The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Tale of Four Supermarkets

It was the best of limes. It was the worst of limes.

I'm a Park Slope Food Coop member. I'm not proud, I just like good food. But let's face it, even a dude committed to sustainable blah-blah and organic wing-wangs is not always game to schlep his plaid plastic bags on the B41 every time he needs some quinoa. So I shop at the neighborhood grocery stores like everyone else, and there are four (4) within almost the exact same number of steps (between 150 and 400 to be exact. They are:

Don't go to Key Food. Ever. On Flatbush next to the delightful but oh so odd Caton Mall, it stinks like the dried Ackee fish that greets you at the door. In an emergency you could pick up some ice cream, but just know that it may have been thawed and frozen a few times, giving your Hagen Daz a thick layer of freezer burn. The only thing in its favor is the fast checkout, but you'll be lucky if you don't get the hairy eyeball from one of the street people packing bags. I thought one of them was going to follow me down the street after I only tipped him a quarter on a $2 purchase. Yikes!

I have fond feelings for the unnecessarily huge NSA on the corner of Clarkson and Bedford. (by the way I don't have the proper logo, so I just used the National Security Agency's logo for this post...close enough for the internet!). The fish monger is sweet, there's a lovely family-run florist near the front, and the cavernous space makes you feel like you're in a creepy Scottsdale supermarket for a moment (though the not-so-LADY-like-GAGA blasting through the tinny speakers tells a different story). Here's what's kinda neat about NSA. The National Supermarket Association is a NY area based collective started by four Dominicans -- Elijio Peña, Pablo Espinal, Ulzeda Peña, Jose Cruz and Marino Diaz, who felt that underserved neighborhoods deserved a decent grocery too. Obviously they didn't do this out of pure Catholic charity...there's good money to be made in frozen pizza...but their bio shows that they were the only ones besides Met Food who weren't scared of 'hoods like East New York and the South Bronx when crack was more than a plumber's problem.

The Associated is a little TOO eager to cash in on the changing demographic in Northern Parkside (some would say Southern Lefferts Gardens), but I give them a pass because they have an organic section, and Mrs. Clarkson Flatbed makes frequent stops here for staples, like organic applesauce for Little Miss Clarkson Flatbed Jr. It's pretty clean, and I rarely feel worse upon leaving than I did going in.

But after trying them all, many many times, I keep coming back to the Pioneer RIGHT NEXT TO the Q at Parkside. Why? I used to think it was convenience only. But the fact is, I'm strangely drawn to the sense of fun and comradery between the young women at the cash registers. By 8PM on Friday and Saturday night, they're laughing and comparing plans for the evening, and poking fun at the handsome manager Sammy, who seems to actually enjoy his job. Many of the cashiers have been there the whole 7 years I've been living here, and while I'm sure they're paid horribly, they don't seem to dread the work the way other cashiers do in the neighborhood. I suspect Sammy has a lot to do with it...and I love the way they get sassy with the couple of regular dirty old men flirts. I walk out smiling more often than not.

I think we could all do without the blight of the bottle return area. But it just wouldn't be Brooklyn without gritty street scenes like this. Hard not to feel grateful that I have a home, a job and some change in my pocket when I see the 100-year old hunch-backed Asian lady bustin' her ass for a few dollars in beer money. Ouch.

Happy shopping!


Anonymous said...

I prefer the pioneer but their prices are higher than NSA. So I get my household stuff and dry goods at NSA. Also, why does Pioneer gouge us on morningstar farms? That stuff is $1.50 cheaper at Trader Joes! Best produce can be found at Suzie's market on Flatbush Ave by Woodruff. I get bummed out when I see people buying limp and over-priced produce at the Pioneer. Go into suzie's instead! They have fresh herbs, tons of veggies and fruits and good prices.

Anonymous said...

Pioneer is far and away the BEST supermarket here. I find the prices are very good and they carry 'low calorie' items. I pushed Stanley one of the managers for G2 Gatorade and it is there now.

All the young people at checkout know me either by face or by name.

MJMcBee said...

I do find the Pioneer is growing on me. I have to say it took awhile, since the first time I went there with a hankerin for some Haagen, I realized as I was about to dive into it that someone else had beat me to it--there were little buck teeth marks dug into the top! It's grown a lot in the last year and a half we've been here, though, and I find I can indeed get my staples there. However I do think it's kind of a cheap trick to post big signs under many of their items saying "Great Sale!" when, in fact, they are not only not ON sale, they are displaying prices that are higher than Back to the Frikkin Land!

I tried CSA last year, but wound up with an entire fridge filled with apples, turnips and some weird leafy green I NEVER figured out how to enjoy! Oh and I've burned through all my amnesty at the Coop-- pretty sure alarms are set to go off if I ever try to enter again.

I agree Suzie has the best produce, love it when their blackberries are 2 for 3 bucks and not covered in mold woohoo! Also they are starting to carry organic milk, agave nectar and drumroll... Bear Naked granola! Still can't afford it but it's good to see some more options without HFCS and hydrogomisery if I feel like investing in my health someday and yes, voting wisely with my dollar without having to get on a train!