"Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?" Jacqueline Kennedy

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Gourmet Fresh, Union Market, Key Food or Park Natural...Where Do You Do Your Food Shopping In Carroll Gardens?

Key Food at 486 Henry Street in Carroll Gardens
Union Market at 288 Court Street
Gourmet Fresh at 437 Court Street
Park Natural at 350 Court Street
Once upon a time, Carroll Gardens had three big supermarkets, a Key Food at 390 Court Street, a Met Food at 197 Smith Street, and another Met Food at 486 Henry Street, which became a Key Food in 2015. Only the one on Henry Street is still operating.

In the meantime, smaller gourmet food stores have opened up to take their place, such as Union Market  at 288 Court Street and Gourmet Fresh at 437 Court Street.
A bit farther away, there is a Fairway in Red Hook, a Trader Joe's on Court Street and a Whole Foods in Gowanus, but they involve a longer walk or a drive.

Many in Carroll Gardens still miss having another supermarket closer by and especially miss the former Met Food on Smith Street.  There is no doubt that food prices in the neighborhood have increased.  Not everyone can afford gourmet and organic foods, sometimes one only needs some staples from a regular supermarket close to home.

Which brings us to this question: Where do you do your food shopping?  Who do you think has the best products, friendliest service, and best prices? Which is the cleanest? Do you go out of your way to shop at a particular store, or is convenience foremost on your mind?
Do you  prefer to order food online or is a brick and mortar store important to you?  Is the extra walk or drive worth it to you to go to Whole Foods, Fairway or Trader Joe's in Cobble Hill?
Most importantly, what do you think  of food prices in general in Carroll Gardens compared to other Brooklyn neighborhoods?

We would love to hear what you have to say in regards to this issue.


Anonymous said...

Key Food for pantry staples, canned goods.

Trader Joe's for bread, eggs, olive oil, rice and lentils.

Sahadi's for nuts, cheese, spices, rice and lentils.

The greengrocer at 291 Court Street for fruit and veg

Gourmet Fresh for hot sauces

Fish Tales and Staubitz for meat.

Every time i shop at Union Market, I see the total at checkout and regret it.

bgrose said...

Though it's a few blocks from Carroll Gardens, there's no question that Fish Tales is not only worth the walk--it's among the best fish markets in the entire city. Freshness is guaranteed (they replenish everything in the store every day) and the quality and variety is beyond compare. Extraordinary staff as well.

JMB said...

I'm really glad you asked, because Carroll Gardens food is something I think a lot about, and one of my main selling points to tell friends why they should live here. We moved to the neighborhood about three years ago, so we sadly missed most of the old affordable grocery stores you're referring to, so this post will not be reminiscing about what has been lost to high rents and other market factors, but rather, what to be grateful for today. This post is in three posts because I wrote too much:

JMB said...

General items:
Living a little closer to Union than Key Foods (Union is also on the way back from work), we tend to run to Union for most things. They do have a lot of great and high quality items you can't find elsewhere. We are both serious hobby chefs, and I can almost always rely on Union for having what we need. I also like that they carry a ton of Brooklyn/NYC made items (breads, pickles, etc). That being said, they are too expensive. Our credit card statement at the end of each month seems like it's mostly Union and we hate ourselves/them for that.

For items that are simply obnoxiously-too-expensive at Union, we go to Key Foods. Think beans, canned goods, oats, things like that. We don't eat a ton of conventional staples or packaged goods, so we tend to not have a much of a need to go there.

If we really need to stock up before a party, Trader Joe's has the best prices if you can deal with the line. Fairway by car on occasion, but it's really not cheaper, so I don't understand the obsession.

We go to Whole Foods once in a blue moon, lately they have had decent prices after being purchased by Amazon who is lowering prices temporarily to make competitive moves in the food marketplace, so if we happen to be out in the car, we'll swing by to pick up things for a special meal or a week's groceries.

Almost all our produce comes from K&Y (which we always hit right before Union - because if they don't have what we need, Union will, but it'll be more expensive). Their prices are simply unbeatable and I rarely see much difference between their produce and Union's, which seems more expensive for no reason. I imagine Union walking over to K&Y every morning and buying produce to re-sell.

We get almost all of our meats from Staubitz or Paisanos. Their quality and prices are simply unbeatable, one of the great pleasures of this neighborhood is being able to get insanely good meat (including custom and rare cuts) from butchers who know what they're doing. If they've closed for the evening or I'm in a pinch, we'll go to Union, which has fine meat, but it's way more expensive. Other specialty butchershops in New York overcharge wildly (we used to live in Williamsburg and go to the Meat Hook, which is great, but I didn't know what I was missing until I came down here).

