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Jul 28, 2008 08:55 AM

Carnegie Hill/UES Grocery Shopping

I'm starting this because of some surprising pricing that I've noticed. I generally shop at Citarella, but often end up at Patrick Murphy's on Madison Avenue since it's right around the corner from me. I have had long-standing "guilt" about not buying things at the Pioneer on Lex & 92nd, which just isn't that much further away, based on the assumption that "it must be cheaper". Went there last weekend on a Sunday as I wanted to pick up some shrimp. Well, the seafood looked abysmal, so I just picked up a few things and got myself out of there.

But, I noted that DeCecco pasta there is $3.89. Couldn't believe it. Murphy's - $2.99, Faicco, $2.49, Grace's Market Place, $2.49. I haven't gone into Food Emporium for at least a year now, as it always seems really expensive and not great quality (though the meat is decent in a pinch). So, I'm wondering, where do you think you get the best value in groceries in the area? Granted, the DeCecco example might just be a fluke, but it got me wondering.

Some of my other thoughts:

Eli's/Vinegar Factory - beautiful produce, fish, meat, often things I can't find anywhere else, but just oh so expensive.

Dean & Deluca - produce often looks terrible, often out of basic things like basil or parsley, fish looks lousy. Expensive. Good bread selection, sometimes pop in for hard to find ingredients.

Gourmet Garage - went a couple of times when they first opened, but haven't been back, bad experiences with the one in the Village lately, so I just don't bother.

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  1. For the basics, definitely the Key Foods on 2nd @ 92/93rd. Their sale prices are great, even their regular prices are probably the cheapest in the hood (there are always sales on pastas, sauces, sodas, yogarts, etc). My only problem is the big hill I need to climb back to 3rd Ave after buying way too much stuff. I live very close to the Pioneer you mention above and dread going there, only do it as a last resort because I know the prices are always on the high side. I don't love the GG up there either, overpriced and I hate the layout of the store, drives me crazy. I also frequent the health food store on the east side of 3rd and 92nd? Other than that, I shop at the supermarket in Queens next to my office.

    1 Reply
    1. re: esyle

      I do also like the little mostly produce place on Lexington just north of 87th - "Nature's Gifts"? They seem to have good prices on produce.

    2. Ah yes...the joys of living in food-challenged Carnegie Hill! I'm forced to shop like a nomad, a little here, a little there, and much stuff carted over from the West Side. ITA with your views on Eli's and D&D. The topper for me was an $8 box of Kashi cereal at D&D! Who buys this stuff?

      I am one long block from Gourmet Gargage and go there quite a bit. I love their bagels, chewy as they should be as opposed to the inflated mooshy ones I've had from some other venues. They have good fresh fish, bread and cheese, kind of boring prepared stuff but generally good roast chickens. Not a well-run store, indifferent service, deli guys who don't know how to use the slicer (and don't care), etc.

      I shop for my staples at the Associated on Lex@96th. It is an old, not particularly inviting store, but it is clean, they have decent prices, good specials, and the best produce department around, including at the neighnorhood greengrocers. It is the only supermarket I buy produce in and there is a wide variety of attractive and resonable stuff available, including some Latino varieties, which I like. Meat department is generally good, but I would not buy seafood there (or at any other supermarket).

      What do we have to do to get some attention from good food establishments in this neighborhood? I have never understood why we seem to be so underserved. Can you hear me Trader Joe's?

      5 Replies
      1. re: City Kid

        Where do you buy seafood? That's the tough one for me, without going to Citarella or Grace's. There is the Holland Market, but the guys there always tell my husband, in Spanish, that the fish isn't so fresh. Then there is the little place on Lexington and maybe 88th, that also sells sushi, but I've never tried it. We have a car, and my husband gets home with it quite early, so it's easy for us (or him) to do the Citarella run, but I wish we had a closer fishmonger.

        Schatzie the butcher is another store I frequent on Madison, but usually only when I'm having a dinner party, as he is quite expensive - excellent quality though, and he'll special order things.

