New Yorkers’ Favorite Foods

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Steve Jenkins, grocer extraordinaire at Fairway, tells us what kinds of food appeal most to New Yorkers, and how he keeps one of the best-known grocery stores in New York running smoothly. His new book is The Food Life.


Steve Jenkins

Comments [36]

Leon Freilich from Park Slope


Spit 'n' polish mark the decor
Once you pass the restaurant door;
But gripe your steak's not as you wish,
Get a glob of spit in your dish.

What you asked for was, No onions?
Bang! the size of Paul Bunyan's bunions;
And the salad you've looked forward to
Has a bug that's coming toward you.

Yet you can't eat home in the kitchen
Even if your spouse would pitch in;
High-end stove, so gleaming in looks,
Filled to the brim with dusty books.

So your options are circumscribed
Warding off what was described.
There, however, is safety at hand:
Have your meals at a sidewalk stand.

While you watch the curbside chef,
Honest Jack, Abdul or Steph,
Prepping food that's free of spittle,
Rejoice! They'll make you fit as a fittle.

Aug. 02 2008 02:33 PM
LKS from Harlem

fairway may have the lowest prices on the nyc planet but their cashiers are consistently nasty and rude. at the high food prices of todays market, i'd rather support a business that doesn't make me feel its doing me a favor by taking my money.

Jul. 29 2008 02:45 PM
Janet from upper west side

That was quite the infommercial. I've lived a half block north of Fairway for many years. The quality of the food is adequate, but hardly special. The vegetables are tired. If you want a head of lettuce to last more than a day, go to the farmer's market. If you want a great piece of cheese go next door to Citerella. (Their mozzeralla is the best!) If you want cheaper coffee, walk a block north to West Side ($4.99 a pound).

Jul. 29 2008 01:56 PM
Jack in Brooklyn

Ivana, being a "local institution" doesn't mean they should get a free pass—and free advertising—on a public radio station to the extent Steve was given.

I'm sure it was a great store. Much in the same way I am sure the original Barnes & Noble was a great local NYC store until they became a mega-chain and now is nothing special.

The segment was also interviewing Steve about the book he's written. NOT Fairway. For example, there once was a segment on the older guy who lost everything in his life and got a job at Stabucks and I didn't get angry at that. Why? Because the guy TALKED ABOUT HIS BOOK.

Steve just talked endlessly about Fairway's prices and qualities not being beat. He deserves the criticism he deserves.

Jul. 29 2008 01:22 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

$8.99 for a pound of green peppers? Are you people smoking crack? Who the hell can afford that? I can make an entire nutritious meal for 2 for less then that…. If you want to get the common folk to buy organic, it has to at least be competitive with commercial farming. Someone on food stamps would never able to feed themselves or family on organic food at these prices. Neither would a low to middle income family of 4. Until organic food comes down to real world prices, it will remain only on the elitist’s dinner plate.

Jul. 29 2008 01:20 PM
Ivana from Yorkville

To all complainers about the "free advertising" for Fairway: The original store on W.74 Street is a NYC institution, not just a grocery story, as everybody who knows it knows. So it qualifies for the attention Leonard gave it. Otherwise Steve Jenkins is a character not to everyone's taste but so what?

And Noah, the 365 chick peas at Whole Foods are cheaper because 365 is the house brand.

Tip: the organic frozen fruit is also cheaper because Whole Foods has a house brand-- unlike Fairway...

Jul. 29 2008 01:15 PM
Jill from Manhattan

No store in NYC perfect, but Fairway is clearly one of the better options for variety and prices. However, why are all the stores so poorly laid out? They are all, even the newer ones, like mazes. If you forget one item from the beginning of the store, chances are you aren't going to fight your way through the crowds to go back to get it.

Jul. 29 2008 01:15 PM
Joy Cohen from bergen county

Steve, When are you coming to Bergen County? There are plenty of transplanted New Yorkers here who are being held hostage by Whole Foods! I shop in the Ridgewood store almost daily. We need you here!

Jul. 29 2008 01:08 PM

and, leonard - really disappointing that you let that piece end up being an ad.

Jul. 29 2008 01:04 PM
Jack in Brooklyn

Okay, okay. Maybe I'm overreacting. Steve, at Fairway is quality job one and is the customer always right? Also, how great is it to wake up every day and work at Fairway? Sounds awesome!

Jul. 29 2008 01:04 PM

Fairway is good, but this guy is obnoxious. The problem with food sourcing in the US is that it has been subject to market capitalism and competition. That crush-the-competition and have-to-be-number-one attitude is worse than a fast food chain's CEO. Let's not confuse unproductive arrogance and competitiveness for "passion". The goal is good, healthy, sustainable food for all - not just Fairway customers. This guy's attitude sucks.

Jul. 29 2008 01:03 PM
John from Oakland, NJ

I heard that Fairway was planning to open a store in New Jersey. When will that happen?

Jul. 29 2008 01:02 PM
licnyc from long island city

Wow- thats a good way to lose customers, lesson learned... don't criticize people who like to go out and eat in one of the greatest cities in the world to go out and eat, I'll stick to shopping at TJs steve

Jul. 29 2008 01:01 PM
David from Brooklyn

That was one of the longest Fairway advertisements I've ever heard.

Jul. 29 2008 01:01 PM

Leonard, I hope WNYC got paid for this, because it's just one long commercial.

Jul. 29 2008 01:00 PM
Jack in Brooklyn

Jeffrey, right on the money. What the heck is this? Just now I realized he's promoting A BOOK! But only at the end of the segment. Up until now it's just "Fairway is the best!"

Good lord, I support this junk?! I don't think I'll renew my membership. Get Fairway to pay for the shows.