We try to make it down to Stinky Brooklyn. Also, their Jamon Serrano is sold and sliced as it should be, and they have great craft cider and beer options. Otherwise, Union for cheese.

Carroll Gardens Fish Market. They are so nice, they have a lot of great options, and the fish is high quality. We've made sushi with it, and they can tell you what to use. It's not cheap, but I don't think any quality fish is or should be. Fish Tales is simply too far a walk for our regular visits but the guys are great and we go there when we can to mix it up.

JMB said...

Local Specialties:
Other than Union which has a lot of these items, we love Caputo's for Italian specialties (pizza dough, mozzarella, mozzarella, etc). Court Street Grocers has a lot of strange and awesome things as well, such as Japanese mayonnaise and house-made Orgeat Syrup (and other cocktail fixings).

At this point, we are loyal to Henry Street wines, even if it's the second-closest wine shop to us. This is for several reasons: 1) The guys (Francisco and Guiseppe) who run the place are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. When you walk in, it's like you're walking over to the house of a friend who is excited to tell you about the latest wine they picked up. 2) Over time they can learn your palate and preferences and make spot-on suggestions. I lately have tended to lean towards Spanish wines, and Francisco has taken me on many terrific wine journeys over the past three years. 3) Their focus is in the $15-25 range, so nothing is too expensive, yet it's all unique, awesome, and carefully curated. 4) I believe they source many items directly from the vineyards which they visit themselves, or with smaller distributors who work with these smaller family run vineyards and distribute hard-to-find yet reasonably priced wines which might otherwise not have the volume to make it to the US market in a competitive fashion. 5) I believe some of the other, larger, wine shops in New York work with large distributors who generally, if I understand the wine industry correctly, have minimum purchasing requirements for wine shops and therefore the shops tend to advertise and push stuff that is lower quality. That's why we stick to the smaller shops with interesting selections.
Smith & Vine is a good option too for a similar vibe.

Scotto's has a great liquor selection, and super nice people. I have not perused wine as much there, but I know they have a loyal following.

If you can, get growlers or cans from the local breweries. We are blessed to live near some of the city's best breweries, all here in Carroll Gardens/Gowanus. Other Half, Folksbier, Three's Brewing, Strong Rope. Otherwise, Stinky has the best selection.

chance bliss said...

for seven years i shopped at park natural and spent an average of $3000 there a year but i stopped going because the customer service had become so abysmal and careless. this is despite twice bringing my concern to the attention of the manager and owner, but there was no effort to acknowledge the concerns of a loyal customer, much less act upon them or recognize that they even have loyal customers.

i now address my shopping needs at a variety of markets in the neighborhood: from union market (first stop for general purpose produce, their cheese selection, fresh fish as well as specialty items) to K & Y (for certain produce) to caputo’s on court (for their amazing freshly made inventory and pantry items) and sahadi’s, if on the north side of the neighborhood (love love love sahadi’s) to stinky’s (cheese), fish tales (cleaning supplies – just kidding) to staubitz and paisano’s (meats) and then the different bakeries (mazzola’s, bien cuit and maison keyser).

key foods (formerly met foods) is at the height of mediocrity in the neighborhood: unremarkable products at higher than average prices, indifferent customer service, and no attention whatsoever paid to ambiance and ease of navigation. it is the very embodiment of bland indifference and beige ambition.

i have no issues with trader joe’s – their customer service is friendly and fantastically proactive but their products are generally not my cup of tea... while i’ll go out of my way for fairway or whole foods, because of their broader selection of goods that makes the trip worth while, despite somewhat higher prices.

if park natural offered customer service at 20% of the level of trader joe’s, fairway, whole foods, or fish tales, for that matter, then i’d return in a heart beat. they’re right down the street from me and in terms of quality, selection and price, their selection of organic produce is better than union market but, again, their service is just awful.

and that brings me to a central retail issue in our neighborhood. the businesses that thrive are the stores who train their customers to recognize who their customers are and understand how to make them feel welcome.

if you think about it, you return again and again to the stores that make you feel good – that make you feel welcome. customers always remember how business makes makes them feel, more so than they remember if they saved 50 cents or not. the businesses whose customer service is a priority stand out above all of the other businesses - businesses who knew their loyal customers and treat them as an asset not a liability or a commodity - they range from fish tales to shelsky’s to caputo’s to the chocolate room and coffee shops like east one and cantine, and include non-food retailers like the brooklyn strategist, bird, books are magic: these are all businesses whose employees are empowered to care about their customers as much as they care about their work, and, in turn, their customers care about them. luckily, there are plenty of businesses in carroll gardens which embody this dynamic, and so, if one store lets you down, then there are plenty of others around to choose from.

