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May 9, 2008 06:41 PM

Stew Leonards

What are your thoughts on Stew Leonards? I have just returned to the Westchester area and I am hearing mixed reviews. I went there last Saturday afternoon and I enjoyed shopping there. The produce was of high quality and the bakery was interesting. The meat choices were excellent. Fish too.
It was all fine and good until I got to the prepared food section. All of a sudden, I turned the corner and there were people putting their hands in large vats of freshly deep fried potato chips. I was appalled! I thought it could not get worse and upon the next turn, there was a sign reminding people not to sample the food from the buffet table. I thought, who would do that?? Apparently, the people who had finished their meatballs 50 feet back, using their fork to double dip into the General Tso's Chicken!
So a pleasant shopping experience went completely in the opposite direction. I was glad to find out at the end, that I was going to get a FREE ice cream for spending $100. So it wasn't a total loss.
Is this a common practice or did I just go on a bad day?

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  1. I hit the salad bar and the hot foods section there on a regular basis and I've never noticed anyone sampling. I didn't even think they give out plastic utensils until you get to the cashier. If I did see something like that though, it would be a big turnoff to me too. I'll definitely be paying more attention from now on.

    1. Large vats?? Do you mean the employees putting them in bags after cooking or are you talking about the bowls they put out for sampling? It's never bothered me (and they're quite good) but if you don't like it, don't try them.

      And I don't know why you're reading more into the "no samples" sign on the buffet than there is. They don't want people taking free food from the buffet. Seems like a reasonable thing to do given that they do have other samples, and maybe their clientele was inclined to help themselves.

      1. as for the sampling issue, I'll leave that alone

        As to Stew's, there are some excellent things about it. Number one - dairy. The milk, butter, and cream at Stews is FAR superior than supermarket quality dairy, and cheaper. For that reason alone, I schlep up there with my four kids weekly. The cream is never ultrapasteurized, the milk is fresher and the butter is naturally sweeter. Produce is usually pretty good and you can find some good deals.

        They have a nice selection of seafood as well. The deals are quite good. Again, better than the average supermarket. You can find higher quality at places like fairway or whole foods, but you also pay twice the price.

        The meat I find to be average, sometimes pretty good, not bad, but not much that I'd go crazy about. Same statement re: whole foods/fairway applies here too.

        My only real complaints about Stews are the somewhat limited selection and, if you go during busy times, it's truly hard to navigate through the place. But I know what to expect, and since their dairy is just so good, it's completely worth it to me.

        3 Replies
        1. re: adamclyde

          I agree with adamclyde about the dairy at Stews, and we do shop there quite a bit, but I sometimes feel that things can be on the edge of freshness. You have to buy carefully. I've had tomatoes go bad just a bit too quickly, and though we buy quite a bit of fish at Stews, we have brought home some fish -- notably scallops -- that we've had to toss. It would be nice if you could smell the fish before they double wrap it in plastic. Despite this, the fish is definitely of a higher quality than the supermarket, where I would never buy fish.
          admanclyde -- do you really pay twice the price at Fairway? WF yes, I would agree with, but not Fairway.

          1. re: roxlet

            We've had excellent experiences at the Norwalk store's fish counter - selection-, quality- and help-wise. If something from Stew's went bad, I'd bring it back; as far as I know they have a very lenient customer service policy. If you don't feel like going back, I'd shoot them an e-mail from the Stew Leonards website and see what happens.

            Otherwise, I agree with just about everyone else - a pain to navigate, but great dairy and usually decent meats and mainstream produce. I go way early, about 7am, to beat the crowds.

            1. re: roxlet

              I agree with adamclyde, the dairy alone makes it worth it. When I moved to Westchester last year I had forgotten how much I missed the wonderful yogurt I had as a child (I grew up 5 min from the Norwalk store when they were a small dairy store with a petting zoo!) until I started shopping at Stews again.
              I also think they have really good seafood, on a side note, I think Whole Foods lately has been really slipping and Stew's tends to be even better, at a much better price. You do need to be careful, I bought some avocados recently that never softened, but I've had problems with produce at some point or another from pretty much every store.

              The salad/food bar sign is there for legal reasons I'm sure, and I have never seen anyone sampling from the hot food bar, though I usually skip it. They do however give out samples through out the store, maybe you mis-read the situation?
              I do love the home-made soups, the chicken orzo is sooo good as is the Manhattan Clam Chowder

              Overall Stew leonard's is my favorite place to get most of my shopping done, they can be limited in what they offer, but the quality of what they do offer is much better than the average supermarket IMO.

          2. I shop at the Stew's in Norwalk. Not on a regular basis, because I hate dealing with the crowds and the format of the store (in that if you forget something, you have to either wind your way upstream or start back at a cut through to get back to what you forgot)! I do buy a big quantity of their ground coffee and store it in my freezer, along with bialys and bagels. The fish department has such a great variety that I should go more often, and the quality is always excellent. The produce is decent, but they don't have the more unusual items, so I do have to go to a better market for that kind of stuff. I don't buy prepared foods in general, so I haven't experienced the buffet areas! They also have nice fresh flowers at a decent price.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sibeats

              We go to the one in Yonkers, and no, we've never brought anything back since it's not next door and it usually happens when we're in the middle of preparing some big dinner & there's no time. I'm sure they would be fine about it, but it's annoying that it has happened a bunch of times.

            2. when the jfoods first moved to ct he went every weekend for produce and stuff. now he rarely goes.

              All the following comments are about the Norwalk location.

              He thinks the dairy products are good and the milk well priced. little jfoods liked the chocolate milk. now he has found other stores that sell better produce (Greenwich produce) meats (scotts corner market) and fish (scotts and new wave). Plus the navigation is a nightmare except during the week and can't get there during the week. And when jfood gets to the end he bolts through the prepared section and it is somewhat unappealing.

              For those who live on the 95 side of FFD county it's a nice choice, but jfood is a couple of miles north of the merritt, it too long a drive for him.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                I usually don't buy prepared food anywhere, except for bbq chicken. But this week DH and I shopped for all the requests my family logged in for our early M's Day feast. My little ones love chicken fingers, no surprise there, and we bought them already prepared at Stew's. The picky littles loved them and scarffed them up happily. We also bought pricey rib eye steak, vegetables and halibut which the menfolk grilled and they were all wonderful.
                Once Fairway comes (yay!!) to the area I think Stew's will lose a lot of it's luster but for now there are so few good food markets in lower Westchester that Stew's has little competition in it's price field. Whole Foods is great but too expensive for my weekly shopping list.

                1. re: lucyis

                  As with so many food stores (and IMHO Whole Foods and yes, even Fairway are among them) it pays to be selective. I've had some very good fresh potato chips and good seafood chowder and we grab a presentable roast chicken when we need a quick dinner. They also carry some good local products, like the smoked salmon from Mount Kisco Smokehouse and some local cheeses. And BTW, some of their sushi,while not elaborate, can be fresher than the fare served at some of the more trendy local pan-Asian restaurants in the area.