Upper West Side
at W. 74th St.
2328 12th Ave.
between W. 132nd/133rd Sts.
480-500 Van Brunt St.
at Reed St.
50 Manetto Hill Mall
Upper East Side
240 East 86th Street
between 2nd/3rd Avenues
242-02 61st Avenue
at Douglaston Plaza Shopping Center
550 Second Ave.
at E. 30th St.
766 Sixth Ave.
between W. 25th/26th Streets
The produce selection is huge and incredibly extensive. Here's where you can routinely find 12 kinds of onions, 8 or 10 kinds of mushrooms, celéri root, baby vegetables, a wall of mesclun, and when something rare is in season, like ramps, it will be here. Prices throughout the store are very competitive.
The cheese and charcuterie departments have deep selections and the staff know what they're doing. The Upper West Side upstairs organic department is huge and somehow just keeps getting bigger, including a section with gluten-free and other allergen-free ingredients.
Produce includes local fruits and vegetables in-season, there's custom-cut meat, poultry and fresh fish, a big selection of smoked fish, in-store roasted coffees, kosher foods (meat, poultry, bakery), hundreds of olive oils, dozens of olives, and imported grocery items.
And best of all is the inspiring Steve Jenkins who brings us well-priced yet excellent olive oils, kosher harissa, bins of olives and capers, verjus, salt-packed anchovies, and other foods from around the world.
What to avoid:
Going to Fairway's Upper West Side store the day before a major holiday has made me cry. Just don't do it. Throughout the year, holiday or not, always try to shop either mid-week or very early or very late in the day. Otherwise, bring your helmet because you'll need it.
The gorgeous, huge Red Hook store is blissfully civilized during the week but on weekends, be warned that the aisles are packed solid.
Fairway's private label products range from excellent (their olive oils) to not so great.
What to know:
In addition to its NYC locations, Fairway also has stores in Stamford, Paramus, and Pelham Manor.
The Upper East Side store has 3 high-speed customer elevators and a café next door for coffees and take-out foods. the Chelsea store is the smallest but is still a big resource.
The staff in every department usually knows what they're doing so if you need help, ask for it. If you're shopping at the Harlem store you'll get to visit the cold room, where the entire meat department is chilled like a huge refrigerator. While they sell meat and poultry pre-cut, they will custom-cut anything you need. Because the stores are so busy the inventory is always quickly turning over, resulting in very fresh foods in every department.
The Harlem, Douglaston, and Red Hook stores have parking lots. If you don't have a car, all the stores deliver (ask about their delivery territory) or else you can ask the casher if someone can help you out to a taxi. But be nice and tip them.
Fairway also has an online store where they sell a huge selection of coffees, plus their own private label olive oils as well as grocery items such as vinegars, mustards, anchovies and pasta sauces.