How lucky are we to be in this neighborhood, where – even in the era of COVID-19 – markets are bountiful? One out of nine Americans struggles with hunger (11% of the population in our community alone, according to the last census), and food deserts – yes, even here in our buzzing metropolis – are still a thing.
A food desert is defined as “an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food.” These deserts are more often than not laden with only fast food options, and people have to travel a mile or more to access fruits, vegetables, and meats of quality. Some say it’s a systematic way of keeping poor people poor, as without access to healthy food options, comes heart disease, mental health issues, lethargy, diabetes, and more; issues that low-income families living in these areas (mainly people of color) can’t afford to get medically attended.
It’s a never-ending cycle that many, even the City of New York, are trying to solve. If you’re motivated to help, you donate to one of the many organizations trying to resolve these issues.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, on to the best markets in our hood. We have 11 supermarkets to feed our shopaholic souls.
In no particular order, they are: Food Emporium (we have two - on W43rd St - 9th/10th Ave and 8th Ave - 49th St - and both are currently open) Gristedes (8th Ave - 54th St - open) D’Agostino (10th Ave -54th/55th St - open) Amish Market (9th Ave - 49th/50th St - open) Westerly Natural Market (8th Ave - 54th St - open, but the juice bar is closed) Sunac Natural Market (W42nd St - 11th Ave - open but the juice bar is closed) Brooklyn Fare (W37th - 9th/10th Ave - open, with early hours for seniors) Big Apple Meat Market (9th Ave - 39th/40th St - open) Balducci’s (W56th St - 8th Ave - closed until further notice) The Market @ Mercedes House (W54th St - 10th/11th Ave - open) It’ll come as no surprise that all these places carry mainly the same things, with the exception of Westerly and Sunac – where you will find and pay top dollar for the best in natural and health foods.
“Brooklyn Fare is the absolute best! Oh, and the cart on W42nd St - 9th Ave makes the best bacon, egg, and cheese in the mornings. The bread makes the difference … fight me on this!” W42ST reader Bobby
So how to decide which is the best? Maybe you like to see and be seen at the Bergdorf’s of supermarkets (cough cough, The Market @ Mercedes House) but, for me, it’s all about the price point. Food Emporium, D’Agostino, and Gristedes are your run-of-the-mill box grocery stores but, because of where we live, unless you’re a super coupon cutter, they aren’t a bargain either.
Surprisingly enough, Amish Market and Brooklyn Fare come in fairly reasonably priced, as long as you are buying regular, everyday items. But my choice has been and will always be Big Apple Meat Market. Besides the kind staff and a large array of everyday items, it is affordably priced and of quality. The other great thing about BAMM is that, if you befriend Pete, he may stock the shelves with something just for you. Now that’s what I call the best. They’re also soon moving back to their old corner on W41st St - 9th Ave.
“The to-go food deli counter at Mercedes Market is a best-kept secret. Delicious! Can't beat it.” W42ST reader Audrey
I want to also take a moment to recognize all of our bodegas, corner stores, delis, and markets. I wish I had time to survey them all for best bacon, egg, and cheese or best price for late-night toilet paper but it’s almost an impossible task as there are at least 40 or so in our area. Before social isolation, I took a very long walk from W42nd St to W57th St, up 8th Ave, down 9th Ave, up 10th Ave, and some standouts to me were: Oscar L Grocery & Fruits, W52nd - 9th Ave. They had the largest selection of dry goods, including specialty Latin and Asian Items. It was awesome to see soba noodles, udon noodles, rice paper, guava paste, and more. (New opening hours 8am-9pm.)
Mil Sabores, 9th Ave - 47th/48th St. Although a VERY DELICIOUS hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, this place has also imported Mexican dry goods and hot sauces, etc. Who knew? You can even get fresh cactus (nopales) here! (Closed until further notice.)
Clinton Fruit Market, W47th St - 9th Ave. This was the nicest bodega I came upon, with lots of general dry goods and beautifully presented hot and cold bar produce and milk. (Open for groceries and delivery.) Once again, my picks were mainly based on affordability – I’d rather spend my money on booze, men, and rent. As I close out, I’ll do you a solid and give up a secret I’ve held for many years: Big Apple Meat Market has THE BEST and most affordable rotisserie chicken I've ever had. I haven’t roasted a chicken in years for just this reason.
Did I miss a market? Probably. Write to us and tell us your favorites and why. Have a secret little neighborhood gem of where to get the best panini or breakfast sandwich? I want to know.
MICHAEL MUNOZ firstname.lastname@example.org
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