Amid the hustle and bustle of New York’s Lower East Side is a marketplace on Essex Street with a bustle of its own. The 75-year-old Essex Street Market was built in the height of the 1940s by Fiorello Laguardia to clear away the streets and sidewalks that had become crowded with vendors and merchants. Today, it is a crossroads of history and culture, comprising a diverse array of stands, shops, and restaurants.
Here are our top eight picks for the best food available at the Essex Street Market.
8. Luis Meat Market
The butchers at Luis Meat Market offer a wide selection of pre-cut or cut-to-order meats from beef and chicken to pork, lamb, rabbit, goat, duck, oxtails and ham. Be sure to ask about their daily specials. The stand itself was founded by owner Luis Rodriguez, who came from an immigrant family that settled in and around Greenwich Village like most of the Essex Street Market’s other tenants. Found at booth 8.
7. Essex Farm Fruits and Vegetables
Essex Farm Fruits and Vegetables may look like your typical run-of-the-mill produce and grocery store, but you won’t find any mass produced commercial products here. Essex Farm was founded in 2004 by Harvard graduate Kristin Kimball, who left behind a career as a creative writing professor and freelance writer for a full-time job managing an organic farm coop, and serves only the freshest. Find them at booths 18, 19, 25, and 26.
6. Nordic Preserves, Fish & Wildlife Company, Inc.
Nordic Preserves, Fish & Wildlife Company, Inc. calls itself a Swedish snack shop. It’s probably safe to assume it doesn’t have much competition. Find it at booth 20 and try its standard selection of Swedish meatballs, Scandinavian style hot dogs, smoked eel, toast skagen, traditional herring, soups, and elderberry soda. The company is a relativley recent addition, founded in part by native Stockholmer and former New York restauranteur Annika Sundvik. Find them at booth 20.
5. Shopsin’s General Store
Shopsin’s General Store, relocated from its cozy location in Greenwich Village, offers a staggering 900-item brunch menu among sandwiches, soups, and other assorted snacks. It was first founded as a grocery store on the corner of Bedford and Morton Streets in the West Village, was bought by chef and second founder Kenny Shopsin in 1973, and moved to booth 16 in the Essex Street Market some years later.
4. Pain D’Avignon
At Pain D’Avignon, bread-makers use only the flour, water, leavening, and salt as part of the tried-and-true European bakers’ method that hasn’t changed for centuries. Some of their breads take up to 36 hours to make, from start to finish. A As prime lobbyists for the basics founded in Cape Cod, MA in 1992, they offer around 20 different varieties of bread, with standards like sourdough, ciabatta, picholine, and kalamata that have appeared on restaurant tables all around New York. Find them at booth 16.
3. Rainbo’s Fish
Rainbo’s Fish is a quality fish market selling what they call “Uptown fish at Downtown prices.” They offer some remarkably fresh catches and offer free local delivery on Wednesdays. Located at booth 23
2. Porto Rico Importing Co.
Only the finest coffees and teas are available at Porto Rico Importing Co., a Greenwich Villege family-run staple that’s been going strong since 1907. Their coffees are roasted daily in Williamsburg, though their specialty seems to be loose tea, which they sell in over 150 varieties.
1. Formaggio Essex
Last but not least is Formaggio Essex, a cheese, meat, and specialty foods store located at booth 11. They source their artisan cheese from choice producers and small family farms. They also sell a sizable variety of hand-picked salame along with all natural honeys, jams, oils, vinegars, salts, candy, grains, spices, and pastas. They were founded in Cambridge as an attempt to introduce the European market shopping experience to an American audience. Since then, they’ve expanded to stores in Boston and New York.