Not all grocery stores are created equal. Here’s a definitive local ranking.
10. Hartley Pharmacy
You may not even know its name. It isn’t Appletree. It isn’t HamDel. It’s just awkwardly in between, in the howling waste between SIPA and Plimpton. Its lights always seem to be off, and at one point I think I saw a vacuum cleaner on display in its window, as if it were a shop which sold high-end vacuum cleaners, except it didn’t have nice displays, or particularly nice vacuum cleaners, and also sold other random crap. People walk past, but I never see them go in. Definitely the weakest of the stores around the neighborhood.
9. Milano Market
It may pretend to be gourmet, but in fact you can buy 90% of the shit they sell for half the price at any of the other stores on this list. Anything they have that the others don’t you can find better versions of at actual nice stores in Midtown or something, if you’re really committed to setting your money on fire in pursuit of the perfect snack. Also, they only sell food, so if you need laundry detergent or soap or whatever, you’ll be shit out of luck going here.
8. Olive Tree Deli
Never been. 120th is so far north that this barely even makes the list. If I wanted to go shopping in the Arctic I’d move to Norway.
7. Duane Reade
A solid one-stop shop for most of your necessities, but their staircase is extremely steep and I fear being kicked down it. Also, there’s this little automated bell you have to ring for them to come unlock the laundry detergent aisle, and even when the store is completely fucking empty, they ALWAYS wait for it to ring twice instead of just coming the first time. When the store is busy I am understanding, but when I’m the only soul around, you don’t have to make me stand by myself awkwardly for like ninety seconds.
Further south and on the other side of Broadway, CVS is Duane Reade’s exotic cousin, deep in the tropics near Carlton Arms. It doesn’t have a staircase that calls the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride to mind, and it carries pretty much the same inventory. The location could be a draw, if you like warm southern climates, but it’s also kind of a hike.
5. Westside Market
On the one hand: they sell good fresh produce. On the other hand: this is somewhat undercut by being right next to Koronet and Mel’s.
4. Appletree Market
Conveniently located right next to Plimpton (and Plimpton’s new Dunkin’ location), and with a solid selection, it has the minor drawback (for non-Plimpton residents or people who aren’t fucking them) of being located near Plimpton. Which is to say, between 120th and 121st, deep in the Great White North. So sad.
3. H Mart
It’s right next to a subway stop and it has a good selection of Asian grocery stuff (soy sauce, etc.) that the others don’t, but it has a layout I find perverse (particularly the arrangement of the entry and exit doors that make it feel like you’re a rat running through a maze, and the way that the back area expands out around a corner to be bigger than it looks when you walk in).
2. Morton Williams
It lives forever in our hearts. It haunts our dreams. We return endlessly to its narrow aisles in the wee hours of the morning, and we write about the pain we feel as we browse its items before leaving empty-handed.
The deli, the myth, the legend. No, you will not be able to buy most of the things you need to live your life here. But if you want a sandwich, they’ve got you covered.
Editor’s Note 1/29/2020 5:20 PM: A sentence of this post was taken out in the reflection of the comments below.
Westside Market via Bwog Arhives