Sunday, March 15, 2009

Paramus food smackdown: Whole Foods Market v. Fairway

The fresh seafood counter at Whole Foods Market in October 2016.

Editor's note: When I wrote this post in 2009, I couldn't have seen how Fairway Market turned into a terrible place to shop. Prices rose dramatically over the years, and keeping with the staff's New York attitude, a Fairway employee refused to devein the jumbo wild Gulf Shrimp I wanted to buy. At Whole Foods in Paramus, they gladly devein your shrimp.


Food shopping will take a giant leap forward when Whole Foods and Fairway open supermarkets separated by only a few miles in Paramus. 

Whole Foods will get the drop on Fairway, with its grand opening set for Thursday, March 19 (and it's only 1.2 miles from my house); Fairway's opening is scheduled for March 25.

I shop at Fairway's Harlem store just about every time I return from doing something in the city, loading up on Murray's free-roaming, drug-free chicken; inexpensive 32-ounce bottles of Fairway pasta sauce, great fish, goat meat and other items. 

I've visited the Whole Food stores in Edgewater and Ridgewood only sporadically; they are just too inconvenient for someone who lives in Hackensack. I remember going to the Edgewater store when it opened and being disappointed by the selection of tomatoes and the high price of the organic salad mix, but Whole Foods does have great seafood and a wide choice of drug-free poultry and meats.

Whole Foods has the better location, and not only because it's closer to my home. The Fashion Center has always seemed to be in last place in a borough with great malls. Now, it will be interesting to see how the prices compare at the two supermarkets.

One caveat about Fairway's organic, grass-fed beef. Admittedly, I bought the cheaper cuts, but the shoulder steak I prepared last week was one of the toughest I ever ate. My wife couldn't finish her portion. I have another package, a different cut, but will have to find a way to tenderize it.

I'm looking forward to the drug-free pork and ribs available at Whole Foods and the high quality of produce at both stores, a welcome alternative to the crappy stuff sold at other supermarkets.

How many times have I brought home produce from ShopRite that either rotted overnight because of improper refrigeration or never ripened? I have to commend ShopRite for selling Readington Farms chicken, which is raised on a vegetarian feed and never receives antibiotics, and free-range Australian beef and lamb.

A couple of years ago, I asked a Fairway official in the Harlem store why the company initially hesitated in opening a store in northern New Jersey. He said Fairway felt it couldn't compete with the low-price supermarkets like ShopRite. 

But ShopRite is no competition for Fairway, unless you are shopper that judges all food by its price; then you deserve the low-quality of many items and the questionable freshness of fish there.

Here's a shout-out to my friend, Sue. Your husband, Jay, who as you know thinks organic food is a scam, is being careful not to mention the Whole Foods opening this week in Paramus. See you there, Sue.

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