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Non-restaurant Chow places to visit?

Clevelander planning a short weekend trip by train to the city. I will have a big luggage bag so I plan to take some things back, like from Eataly. I don't plan to bring or purchase a cooler.

Looking for chowish recommendations of where to visit. These can be gourmet or other interesting type food stores that sell non-perishable items (or items that are slighly perishable but could make a 12 hour train trip ok), or food-related places that might be interesting to visit other than bars and restaurants (not sure what these might be, but that's why I'm asking).

I am not doing anything touristy, my only planned activity while there other than eating, drinking and a quick visit to Strawberry Fields is to go to a concert that's on the weekend I am there (the original impetus for the trip).

What do you say, Hounds? Other than Eataly, what where should I go?

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  1. Despana
    Epicerie Boulud
    Murray's Cheese
    Dominique Ansel
    Minamoto Kitchoan
    La Maison du Chocolat

    4 Replies
    1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

      Thank you!

      I'm not sure about cheese. I don't know how much of it would do well after a 12+ hour train ride in luggage. What do you think?

      1. re: rockandroller1

        I think that if you store the cheeses in a tupperware with ice packs you'll be fine, though probably not worth the effort if your local cheesemonger carries them. Murray's has a nice selection though.

        1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

          We have great cheese here, but it would be nice to go look/taste for sure.

          1. re: rockandroller1

            Murray's is generous with the samples and they have lots of good non-perishables too—olive oils, honey, dried pastas, etc. They also have a great beer selection now too.

    2. Kalustayan's for just about anything ethnic. (spices, grains, etc..)
      Kossar's for fabulous Bialys (closed Saturday)
      Katz's for take out pastrami by the pound.
      Russ and daughter for appetizing (smoked fish etc..)
      Ess-A-Bagel for excellent bagels.
      The bagels and bialys will freeze well in zip lock bags.

      16 Replies
      1. re: Motosport

        I don't think the bagels and stuff would last unless I bought them on my way to the train station to go home. My friend I am staying with only has a dorm fridge. And I don't think pastrami could sit out for 12+ hours either, let alone 2-3 days (how long I will be there). Will check the other stuff out though, thank you!

        1. re: rockandroller1

          Katz ships nationwide and can pack pastrami for long distance travel.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              Before you get too excited, check out the shipping prices. ouch!

            2. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

              Russ and Daughters ships as well. Earlier this year they shipped a package with lox, herring, plus other goodies to my father in Florida and it arrived overnight and was in pristing condition.

              1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic

                LG is correct. Katz's will pack the meat in dry ice, and it will get their in perfect condition. I guess by train it won't be an issue, I don't know if you can bring dry ice on a plane, so it's good the OP is traveling by rail.

              2. re: rockandroller1

                Bagels and bialys will be fine if you buy them the day before you leave and put them in zip lock bags and into the freezer when you get home. Pastrami, not.

              3. re: Motosport

                Get the mujadara at Kalustyan's. Eat it while you're in New York.

                1. re: Motosport

                  Agree that Kalustyan's is worth a stop.
                  I always try to fit in a stop to Kalustyan's, picking up spices and other things I can't find where I live, and often pick up some Penzey's spices at the market in Grand Central.

                  Also echo the recommendation for La Maison du Chocolat chocolates. I picked up a box of Jacques Torres chocolates on my last visit, and realized the chocolates at La Maison du Chocolat are more to my taste.

                  1. re: prima

                    Penzey's in Grand Central has been closed for well over a year.

                    1. re: iluvcookies

                      RE: Penzey's @ Grand Central Market: Are you sure? I could swear I just saw it around Christmas time.

                      1. re: Motosport

                        Positive... there is another spice retailer in it's place that sells out of bulk bins, and IMHO not worth it.

                        1. re: iluvcookies

                          Sorry for doubting you. The web site says they closed in September. Mea culpa!!!
                          I am a big fan of Kalustayan's. Is there anything they do not have??

