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Dec 17, 2000 05:33 PM

jefferson market & garden of eden

  • y

I’ve been shopping at jefferson market (6th Ave, bet 10 and 11) for over 10 years, but I’m becoming less enthusiastic about going there, and am going more and more to garden of eden (14 Street at 5th Ave). Is it just me? Or is JM not as good as it used to be?

JM continues to have good range of meat and poultry. Bread counter is usually very good. Valente, Sullivan Street, and Barbara’s bagettes are available (though on at least three recent occasions the bread has been stale, esp Sundays (the prompt for this post)). I’m pretty disappointed with the cheese counter. Altho' heaps of cheeses are on display, there are few I’d recommend. Cabot cheddar from Vermont is excellent, but the stilton is poor, and the camembert and brie are variable. Fruit and veg sections are limited. Their roast chicken to go is consistently good, though the other prepared foods are not so hot. Even though they moved into this new space a few years ago, it already feels out of date and the shop is badly organized (too many items you need a ladder to reach). The store that used to feel quirky because of its old-fashioned charm now feels dowdy.

In stark contrast, G of E is like a sparkling new button. OK, it should. It is new. But it’s more than that. The food is nicely presented, looks and is fresh and well taken care of. The range of fruits, veg (esp the mushrooms), chilies and spices, jams, even beers (vintage morgans cider from Ireland available) is amazing. The meat and poultry counter doesn’t have the array that JF has, but I’ve been pleased with everything so far. And it’s nice to see a woman butcher. She likes cats too and has photos to prove it (so is my chum for life). G of E has a great selection of bread (tho not Valente).The cheeses are wonderful. I saw some posts here from last year concurring here. I especially like the goat brie. I've tried their prepared food a few times. Good, tho’ I’m not a fan of any store’s creations. The only counter I’ve not been too happy with is the fish one. Wasn’t very happy with their white fish. The staff is really friendly, welcoming and very helpful. All in all, an outing to G of E is shopping made fun.

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  1. the 23rd st one is even better

    9 Replies
    1. re: ken


      I have shopped in all of them a lot. My ranking of the 3 Garden of Eden stores.

      1. 14th Street bet. 5th and USW
      2. 23rd Street bet. 7th and 8th
      3. 3rd Avenue bet. 23rd and 24th.

      The 14th street location has a much better poultry, meat, fish and cheese counter. Last time I was in the other two, they only had a few pieces of poultry, meat and fish in shrink wrapped packaging in the cooler. Maybe that has changed?

      Take care,

      1. re: Mike C

        I agree with your ranking. I live quite near the 3d Ave location and have been shopping there since I moved to NY, which was before the other branches existed. Since the expansion, that location has been spruced up and new things have been added that weren't there originally (pastries, salad bar), but it's much smaller and the selection is smaller and the produce less pristine than at the other locations. When the 23d St. location opened, I was jealous, and now the 14th St. location has me positively green with envy. Still, the 3d Ave. GOE is best in my nabe for a number of things. I don't buy much in prepared foods at these kinds of places as a rule, but I do buy GOE's rotisseried chickens, which I think are good for the money at $6 (and the only even halfway decent chicken in my immediate neighborhood). For poultry, etc., I stick with Todaro Bros., which is around the corner from me and has a full-service meat counter.

        1. re: Caitlin

          Hey there. I lived in Chelsea before moving to Greenwich Village, having much the same response to the new G of E. I find it much more pleasant than Jefferson Market (which will forever incur my wrath for putting out boxes of Matzo for Yom Kippur, when we Jews don't eat anything). G of E gets the nod for its meat counter and the vegetables, especially those aforementioned mushrooms. Balducci's, meanwhile, seems to hire people to look like customers and stand around aimlessly, ensuring that the place is always crowded and crushed. I avoid it.

          When I can stand the walk, though, I trek over to Chelsea Market, the wholesale place on 9th avenue between 15th & 16th Streets, where they've got nice prices for fish, a terrific meat counter, and especially the Ronnybrook milk & ice cream (and great produce prices, though w/o GE's selections.)

          unfortunately, I am moving to Brooklyn Heights, and will no longer reap the reward of living in the greatest grocery neighborhood in Manhattan. Oh well. The Park Slope food co-op beckons.


