Since I’m always mentioning Fairway, figured I’d give you my write up on it.
There is no other market like it. The Fairway grocery on 125th street in Harlem is a prandium girl’s dream. The French baguette I bought today barely made it home. The fresh bread selection has me rediscovering this pre-Atkins love of mine. I’m especially partial to their black (pumpernickel) raisin and Irish soda loafs. On a more important note they finally restocked their Fairway label peperoncini peppers. I bought three jars. You never know when they will get them in again, once they’ve run out, and have been waiting nearly a month to restock this staple.
I started shopping at Fairway nearly a decade ago when I moved to Washington Heights in upstate Manhattan. It’s easy to get to—just a straight shot from Riverside Drive to the 125th street exit off of the West Side Highway. It’s located under the highway trestle along the Hudson River. They have a parking lot. Need I say more? Yes indeed. For straphangers it’s only a couple blocks walk from the 125th street subway stop. They deliver or will hail you a cab.
Since Fairway is located in Harlem and due to a migration of families from downtown to cheaper rents and larger apartments uptown, the folks shopping there run the NYC gamut—black, white, Latins, Asians, Jews, families, middle-aged folks, and firemen. The local ladders park alongside the entrance while they shop for the night’s family meal. I have been tempted more times than I can count to follow them back to the firehouse. I am curious to know, and eat, what they cook. Though on more casual, less hectic shopping days, it is not uncommon that women share recipes and suggestions. My favorite, and likely the occasion that made me a lifetime Fairway devotee, was when a gaggle of older black women schooled me in cooking collard greens. At the time, I couldn’t eat enough of them and was picking out a couple bunches. While I no longer cook them with swine, their sharing their recipes with me was a validation that started me on a course in cultural pride and literacy. Fairway is a club like that.
My only complaint about Fairway is when my favourite deli and fish counter boyfriends quit. They were typical of New York City counter workers that make grocery shopping an event. This is also the type of place they will exploit any remotely questionable comments. Be careful how you order salami or pepperoni. Enough said.
The past couple of years have seen major expansions throughout the store. They’ve doubled their produce section and their famous walk in refrigerator. Their organics selection puts Whole Foods to shame. Taking a cue from eco-conscious customers, they stock more locally grown fruits and vegetables. Season specific and obscure produce like fiddle head ferns are consistently available every year. For someone keen on eating a healthy diet, Fairway provides an abundance and variety of whole foods. I keep track of the fresh herbs, spices and seasonings in case I’m ever in the mood to cook a new, ethnic recipe. Overall, prices are comparable to shopping in the suburbs and their new Fairway labeled organic, pasture fed milk, at $3.00 a half gallon is the cheapest I’ve found over the past six months anywhere else in town.
Though, I do have one other complaint about Fairway, perhaps it is more a word of caution. Keep an eye on your shopping cart. Especially on busy weekends and during winter stormwatch, if you haven’t already thrown a few items in there, more often than not, someone will steal it while you’re choosing a head of lettuce.
Three locations and open late
Reprinted from 12.05.02007