                          1. re: Motosport

                            Yep, Sept 2011... it was a sad day for me when they closed. I've only been to Kalustyan's a few times and they do have a lot. There is also International Market on 9th ave around 40th street. They have lots of nice spices, flours, etc. Not as much as Kalustyan, but worth a trip if you are in the area.

                            1. re: Motosport

                              "Is there anything they do not have??"

                              Aside from fresher spices, and better pricing?

                              Half kidding. It's a great a shop, with an excellent selection across the board, and that's the biggest reason to go there.

                              For every day spices, I've had better luck with other shops in the neighborhood. I also wish they didn't openly freeze/defrost some of the breads and spreads. For esoteric spices, they probably have it, but these are bulk, at best mid-range spices, nothing high end. That part often gets left out.

                    2. Some ideas for both checked & carry on:
                      - Bialys instead of bagels?
                      - Green's babka (sold at Zabar's and at Russ & Daughters)
                      - A jar of pickles from Brooklyn Brine Co., Rick's Picks, or McClure's Pickles - all available at Murray's Cheeses and other stores around town
                      - Buttercrunch from Roni-Sue's
                      - Salsa from the Brooklyn Salsa Company
                      - A bar or two of chocolates from Mast Brothers - they have a shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and are sold at Whole Foods as well as Murray's, I like the olive oil/sea salt ones as well as the black truffle (!) ones
                      - Handmade candy bars from Liddabit
                      - NYC honey from Andrew's Local Honey, which is grown on various rooftop hives throughout the city - available at various Greenmarkets
                      - Also at the Greenmarket:
                      Local cheeses
                      Oak Grove for grains (and I think they have some interesting flours and pancake mix, as well as corn for popping)
                      Catskill Merino for hand-dyed yarn
                      3 Corner Field for wool, milk soap, hats, sweaters, sheepskins, etc.
                      Jams from Berkshire Berries (he has unusual ones like garlic jam and pepper jam) or Beth's
                      Deep Mountain's maple syrups
                      Wines from Anthony Road, Buzzard Crest
                      Hawthorne Valley Farm for granola
                      Some farmers may still have apple butter, and/or kimchi. Check GrowNYC for who'll be at the Union Square Greenmarket on what days. I like Fridays.
                      - William J. Greenberg Black and White cookies - very New York-y!
                      - A bottle of Fox's U-Bet with instructions on how to make an egg cream
                      - Some jams from Sarabeth's bakery
                      - Hot chocolate mix from Jacques Torres or MarieBelle
                      - A pound of coffee beans from Gimme! Coffee, Ninth Street Espresso, Abraco
                      - Breuckelen Distilling Company's gin, Fire Island Beer Company or Brooklyn Brewery beer, or some local NY State or Long Island wines
                      - Kings County Distillery bourbon
                      - I think some of the vendors at the Brooklyn Flea & Smorgasburg have items that are prepackaged
                      - Momofuku Milk Bar cookies and/or cookie mix
                      - Cookies from Levain Bakery (chocolate chip)
                      - Pretzel croissants from City Bakery
                      - Pretzels from Sigmund Pretzel Shop
                      - A copy of Edible Manhattan, Brooklyn, and/or Queens
                      - Macarons from Laduree if you're careful with them -- though probably better to eat while you're here

                      I'd probably do a selection of items: pickles, chocolate babka, black and white cookies, honey, maple syrup, maybe some locally made candies/chocolates (assuming you are checking the liquids in your luggage and not carrying them on).

                      The babka will probably keep for a little bit, like the black and white cookies, but not for too long. Bagels and bialys will probably not last longer than the day of the flight. If you do bring them, put them into a ziploc bag, try to remove all the air, and freeze immediately upon arrival. And don't get the stinkier ones!

                      We also have a bunch of new/newish/revamped bakery openings in the last year or so, including but not limited to Maison Kayser, Laduree, Dominique Ansel, Mille-Feuille, Payard. And Dorie Greenapan's new cookie place, Sal & Beurre.

                      Other places...Zabar's and Russ & Daughters are good. I like Chelsea Market, Despana, Union Sq Greenmarket, Kalustyan's, Murray's.