          1. re: DaveGaffen


            Hope you'll be pleasantly surprised by the food shopping options in your soon-to-be new neighborhood. (Sorry if this should be an Outer Boroughs post but since it's a reply to Dave...) Well, not the Heights but in adjoining Cobble Hill and, down a ways, Carroll Gardens. We don't have the one-stop shopping venues like GE, JM, etc. but some very good specialty stores.
            Seafood: Fish Tales on Court near Bergen has a good variety of very fresh fish and shellfish as well as prepared foods. In the back of Petite Crevette restaurant on Atlantic is a retail fishmonger with a limited selection of impeccable merchandise.

            Butchers: Staubitz on Court near Warren is first-rate, with a reasonable selection of free-range and organic meats. Los Paisonos, Smith & Wyckoff, is also a good source. Bell & Evans chickens are a bit cheaper than Staubitz and they have some ethnic specialties. Esposito's Pork Store on Court near President in Carroll Gardens carries a range of meats but I especially like their Italian specialties like pancetta, sausages, bracciole, etc.

            Greengrocers: Green Pea on Atlantic has a huge selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Jim & Andy's on Court near Warren is smaller but they usually have some of the more exotic fare. Go early as I believe they do a big restaurant business and the freshest merchandise seems to go there. There's a new one on Smith that I haven't tried yet. For organic: Perelandra on Remsen in the Heights and Park on Union near Court.

            Cheese: We're a bit challenged on this one. Delicatessen on Clinton and Verandah has a very small selection of usually very good French cheeses. Sahadi's, the big and wonderful Middle Eastern grocer on Atlantic, has a vast selection. You won't confuse it with Murray's but you can do quite well on the "basics." Ditto Staubitz, but more limited.

            Do check out Sahadi's and the other Middle Eastern grocers on Atlantic for specialty ingredients. Marquet and Sweet Melissa patisseries, both on Court in Cobble Hill, can finish off your meal beautifully if you're not inclined to bake.

            Welcome to Brooklyn and happy cooking/eating.

            1. re: Dee

              Thanks much for all those suggestions. I haven't been to these pages in a while, so it's good to catch up. I'll be sure to wander a lot around Brooklyn for as many interesting ideas as possible. -- Dave

          2. re: Caitlin
            yvonne johnson

            Todaro bros (2nd @ 30 st) is good, as you say. Very good for tarts (big enough to feed 6). I esp like the cherry and apricot ones. The base of them is very almond-y. Great for dinner parties. The French are right: cook apps and mains but buy desserts from a good patisserie. Just warm up and pour some cream over. Delish.

            1. re: yvonne johnson

              There are a few good things about Todar Bros., and some not-so-good things. They have a full-servive meat counter, and what they have is good, but they don't have a real wide array. I've not bought seafood there, and it's clearly a small part of their business (I'm not saying it's not fresh, as I haven't tried it). They have decent bread and cheese selections (like most places, you have to go early for the good bread), though I haven't delved deeply into their cheese. Sometimes they have good prices on some packaged foods. Their produce is nothing special. The prepared food really isn't good, and pastries such as muffins, croissants, etc. are so-so. I haven't hought too many desserts there, but they were better, though I think they'll vary, as they get them from a number of different purveyors. They do sell Steve's key lime pies, BTW. In the summer they have a stand out front selling Ciao Bella sorbetti and gelati, which is nice. I can't argue with having it as a resource around the corner from my apartment, though!

              At present, I'd probably head up the block to Cafe Indulge on the corner of 2d and 31st to buy dessert. I've found this new bakery-cafe to be consistently pretty good so far. Below is a link to my earlier post describing my initial experiences there.


              1. re: Caitlin

                Just wanted to let you know that the cheese at Todaro Bros. is really good. The owner also has an importing company and imports lots of cheese, especially Italian. Lots of the stuff you would get at fairway, zabars, etc... comes from these guys.

              2. re: yvonne johnson
                yvonne johnson

                The maker of the fine cherry, apricot and peach tarts that are available at Todaro's is:
                Plaza Sweets (Mamaroneck NY 10543 1-800-816-8416). They are really wonderful, and I see they have no preservatives or artificial ingredients. So if you go, ask for Plaza's.

        2. Yvonne,

          The new GE is wonderful. In the past I had been a big proponent of Balducci's and JM. However in recent years both stores have been on a serious decline. I haven't shopped in JM in over a year and only find myself in Balducci's on rare occasions.

          GE on 14th street is great. I will make several qualifiying statements though. The fish counter is still only okay and I will only buy fish there on rare occasions. The cheese counter was tired too. Although they had a nice selection of cheeses, they were not stored well and usually looked old and tired. However, within the past month they have changed the staff behind the cheese counter and it has undergone a complete about face. They must have thrown out the old inventory and reorganized the selection. It is now kept very well and the staff is very helpful. I had stopped buying cheese there, but now do so without reservation.

