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My love/hate relationship with Fairway

I love them passionately. We all do, and you already know why. It;s all about the balsamic vinegar, the baguette, the fresh fish, the 57,000 varieties of cheese. They even have 57,000 varieties of kosher cheese.

What I hate is the fruit and vegetable situation. Why can't they just throw stuff out as it goes limp. Why do i have to sotr through the bins, or lift off the sad, shriveled zucchini to uncover the fresh ones. The other day I reached into the jicama and they were slimy.

Often, the vegetables are wonderful. But not always. Admittedly, not many grocers can do a vegetable department properly. But it can be done, and I wish Fairway would make the effort.

Also, I wish I could buy a peach, tomato or pear at Fairway, and have it delivered intact. This too is possible. Even if you carry it home, it gets squished.

In italy they sell you completely ripe persimmons in cases that are sort of like large egg cartons. You get home and they are perfect, unbruised. I dream of Italy, but live with Fairway.

Fairway Market
2127 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

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  1. I dream of Italy, but live with Fairway.
    and some of us who no longer live near Fairway, dream of Fairway ;)

    in my experience the produce quality varied with location - the stuff out in Jersey at the Paramus store was usually quite good...much better than the pathetic displays at the Harlem & UWS stores.

    1. I was at Fairway 2 weeks ago and they did not have any zucchini.
      I prefer to go to Westside Market 2 blocks north on Broadway.
      Excellent produce. Less hectic. Cleaner store.
      And a wonderful cheese dept.

      Westside Market
      2171 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

      2 Replies
      1. re: pbjluver

        |less hectic

        isn't this what makes Fairway great? i couldn't imagine food shopping in another market. you have to be ready to fight for your food. it's always an experience.

        1. re: coasts

          That's the main reason I don't go here as much as I used to. It's the only market where another customer accosted me with a racial remark. I'm a native New Yorker, but some "experience"--even in my beloved city--I can do without.

      2. funny, I find the produce particularly good and never have to sort past limp or slimy stuff... at the UWS store. I get to the checkout and put things on the counter in the right order so they get packed to my liking and if not I rearrange right outside. If they used the egg cases I'm sure we'd complain about the costs and enviro impacts.

        People in other neighborhoods have Food Emporia and Dag's or maybe Whole Wallet. They might dream of Fairway's produce quality in the first cases or its prices in the second

        1. Limp vegetables are hardly my first problem.

          Not when I am getting rammed by old ladies with pushcarts, stuck dodging traffic while I wait 5 minutes for an elevator to take me up to organics, sidelined into a display case to let through families with feral children running through the aisles keeping me from the solitary jar of Branston pickle I want. If you are ever unlucky enough to come after work when the bread is running low, you'd be cover your ankles lest a renegade bubbe take out your Achilles heel before you can get the last babka. I have literally emerged wounded from shopping at Fairway, but never could complain about the quality of my produce.

          6 Replies
          1. re: JungMann

            tell it, JungMann.

            the horrible competitive sport that is shopping at fairway totally brings out the misanthrope in me. that, and the wacky organizational scheme, with the same product located in three different locations so that you can never compare ingredients/prices. and at the harlem store, it feels to me like they're always changing the layout. after 5+ years shopping there, i still always struggle to find things.

            and yet, the love side of the pendulum...the cheese selection, the organics, and the yogurt selection are so great.

            1. re: rose water

              Fairway is the type of place that gives New Yorkers a bad name. It was where I finally lost my Midwestern nice and became a New Yorker and got in a verbal altercation with a shopper because of how insulting and demeaning they were to an employee. I've gotten used to most of the quirks of the store and its incomparable selection, but if there were a supermarket anywhere else in the city that rivalled Fairway's price and breadth, I would be happy to never deal with the teeming mass of inhumanity that generally skulks there. I generally try to do my shopping elsewhere now that they're no longer my neighborhood store.

              1. re: JungMann

                Oh please, the teeming mass of humanity is typical Upper Westies, generally in a rush, who know their way around, not even with their children much less letting their FERAL children wander far from the cart, who are usually friendly and nice to the staff (I have also let a person or two have it for being rude to the workers), though they do block the aisles with their carts that you can just push aside... my girlfriend has comented that i glide like oil through the store. The elevator comes at least every 2 minutes, there are stairs to the organics and the express checkout is under 3 minutes from the turn by the olive oil.

                Fairway is a NY experience and part of its charm, not a place that gives us our bad name...

                1. re: msny98

                  With you, msny98, 100%. I know my way around the UWS Fairway the way I know my way around my own kitchen. I prepare shopping lists according to where ingredients are located. That a similar product is in two different places makes perfect sense to me; imported here, domestic there. And if you don't know where to find something, or if that something even exists, ask any employee and if they don't know the answer they will bring to you someone who does. I sometimes, but not often, have to search through the produce to find the better stuff; ginger, shallots, and onions in particular. Been shopping there three or four times a week for more than thirty years. It's one of the reasons, and one of the more important ones, that I haven't moved in all those years..