        I've never quite "gotten" TJs, having gone once or twice in D.C., but I pretty much never buy prepared foods, and I recall their produce being lackluster. Haven't been to the one at Union Square.

        1. re: MMRuth

          There is a real, old-fashioned, excellent fish store on Second Ave. between 105th & 106th Street. You won't believe their prices, either. As easy for you to drive to as Citarella, maybe not as many of their fancy varieties, but plenty for me to choose from.

          Meat: there's always Lobel's, ha!

          TJ's Union Square is an experience: long waits but endlessly cheerful (is it the cool aid?) staff and their own label hard to find stuff make it worthwhile, e.g., dark chocolate covered edemame beans, wasabi mayo, large bags of high-quality artichoke hearts, great bread, nuts & snacks.

          1. re: City Kid

            Thanks - I'll have to check out that fish market. Lobel's - indeed. I've only bought meat from them a couple of times - amazing, yes, but the prices, well ....

          2. re: MMRuth

            Although not cheap, Leonard's, on 3rd between 78th and 79th, has good fish and meat.

          3. re: City Kid

            My husband (he does the shopping) is a big Associated fan (96th and Lexington). He says Associated sells the best produce in the area, but he prefers to buy meat/chicken at Food Emporium on Madison and 86th.

          4. i am new to the hood so i am trying out all the markets. i found a health market on 3rd in the upper 80's that has really good prices. a box of kashi cereal was $3.79, it is at least $4 or $5 in change at all other places. a bag of smart food was $1.79 and it was $3 something at one of the other markets.

            i'll have to check out some of these spots and report back. gristedes on 89th is ok but definitely pricier then murray hill.

            1. I guess it depends on how far over towards the East River one wants to venture to go food shopping, and whether or not you want to deal with the hills on your return trip, but don't forget about the C-Town on FIRST / 89th Street. ... Much, much, much, cleaner than the Associated supermarket mentioned upthread. Sales prices make the trip worthwhile often times too. [You can check their circular online].

              C-Town -->

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cheese Boy

                Yes, the prices, esp. the sale prices, at Associated and C-Town are the best in the neighborhood. I agree that C-Town is much cleaner than Assoc. and is usually better stocked.

                I can't bring myself to buy much other than bread at Eli's. Just too expensive. I don't love Agata but I do end up buying a lot of produce there so long as it looks fresh, and it's much more reasonable than Eli's.

                For Fish, Dorian's on York at 83rd is very reliable, though expensive. If you find yourself near 82nd St. on a Saturday, you should check out the new fish stand that joined the small farmer's market betw. York and First (in front of the Hungarian church.) The fish is super-fresh and the prices are very fair. I've bought the scallops the past two weekends and they were amazing. The sole was good too.

              2. I live betw. Associated (1st and 81st) and Agata and Valentina (1st and 79th). (expensive specialty food store). Associated is a good basic grocery store. When I DO go to AV (excellent fish dept) I see people doing what looks like their actual grocery shopping there I want ot scream. Is it snobbism, ignorance or laziness?

                2 Replies
                1. re: chaz

                  I don't know if you'd equate Citarella with AV or not, but I shop there because I like the quality of the products. It may be somewhat out of ignorance, as I've not been to C-town or Associated, and I think I went to the Key Foods once, but thought it seemed a bit run down, and the fish/meat didn't look great. That's in part why I started this thread - because of my surprise at the prices at Pioneer. Most of what I buy is produce and proteins, and so the quality is important to me.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Ditto Associated. Best veggies in Carnegie Hill. Good pork shoulder too. Reasonable prices.
                    I have no use for Gourmet Garage. Expensive and old produce and meat.
                    Hate Schatzie's. Total rip off and I have gotten bad meat.
                    For meat, fish and veggies in the winter I go to A&V. Better prices than most of the other places.
                    A wonderful surprise butcher is Schaller & Weber on 86th and 2nd.
                    Dean & Deluca has great cheese.