Shoppin’ fer Grub in Glendale, Ridgewood & “East Bushwick”
In my first posting on this site I essentially lamented that my neighborhood is sorely lacking in really good restaurants (frankly, the neighborhood simply deserves better). Here, I have chosen to weigh in on places to buy food (supermarkets, bakeries, etc.). Overall, I am much more upbeat in this regard. I guess it makes sense if one makes the assumption that people here eat out infrequently. Why might this be?
Perhaps people in my neighborhood eat out less than in other Queens neighborhoods because they’re more likely to cook at home. This might be due to larger kitchens, fewer single folks, and/or more families with kids when compared to ethnic foodie Queens citadels like Jackson Heights or Astoria (but I’m just guessing).
Note - since I originally began compiling information for this posting, one Muncan’s (on Seneca Avenue) has closed (“forever” according the other Muncan’s location still left in Ridgewood—discussed below) and the C-Town (also on Seneca) turned into an Associated. Things appear to be in flux right now so I apologize if any of this information is outdated.
Also, there are certainly dozens of small food businesses in this area that I have yet to visit. In this posting, I have focused on some of the larger ones as well as ones that are rather specific in what they sell (e.g., baked goods, meats, etc.). If anyone has been to any food stores in this area that have not been mentioned and are truly amazing, of course, please do share. Everyone in this part of Queens/Brooklyn on this board (myself included) will be grateful!
Anyway, here’s where I’ve been so far…
***********Nice Ice Baby************
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST!
It’s only open from May to September so during the summer I try to stop in as frequently as I can at Artisanal Ice Cream on Myrtle Avenue at 66th Place (two doors down from the fire station in Glendale). With all my trekking around the nabe, this is the one truly great food place I have found in Glendale. I think the ice cream here beats the formidable Eddie’s Sweet Shop by a country mile. The portions are ample and it’s a BARGAIN. Onsite, they make great vanilla, wonderful amaretto, spectacular hazelnut gelato, and a lemon sorbet that will make you struggle to remember the name of that Guy in Corona, you know, the Lemon Ice something or other? They have ices too as well as softserve (it’s still Glendale after all!) but the hand-made sorbets, gelatos and ice creams are the things to get here—preferably in a giant waffle cone or bowl. Oh, and they make a pretty decent espresso to boot!
**********Booze Me Up Scottie*************
Queens Wines/Liquors on Myrtle Avenue right where 71st Avenue comes in at an oblique angle, Ridgewood - This is a surprisingly large store with a big selection of wines and liquor from many different parts of the world. Prices are generally very good.
Myrtle Avenue Wines & Liquors on Myrtle Avenue between 65th Place and 66th Street, Glendale - It’s teeny and it’s not the cheapest but it seems as though they focus more on quality than on quantity or price. Everything I have bought there has been really really good.
Grimaldi’s Bakery at the corner of Grandview Avenue and Menahan Street, Ridgewood. Quite a large operation! I’d say it feels slick but that has a negative connotation and I like this place so let’s just say they have their act together. I’ve had their “Yugo bread” (like a good decent Italian loaf), “Napp bread” (round, rustic and wonderful), some sort of coffee cake squares (good and fresh) and then something truly odd. I can’t remember the name but it was raw white chocolate chip cookie dough pressed into a sheet pan and then topped with a thin coating of white and dark chocolate swirled. It’s then cut into squares. It tasted fine but it was NOT BAKED! I swear! It was RAW! Anyway, if you like Ben & Jerry’s raw cookie dough ice cream, you’ll probably like this. Grimaldi’s is open later than most bakeries (till 8PM) and I have to make a point of going there more often to try other things. So far, it has me wanting to return in spite of that strange raw-dough doohickey.
Rudy’s Pastry Shop on Seneca Avenue between Myrtle and Catalpa, Ridgewood - They have lots of little, crisp, so-thin-you-can-see-through-them cookies in a number of varieties - lemon, chocolate chip, oatmeal (these last ones are REALLY addictive!). I’ve also had some other strudelly/Danish-type things and those are good too. Got to try more here as well.
