A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 3: Not Your Average Joe

June 29th · 1 Comment

How Manhattanites feed themselves is a mystery to me. I get the restaurant thing – throw your wallet in any direction and it will hit a waiter – but I’m not sure how anyone gets groceries to the refrigerator.

There’s the occasional grocery store, but they’re so mini that three would fit comfortably in a California supermarket’s produce section. No one carries grocery bags down the street. I’ve heard of delivery services, but I’ve seen only one truck, that of Fresh Direct, whose motto is “Our Food Is Fresh. Our Customers Are Spoiled.”

Not yet being spoiled, Joo and I took advantage of a friend’s loaner car and did a massive supply mission to Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s, in case you don’t know it, is the best grocery store ever, with low prices and aisles of delicious, intriguing items. If you aren’t in the know, rest assured that the secret is out in New York.

Problem is there’s only one Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, on the border of the East Village on East 14th St. and Third Avenue. It has the footprint of its generous suburban brethren, but is open later and is even more crowded. A special wine store is located right next door, since New Yorkers, unlike Californians, can’t be trusted to pair the right Pinot with their Tuscan bread.

The first thing I noticed were the tiny carts. The carts I used in California had a lazy turning radius and enough cargo space to keep a soccer mom in toilet paper for a month. If the California shopping cart is a Hummer, these N.Y. models are Smart Cars, narrow (three fit abreast in an aisle) and only as long as they are wide. This is a good thing, since the lines are so long there are two proctors monitoring the line and a cart-traffic controller assigning you to the right clerk.

The crew wear orchid-print shirts and keep a friendly, long-haired, sneaker-wearing vibe, and the customers seemed mellow too. Though in California I have never heard an utterance like that of an elderly man chatting with a stocker by the cinnamon buns.

He was advising, “Don’t worry about the people who hurt you. The people who hurt me? They’re all dead.”

Tags: East Coast v. West Coast · Urban Survival

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Susan // Jun 29, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Great post, Dave – you had me laughing! And, no, I’m not offended that you didn’t call me on my birthday. Clearly you were too busy looking for groceries. 🙂


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