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Street fruit vendors - how's the quality??

I've never bought anything from them. I thought I heard something negative about them once that deterred me but frankly I can't really remember the reason anymore.

Do Hounds find that they have good produce? Any sanitary or other health-type issues that people have encountered? How are the prices?

I'm referring to the people who set up stands on sidewalks. I actually love buying stuff at the farmers markets that take place around the city.

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  1. it depends on the vendor, of course. i prefer to purchase my fruit from st. vendors because the fruit tends to be more ripe and higher quality than my local grocery stores and fresh direct (which is, admittedly, not saying that much, as fresh direct produce tastes like plastic). i don't think there are sanitary issues as long as you wash your produce carefully, as you always should, anyway. the biggest concern will be overly ripe fruit. most of what i buy is for immediate consumption (i shop daily). it often doesn't sit around for more than a day or two, longer.

    since you're on the uws, i've had very good luck with all the vendors on b'way from 89th to 98th or so. you can comparison shop a bit, too, since there are quite a few on this stretch. there are a couple on b'way in the lower 100s that are decent, as well.

    6 Replies
    1. re: cimui

      I agree; depends on the fruit/vegetables you're looking for, as well as the vendors themselves. That stretch you're talking about is my neighborhood, too, and I have great luck with them as well (as well as the little neighborhood grocery stores along the way).

      Because I'm neurotic that way, I have a sense of the prices of my favorite fruits and veggies, and pretty much know what's a good deal where. Having said that I tend to buy tomatoes (well, not these days!), bananas, mangoes and blueberries at the stands. Melons (especially watermelon), I'll end up getting at 'markets' though never at major supermarkets - way too expensive.

      Which is more than you ever wanted to know about my shopping habits. :)

      1. re: drummergirl

        hah, i'm a bargain hunter at heart, too, drummergirl, and like to feel like i've gotten a good deal on my fruit! i think you're right that berries, cherries, and stone fruits are all better priced at the fruit stands, while melons are better priced at the market. most stands don't seem to carry the big melons, for one thing, just the teeny little 'single serve' melons, some of which, probably because of the low turnover rate, look like they've led a hard life on the road. if you're ever in midtown, the fruit vendor right outside of the 1 train at 50th st, sells very high quality fruit for even less than our neighborhood guys.

        1. re: cimui

          I know him, cimui! He seemed to also have dates and nuts, right? And he's on the uptown side, too.

          There's another guy, who's not a 'regular' who I think may be on 48th (near 6th), but infrequently, out of his van, who often has real bargains, like 4-5 dollars for a quarter of Driscoll blueberries.

          And the vendor somewhere on 1st Avenue (57th st?), who can have Dole lettuce for a dollar a head.

          All right, I truly need to get a life. But at least all the money I save on produce, I flow right back into the fine dining community!

          1. re: drummergirl

            50th and Broadway, uptown side by #1 train - what kind of hours does this guy keep? I assume one gets the best selection by shopping early and it's not really worth going at the end of the day, right?

            1. re: uwsgrazer

              hey, uwsgrazer, I think it's actually the downtown side. you exit by equinox and then go upstairs either to the north or south. take the south-side stairs up, and the vendor is usually right there. he has some sort of relationship with the fellow who sells right beside the jamaican dutchy cart (they sub for each other while one is on vacation), so sometimes you'll find him there, instead.

              i haven't seen him there in the evening, but then again, i often don't get out till 8 or 9 (or 10 or 11). great produce in the a.m. and he's there as late as 3 p.m.

              1. re: cimui

                You won't believe me, but I meant to say downtown side. I'm just slow that way. (It's the NW corner of 50th St, if that helps).

                I've seen him there during rush hour in the eve (figure 5-6?), which makes sense, given the foot traffic at that corner. Never had his berries (well, that sounds wrong, right?), but I take cimui's word for it.

    2. The ones in Chinatown are great. Quality varies from stand to stand and are never consistent so you need to have an eye for it. Prices are competitve but significantly lower than what you would pay for in a supermarket or outside of chinatown.

      1. I agree that quality and prices are good in Chinatown. And appreciate the uptown corner vendors, much more appealing and much less expensive than supermarket choices. I shop from the one on First @ 54th. Of course they are not as wonderful as Greenmarket selections.

        2 Replies
        1. re: serious

          I live on the UWS, and I would recommend the vendors for berries (strawberries, blueberries and raspberries). Their fruit is generally ripe and sweet and best for same-day consumption. I decided to get a peach tonight to try since it seemed perfect and ripe, but then I ate too many raspberries so hopefully it will be good tomorrow!

          1. re: JMJD

            Good to know. I'm miffed about some oh-so-tart blueberries I just bought at Fairway over the weekend. Really disappointing. Next time: street fruit vendor!

        2. MY experince: they're fruit is in the BRINK of going bad. Banana's for instance: You need to eat them that day or they'll brown.

          1. I buy from street vendors a lot. I can't resist a bargain. There's a guy downtown on Chambers Street near Broadway who has ridiculously cheap stuff. Some of it is way past its prime but some of it is OK. And there's a newish vendor on Chambers near Greenwich who keep later hours than most of the others.

            1. I agree with what has been said - if you are buying produce for use that day or the next you will have very good luck with street vendors. So long as you wash your produce (as you should no matter where you buy it), I can't see why you would have a problem.

              Your eyes, nose, and hands should tell if the fruit is good.

              That being said - I've had some very good luck with great prices from a guy with a cart just down from Trader Joe's around Union Square. Last week I got 2 lbs of strawberries that were so delicious, that when I got home I think I ate an entire package. They were sweet and only cost $5 (for both). Now I'm sure that the ones in the Greenmarket for $6 each are local or whatever - but I can't pass up a bargain. I was back this weekend and all berries at his stand were $2 a package - picked up some nice blueberries - as the strawberries didn't look as good this time around.

              So YMMV - but worth a look if you are in that area