Upper West Side
between W. 80th/81st Sts.
A New York institution, Zabar's has evolved from being a deli to a full-service market. Its produce section is small, but if you only want to make one stop you can at least buy the basics. The store is unmatched for its deli and smoked fish, and its cheese, bread and coffee selections are superb. Prices are also very good. Be prepared for crowds at almost any time or any day.
Terrific cheese counter (you usually have to take a number but it's worth the wait), and outstanding deli and appetizer selection, especially for all types of smoked fish. The coffee selection is extensive and well-priced (buy more than you need and freeze it). Zabar's is also a place to look for imported ingredients including artisanal pastas, jams and jellies, olive oil and vinegars, and teas. Their streudel, made in several flavors, is worthy of a grand prize as is their rye bread.
What to avoid:
On Sunday mornings it can seem like everyone who lives on the Upper West Side is in the store to buy bagels and lox. During the week, because the store closes so early (at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Saturday until 8:00 and Sundays until 6:00 pm), it's always crowded after work.
What to know:
Albeit with a very limited selection, they sell fresh fish and meat and poultry. Zabar's upstairs cookware store has an excellent selection of appliances, pots and pans (including most major brands), kitchen gadgets, and replacement parts for the stuff you already have, like water filters. Their prices can be so good they won't advertise them but call and ask.
Hours of operation are not very friendly for the city that never sleeps. They simply should stay open later.