What shouldn't I miss at Bklyn Fairway?
It's hard to say definitively, since I don't know what you already buy from other places. There is probably absolutely nothing that is available exclusively at Fairway, and lots of destinations that are better - Murray's is certainly a better cheese shop than Fairway's counter, for instance. But the genius of Fairway is bringing it all together under one roof and maintaining non-extortive prices.
Here's my mental tour through the store (easy to do because it's so strictly ordered):
Produce - quality is not fantastic, but some foods are very conveniently presented. When it's fresh, the loose mesclun by the pound is a good deal. I also like the snow peas/sugar snap peas by the pound. They are often a good source for poblano, serrano , and habanero chilis.
Deli counter - no faves here. They seem to have some nice prepared foods and some more exotic fare, but I don't buy it.
Cheese counter - is good. If you've got some favorites that are not too exotic (like, say, aged gouda) you can look forward to picking it up.
Olive bar - I always buy a half-cup of kalamatas. Also a good source for neat martini olives.
Fish counter - I really like it. Wide variety, always seems quite fresh, good staff.
The wall of dried stuff - nuts, candy, dried fruits, etc. I actually don't buy the little containers that much, instead I hang a left and head back into the "bulk" dispensers in the organic section. There I buy rice, popcorn, and flaxseed granola in weighed bags.
OK, back out of the organic section, skipping past the meats. (Ooops, forgot to stop at the back wall, for hummus and the bulk dry tortollini. OK, onward.)
Into the spices, fancy soda, Belgian beers, and chocolates nook. Buy that ground cardamom or Sichuan peppers or whatever thing you've had a hard time finding. Some grapefruit GuS ("grown-up soda"). Some nice dark chocolate.
Now you've got to go up and down the long aisles. These are pretty boring, frankly. Lately I buy packaged madelines in the first aisle, maybe a nice jelly/jam in the middle, and I do like the italian specialties in the last aisle (tomato paste in a squeezable tube, yo.) Basically, the cool stuff is concentrated towards the back of the store - as you go down the aisles towards the registers it gets more mundane.
Bakery and cafe. Meh. The highlight for me is huge, cheap "wraps" in various flavors. And I'm buying rugelach for dessert.
If you are lucky you can buy canned cel-ray in the soda aisle. 20% of the time.
Snacks. Dairy. Boring. Freezer section is a little unusual, nothing too spectacular - some cool soy ice creams, shelled edamame, tasty and healthy-seeming empanadas.
And we're done. Hopefully you've been checking your list, did you get everything?
They are a great importer of olive oil. They will have bottles of perhaps 8 types open for sampling. Also high end anchovies, tuna, sardines, etc. Also, if you are there at a quiet time, get a lobster roll at the snack bar ($8!) and have it on their deck facing the harbor and Statue of Liberty.
And while you are in the neighborhood, get a Key Lime Pie from Steve's.
re: MB fka MB
I respectfully disagree. I had the lobster roll for the 1st time Thurs. night, based on reviews here and thought it was very good. The lobster meat was very sweet. If you prefer the buttered style over the mayo style, you may not like it, but I did not find it overly mayo'd. They were out of cole slaw, so I got a green salad, which I prefer anyway.
I agree with bklyn1966 about the lobster roll not being very good. I've eaten at that section of the Fairway market near the water views about 40 or 50 times. I'm a regular Fairway shopper and the odds are better than not that I'll eat something at their cafe.
I generally have enjoyed all of the various sandwich combinations they serve, but not the lobster roll. I've even had the lobster roll two other times on the chance that the first lobster roll I ever had there was an aberration. It wasn't.
On the topic of what not to miss at Fairway, you can decide for yourself. The market's large enough that you're bound to find something suitable to your personal tastes, perhaps someting that you wouldn't ordinarily find in another market. Many Fairway posts on these boards seem to dwell on Fairway's shortcomings, rather that focus on the fact that Fairway provides a rather large selection of goods, including items from companies not usually found in the typical supermarket. What I don't like about Fairway is their produce - specifically the leafy produce - like basil, parsley, etc. It's usually either too soggy, too dirty or past its prime. So there: I ended this post by describing a negative aspect of the market.
I'm surprised you don't like the produce. I almost always find it to be very good and fresh. Too dirty is a funny complaint. I don't cook/eat anything without giving it a rinse.
And I've had the RH Fairway lobster roll a number of times. It's good, and a good value. I wouldn't go out of my way for it, but it's perfect if you're hungry when food shopping, or just want an excuse to sit down.
Re: the orig post, here's where I completely agree with pizmet. Fairway is a supermarket. It has tons of ordinary and extraordinary products. Shop according to your own needs
I'm with pizmet on the lacklustre quality of Fairway produce. I think I remarked on it in another thread before. I'm not bothered by the dirt (it is dirty, mind you). But I am bothered by the poor quality of what they tend to have and how often I get home to find at least some of what I bought includes rotten / past its prime stuff that slipped in as I was quickly grabbing. i.e. spoiled onions in particular. It's really the weakest thing about Fairway.
