When searching for gourmet and specialty foods, New Yorkers have lots of options: Dean and Deluca, Gourmet Garage, Garden of Eden, Zabars, etc. But New Yorkers in the know make the trek to Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn to partake in the vast selection and unbelievably low prices of Sahadi Importing Company.
In business in New York since 1898 and operating from their Brooklyn storefront since 1948, Sahadi's serves up Middle Eastern specialties like olives, cumin, and tahini as well as European delicacies as varied as Swiss chocolate, Greek feta, and German bread. Sahadi's offers all of these foods at low prices because they have low overhead (they own the Atlantic Avenue property of their retail operation) and they act as the exclusive New-York-metro-area importer on a number of the specialty food items they sell.
When you first walk in to the store you may find the aisles a bit narrow (but navigable) and the general feeling a bit homey (never fancy). There is no wasted space within this storefront. Just row after row of teas, pastas, cookies, sauces, vinegars, canned goods, cheeses, and so on. To purchase dried fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, spices, olives, or coffee in bulk, just take a number and wait your turn. And for food lovers who don't have the patience or the skills to cook from scratch, there's also plenty of prepared foods in the back of the store to choose from: mango chicken curry, beet salad, hummus, and baba ganouj, to name a few.
If you venture to Sahadi's on a Saturday, be prepared for major crowds. And if you're thinking of going on a Sunday, don't, because Sahadi's in one of the few old-school stores that actually takes a day off for some downtime. During the week, especially during daytime hours, the less-crowded store is a breeze to negotiate, and you can really linger over items and chat up the helpful staff.
But be prepared, because whether you go on a busy Saturday afternoon or a quiet Monday morning, one's first pilgrimage to Sahadi's often ends in buying more than one can carry with two arms.
Sahadi's, 187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn (718) 624-4550.
-- Allison Bojarski