NYC offers us a multiplicity of food markets, many of which specialize in a particular product or ethnic genre. I doubt someone living in Milwaukee, for instance, can step outside and pick up handmade cannolis from the Italian pastry shop, a mix-and-match six-pack of Belgian beer from the corner store and a bag of Puerto Rican coffee beans, all in one fell swoop.
In trying to get the most out of your hood, make sure to build relationships with the shopkeepers in your neighborhood who take pride in their craft. They have invaluable knowledge of their own products. For instance, the butcher may try to persuade you to buy a rack of lamb for a dinner party simply because it’s the most expensive cut in the case, but if you’re his buddy, he’ll teach you how to braise the shoulder with his favorite aromatics and a strong stock, costing you a hell of a lot less and feeding a lot more. In creating a list, I realized all of my picks have one thing in common: antiquity. There’s something to be said for running a successful business in the city for the better part of a century.
Lower East Side:Economy Candy has been causing cavities since 1937, with bins full of brightly colored hard candies and a bountiful selection of chocolates, dried fruits and nuts from around the world. (108 Rivington St)
Upper East Side: Shaller and Weber sells sausage and processed meat in the German/Austrian style and has since 1937. It’s family run and the guys working behind the counter are rough and gruff with an intimate knowledge of bockwurst, liverwurst, sauerkraut and Bavarian loaf. If you’re into charcroute, this is the place to shop. (1654 Second Ave)
East Village: Russo’s Mozzarella and Pasta is a specialty Italian shop that’s been selling freshly made pasta (ravioli, tortellini, gnocchi) and soft mozzarella to East Villagers since 1908 — making it nearly 100 years old. (344 E 11th St)
Cobble Hill/Brooklyn Heights: Sahadi’s is a one-stop shop, with everything from fresh bread and cheese, to pantry items like dried fruits, nuts, honey, jams, coffee beans and pastas. A large compartmentalized bin showcases colorful spices from every corner of the world and an olive bar (samples are available) smells of rich olive oil and bay leaves. The original Sahadi’s opened in Manhattan in 1898. (187 Atlantic Ave)
West Village: Manley’s Wine Shop opened its doors at the end of Prohibition and has since maintained it’s fine reputation for carrying an elegant selection of international wines and liquor. The shop has an old fashion façade and a miniature train set winds its way around the perimeter of the store. (35 Eighth Ave)