and jars to complete even the fussiest pantry.
Strolling down the general stores lane, you are transported to the markets in South East Asia. Whether you wish to purchase, clothes, underwear, socks, cookware or a plastic bowl in every colour and size you are likely to find it here.
The markets are open Tuesday through to Saturday from 7.00am, closing time varies from 4.00pm to 7.00pm depending on the day (subject to change). Closed on Sunday and Monday. Check out the website for the latest information.
Within the market and the surrounding streets provide numerous establishments for you to enjoy a bite to eat, from a cheap bowl of pho through to a delicious steak and everything in between. Fortunately, some with photographs to help you decide on your dish!
If time permits, do take a wander around the surrounding streets. You will find traditional Chinese ducks for sale, a number of additional supermarket style stores and Vietnamese bakeries with the cheapest and best baguettes I've enjoyed since Paris.
Restaurants include African, Vietnamese, Brazilian and Indian and those are just the ones I noticed.
You can buy Middle Eastern Carpets, purchase Chinese herbal medicine, shop at the discount stores, along with standard services, chemists banks, newsagents.
If you are looking for specific ingredients or just a great day out, head over to Footscray and immerse yourself in a truly multicultural experience.
I'm also a huge fan of Footscray Market and the surrounding shops. I always make sure I go to Lemat Injera Bakery on Nicholson Street where you can buy 5 huge pieces of the beautiful Injera bread for $5. Or, if you get there early enough, you can buy single pieces of the fermented teff flour delight for $1 each. By chance did you hear any word of when the Little Saigon Market is reopening?