Upper West Siders aren’t noticeably larger than other New Yorkers, though by rights they should be, surrounded as they are by the city’s most tempting delis and food markets. A culinary walk begins at Fairway (2131 Broadway at W. 74th St, tel: 212-595-1888), a 1930s-era fruit-and-vegetable stand turned exotic food emporium.
New Yorkers, not known for saintly patience, tolerate long lines to select from 650 kinds of cheeses, 36 drums of olives, shelves stacked with store-baked bread and babka, and aisles piled dangerously high with fresh fruit and vegetables. Climb the stairs to the cafe and steakhouse for the best Reuben in town by day and aged prime rib by night.
‘Like no other bagel in the world’ claims H&H (526 Columbus Ave at W. 86th St, tel: 800-692-2435), and ‘We agree,’ say aficionados, citing such merits as chewiness and freshness; you can buy just one, but you’ll wish you’d ordered a dozen.
Zabar’s (2245 Broadway at W. 80th St, tel: 212-496-1234) has prided itself on selling the finest smoked fish for 80 years, and still does – along with everything from 8,000lbs of coffee a week, fresh-baked knishes, smoked meats, and an astonishingly large and well-priced array of pots, pans, and other gizmos for the kitchen. The next-door self-service cafe is short on decor, but lobster salad on a croissant and other offerings are so satisfying you won’t mind bumping elbows with the patron on the stool next to yours.
One block east from Broadway is Barney Greengrass (541 Amsterdam Ave at 87th St, tel: 212-724-4707), ‘the Sturgeon King.’ At the city’s shrine to smoked fish (and other deli classics) you can order over the counter or take a seat at a Formica table beneath dingy murals – clearly, his highness puts the emphasis on freshness, not ambience, and that’s just as it should be.