2350 12th Ave, New York, NY
In terms of high end grocery shopping, there are a few well known outlets in NYC, such as Citarella, Dean and Deluca, Whole Foods, Gourmet Garage and Zabars, but for my money, if I’m going to do groceries in Manhattan, my pick would be the Fairway Market on 125th Street on the West side.
Fairway is one of the few places in Manhattan that makes sense to shop if you are coming in from the ‘burbs and you have a car. There’s a huge parking lot right off the 125th Street exit on the West Side Highway (and right across the street from the very excellent Dinosaur Barbecue, if you want to make it a shopping and dining trip) so its a good option for us bridge and tunnel folks. The produce and cheese and meats and fish are excellent, if not a tad expensive. However the quality is excellent and I would venture to say there are few places in the entire metro area that have the selection and variety that Fairway has. Perhaps Stew Leonards is comparable in some aspects (I love the meat section) but it’s not in Manhattan.
A new type of ovoid-shaped mediterranean onion.
One of the many ethnic grocery sections. This one is for British foodstuffs.
Bread and cheese area.
Fairway imports a number of different olive oils under its own brand. I particularly like the Greek Kalamata oilve oil ($15)
Now, on to the bad points. There are NUMEROUS ACCOUNTS of people having horrible experiences with the rudeness of customers and staff at Fairway. I myself on my last visit had this particular experience, just last week:
I completely forgot that Fairway prohibits photography within the store. So of course, like a dumbass, I was snapping away like a Japanese tourist on speed, getting photos for eG and Off The Broiler. I had gotten to about my 20th picture when I hit the bread/cheese area where they have the olive oil tastings set up, when a short man, that was conversing with the Kosher supervising rabbi that was there, who proclaimed to be the General Manager, got up right in my face and said
“Put that goddamn camera away now!”
I said “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize” and shoved it in my pocket. I profusely apologized further and explained to him that I wanted to take pictures for OTB and eGullet, and he said “I don’t give a damn who you are or what web site you have. Unless you want to get me excited, and you don’t want to do that, you’ll stop doing what you’re doing right now.”
I walked away about 20 feet and went into the cold room
(where, unfortunately, I did not take photos because of the reasons above) for a few minutes to escape the guy, where Rachel was looking at the oysters. After explaining to Rachel what had just happened I then headed over to try some olive oil at the tasting area. A few other customers were there looking at the olive oil, where there’s a sign that says “only dip once”. Before any of the customers could put a piece of bread in the oil, he starts yelling at the top of his lungs at them.
“NO DOUBLE DIPPING! THATS GODDAMN DISGUSTING!”
The guy turned bright red and then yanked a few of the plastic containers away, I guess to refill them with uncontaminated oil.
If this was the guy’s normal state, I don’t want to see him when he gets excited.
That is a pretty outrageous story, for which there is really no excuse. Unfortunantely this attitude towards customers has become entirely common at Fairway — ever deal with the preternaturally nasty cold cut people? — which has deteriorated significantly in the recent past in a general sense.
The most obvious sign of this deterioration at Fairway is the fruit, which was in the past quite reasonably priced and of extremely high quality, both things extremely rare to find in Manhattan. The fruit is now of such grim quality that you might as well be shopping in any common supermarket. As such it is now official that there is not a single decent piece of fruit to be bought in all of Manhattan north of Grand Street — Fairway being the only previous exception.
Man, I’m glad I live in Maryland, where we have the Lexington Market. People at the Lexington are helpful, friendly, and allow photos to be taken. No offense to the NICE New Yorkers, but I wouldn’t set foot in that place (Fairway market). Also, by looking at the prices on the produce, I simply CANNOT BELIEVE them! A cantaloupe for $4.89???
My GAWD, I paid 99 cents at Food Lion last week for a melon that looked better than those at Fairway! You folks that shop there must have REAL restraint. I would have punched out that loud-mouthed “manager” had he spoken to me in that manner.
I’ve been to the Fairway at Red Hook Brooklyn about six times now, and have not observed any of that attitude. The staff is friendly and helpful.
We have Central Market in Houston, a higher end grocers that is absolutly amazing. The service could not be more friendly or helful. I am not sure how you could keep yourself from telling the guy to go Fuck himself, let alone keep on coming back to the store.
[…] When we’re out in the city one of my favorite places to stop by on the way back to Jersey and pick up some dinner is Dinosaur Barbecue — its conveniently located right off the West Side Highway in Harlem, by the 125th Street exit across the street from Fairway Market. I love the whole biker, badass image of the place — and you could almost say that it was a Disney/Epcot-like portrayal of a biker roadhouse, if it was not for the fact that real badass bikers actually go to eat there and the owner, John Stage, besides being a BBQ genius is a badass biker himself. His original restaurant up in Syracuse (which is still in business) is the real deal. Dinosaur also opened a Rochester location in 1998 as well. […]
Love the store!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you open one in raleigh NC?
Lexington Market! yeah, I used to live 3-4 blocks from there when I lived on Eutaw street. The stuff wasn’t bad, bacon and chicken was amazing.
I live near fairway now and I think it’s cool for what it is, it’s more like a whole foodsy thing to me than a lexington market.
I’m glad that guy yelled at people, double dipping is disgusting, and people have no respect for policies and sanitation anymore. The fact that he took it that seriously makes me want to shop there, because most of these places in NY are store sized petri dishes. I only want to eat at places where you will get scolded and kicked out for unhygenic behav ior!!!
This is an excellent review. Thanks so much!
I keep thinking, one of these days I’ll take pix of Citarella. I do most of my bi-weekly food shopping there now.
Then I remind myself about Jason’s experience at Fairway.
What happened to all the local kids who worked throughout the store? What are there so many undocumented workers employed? My god, I am sure local kids could use a job. Is it another case of underpaying undocumented immigrants and claiming Americans don’t want to do “the dirty jobs?” Shame on Fairway!
they should have spouts on the olive oil bottles so you can pour your olive oil on the bread, who the fuck has containers of oil for complete strangers to dip in???? it’s unsanitary.