Anonymous said...

love Gourmet fresh. Nice staff food is delicious. Great store

Anonymous said...

We hope to do all or our grocery shopping at the new Stop & Shop, opening 2019 at former site of Pathmark Grocery on the Gowanus Canal

Jeff Bonar said...

I know it is a special case but for price, quality, variety, and freshness you can’t beat the park slope food co-op.

Anonymous said...

It was more convenient only a few years ago, I remember the C town on Court st, which is now CVS, quick to pick up staples and dented cans. I miss Good Food, for it was the place for me to pull together nightly dinners and the staff was family. Met on Smith with that smell, but it was where I got my Spanish food staples which now I hike to C town on Bond st for.

Gourmet "Not So" Fresh has gotten better on the freshness, but over all is too expensive.

Keyfood, has good sales and is my go to for staples like pasta, rice and deli meats. My last several experience there have been painful with the small aisle being over crowded.

Union Market is basically for suckers, ridiculously priced for poor quality

K & Y, good prices and quality my go to for vegetables and fruits

Trader Joe's as painful as the experience is shopping there the price point for Milk, eggs, butter and kids snacks can't be beat.

Sahadi's, voted the best grocery store in America for a reason. For olives, nuts, cheese, coffee, spices, sea salt, candy and chocolate it is the best place. Best prices wonderful staff and great quality!

Paisanos, for meat.

MichelleOcampo said...

-an embarrassment of riches. We are very fortunate to have all of these options. However, I do miss Good Food and Mastellone on Court.

Anonymous said...

Based on comments we have a hot button topic.
When I was sick delivery options from fairway etc was helpful but costly and usually I ended up with wrong items.
Yes. I miss that Key food on Smith.
Never use Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods though both are easy for me walk to.
People poo poo Union Market but they are independent. Remember they were a small gourmet shop further up Union in Park Slope.
Please add sahadi, oriental pastry and Perelandra to your options. Though I guess not technically in our immediate area but walkable. Also the fruits and veggie shop across from Union Market.
I shop at there and Union. And Staubitz. And Key food Henry.
Never walk into Gourmet Fresh. I also like the store across from Trader Joe’s. I think many transplants with microwaves like Trader Joe’s.
Anyway. Go to is Key Food for basic pantry. But I will also travel farther to Essex Market.
There is also a Pathmark over by Gowanus Houses but I’ve never been inside it.
I think if most of the families have cars they probably can afford Whole Foods and enjoy an actual parking lot.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes. Caputos. Love them.

Biraz Turk said...

I'm a pretty lazy shopper so I order from Fresh Direct for my weekly shopping. After that, it's Trader Joe's when I'm down that way - they're good for specialty items and their own label, K&Y on Court St. for fresh produce - the best! and the Carroll St. Greenmarket. Paisanos for meat, Park Natural for emergencies because they are the closest to my house. or in a pinch Union Market, NEVER Whole Foods.
For other items, Sahadi for all things Middle Eastern, Smith & Vine for wine and liquor, Carroll Gardens Fish Market, Esposito's Pork Store, Monteleone if I'm visiting someone and bringing cake or pastry. I used to go to Fairway a lot but as I said, I'm a lazy shopper so I prefer Fresh Direct for most things.

Rob said...

If I need staples and pantry items it's the C Town on Bond St. It's expensive, small and the selections aren't great but that's the only non-specialty grocery store east of Smith St. I'll do Trader Joe's for things like milk and some other things in which I like their brands. They're a hike though if you live in the south end of the neighborhood by the canal. Not a fan of the 365 brand so I skip Whole Foods altogether. Sometimes I'll stop at Gourmet Fresh since it's next to Carroll Gardens Liquor Store. They're ok but expensive. If I'm going to want to get a lot of stuff, then I'll just use Peapod delivery because they have any sort of staple and brand name you could want. The downside is you have to pay the delivery fee so it's convenient but probably expensive.

I really miss having the Met on Smith because I used to do most everything there with the exception of some stuff like vegetables and meats. The fact that it was right there off the subway really helped too.

