On a recent trip to NYC, I was determined to get to both Fairway Market and Trader Joe's, despite reports of huge lines at both and rude customers and checkers at Fairway. Both experiences were easier than I expected.
My daughter and I took the subway and got to Fairway Market at about 9:30 on a Sunday morning. Although the aisles are small, I didn't find the store uncomfortably crowded, except for the deli department. Express lines for checkout were not very long, and the only problem we had was than one item my daughter selected (a vegan tuna-salad-substitute) had neither a price sticker nor a bar code, so that caused quite a delay at the checkout while various people ran around the store looking for the item and our clerk shouted "Organico! Organico!" to them. (It was from upstairs.) I was not too impressed by the bakery -- compared to the pictures on their website, it was tiny -- but on the whole it was a fine shopping experience.
I got to Trader Joe's near Union Square at about 8:15 p.m. on a Wednesday. Sure enough, the lines looked humongous. There's an employee holding a sign at the end of each line, one indicated the express line and the other the regular line. I couldn't find a couple of items I was looking for, and the employee I asked was friendly and helpful. I asked several people how long the wait would be, and the actual wait was very close to the average estimated time of 15 minutes. When you get to the front of your line, a cheerful employee steers to to one of about 20 checkout lanes, so it's pretty efficient given the small amount of space available.. I was in and out of the store in half an hour flat, with my loot -- chewy molasses cookies, biscotti, cashews, dark chocolate mint creams (which are the best chocolate mint creams I've ever found), Almondina biscuits, whole grain pretzel nuggets, spiced pecans, and two diffferent Trader Joe's reusable bags. (Sadly, they were out of pinion nuts.) I was really glad I had not gotten scared away by reports of huge crowds. I must have been lucky in hitting relatively uncrowded times at both places.
I also went to many bakeries, but did not compare the same items from each one, so I don't have anything very scientific to report. I was somewhat disappointed with Sweet Something -- the truffle buttons were fine, but not not the cookies of my dreams, and their apricot and raspberry sandwich cookies were downright dull. I like the Napoleon from Zaro's so much I went back for another one later in the week, but their chocolate mousse cake was unexciting. I did not try Junior's cheesecake, but my daughter loved their key lime pie and I loved a raisin danish I got there. The best rainbow cookies I had, with visible layers of marzipan, seemed to be available both at William Greenburg for $13.95 per half pound, which was the minimum you could buy (I passed them up) and at Barney Greengrass where they were $18/pound and you could buy as few or as many as you wanted. (I bought them terhere, along with two "mini-babkas" which were basically babka muffins.) Everything I got at Veneiro's -- a chocolate cake slice, rugelah and italian cookies -- was excellent.
Thanks to walking a zillion miles each day, I didn't even gain much weight. Thank you, Manhattan!
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