Jul. 29 2008 12:58 PM
anonyme from midtown manhattan

i wanted also to say thinks for getting grass fed local milk (even though I prefer raw

Jul. 29 2008 12:58 PM
exlege from brooklyn

love the local clams at 3 doz for $10. I just ate last night's leftovers for lunch

Jul. 29 2008 12:58 PM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

I used think WNYC was commercial-free but I'm now listening now to one long promotion piece from a self-serving businessman.

Jul. 29 2008 12:57 PM
anonyme from midtown manhattan

Fairway is the best

But I like you for coffee, fish, delouis fils aioli, upstairs on 74th st. - farmer's markets are good too - you don't have to be a farmer, you're a grocer!

one thing though - why do you bottle your olive oil in clear bottles instead of dark?

i totally disagree with what you say about organic vs conventional - this is not so! But at the market they are selling "naturally grown" - policing each other and avoiding the $10,000. fee to be called organic, a now meaningless word.

Jul. 29 2008 12:57 PM
Ruth from Washington Heights

I bought olives there from the bar. They tasted like the spray they use to clean the place.
All the old pre-wrapped plastic cheese tastes like, yeah: Plastic.
And of course, the workers are EXTREMELY rude.
I won't go back.
Another Whole Foods is opening uptown. YAY!!

Jul. 29 2008 12:57 PM
Liz from brooklyn

Why is stuff not labeled so that people can know if its local?

Jul. 29 2008 12:56 PM
Jack in Brooklyn

This Fairway guy is getting me sick. He's basically a shill for Fairway. Why are you guys giving him a free commercial?!?!?

Fairway is not so great, there are better local alternatives and they are just another major chain.

Jul. 29 2008 12:55 PM
Ivana from Yorkville

Okay, Steve, the organic red peppers at the health food store across the street from me on First Avenue and 88 Street are $6.49 a pound versus the obscene $8.99 a pound at Fairway.

That'll be $5.00, please.

Let me know how I can collect.

And by the way, how come you've shunned the UES in locating your stores? We have NOTHING here to compare to the UWS when it comes to quality food stores. Sorry, Agata & Valentina is ok but overpriced... the only store worth talking about.

What gives?

Ivana Edwarads

Jul. 29 2008 12:54 PM
Diana from NYC

Oh, and I bet the employees in the cold room will get sick at some point.

Jul. 29 2008 12:54 PM
exlege from brooklyn

and what's the deal with sweet peppers and corn? the price is through the roof.

Jul. 29 2008 12:54 PM

I lived two blocks away from the 74th Street Fairway for ten years and shopped there nearly every day. Sadly, I had to move away from the neighborhood a year ago. I still make the occasional trek, but I would love to see a Fairway in my new neighborhood -- Murray Hill. I know everything depends on rent in NYC, but there are some good sized spaces there, and the neighborhood would certainly support it.

Jul. 29 2008 12:53 PM
Diana from NYC

I love Fairway but I think the cold room is one of the stupidiest places on Earth. I loath going inside and I just make sure I run and get what I need. I usually miss something and never come across something by chance like in the rest of the store. What´s the point of this place?

Jul. 29 2008 12:53 PM
arvind from Morningside Heights

I just heard Steve say that prices in Fairway are the lowest or something to that effect. Leonard tried to counter him but Steve was quite adamant that you could not beat the prices at Fairway. At least for one class of items -- fruits (grapes, nectarines, peaches, plums), the Fairway in Harlem was consistently higher than Westside Market (110th and Broadway). Sample costs - grapes $1.99 - 2.49 per pound at fairway while prices ranged from 1.29 to 1.99 at Westside. Nectarines and peaches - the differential is lesser but surprisingly Westside is a tad cheaper. I always thought that Fairway would be cheaper - given its size and the fact that it caters to a wide spectrum of customers.

Jul. 29 2008 12:52 PM
Ray from Riverdale

As for prices, a couple of days ago I bought better blueberries at the market two blocks north for 50 cents a box less, and regularly I buy organic Driscoll strawberries from my local Food Emporium in Riverdale for a dollar or two less than the Fairway price. What makes Fairway so great is the turnover, so many people buy there that the stuff is almost always freshly put out.
On another note, I would like to congratulate the staff on the amazing improvement in the way the check-out clerks treat customers - it's so much better than it was just a year ago, and it makes shopping there a pleasure instead of something to be endured. I had been going to Whole Foods and the place right next door on Broadway just because they were more polite, but now I don't have to do that. Thanks, Fairway!

Jul. 29 2008 12:51 PM
Jack from Brooklyn

Fairway might have low prices but I must say the produce, at least in Red Hook has been very dispapointing quality wise

And I would pay extra to get true local 100% grass fed beef, which was aruond $5.50 lb at the new TriBeCa Whole Foods.

I just wish a local store like Fairway would cary more localy produced meats and produce

Jul. 29 2008 12:48 PM
Noah from Manhatten

I do think there are certain products that Fairway has great prices for, but I actually have often found certain products at Whole Food to be cheaper. One great example are 365 organic chick peas are much cheaper than anywhere else in the city, park slope food co-op included.

Jul. 29 2008 12:47 PM
exlege from brooklyn

why doesn't fairway carry bulk Haloumi cheese?

Jul. 29 2008 12:46 PM
exlege from brooklyn

on gourmet items, Fairway is usually cheaper, but can be more expensive on mundane grocery items

Jul. 29 2008 12:46 PM
mc from manhattan

I luv, luv, luv Fairway! Prices & produce are the best in NYC.

Jul. 29 2008 12:45 PM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

One of the reasons I live where I live is because it's half a block from Fairway. Thanks Steve - keep it up!

Jul. 29 2008 12:43 PM

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