Anonymous said...

Met/Key food on Henry St is our choice and has been for 25 years. Union Market sold me mouldy cheddar cheese last year; since the date was fine I wondered whether it had been re-wrapped. I won't shop there anymore. I think it is important to support long-time businesses in the neighborhood and I like Espositos and the fish market beside them.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I miss Good Food too. A real neighborhood market.

Anonymous said...

What was good food? Yes. Union market has a problem with temperature control in their cheese areas. Packed to fight and close to the light fixture.
Seriously where was Good Food?
Court Street Groceries is a condiment Mecca!! And the sandwiches! So good!!
Everyone should get on the F get off at Delancey and utilize the amazing Essex Market. You will only have until the Fall before this historic market gets kicked out and dragged kicking and screaming across the street into the massive Essex Crossing mega mall. Essex is a great piece of NYC. Go there. You’ll love it. That’s what real shopping is. Try it!

Anonymous said...

Why anyone with a car would go to Whole Foods instead of Fairway in Red Hook is beyond me, unless they're actively looking to pay a lot more $$ for "organic" goods (which Fairway has as well, of course).

For us, monthly trips to Fairway are supplemented by Gourmet Fresh, Stinky, Trader Joes, and the handful of local greengrocers.

I spent years being frustrated by Key Food and the other "grocery stores" in the neighborhood before discovering that driving to Fairway was not as inconvenient as I'd imagined, and that you could have a less objectionable shopping experience there (carts! normal sized aisles! good stock!) and cover most of your needs in one trip.

Anonymous said...

Good Food was a wonderful double-wide grocery store on the east side of Court Street between 3rd and 4th places, beside the liquor store that is still there. It was run by 2 Italian brothers and was wonderful, with a butcher inside and all sorts of Italian specialties as well as everything else you would need, so you didn't have to go into Little Italy for those treats. I still see one of the brothers in the neighborhood from time to time, but I heard the other one passed away. But they closed their business maybe about 5 or 6 years ago. I don't know if they owned the building (I suspect they did) when it became clear that the rent from the financial place that moved in could make them more money in a year without all the work - a good retirement for them but sad for us!

anonymous said...

Key Foods was gross, Union Market is way overpriced and their produce is often crappy. Whole Foods and Fairway are my top choices.

Anonymous said...

Hold up, Anonymous February 13, 2018 1:37pm, where did you hear Stop and Shop is coming to the old Pathmark site?

Anonymous said...

We would be lost with K&Y produce on Court. Not many people have mentioned Esposito's, but they're a treasure of the neighborhood. Recently, I've been going to the Key Food again on Henry Street, after years of being out of the habit. It's always better than I expect.

Anonymous said...

Did I miss it? No mention of the Park Slope Food Coop? The most pleasurable place to shop - the best produce, great cheeses, great beers, just a paradise of quality and deliciousness. And the prices are the best.

Anonymous said...

over the last few years, esposito's has routinely made a big point out of displaying their politics at work, which is their prerogative, but it means that i no longer shop there.

everyone is entitled to vote for whomever they choose, but when you choose to wear a red 'make america great' hat while serving customers from behind the counter, then you are putting a message of hostility and disrespect for immigrants out into the world, which as an immigrant who believes in fair treatment for all americans, i don't need to see. therefore, i no longer support that business.

Anonymous said...

the only hard choices in this neighborhood are Caputo's vs Esposito's and Staubitz vs Paisano's.

I don't understand Union Market. High prices and poor quality. Pass.

Anonymous said...

K&Y!! Friendly, good produce, and their Hellman's mayo is more than $1 cheaper than across the street at Union Mkt.

Anonymous said...

I'm still haunted by the smell of the Met Food on Smith Street.

Anonymous said...

Gourmet Fresh is overpriced but the service is better now than it was 3-4 years ago. Some products are expired. The Key Foods on Henry is just ok, their meat section is depressing and we never really save that much money going there. Union Market is obviously lovely but also expensive. We make the rounds and more and more frequently are braving the Trader Joe's for basics, Whole Foods or local butcher for meat, Gourmet Fresh for random weeknight supplies, and Sahadi's for spices and grains. I wish there was a go-to on Court that wasn't as overpriced.

Anonymous said...

Union Market has terrible customer service.

Anonymous said...

I wish I didn't have to interact with employees while searching through the herbs and vitamins at Park Natural. Sometimes the things I need I'd like to not announce to the entire front of the store.