            2. re: JungMann

              This made me laugh. (It also makes me want to visit so I can see for myself! The Tribeca Whole Foods sound positively docile compared to this.)

              1. re: JungMann

                heh...i never take the elevator -- i push through the downstairs checkout line and then head up the stairs...and the second floor checkout line is much more mellow and orderly than downstairs...

                my most amusing Fairway experience was when i returned from living in China and went to Fairway for the first times in about a year and thought "Wow, everyone here is polite and nice!"...which says more about China than Fairway :)

              2. Jeez--I haven't had such issues. i shop at Fairway in Harlem on 130th St, off Westside Hwy. Great parking, knowledgeable staff, great food...overall an experience I enjoy.

                Fairway Market
                2350 12th Ave, New York, NY 10027

                3 Replies
                1. re: lennito

                  I find that location and the Brooklyn one to be a lot saner than the one on 74th Street -- probably because it's larger and people have more room. When I used to live on the UWS, I wouldn't attempt to go to Fairway until after 9P.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    I'm lucky cause I can shop (w car) mid week, off hours, either in Harlem or, for a few minutes more travel, Red Hook. I've often got the place almost to my own. I'd never go into the Bwy store. The produce is a mixed bag: the selection (esp. for melons, say, or citrus) usually trumps the occasionally less than impeccable quality. But looking and sorting and buying what's best rather than what you might have come in for can be a treat, too. The one eternal sore point is the lack of olives in brine, not oil.

                  2. re: lennito

                    I used to shop at fairway on 74th and I gotta say that I'm in agreement about the one in Harlem being less crazy. its still a bit nutty especially since they just rearranged the whole store ( I took a walk around the whole place just to see where it all was). But the Fairway on 74th and bway can be a real zoo sometimes.

                  3. I know it's "wrong" for me to feel this way but I love the maze like chaos and crowds of Fairway along with all of the above mentioned attributes. To me, it is "real."
                    When I shop out East on Long Island I just don't feel at home in the clean wide aisles with the bright lights and Muzak.
                    If anyone has ever seen the Steve Martin movie "My Blue Heaven" they might understand Steve's reaction when he walks into the Midwestern SuperDuper Market and his response to the "greeter."
                    I guess in some way I am perverse.

                    1. I agree, AdinaA. It's so sad that in the Land of Plenty, it's become increasingly difficult to get decent produce. I had such high hopes for Fairway.

                      1. Glad I don't live in Manhattan. It can erode patience. I visit the Plainview store and it is always tolerable except the day before a holiday.

                        1. I use both W 72nd and the Harlem store regularly. The vegetables are better at W 72nd.

                          1. A friend and I noticed when we began shopping at Fairway (on Lawn Guyland) that the produce never lasts as long at home as it does from other places. I'm very careful about dates on packages and the condition of what I buy there. With all the crowds, the turnover is high, and food should be fresher, but I think they buy more at once to get deeper discounts, or something. I get tired of having to paw through piles of miserably fresh jalapenos to find a couple that aren't ready to be tossed out, etc.

                            1. I really love Fairway for the value and selection. And not to mention there is not one market that even comes close to Fairway in all 5 boroughs. But I have to agree with some other bloggers that it is the customers that make up most of the problems I am a naitive NYER and have met some of the rudest people shopping at Fairway, mostly Harlem & Red Hook. These people run you over with carts drive like Mario Andretti in the parking lots. I hate when people not from NY give NYERS a bad name...
                              About the fruits & Vegs. They are usually good but I did notice in the past year they might be keeping some stuff a little too long I guess it is just buyer beware that does not bother me I would prefer that the customers would be more curtious.

                              1. The chaos is part of the experience....have never had horrible luck with the produce and appreciate the selection. Since we moved, it is the one thing I truly miss -- I used to be able to stop by the 72nd street store to pick up some meat or fish on my way home. There's nothing that compares where I live now, and no place really to buy fish at all. When I can get to Fairway it's a treat.

                                I've often wished they'd open a smaller satellite store that just carries meat/fish/produce/prepared foods/bakery and maybe cheese (forget the groceries I can buy elsewhere). Yes, I'd rather buy the groceries from them too because their prices are better, but what most neighborhoods in NYC truly need are good stores with decent versions of those items.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: JMJD

                                  My wife and I shop at Fairway almost weekly, always on Saturday or Sunday. We are usually there during mid-day and have noticed that there seems to be a tremendous drop off in people. Plus they now have people who can actually tell you where things are and if they are in stock. We think the addition of Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and even Costco uptown might be seriously affecting their business. Just seems much less crowded than before.