"overwhelmed" - Nah, it's not that good. The packaged food is interesting, various tubes and jars of food from everywhere. Most of the food areas are not as good as smaller specialized stores elsewhere in the city, although I like the convenience of having a decent selection of everything in one place, with parking.
The olive oil tasting bar is great. Nice source of Agave Juice. Otherwise Whole Foods has less selection of groceries but better prepared food.
Le Nells http://lenells.com/, 416 Van Brunt Street b/t Coffey & Van Dyke, Brooklyn NY 11231
Steve's Key Lime pie http://www.stevesauthentic.com/
Red Hook ball fields (see posts
)Parked behind Fair Way is one of the last Brooklyn Trolleys. Some weekends the harbour people have free Kayaking.
If the Rail Barge museum is there is might be worth a walk www.waterfrontmuseum.org/
Fairway isn't really a big purveyor of specialty foods. It's just a better than average supermarket with good prices. When I go there, my grocery list usually includes olive oil (good quality and cheap), organic milk (v v cheap), and fresh pasta (the porcini agnolotti is *wonderful* for a lazy weeknight dinner). Boxed cereal, jams, yogurt, dried herbs and baking ingredients are also cheaper than at my local supermarket, but I wouldn't call them specialty.
They also have some nice artisanal hams at the deli counter and a good selection of cheeses at good prices, but not as good as Stinky or Murray's.
The breads can also be good if you get them hot, but it's not better than the local CG bakeries. Produce, as others have said, is nothing special, although they have a decently sized organic selection.
Overall, I'd say it's a good place to go to save money, but you're not going to find anything you can't get elsewhere.
I go to fairway to stock up on meat/fish/bacon - things that are super expensive in my neighborhood and not good enough quality. Many dairy products are a huge savings, too - kefir, organic milk, cottage cheese. Though my favorite greek yogurts are actually cheaper at my corner market than anywhere else. go figure.
If you're eating there, my favorite is the Five Star Salmon. You pick your bagel and bring it to them (they're always out at the deli) and then they'll make a huge, thick smoked salmon with tomato, onions and cream cheese with a side of salad. A good meal while sitting outside watching the ships enter New York Harbor.
Ive found I go to Fairway for the olive oil and coffee, and sometimes to pick up fancy produce for a special occasion. They also have quite a selection of packaged goods like vinegars and peppers. The will have specialty citrus (meyer lemons, etc) and such at a high price. I I avoid the baked goods and bread - much better sources in Brooklyn Some of the cheeses are quite nice and the prices are decent.
Coffee- they did a blend called Superbowl which is Sumatra and Italian Roast. Great morning blend.
Gluten Free foods- best selection in the city ( IMHO) if you care
Fish- I buy salmon 3 pounds at a time, slice into portions and what I don't cook, I freeze.
Avocados and mushrooms- I could skip the rest of the Fairway produce - better at Three Guys from Brooklyn on FH and 60th.
Latin Rotisserie chicken- I am a convert.
Olives- love the selection- Would rather go to Sahadis but...
and assorted etc- non dairy creamer, instant pudding, greek yogurt, ice creams- all at better prices and better variety than local.
Re. Olives from Fairway and Sahadi's. I actually like Sahadi's better too, but they instituted a rule in which you have to buy the medium-sized container full of olives--that's the minimum. That is too many for me (the small container was right) and I always wind up throwing some out. (I guess that technically olives keep forever, but they get kind of gross in the refrigerator.) So, I usually buy them at Fairway instead because there is no minimum.
agree w/ other posts re. Fairway bread, except for their cinnamon raisin - its a staple in my freezer. I disagree about Dairy being boring. We always get Fairway brand organic milk, packaged crepes for an easy dinner, crumpets, Ben's cream cheese (if you're going to eat it right away - it doesn't stay good for very long)
We are big fans of the Fairway prepared soups which sell for about $5.99. We particularly like the gazpacho, MN wild rice, 3 bean chili and Italian wedding soup. While the cheese selection isn't Murray's or Bedford Cheese, it is a pretty good cheese counter for a large grocery store and they are usually ready to offer large hunks for samples. As mentioned before, the dairy and organic stuff is very reasonably priced. The only "avoids" we've found is the chicken and pork sausage -- both very, very bland. Otherwise, I enjoy shopping there -- BUT only after I've memorized the store layout to avoid the chaos and frustration!
Fairway has a much better cheese selection than people give it credit for. They have good prices on Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve which is a great hard cheese from Wisconsin. I also think their ricotta is very good.