                      For Eataly try to visit on a weekday. Mornings are best.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: kathryn

                        that is an impressive list! i love all that you've listed.

                        to add to that, the sea salt browned buttery rice krispy treats (w/ some golden grahams mixed in) at Stinky in Brooklyn are very unique and insanely memorable.

                        1. re: waxyjax

                          Wow, those rice kripsie treats sound insane!

                          1. re: kathryn

                            oh god they're sooooo goooooooooood

                        2. EATALY! I was like a kid in a candy store last week.

                          And if you want to really be a kid in a candy store hit Dylan's Candy Bar.

                          1 Reply
                          1. I'm surprised nobody here has mentioned Dean & DeLuca.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: linguafood

                              I stopped in D&D last week and it was really no different than my local WF and/or speciality grocery store. I would even venture to say that my local grocery carries a lot of the same items.

                              I think places like D&D are no longer unique places

                                1. re: foodieX2

                                  To be fair, Dean & Deluca does carry local items that the OP might be interested in too...e.g., Balthazar sticky buns, Two Little Red Hens cupcakes, etc.

                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                    I disagree. The Soho location carries a fairly good selection of locally, or imported items that suggest the buyers are keeping up with food blogs.

                                  2. re: linguafood

                                    I like stopping for a quick breakfast (usually a coffee with a Balthazar sticky bun or a Doughnut Plant donut) at the Dean & DeLuca cafes. I usually visit the Rockefeller location at least once if I'm in midtown. I also like the Dean & DeLuca take on the black and white cookie.

                                    I also like Blue Bottle Coffee in the Rockefeller Concourse, and Joe the Art of Coffee at Grand Central (which also was carrying Doughnut Plant donuts last time I visited).

                                    A side note. I don't get the draw of the Chelsea Market. I went twice in 2012, with a friend who was living in NYC, who would travel 90+ blocks out of her way for the hot chocolate (probably at Jacques Torres, so probably available at Rockefeller Ctr, as well). The Chelsea Market was a highlight for another friend, who emailed me from NYC, to let me know he and his fiancee had visited the Chelsea Market, which seemed to be the main NYC attraction they were taking in other than walking the Highline. While the Chelsea Market is a destination for some people, to me, it felt like a crowded, hyped-up tourist trap.

                                  3. Economy Candy, Kossar's, The Donut Plant. Visit the rice noodle/tofu shop on Grand and Bowery for turnip cakes then work your way West on Grand, stopping at DiPalo's, and enjoying the collision of Little Italy and Chinatown. Don't worry about what you can and can't buy, just have fun browsing, eating, and winging it.

                                    1. Brooklyn Kitchen/Meat Hook...Expect a one shop stop for local made artisanal goods that's exactly what you want if you're looking for small batch items. Only disclaimer is that it's confusing and inconvenient to get to even if it is walkable from the L train stop.

                                      Also in Brooklyn, Bklyn Larder, Blue Apron, and Marlow & Daughters.

                                      New Amsterdam Market is a must.

                                      Raffetto's for fresh cut pasta.
                                      Bedford Cheese Shop, Irving Street location, for non-cheese.
                                      Despana for Spanish imports.
                                      Buon Italia in Chelsea Market covers ground Eataly doesn't.
                                      Murray's Cheese for non-cheese items.
                                      Harney & Sons tea, though it's everywhere now, the store stocks interesting varieties.
                                      Chinatown markets, some imports like Kewpie mayo might be fun pickups. There's always something interesting.
                                      La Colombe, Grumpy, Gimme, Counter Culture or Stumptown Coffee
                                      Nolita Mart, if you're nearby.
                                      Gourmet Garage.

                                      Whole Foods carries a selection of local products, sometimes unique to each store, including bagged beans from local roasters, including Gimme, Gorilla, and Irving. I think Gimme is the best of those.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        New Amsterdam Market is closed for the season.

                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                          raffetto's is definitely worth going to just to watch their 100 year-old pasta cutter in action!

