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Carnegie Hill/UES Grocery Shopping

MMRuth Jul 28, 2008 08:55 AM

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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    esyle RE: MMRuth Jul 28, 2008 09:38 AM

    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
      MMRuth RE: esyle Jul 28, 2008 09:48 AM

      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. c
      City Kid RE: MMRuth Jul 28, 2008 10:11 AM

      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
        MMRuth RE: City Kid Jul 28, 2008 10:15 AM

        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
          c
          City Kid RE: MMRuth Jul 28, 2008 11:05 AM

          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
            MMRuth RE: City Kid Jul 28, 2008 11:08 AM

            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
            k
            keving RE: MMRuth Jul 28, 2008 11:08 AM

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

          3. re: City Kid
            Toot RE: City Kid Jul 28, 2008 01:47 PM

            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. m
            mch RE: MMRuth Jul 28, 2008 02:39 PM

            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. Cheese Boy RE: MMRuth Jul 28, 2008 07:02 PM

              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 --> http://www.ctownsupermarkets.com/Stor...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cheese Boy
                a
                akk RE: Cheese Boy Jul 28, 2008 07:27 PM

                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. c
                chaz RE: MMRuth Jul 28, 2008 07:39 PM

                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
                  MMRuth RE: chaz Jul 29, 2008 05:29 AM

                  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
                    pups224 RE: MMRuth Jul 29, 2008 07:44 AM

                    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.

                2. h
                  hongry_hippo RE: MMRuth Jul 30, 2008 10:20 AM

                  I live on 89th and Lex and a few months ago, suspecting that the grocery business might be one of the biggest scams in NY, I actually did a comparison between all the neighborhood grocery store options (in a spreadsheet! I know, uber-nerdy). The results were exactly as you're all reporting...Gristedes, Pioneer, and Food Emporium are all horribly overpriced. Key Foods was the best of the major chains in the area, I think, but it was still WAY more than FreshDirect or Fairway. On countless items, Gristedes, Pioneer, etc. had prices that were double what Fairway was charging! Fairway was by far the cheapest, and it's definitely my favorite store. I know it's not in the neighborhood, but I determined that if doing a major shopping trip, it would actually be cheaper to go there and take a cab back than to shop at one of the local options. I also eat pretty healthily, so for everyday shopping I can usually get what I need at either the health food store on Lex and 87th, or the bigger one on 3rd and 92nd. Also, Nature's Gifts for produce is pretty decently priced as someone mentioned.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: hongry_hippo
                    MMRuth RE: hongry_hippo Aug 8, 2008 07:33 AM

                    Just saw your post while looking for the thread to post back on it. That sounds like the thing I mean to do when I keep my receipts, but haven't gotten around to!

                    Gourmet Garage - my husband stopped in on his way home to buy some things for dinner. Chicken - only sold prepackaged by Murray's - was clearly off - though it said sell by or good until 8/15. Called them and they sent someone to pick it up and gave us cash back for it. Wasn't interested in a replacement at that point. We had the same problem with fish we bought at the one in the Village some months ago, and were able to return it the next day, but two strikes is now enough for me, more than anything else b/c it's a PITA to come home and start to cook and not be able to.

                    Some other comments - lemons were $1.29 there, 99 cents at Citarella on the weekend, and cheaper at my local deli. Mint - $2.99 - granted, a largish box, but I would rather be able to buy less of it and I do remember thinking when they first opened how expensive the fresh herbs were.

                    1. re: MMRuth
                      c
                      City Kid RE: MMRuth Aug 8, 2008 08:21 AM

                      Wow, what a lousy experience! Did your husband miss the rotisserie chickens on the way in? They are pretty good (rosemary and adobo), not cheap but convenient for me in a pinch. I agree much of their produce is way overpriced, but I generally go their for the excellent breads, some cheese and monthly specials. They are very convenient for me and since there is so little else around Carnegie Hill so I sure hope they stick around!

                      1. re: City Kid
                        MMRuth RE: City Kid Aug 8, 2008 08:27 AM

                        He didn't mention them - though he's very focused on the list when he goes shopping for me! In this case, I was looking for raw chicken to cook something from this month's Cookbook of the Month. And, he did note that they didn't have bone-in chicken breasts, which was actually wanted I wanted rather than boneless, though he did also buy bone-in thighs. So I ended up putting together some mezzes instead.

                  2. MMRuth RE: MMRuth Sep 9, 2008 12:04 PM

                    Well, for various reasons, mostly involving a street fair on Third Avenue on Sunday, I ended up going to the Food Emporium on Madison Avenue. I should have gone to Patrick Murphy, as the only thing I found at FE that I've not seen at Murphy's is rice flour. They had one - yes one - lime - I needed six, no Asian eggplant, two shallots were $2.99 ... the cantelope I bought had no taste. Oh - I should add, to their credit, they do have boneless chicken thighs, which I usually only find at Whole Foods, so that was a positive as well. Overall, the produce section was lackluster and limited and there were several other things I needed in that section that they didn't have.

                    1. j
                      JC2 RE: MMRuth Sep 10, 2008 01:04 PM

                      I live at 96 and Park, so GG is obvious for me. I get canned goods and chicken backs (for soup) at the Assoc at Lex. Dean and Deluca shocked me when if first opened. So excited, I got off the bus early to go there. Produce was awful. GG produce isn't bad, they do have boneless chicken thighs (very important and they were the first I saw). Their fish selection is bad. Butcher is very nice, but they don't have much selection - almost never have cornish game hens. Duck breasts occassionally. Everything sporadic. I go there a lot for the convenience, but I would much rather have Citerella.
                      Also, on the rotisserie chicken, no comparison with Citerella.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JC2
                        MMRuth RE: JC2 Sep 10, 2008 01:06 PM

                        Thanks - that pretty much sums up my experiences. I think it's so sad that D&D is so bad on Madison for produce and fish.

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