It was only 1 on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day, but I felt like I'd already plunged deep into the loosey-goosey, free and easy summer season. That's because the sultry weather was complying and I was breezily gliding my way through the abrupt carnival that is Pearl Market.

It was only 1 on the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day, but I felt like I'd already plunged deep into the loosey-goosey, free and easy summer season. That's because the sultry weather was complying and I was breezily gliding my way through the abrupt carnival that is Pearl Market.

On Tuesday and Friday mornings from May through October, the alluring Pearl Market pops up like an instantaneous street fair full of plants, flowers, music, locally grown produce, handmade crafty goods and, of course, lots of ready-to-munch lunchtime fare.

Then at 2 o'clock, the market's lively rows oftented stalls simply go away - like the whole thing was some sort of bucolic mirage in the middle of a bustling city. Call it a colorful midday blast of food and fun that can sustain Downtown office drones through the remainder of a routine workday.

Anyway, as I walked along the busy brick lane between Broad and Gay streets, I snapped up as much good-time grub as I and some hungry accomplices could pack in - and we just scratched the surface. Still, we came away smiling from the friendly vendors and variety of flavors.

Red Snapper

Open: Tuesdays and Fridays

Years at Market: 2

The robust and spicy food was so terrific at Red Sapper, it was like a mini-revelation. Amusingly named after its outgoing Jamaican proprietor, Red Snapper operates out of a van parked in Lynn Alley flying both the Jamaican and American flags.

Red Snapper's fall-off-the-bone Curry Goat was outright butt-kicking. Ditto for the addictive, tender, darkly grilled Jerk Chicken (which tasted more of a Cajun pepper rub than typically fruity and thyme-heavy jerk sauces).

Crammed into styro boxes with an overflowing mound of spot-on rice and peas and the excellent veggie contrast of a cabbage, carrot and green bean saute, both are fantastic meal-deals for $7.

Cook Shack

Open: Tuesdays and Fridays

Years at market: 1

Cook Shack's trailer - which is parked next to Red Snapper's - offers a large menu of barbecue and sides. The pre-sauced, melt-in-your-mouth-tender, lightly smoked brisket ($5 or $7 combo with one side and drink) was a fistful of tangy strands piled a mile high.

I also liked the meaty, not-cooked-to-death beans, but while the poppy-seeded slaw was fresh and crunchy, it was so sweet it needed tartness to snap it into balance.

Say Cheez

Open: Tuesdays and Friday

Years at Market: 3

Say Cheez and open wide at this friendly, Southern-styled fried food station. This is where you buy good stuff such as seafood po'boys and irresistible corn nibblers (like sweet, jalapeno-flecked and cheesy hush puppies - best right out of the fryer).

I opted for the tilapia fish tacos - a sweet deal at three biggies for $6. When given the full monty, the crispy golden brown fish chunks come with creole tartar sauce, pickled peppers, lime and cilantro. Except for thecool blue tortillas (which fell apart), they were really, really good.

Wertz's Farm Market

Open: Fridays

Years at Market: 3

Wertz's makes sandwiches from its high-grade pork products (lots of brats and sausages) that start from Wertz's farm-raised hogs. Unfortunately most everything was gobbled up by 1 p.m. - let that be a warning! Still, a pork loin sandwich ($4 - thin, smoky, Canadian bacon-like slices) was nice slathered with Vidalia onion relish.