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May 17, 2013 09:10 AM

Shopping for dried herbs and spices

Would appreciate a recommendation for buying dried herbs and spices in Manhattan. While I do most of my grocery shopping at Fairway, I've been disappointed with the potency and freshness of spices I've purchased there. Dried herbs, in particular, often taste tired -- as if they'd languished too long in the warehouse before hitting the shelves.

Thanks for the help!

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  1. I think the canonical answer here is kalustyans on lexington for variety (though many would, rightfully, point out that they dont offer the lowest prices around, but if you want breadth or a specific hard-to-find-item, or cinnamon sourced from 9 different countries/regions, they are great).

    also was recently in Dual Specialty on 6th ave/1st St in the east village, which had a very broad selection (its indian owned and run but they had a ton of non-indian spices too) and much better pricing.

    both do a lot of business and turnover would be high, though for any given item that may not always hold true, obviously.

    12 Replies
    1. re: tex.s.toast

      Dual is actually owned by Bangladeshis, just for the record. It's my local store, and I like it very much.

      1. re: Pan

        my bad - i guess i should have left it at "south asians" without more specific intel. i just meant that it has a s. asian focus but they carry lots of spices of various origins/uses.

        maybe this is the wrong venue for this discussion, but the ambiguous pan-south-asian/middle eastern vibe at kalustyan's always struck me as somewhat odd. they clearly stock lots of indian/south asian products (including the majority of their house-made items), but also stuff from all over the middle east. i think the part i love the best is the encyclopedic knowledge of all the various things that the latino employees have acquired over their tenures there.

        1. re: tex.s.toast

          Kalustyan's is a Lebanese spice shop located in an area known for it's South Asian stores, including spice shops, so it makes sense. They've also been partners in Indian style restaurants as well.

          Aside from price, I'm usually skeptical of the freshness there.

          1. re: sugartoof

            I think it started as NYC's only stab at a Belmont/Watertown-style Armenian do-it-all deli, which was later taken over by one or more Indo-Pak families. That pretty much explains it.

          2. re: tex.s.toast

            Also, just for the sake of completeness, Dual is on 1st Ave between 5th and 6th Streets, not vice versa.

            As a bonus, you can get a beer to accompany any spice combo on the same trip!

            1. re: nokitchen

              oh god! must have been before my first cup of coffee. good catch nokitchen.

        2. re: tex.s.toast

          Kalutyan's does give you 5% off for paying with cash so that may help some. Although they are Lebanese they have just about anything and everything you could possibly want including African, Asian, Greek spices etc, Xanthan gum and molecular gastronomy supplies.

          There's a spice shop somewhere in the Highline area that a friend went to but he couldn't remember the name. They pakage the spices for you there so the freshness may be a bit better. If anyone knows that name of this place, I'd love to visit it.

          1. re: Chanteuse_ar

            I believe that is the Spices and Tease kiosk in Chelsea Market. There is also a kiosk in the Grand Central Market.

            1. re: JungMann

              Ah ok...I've been to the one in Grand Central...they gave me cayenne powder instead of chili powder! I'l poke around on my next trip to Chelsea Market.

              I'll also check out Patel Bros. I don't live too far from Jackson Heights.

              Thanks so much!

            2. re: Chanteuse_ar

              I've never received a discount for paying cash. Maybe you have to buy large amounts for them to offer that.

              1. re: sugartoof

                There is now a sign by the front register about this discount. It wasn't always there, if I recall correctly. Pay cash and get a 5% discount on purchases $10 to $49.99. Pay cash and get a 10% discount on purchases over $50.

                1. re: kathryn

                  Thanks. I'm prone to make a lot of small purchases there. Looks like spending over $50 is worthwhile though.

          2. I buy most of my spices at Patel Bros. in Jackson Heights, but if I am confined to Manhattan, the Manhattan Fruit Exchange in Chelsea Market has a very good selection of herbs and spices.

            1. These are terrific suggestions. Thank you both very, very much for your help.

              1. Is there a Penzey's Spices in Grand Central Market? Or somewhere near there...They are the best!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: MRS

                  Closed as of September 2011. They have no stores in the five boroughs.

                2. You can go to Penzey's if you enjoy spending money and getting stuff in cute jars. But generally you get fresher and much cheaper at any Indian grocery store. South Asian people are extremely picky about spice freshnesss the way East Asians are about seafood freshness. Also, dried basil is all but flavorless. Use fresh or use some other dried or fresh herb.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: emu48

                    Penzey's closed in 2011. They have no other shops in the 5 boroughs

                    1. re: Chanteuse_ar

                      I order on-line from Penzy's and have been very pleased. I find it easier than trekking around the city to the various shops.