I like the picadew (sp?) peppers in the olive bar as well as the hot Tunisian olive mix.
The Fairway chocolate is also a pretty good deal, especially the single source stuff.
Among the olive oils, one thing to note: the first press California olive oil is extremely strong and not the best to use in salads. It's not that it isn't good, just very strong.
I don't think the cafe is all that great and they seem to staff it with the least attentive of all of their employees who are otherwise extremely helpful.
The tortilla chips that they sell in the white bags are also great (they have a very Aztec sounding name). Very thin and light.
Finally, the Latin style rotisserie chicken is awesome. The other varieties are a little bland for my taste but the chicken is great.
I will also say that, no matter how crowded the store is, they do a great job of managing the checkout lines. I have rarely had more than one person in front of me and I have been there when it is absolutely packed.
I like shopping at Fairway because the other large supermarkets in Brooklyn do not stock as much quality/selection of foods. I am talking about the Stop and Shop or Shoprite type of supermarkets. Sometimes, it's difficult to go to several small stores in the neighborhood for their specialties. Although Fairway is a supermarket, it has so many decent choices compared to the others from Brooklyn. There are many more food stores in Manhattan that are better than Fairway. But for those of us who live in Brooklyn,Fairway is a good place to shop
On my weekly trek to Fairway in Red Hook, these are my MUST-BUYS
1. Fairway Fresh Roasted Turkey Breast ( does not taste like the usual deli, heavily salted over processed meat. Its worth trekking out there just for this product alone IMHO)
2. Fairway Fresh Orange Juice
3. Fairway 5 star Smoked Salmon ( melt in your mouth DELICIOUS)
4. Can of Jasmine Green Tea (sweetened)
5.Dried unsulphered,unsweetened mango
6.Late July Organic Peanut Butter Crackers
7. Liberte Yogurts(Lowfat pear,raspberry,strawberry)
8.Eli's Hearth Bread(soooo good so natural)
9. Eli's Brioche Buns
10. Fairway Roast Chicken ( pay $2 for two extra sides)- sweet potatoes rock
11. Wild Harvest Organic Saltines
12. Wild Harvest Organic Animal Crackers
Went for the first time a few weeks ago. It was overwhelming but I loved it! Favorites:
1) olive oil bar. I tasted a bunch and they are all very inexpensive
2) Great selection of Israeli/Kosher products, if you care. Got some really yummy kosher hot dogs that were "Lower East Side" brand (never heard of it before) that were flavored with garlic and herb---delicious, kosher are not!
3) The cheese I got there was good and cheap. Nothign too crazy, but still good.
4) cheap vanilla beans
5) cheap organic milk!!
6) cheap plugra butter
7) love the serve yourself granola section in the back of the organic section--you can get as little or as much as you want
...someone mentioned that they buy avocados there...I wanted to but they were all disgusting.
Im a sucker for the olive oils - taste my way through them every time and some are very good and reasonable.
Ive had some very good cheeses there.
Olives are good but better at Sahadi.
They have an interesting selection of vinegars and well priced coffee
Above the olive display and around the cheeses and olive oils there are some obscure and sometimes excellent condiments/fancy food items. There is an excellent MITICA spanish grape must /preserved pumpkin product in a tiny glass jar that is just wonderful with cheeses - we also purchased an earthenware container of excellent chestnut honey - some of the items are not so good, like at least one mostarda that I threw out and the french "purple condiment" my family also did not care for.
They also have colatura from Cetara and garum - very pricy however.
I agree with much of what has been said about fairway on this post. By and large, I feel that there are far better specialty stores scattered around Brooklyn for better produce (gap market), meat (Los Paisanos), cheeses (Blue Apron, Murray's in the city), deli meats (Blue Apron) and general provisions (Union Market, which is ridiculously overpriced), but fairway has managed to bring them all under one roof for convenience. That being said... I almost always buy basic items at fairway and then get my meat from Los Paisanos and cheeses etc.. from Blue Apron.
Also, I honestly find fairway too large and not only poorly designed, but also confusing in that different varieties of the same item type are spread at numerous locations throughout the store. If I am in a rush, I absolutely avoid fairway.
A lot of their baked goods are hit or miss, but the scones are terrific--light, crisp on the outside and tender inside and not too sweet. They're about a dollar less than what I pay at my local coffee place too, and even better. Other than that, their roast chickens and Murray's roasted birds are very good and I always find good cheese there as well.
Fairways really is hit and miss with their produce, but what's a person to do, if you don't have time to go shopping specialty stores around Brooklyn? In Windsor Terrace there are two god-awful supermakets--Key Food and one on McDonald Ave whose name escapes me. AND they're expensive. I some times get produce on Church Ave. but for quick shopping and for their meat and bulk organic stuff, Fairways is pretty cheap and good.