          GE has 2-3 managers that seem to be right on top of things there. On occasion I have asked them questions and they have been very eager to help. I used to notice this at Balducci's too, but it is no longer the case.

          For fish I still use Wild Edibles or Citarella. WE is close enough to my office so dinners planned in advance work out well.

          1. I haven't been to Jefferson Market since two Thanksgivings ago, when I'd pre-ordered a 18-pound fresh turkey, and was summarily handed a turkey that was frozen solid. When I pointed this out to the butcher, he contradicted me and told me the bird was fresh. "Here," I said, "feel the breast! It's as solid as a block of ice! This won't thaw for days!" After a bit of grumbling, he took back the bird and came out with another one that was only partially frozen, but 15 pounds. I took it, but I've never been back.

            I'll always have a certain fondness for Balducci's, but ever since Garden of Eden (the 14th Street edition--FAR superior to the other two on 3rd Ave. and on 23rd St. @7th Ave.), I've slacked off on Balducci's, too. GE has pretty much everything I need, and more. There are more varieties of mushrooms on display than anywhere I've ever been. The produce is resplendent, the breads amazingly fresh, the smoked meats and sausages exemplary, and various prepared foods (soups and salad bar, sushi, wraps) very fine. There's a great pizza oven, and the gorgonzola pizza is the best pie I've had all year. And I've had pretty good luck with the fish department on the whole.

            But the best sectors of the store, I think, are the fresh meats and cheese departments. Hassad, who manages the cheeses, studied with Steve Jenkins (author of THE CHEESE PRIMER and one of the most important cheese heads in the country), and really knows his way around the curds. And yes, the lady butcher (whose name escapes me) is a real find, too.

            If that weren't enough, there are ample food samples all over the store, there for the grazing: a dozen varieties of olives, soups, cubes of processed meats, cheese, and often more. I call it lunch.

            Two minor problems with Eden: It can be expensive, if you aren't watchful. Land o' Lakes butter: $6/lb. But some of the best olive oil prices in town just across the aisle. Best buys: Smoked salmon "nibs" (scraps) at about $8/lb. Excellent free-range chicken: $1.95-2.45/lb. Supreme sirloin steaks @$7.99/lb.

            The only other problem isn't really a problem at all: The place is wildly overstaffed. Often, there are more staffmembers scurrying around than there are customers. The majority of the staff is Turkish, and very friendly indeed. And even if there's a line at the group of registers, the operators are extremely skilled, and the line moves (much) more quickly than at any supermarket in Manhattan.

            I live just south of Union Square, and I literally go to Eden every day--like a French housewife's daily marketing. Add to that the four-day-a-week Greenmarket, and you've got the best food shopping neighborhood in town.

            1. I thought I agreed about the 14th St G of E and was about to say why bother about ordering from when such terrific cheeses are available near at hand when I had a bad experience - a way-ammoniac cut of a french cheese at that G of E. It was a kid behind the cheese counter that day - not the guy I had dealt with before - it would be nice to think he would have warned me off. But I cant wholehheartely endorse them if they don't pull over the hill cheeses from their display. Get a taste before buying.

              5 Replies
              1. re: jen kalb

                I had a similar experience with a discounted "Crotin de Chavignol" which,when I got it home, was so over aged as to be a solid rock. That explained but did not excuse the "deep" discount.

                1. re: Chris

                  I went to Garden of Eden a few weeks ago to buy some cheese. I will never go back for the cheese. I would rather walk a little longer and go to Murrays. The cheese department may look impressive, but I found cheese to be old and tired. I bought some Parmigiano that was awful. HUGE disspointment.

                  1. re: Jo


                    I will agree that a buying cheese there over a month ago was dicey. They have completely revamped the department and changed the staff. While it still doesn't hold a candle to Murrays (not much does), it is now respectable.

                    Take care,


                    1. re: Mike C

                      The best cheese selection with the best prices used to be at the east village cheese shop on 3rd avenue and I think 9th street. Haven't been in about 9 months but was a frequent customer for 3 years before that. Has anyone been there lately? Where is Murrys?

                      1. re: MM

                        Murray's is located on the corner of Bleecker and Cornelia St. in the village. I live fairly close to the cheese shop that you are talking about on 3rd ave. For some reason I have yet to shop there. I'll have to go in soon.