Since moving to Europe, I've come to love covered market halls. There's just something about having that kind of variety and freshness of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other delicacies at your fingertips. Not to mention that stepping into one is like walking through a confetti party: the riot of colors, tastes, smells, and even sounds excites the senses.
Stuttgart's Markthalle ("market hall") has become a real treat for us to shop at. Most grocery stores in the center of the city tend to be quite small, so the selection is limited. But at the Markthalle, we can get a variety of fresh foods that aren't regularly stocked at our local grocery store. For example, the fruit and vegetable stalls there offer some seasonal produce year-round. I can always find fresh cilantro and celery stalks (which aren't always available at our grocery store) at one of the vegetable stalls. I can also purchase the exact quantity of vegetables that I need for a recipe. This is especially handy for greens like spinach. If I bought spinach at the grocery store, then I'd have to buy a bulk bag and the leftovers would probably go to waste in my fridge since there's no way the two of us could eat it all fast enough.
You can also usually find any speciality international foods that you wouldn't otherwise find in grocery stores. In particular, I like Di Gennaro for their amazing bread, wine, and fresh pastas. They have two locations in the Markthalle. When you walk in the door from Dorotheenstraße, you'll see the bakery on the end cap to your right. This is where they bake those amazing white loaves of sourdough-like bread that Mövenpick Weinkeller provides for their tastings. If you keep going, the second end cap has their meat, cheese, and wine location. If you take the first right after the bakery, you can find fresh stuffed pastas, like pumpkin or asparagus ravioli. These are both fresh and large, and easily make a meal on their own.
If you keep going down the second aisle, you'll find their meat and cheese counter, followed by their wine center. They have quite a selection of prosciuttos, and I never knew that there was such a difference in the taste between differently aged prosciuttos until I tried a few from Di Gennaro. You should also make it around to the wine section, because there you'll find some great deals in their sale bin (6,99 for a bottle, 11,99 for two, and 16,99 for three). I once bought a lovely Arbiola 2011 Ninètte (sauvignon blanc/chardonnay blend) from the Piedmont region in Italy. It was a very smooth, surprisingly light blend with a very tasty flavor of white peaches and green apple.
A little farther down you'll find Puszta-Stand -- the Hungarian stall. It's the only place where I've been able to find kielbasa in Stuttgart. The milder versions are a good substitute in my recipes that call for andouille, like my seafood gumbo.
At the end of the aisle is El Mercado Español. I shop here for their canned chipotles in adobo sauce and other peppers that I use for my Mexican recipes from the States. They also sell the best chorizo, and Matt likes to use their fresh grilling chorizo for his chicken chorizo chili since it has the right kind of texture for crumbling in the sauce. They have a variety of other cheeses, fresh tapas, and panninis that you can get to go. I highly recommend their prosciutto-wrapped dates.
Another place I like to frequent is the Gewürz-Mayer spice stall. They sell their little plastic bags of spices at about half the price of the grocery store spices. Their great for picking up essentials in bulk, like peppercorns and dried bay leaves. They also have some blends that you can't find in most grocery stores, like Cajun and fajita spices (in case you don't feel like making your own).
You can also find Greek, French, and Indian speciality stalls, a Hochland coffee and chocolate stall, and a new pastry stall that makes some ridiculously good macarons. The best thing to do is just walk around and explore!
While the Markthalle gives you all the speciality items you need to make a meal, you can also find enough freshly prepared paninis, salads, nuts, sweets, and fruits to grab a picnic to go. Buy all your favorite foods, and then walk across to the stairs beneath the statue in Karlsplatz or Schillerplatz for a place to eat. Or, walk just two minutes more and sit on a bench or on the grass in the Schlosspark (castle park) if the weather is nice.
Insider tip: If you want to get some wine to go with your picnic lunch but don't have a wine key handy, grab a bottle of chilled prosecco from Il Buongustaio. They'll even give you some disposable plastic cups if you ask nicely. (A dear friend let me in on this little secret. Shhh.)
Of course there are also plenty of restaurants around the Markthalle that make use of the fresh produce. Matt and I tried the Tapasbar Desirée when we first moved here, but honestly weren't impressed. (Although to fair, I think we were spoiled by our amazing tapas restaurant in Charlottesville, VA. The Spanish owner would return to his homeland every summer to collect foods and inspiration for his restaurant. It's hard to beat that!) We also ate a rather lovely Italian meal with Matt's coworkers in a private dining room on the level above the Markthalle, in a restaurant called Empore, I believe. However, that was so long ago that I can't say I remember much besides a general "it was yummy" statement.
Though we live just a 10-15 walk away from the Markthalle, we tend to go on the weekends, even though it's open until 6:30 now during the week. It's just nicer to take your time strolling and tasting the foods. The Markthalle is also next to the antiques market in Karlsplatz that takes place every Saturday morning. For the perfect Saturday, I suggest you browse through the antiques in the morning, and then go to the Markthalle to buy supplies for a lovely picnic lunch in the Schlossgarten.