Catania Bakery on Fresh Pond Road, between Grove and Linden Streets, Ridgewood - Really wonderful ciabatta, and all the pastries were very good - like a raspberry elephant ear, a chocolate elephant ear, and something that was essentially a crispy jelly doughnut with crunchy cinnamon sugar on the outside and filled with an enormous blob of scrumptious cannoli filling instead of jelly, etc. Okay, this place has gotten my attention. I’m absolutely going back for more.
Monreale Bakery on Myrtle Avenue between Stephen and Norman Streets, Ridgewood - Because it’s the most convenient bakery for me to go to, I keep trying their stuff and wanting it to be better than it is. But dang! It just aint so. Their bread’s okay but the pastries and cookies are utterly forgettable. I have to remember to stop buying them.
Russo’s Bakery on Myrtle Avenue between 69th Street and 69th place, Glendale - Their bread’s okay and I’ve liked some of their Italian pastries (lobster tails come to mind) and pignoli cookies. Not bad but nothing amazing. I’ve never been to their other store in Maspeth. I imagine it’s pretty much the same. They also have gelato which, I admit, I have yet to try though it looks good.
International Bake Shop at the corner of Seneca Avenue and Woodbine Street, Ridgewood - There are an abundance of free Romanian newspapers available for pick-up at the door so I’m guessing it’s Romanian run.. The bread here consists of big unruly Italian-looking loaves and is decent. I also tried a few pastries—with mixed results. Had a little walnut rum ball of sorts that was rolled in coconut. In the past, whenever I’ve had liquored baked goods, whoever makes them goes all Yo Ho Ho with the booze—but not this time. This had just the right hint of rummyness. I also tried a strange little square that consisted of a crumbly chocolate cake base with a thin layer of sweetened creamy peanut butter above that and then topped with a layer of pastry cream. I kind of liked it though my partner felt otherwise. There was also a seemingly Greek-inspired thing with a shredded, heavily syruped phyllo dough base then a layer of custard and again topped with pastry cream. We both agreed that this wet wad had seen better days. Then there was a thing sort of like baklava except that the phyllo layers were uncooked and soggy. After one bite I didn’t want any more. All in all, I see myself returning only for the bread.
Krystal European Bakery on Fresh Pond Road. Not to be confused with the Filipino business in Woodside, this is a self-proclaimed Romanian/American bakery. They have Italian-ish cookies and coffeecake squares (chocolate, apricot & sour cherry, custard, etc.) that are very good. They also have a selection of fancier pastries. I tried quite a few of these. While the fancy pastries all seemed well made (fresh, high-quality ingredients, lightly textured, etc.) almost all of them contained bits of candied fruit and/or a fair amount of liquor and I’m really not a big fan of such things. The only pastry that didn’t contain either bits of candied fruit or liquor was the only one that I really liked (layers of meringue and chocolate cream—quite delicious). Next time I’ll happily stick to the simpler things like the coffeecake squares and eat them with my good ole cuppa joe.
Beata Bakery on Fresh Pond Road between 69th and 70th Avenues, Ridgewood - Beata is a fairly typical Polish bakery with Polish jelly doughnuts, as well as heavy, fruit-filled, streusel-topped coffeecake and cheesecake rectangles and Danishes among other things like breads/rolls, etc. Note the use of the word, “rectangles.” Like many Polish bakeries (in Ridgewood anyway) the cakes and cheesecakes aren’t sold in individual portions. You have to buy at least a big honkin’ slab to take home and share with hungry multitudes. This place is all right but there’s nothing from here that I ever crave.
**********Meat Me in Ridgewood**********
Muncan Meats on Myrtle Avenue, just west of Fresh Pond Road. It’s worth going inside for the smell alone. I wish I had the time and the constitution to try every single thing in here. Lots and lots and lots and lots of meaty garlicky goodies, cheeses, other meats, smoked and not, luscious, pork-rindy chicharrón-ish doodads and on and on and on…I’m especially fond of the dry salamis coated with crushed pepper. Mmmmmm……..
Forest Pork Store on Forest Avenue, Ridgewood. Unfortunately, this is no longer a retail location in Ridgewood though I believe they still make things here and then sell them somewhere out on The Island (Huntington I think?). Love those trees and pigs still on the store sign though!
