NYC Purveyor Tour - Updated for 2020
Updated: Feb 28, 2020
Chris and I love to cook. Over the years this has brought us to search out great ingredients to use in our cooking. Being New Jersey based, that means we have New York City at our disposal in our hunt for special quality ingredients. We recently headed out on one of our favorite purveyor tours in lower Manhattan. This post is to give you the scoop so you can follow in our path if you desire. Enjoy!
For 2020 I have updated the tour to remove a favorite spot that is no longer open and to add a couple of great places. You will be walking a little further, but it's worth it.
Our travels into the city start with bringing the appropriate bags to haul our goods around. For us that means a soft-sided backpack cooler and a couple of large canvas bags. We put some ice packs into the backpack cooler and the canvas bags into the cooler until we need them. We also only go on Wednesdays or Saturdays since that is when the Union Square Green Market is open.
Getting into the city for us is easy. We drive to the Grove Street path station in Jersey City and take the 33rd street train to the 33 Street exit. Head east to Lexington Ave between 28th and 29th street. Here you will find a new stop for 2020 Kalustyan's, at 123 Lexington Ave.
This large shop has isles and isles of every spice and grain and ingredient that you need or never knew you needed. Six types of dried figs - Check. 20 types of smoked salt - Check. Sweet potato orzo - check. You get the idea. Chris and I were amazed that we did not know the store existed. The only reason we found it was that we were looking to get more walking exercise during our tour, so I looked for other specialty shops in NYC. I love fate and karma....
From here head south and slightly west until you get to 14th street where you will find the Union Square Farmers Market, our second stop.
The market has lots of vendors selling all kinds of goodies. For us fresh Jalapeno Cheddar Sourdough bread is a must buy. We also head to the meat vendors for things like Buffalo Ribeye steaks (wonderful on the grill), Duck breasts (smoked and fresh), gourmet lamb sausage (less often now that I make it myself) and cheeses. We enjoy the Womanchego cheese from one of the vendors. The fishmongers at the market also have amazing items but since we are out for the day, be tend to pass on fresh fish. Explore and search out each vendor yourself.
From the market, we head south on University Place to East Houston and turn east. If you need a bathroom break, you can stop in Whole Foods across from Union Square. As you head south, take a walk thru Washington Square park if the weather is nice. There is always good people watching there. You are heading for the second new stop for 2020 on our tour, Russ and Daughters. They are located at 179 E Houston Street. They specialize in Smoked Salmon, Sable, Trout, and other cured/pickled fish.
When you get there, go into the jammed shop and take a number from the dispenser on the counter on your left. If you are more than 50 numbers away from being served, I have an option for you. LUNCH. Take your number out of the store and look directly across the street. You will see a small Himalayan Restaurant, go there and have a quick lunch of dumplings or soup and when you are finished, return to Russ and Daughters and your number will be close to being served. I recommend picking out whatever smoked salmon appeals to you, also get some smoked sable, and fresh herring in the house pickled cream with onions.
Head west on Houston. At Crosby street turn right and head south again. We are heading to our favorite Spanish food purveyor, Despana (408 Broome Str). When you get to Broome street turn left and it will be on the northern side of the street about 1 1/2 blocks up. Go in and plan to sample the goods.
Despana has all sorts of cheese, meats and Spanish cooking items along with a great cafe in the rear of the store. They also have a bathroom if a stop is needed. The sliced house chorizo is wonderful as well as the salted/oiled almonds. You can also spend a weeks salary on acorn fed jamon if you wish. You will see they have lots of samples and are very friendly.
From Despana head east on Broome Street for two block until you head south on Mulberry street. This will send you into the heart of Little Italy. One block south gets us to our next set of stops on Grand Street. The first is for lunch at Aleva Dairy (188 Grand Str). They have great gelatto sold on the street and inside amazing sub sandwiches. We split the Italian sub and sit on the benches outside the store to enjoy them. The sub is overflowing with fresh italian cold cuts and cheese.
Right next door is one of the best places in the country to get fresh pasta. You will see many of the restaurants in Little Italy getting their pasta here. Piemonte Ravioli (190 Grand Str) has much more than just 20 types of ravioli. We love their tortellini and fresh garlic tagliatelle. You cant go wrong with any of their pastas.
Now that you have pasta, continue to head east to the next corner. Here is Di Palo's Fine Foods (200 Grand St). Walk in and you feel like you must be in another country. The same family has been serving customers for generations. Nothing is done quickly here. They take time with each customer and let you sample just about anything you want. Take a ticket with a number when you enter. If you want, go there before pasta and get a number. Then get pasta and return to get served. We usually need to wait a bit to get served. A lot of people get impatient and leave so the number being served is not an indication on how long the wait is. My favorites here is Gorgonzola Dolce, it's the best I have had so far in life, creamy goodness is an understatement. We also get sopressata, fresh ricotta, homemade meatballs, prosciutto, truffle cheese and anything else the strikes our fancy.
After Di Palo's we start heading back to the Path train via the Village. To do so head north and west until you hit Bleeker Street. We used to go to Amy's Bread on Bleeker, but as of 2020 they are closed. So continue west on Bleeker street until you hit Murray's Cheese (254 Bleeker St). Murray's is one of the top cheese stores in the country. You will be intimidated the first time you go, but the service is over the top friendly. Take a number and talk to your server. You can tell them the types of cheese you like and they can recommend some for you, or you can just point to things that look good and for the most part you can try anything before you buy. If you don't like a cheese, tell them what you don't care for and they can guide you elsewhere. Also don't forget all the cured meats at the end of the counter. Murray's is one stop we never miss on our tour.
You may be getting tired by now but only 3 more stops to go. The first is right next door to Murray's. Fiacco's Italian Specialties (260 Bleeker St), we go to Fiacco's for one main reason. Their fresh sausage is awesome. I am still trying to better there Italian Fennel sausage. If you don't make your own sausage, get some here, enough said.
Continue west on Bleeker to our second to last stop, O Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market (285 Bleeker St). Its about two short blocks from Fiacco's and the other side of Bleeker street. The name says it all, if you want the freshest quality meat that is butchered onsite, come here. I love that you can get veal chops cut right there to any thickness. I get them about 1.25 inches thick and then slice a pocket in the chop to stuff with prosciutto, cheese and kale. I then grill it to perfection. The aged beef is wonderful here and we also pickup ground buffalo. I am never disappointed here.
By now, the backpack cooler is full, the canvas bags are packed and we are heading to the Christopher Street Path entrance to return home. But one last stop is on our way there. To get to the station, head a couple of blocks west on Bleeker street and turn left onto Christopher street. Half way down the block you will reach the tea and coffee mecca that is McNulty's Tea and Coffee company (109 Christopher St). For over 120 years they have been selling exquisite loose tea and fresh ground coffee beans from around the world. Walking in and you will see that very little has changed in 120 years. The aromas in the shop are amazing. Chris is a tea drinker and this is where we stock up. I suggest you do too.
Now its time to head home. Continue south on Christopher street for 1 1/2 blocks to the Path station and take the train to Journal Square. Get off at Grove street and load all the good stuff into the car. Most days after a journey like this, our dinner is fresh toasted bread with cheese and meats that were picked up during the day. Nothin wrong with that :)