                                  Whole Foods
                                  808 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10025

                                  Trader Joe's
                                  2075 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

                                  1. re: smarty

                                    To be honest, I'm doing more shopping at TJ's these days. They sell some items for much less than Fairway (e.g. bananas: 19ยข each, frozen raspberries: $2.99), and I notice their produce is looking better than it used to be (still not too hot, though). In addition, they have a lot of prepared food that's delicious and of high quality--where else can you get a pound of frozen eggplant alla Siciliana, imported from Italy, for $2.99? Conversations in the checkout line with other shoppers often consist of disappointment with the "new" Fairway ("WHY did Howie and David sell?!").

                                    As a vegetarian, produce quality is important to me and I don't like Fairway's, at least not at the UWS store (I've never shopped at any of the others). I can't even make decent carrot juice with what they stock; it's more expensive but I buy at Whole Foods despite its being a pretty loathsome outfit. Fairway's catering is still top-notch (due to the efforts of Bonnie, who lives to do a good job) and I don't think I'd buy olive oil anywhere else but I'm growing gradually more disillusioned, especially given the nastiness of many of the customers. I think Fairway's a lot more concerned with opening new stores these days than retaining what it was that made them great.

                                    Trader Joe's
                                    2075 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

                                2. Of the several Fairways I have been to, the one at 74th is easily the worst. It's like a panic attack come to life! Then, as if in waves, they get much better and more manageable the further you get from that epicenter. Harlem and Red Hook are still a bit zooey and confusingly organized, but manageable. Plainview is practically a walk in the park. Looking forward to UES and Queens!!

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: chompchomp

                                    The UES one will probably be something like the UWS one... except your feet may get stepped on by more expensive high heeled shoes

                                    1. re: msny98

                                      For me, the Fairway experience when I lived in the UWS was "amusing" for a whole 5 minutes. They need to get out of 1975 asap.

                                      1. re: msny98

                                        That I can handle (somewhat). It's the carts in the backs and the ankles in the UWS that I can't stand!

                                      2. re: chompchomp

                                        Is Fairway opening in Queens? If so where if anybody has info on that.

                                        1. re: chompchomp

                                          Plainview between 3:30 and 5:00 pm on weekdays is a dream. Other times, better than I imagine NYC is, but still a demolition derby, particularly on weekends.

                                        2. Let me say that I welcome Fairway to the UES, and look forward to shoppping there often. No matter what market you are going to shop in, you'll need to accept that there will be crowds, unruly children (blame the parents), and rude people, and long check-out lines--Welcome to NYC! Freshdirect is the solution for those who can't deal with crowds.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: ellenost

                                            Untrue. The UWS versions of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are well-laid out , have very pleasant staff, and quick-moving lines. And comparable items cost about the same at each of these as they do at Fairway.

                                            1. re: jaba

                                              Actually I find the UWS Trader Joe is horribly laid out over two floors and the checkout lines are ridiculous. Makes the 14th Street store seem positively a dream!

                                              Bottom line: you can shop at Trader Joe, and I'll shop at Fairway.

                                              1. re: ellenost

                                                the TJ can be a disaster, too. i've seen the lines stretch back to where you come off the escalator, making it impossible to browse the meats and vegetables. i guess the only good part of that is neither section has much to offer.

                                                1. re: coasts

                                                  That was my experience as well. I hated the thought of having to go back to the lower level if I forgot something. The produce (specifically the heirloom tomatoes) was not good. My mom loves their Spicy Chai Latte, so I braved the lines at the UWS location of Trader Joe; only for my mom would I make a return visit.

                                                  1. re: ellenost

                                                    i live very close and go there often, but only for very specific items. more than anything, i like what it has done to Fairway, which is now a little less crazy and a little more friendly.

                                                    1. re: coasts

                                                      Interesting. I've been at many different times (evenings, weekends) and have never had to wait more than 5 minutes in line.
                                                      I guess the point of all this is that, even though our dining options on the UWS aren't as awesome as in other neighborhoods, there are plenty of fantastic grocery options.

                                                      1. re: jaba

                                                        Agree that the UWS has much better grocery options than the UES, which is why so many of us are looking forward to the new Fairway.

                                                        1. re: jaba

                                                          I not only find that the lines move quickly (despite being daunting in appearance) but that the staff is SO friendly and helpful that annoyance over the somewhat bizarre, split-level layout is rapidly soothed. Lots of actors working checkout, which would indicate that management accommodates the need for flexible schedules (I understand the company treats its employees well in general). The free samples are nice, too--I now buy some of that stuff on a regular basis. All in all, TJ's really makes you feel as though they appreciate your business.