Morscher’s Pork Store on Catalpa, between Woodward and Underdog, I mean, Onderdonk. I’ve been a Muncan’s groupie for so long that I didn’t even know this place existed until recently. Carnivores, check out their website for stomach growl-inducing photos: http://www.morschersporkstore.com/ …..and leave the sound on if you dare… By virtue of what I saw at the store and on their website, I wonder if this may still be a German butcher. Many of the things that they mention appear to have German names rather than Polish, Hungarian or Romanian. They also, unlike Muncan’s, have a large number of the non-smoked meat offerings like steak tartare. This is a place to get good prosciutto that they make themselves and I also had some delectable mild fresh pork sausages that can easily stand in for sweet Italian sausage in a ragout recipe.
Ridgewood Pork Store on the corner of Seneca Avenue and Bleecker Street (yup, there’s one in Queens too!). I went to this store for the first time just a few weeks ago. I may be wrong but my first impression was that it seemed less smoke heavy than Muncan’s. This store has feedlots of cured meats, such as hams, etc., and is run by a super nice guy who is VERY generous with samples. I want to go back here right away just because he’s so nice (and the meats are delicious too!). When I went, the place was empty but every other store I explored that day was hopping. I hope this was an anomaly. I’d hate to see this place disappear.
Karl Ehmer’s on the east side of Fresh Pond Road at Menehan street. Here you’ll find fresh cuts of meat, loads of hams, fresh sausage, dry salamis, wursts—most of them in varieties that are pretty uncommon. Apparently this location is where they make their products though the attached retail store is surprisingly small. Check out their very helpful web site http://www.karlehmer.com/ to distinguish one wurst or bologna from another (and lots more!). Now don’t get me wrong, their stuff is good (real liverwurst!), I occasionally buy it, and I do appreciate that they appear to be one of the few places left with a mostly German focus; however, this is closer to mass production than to your local butcher. Visiting Karl Ehmer’s is quite a pleasure but it’s not the same as going to Muncan or Morscher’s or the Ridgewood Pork Store. Also, considering that a lot of Karl Ehmer’s more popular items are available at area supermarkets, the limited hours at this store make this place a road less-traveled for me.
*********Market Up, Market Down**********
Greenline Market on Myrtle Avenue at 71st Avenue, Ridgewood. This opened in 2008. It’s a smallish but welcome addition to the neighborhood. You have to know what to get and what to avoid but in general I really like this place. Their produce, while not organic, is usually good quality and reasonably priced. There’s an itty-bitty olive bar that has come in handy a number of times when I’ve made Chicken Provençal (and there are free samples!). They also have a lot of Eastern European packaged stuff (spreads, jams, cookies, etc.) which I always find interesting and the cheapest milk around (not organic).
Key Food on Myrtle Avenue between Summerfield and Norman Street, Ridgewood - Since they’re so close to each other I usually combine going here with a trip to Greenline Market and comparison shop for produce. Greenline usually wins but Key Food isn’t half bad. Key Food, like Greenline, also has a good number of packaged Eastern European products (jars mostly) which are frequently on sale (Guvetch. Pindjur! Maldjano!! Lutica!!! Lutenica!!!! Ajvar!!!!!). Key Food also has more choices than Greenline for other items like pasta, eggs, meat, etc. Note - Key Food recently renovated and, as a result, its reputation is definitely on the upswing (more variety, looks newer/cleaner, produce seems a bit better than it used to be—perhaps to compete with nearby Greenline Market?).
Trader Joe’s at Woodhaven Blvd. and Metropolitan, upper Glendale - I sometimes go here for high-quality versions of things like nuts, yogurt, granola, jars of tapenade—but for the most part this place is too rich for my blood. Always fun to stop in though if I’m in the area. Too bad I’m such a cheapskate!
NSA Supermarket on Myrtle Avenue at 67th Place, Glendale - Housed in an old theater (sloping floors are fun! Weeeeee!). For some unknown reason, this place has really good prices on whole milk yogurt. That’s about all I’ll buy here since it’s pretty small for a supermarket and doesn’t have a big selection of things. I’m not sure if the following has since changed, but when I first moved to Glendale this store closed at 8PM weeknights (part of the sleepiness that is downtown Glendale).
