I know this site is mainly about dine-in places, but I was wondering whether we couldn't also discuss food suppliers; the best groceries and markets for finding prepare-at-home food. Where to go for the freshest fish (Burhop's?), terrific carnitas, the best meat, fresh produce, or hard-to-find ethnic items? A lot of us like to try things at home, or just prefer eating at in, and it would be nice to pool our knowledge to find the best suppliers. (Dare we include bakeries in this? It could get ugly.)
For instance: Has anyone every shopped the Fulton street produce markets? Is it possible for amateurs to buy stuff there, or do they only sell in volume to restaurants? I've alwasy wondered, but never could bring myself to get up at 3:30 in the morning and go down there to find out.
Anyhow, I'd like to start it off with my favorite for sausage: Meyer's Delicatessen, smack in the middle of the Lincoln Square Mall. This seems to be a real German deli, obsessively clean, bright and neat (How neat? When you order sliced cheese, they wrap each slice separately so they don't stick together), and the best place in the city for a staggering variety of sausages. For those into sausage, you know Germans are the world's premier artists in sausage. I don't know how many varieties Meyer's carries--somewhere around 50-100 I would guess--and they all seem to be great.
My favorite may be the Nuremberger bratwurst, tiny, slightly sweet and subtly spiced sausages with bits of chive(?) inside. The Hungarian brats are filled with mild paprika that gives them a very bright, almost tomotoe-y taste without making them hot. They have wurst flavored with sage, anise, thyme, savory, God knows what. There's a wealth of precooked, uncooked, cold sausage, pates, terrines, knockwurst, salami, &c. &c.
They also have German specialties like eel (in season. I've never tried it), all sort of candies, breads, condiments, and the full spectrum of krauts. Their dill pickle-ham salad should not be missed.
When you go, though, don't forget to get a number from the machine just inside the front door; no number, no service. Very German. The women who work there are all bilingual, are polite but may seem a bit frosty at first, but ask them how to prepare a sausage or how to eat an eel and they warm up pretty fast.
Avoid weekends if you possibly can. That's when the area Deutschevolk descend to restock for the week, & it gets pretty crowded.
Oh, and if you want a place a little laid back, with good stuff though not the variety of Meyers, walk down the same side of the street south about a half-block down to Inga's Deli. It's darker and a little more touristy but rarely as crowded as Meyer's can get. And Inga's sells booze.
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