Living in NYC has been quite the experience for me, coming from a small town in Texas. Of all the things I knew would be different when I moved here (laundry, transportation, getting to school in another state, going to the library, walking everywhere, having to go up 5 flights of stairs to get home, etc), I guess I never really thought about grocery shopping that much.
I mean, in Texas, it was pretty simple - there is HEB and Wal-Mart. Take your pick. Sure, there was a farmer's market every Tuesday and Saturday, and Austin has a Whole Food's, and there's a specialty "health food" store, but 98.5% of grocery shopping was done at HEB, and I was 100% ok with that. The produce section was 1/4 of the store, the meat and dairy took up the entire back wall (and the beef was quite expansive), and the aisles, stacked high with variety, were wide and inviting.
I had visited a friend in Brooklyn before moving here. I knew his local grocery store had narrow aisles and no meat section. I guess I expected my new neighborhood - Sugar Hill, a subsection of Harlem - to be different? It's not, really. Our "local"-ist place, Food Town, has 4 aisles: produce/meat, cereal/homegoods, canned goods/spices/pasta/coffee/tea, and frozen/beverages. Dairy is along the back wall, and that's all there is to it, besides the tiny deli/prepared foods counter and the 2"x2" fresh bread box. It's a sad and depressing place, but it is INCREDIBLY conveniently located store, being between my subway station and apartment; I pass it at least twice a day. It's great for picking something up on the way home, and it's all we've been using for the past 6 months (aside from PathMark, which is a joke not even worth mentioning, though you can read about it here, where it is named THE worst grocery store in America).
Today, I went on a grocery store crawl. I found amazing variety of oases dotting the Upper West Side along Broadway. Rather than ramble on about their amazingness, I'm posting links to their websites and the tally of my receipts. I can't wait to go grocery shopping again.
Garden of Eden Gourmet Market and Specialty Foods (my second favorite of all visited today)
Simple Margarita Mix: $7.99
Carrots (1.79lbs@$0.79/lb): $1.41
Pint o' Blueberries: $2.99
String Beans (1.10lbs@$2.99/lb): $3.29
Eggplant (1.30lbs@$1.99/lb): $2.59
Westside Market NYC (my favorite of all today)
3 Progresso soups, on sale: $2.00 each
Pork Loin Filets, 4, boneless: $5.80
Ground Pork (almost a pound): $3.91
Beef Chuck Roast (almost 3 pounds): $12.52
Kosher Dill Pickles (made locally): $2.99
Assorted Cheese Bits: $4.09
NY Mild Cheddar (about half a pound): $5.13
Fairway Market (the most similar to HEB in Texas)
5 chorizo links: $4.69 (way more expensive at Food Town - same package!!)
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes: $1.67 each
1 large can of peeled tomatoes: $1.50
2 cans of refried black beans: $1.59 each
2 cans of tomato paste: $0.89 each
Sugar Snap Peas (1.52lbs@$2.99/lb): $4.54
I think I'll stick to Trader Joe's for staples like peanut butter, cereal, and frozen vegetables. Food Town is fine for chicken/poultry, eggs, milk, non-specialty bread, and things I don't want to lug 80 blocks home. As for the other places - I'm so excited to have new stores to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, canned goods, gourmet items, and beef products!!