Associated (formerly C-Town) on Seneca Avenue at Myrtle Avenue, Ridgewood - Recently, I went in for the first time since this changed over from C-Town to Associated. The quality of the produce has definitely gone up but alas, so have most of the prices (good-bye dirt-cheap spices…). Still, it’s not terribly expensive and they still have the inexpensive bricks of Cafe Eldorado brand espresso. Not a big store so not a big selection, but decent.
In Ridgewood, one block west of Fresh Pond, between Gates and Linden on 60th Place is “65-10 Family Store.” It’s an Asian supermarket/cheapo office furniture store (?) that’s pretty easy to get to from Glendale. It doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of fresh produce but there are enough fun Asian snacks and prepackaged goodies to keep me occupied. It’s almost always empty whenever I’ve been. Hope it doesn’t disappear!
Stop & Shop on Myrtle Avenue at Cypress Hills Street, Glendale - This is the most convenient supermarket for me to go to but, in general, it has lousy produce and very high prices for everything unless you have one of their “cards”—and that only works for whatever is “on sale.” Therefore, I usually avoid this place. I will, however, buy the occasional loose bulb of garlic or two since I could never go through an entire sleeve without the last few bulbs going soft on me (every other supermarket seems to favor the sleeves). Also, they have things that most of the other supermarkets in the area often don’t carry—like ice cream sandwiches (a once-a-year guilty pleasure) and certain fresh herbs like tarragon and chives. A really big annoyance, however, is that the store is perpetually understaffed and relies a LOT on the automated self-checkout lines, which are always slooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwww.
Western Beef on Metropolitan at Woodward Avenue, Ridgewood/Maspeth border- This is Western Beef’s flagship store. It’s very large, very clean and has quite a large selection of everything (including many ethnic foods) but the produce quality is inconsistent. Also, prices are universally high. Every time I go here I am disappointed since it’s such a contrast to the tiny Western Beef I used to go to on Steinway Street in Astoria, which was almost always a bargain and had better-than-average produce all the time. On a positive note, this Western Beef seems to have a larger, more diverse selection of beer than most supermarkets.
Junior’s on Wyckoff at Summerfield Street, lower Glendale/Bushwick border - Junior’s is an outlet store for Western Beef and most of its wares are pre-packaged Western Beef store brand items. But, you can also find good deals on non-store brand staples like salt, sugar, milk and eggs. There’s some fresh produce but that’s not what you’d typically go here for. Oddly, it’s closed on Sundays.
Food Dimensions on Gates Avenue near Wyckoff Avenue, Ridgewood- This is a big store. Generally inexpensive, it has a wide variety of Latino as well as West Indian items. Produce is usually pretty good and there’s lots of meat in a big ole refrigerated room in the back. It’s also one of the few places where I can get locally roasted Eldorado espresso coffee for cheap cheap cheap! (Eldorado is in Maspeth. http://www.eldoradocoffee.com/store.htm). I can’t say that I recommend the generic “Bogopa” store brands of things, however (e.g., generic brand 5 lb. bags of sugar smell like either raw hamburger left in the sun or a ripe armpit—EW!). I’ll still shop here though - the national brands of things are just fine as is the produce and they have inexpensive spices in small packages.
Food Bazaar on Wyckoff Avenue near Myrtle Avenue, Ridgewood/Bushwick border - This is a VERY big store. Generally even more inexpensive, it has an even wider variety of Latino and West Indian items than Food Dimensions as well as inexpensive spices in small packages. Produce is generally pretty good with many unusual Latino items as well as unexpected things like enoki and oyster mushrooms at pretty good prices. There are also backyards of meat in a HUMONGOUS refrigerated room in the back. Again, stay away from the generic store brand stuff.
One special note about Food Dimensions and Food Bazaar - Both are owned by the Brooklyn-based Bogopa Corporation. Both used to have a policy where you had to leave any and all bags, backpacks, shoulder bags, etc., with the security guard at the door. I really didn’t like that kind of treatment in a grocery store and I said something to the store manager. Now, at the Food Bazaar location on Wyckoff Avenue, they’ve apparently installed new security cameras and no longer make you leave your stuff at the door. I don’t know if it had anything to do with me but thank you Bogopa for changing your policy in one of your stores! I look forward to you doing the same at the Food Dimensions location shortly.