Ever since our office moved from the East Village to Midtown, I find myself forced to defend my decision NOT to try the latest oooh-we-chop-up-salads-therefore-we-feel-justified-charging-almost-$10-for-it spot for lunch. “You cannot buy this yourself cheaper at a store- crispy chicken, cheddar and blue cheese, spinach, avocado, bacon and anything else you want,” to which I mostly want to reply that that is not actually qualify as a salad – more like a new take on a “KFC Famous Bowl”- but actually reply “OH YES YOU CAN, GO TO ESSEX MARKET!” Although no one ever does, so this conversation ends up happening often.
Essex Market was opened by Mayor LaGuardia in 1940 as a place for street vendors to sell their fresh goods without crowding the streets as well as create a community meeting place for LES residents. Today, the vendors reflect the diverse neighborhood, offering gourmet cheese at Saxelby Cheesemongers, hard-to-find Puerto Rican produce at my personal favorite Batista Grocery, and quality meat and conversation with Jeffrey at 4th-generation spot Jeffrey’s Meat Market.
Some typical produce prices are apples at 3 for $1 (usually $1.69/lb at a grocery store), bananas at $.59/lb ($.99/lb at a grocery store), tomatoes and peppers at $.99/lb (I see $1.99-4.99/lb in grocery stores) and hamburger for $3.49/lb at Jeffrey’s (you’ll probably get a piece of candy and some extraordinary cooking tips, too). If there are cheaper places in NYC, I highly doubt they come with as much personality as they do at Essex, even if they won’t chop up your produce into little tiny pieces for you and deem it a gourmet meal. That’s what teeth are for, and they won’t charge overcharge you to do the simple task they’ve been doing for millions of years.
Essex Street Market
120 Essex Street (at Delancey Street)
[Lower East Side]
Photo Credit: The New York Times