                                          1. re: waxyjax

                                            +1 on Raffetto's. Note that they are cash only and closed on Sunday. They also have prepared dishes, so to the OP--if you have access to a microwave while you are here, consider grabbing one for a hotel-room snack.
                                            It's also a good place to get Italian Nutella at a good price, dried bulk pasta in interesting shapes, and San Pelligrino sodas in the less popular flavors (like chinotto, my favorite).

                                        2. r&r, everybody assumes you're coming to shop for food, but you don't seem to be excluding cookware; so ...

                                          MTC Kitchen / 45th btw 3rd & 2nd
                                          one of the best Japanese cutlery stores in town
                                          Sara / Lex btw 69th & 70th
                                          super-beautiful Japanese porcelain + lacquer

                                          I'm not a zealot for japonaiserie, but it always pleases the senses, I find.
                                          Have a nice visit.

                                          1. Thank you everyone! these are amazing and awesome suggestions and they are all going on my list of potential to-dos.

                                            I shouldn't be intimdated as a female solo traveler, right? I can do this, right?

                                            Where I live, people talk to you if you eat at the bar, either the bartender or other diners nearby. Not always, but sometimes. Is it like that in the city?

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                              "Where I live, people talk to you if you eat at the bar, either the bartender or other diners nearby. Not always, but sometimes. Is it like that in the city?"

                                              The bar staff is usually very talkative at the places we like to go to. People usually strike up conversations with us as well. Whether it's about the food, a movie just seen, or whatever really.

                                              As a music lover, I have to ask: what concert are you going to? :)

                                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                                  At the Beacon I assume. A ritual! Enjoy!

                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                    But limited engagements through March.
                                                    I have my tickets!

                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                I'm responding not as a NYer, but as a visitor.
                                                Manhatten will be no problem for a female solo traveller. Whenever in Manhatten bars, I find theres always people to talk to. If you're on the beaten path, its likely the people sitting next to you are travellers looking to chat as well. If you're off the beaten path, the locals are generally friendly as well.
                                                Of course common sense goes a long way as you know...

                                                Chelsea market: although a bit upscale for my likes theres a coupla interesting places including an Italian market (perhaps "Buon Italia" as sugartoof mentions?) that has plenty of unusual or interesting items.

                                                Essex Street Market: I had high hopes for this one. If nearby, a great place to stop, however, I found many of the kiosks too much alike.

                                                Can't agree with hungrycomposer more: stroll around chinatown/little italy. Nothing specific, but theres plenty of great nooks and crannys and shops and fish markets. You can combine it with a Canal Street crawl to buy (if you so desire) Louis Vitton purses or Rolex watches (knockoffs) or cheap caps or a needed scarf, etc etc. Maybe not a whole lot of stuff to put in your suitcase, but plenty fun nonetheless. I like eating lunch in Chinatown when here

                                                Eataly: as kathryn mentions, weekday morning is best. Its really no fun when fighting the 5-7pm-Fri/Sat/Sun crowds. Seriously.

                                                Of interest might be RGR's Lower East Side food tour
                                                Perhaps dated, but interesting.

                                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                                  Yes, you'll be fine! You can strike up conversations with others if you want, or not.

                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                    Solo traveling is perfectly safe in NY. You'll find people are welcoming, and the occasional gruffness should strike you as the kind of charm you're accustomed to seeing in movies, or TV. It wouldn't be NY without it. Be prepared that in certain settings, people will keep to themselves, or might not return a smile. NY is friendlier than ever though.

                                                    Regarding safety. The rule of thumb is to avoid desolate streets, or empty subway cars, when possible.

                                                    I suggested Brooklyn Kitchen, which is the only destination of any suggestion you got so far that I'd say can appear sketchy at first glance, since it's across from a highway underpass.

                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                      You'll be fine. I find New Yorkers, in general, are often more talkative and more outgoing than people in the city where I live. I love visiting New York. The good thing about visiting solo, is that you get to see exactly what you want to see, and eat exactly where you want to eat.

                                                      Enjoy your trip!

                                                    2. Faicco's Pork Store at 260 Bleecker Street, between Cornelia and Morton Streets
                                                      Rocco's Pastry Shop at 243 Bleecker