Delicious Pit Stop

By Suzanne Wasserman

Published on May 25, 2010

La Tiendita is a joint venture of the Lower Eastside Girls Club, a local charity, and the Breezy Hill Orchard, a sustainable farm in upstate New York. The store's hodgepodge of top-quality provisions includes cookies, cupcakes, and tasty granola bars made by the club's young bakers, plus tamales, apples, and fresh blueberry pies made with fruit from the farm.

Jeffrey Ruhalter is the fourth generation of his family to run Jeffrey's Meat Market, the market's only remaining original business. Ruhalter takes his status seriously; when he's not working the counter—from which you can procure a tremendous range of different meats, including game like elk, antelope, and emu—he's holding forth on the Essex Street Market's history at his stall's weekly butchery classes.

When Rainbo's Fish launched inside the Essex Street Market in 1977, owners Ron Budinas and Ira Stolzenberg sold live carp to a largely Jewish clientele. Today, this seafood counter is still bustling, but yellowtail flounder and Chilean sea bass have replaced the carp, and they've added a juice bar—which serves outstanding smoothies, freshly baked muffins, and a terrific grilled salmon or tilapia sandwich.

One of the Lower East Side's most complete selections of Latin American dry goods and tropical produce is at the Batista Grocery and its adjacent shop, Batista Mini Market. The Dominican-born owner, Luis Batista, sells everything from canned black and pinto beans to 2-liter bottles of Coco Rico coconut soda and vacuum-packed bricks of Central and South American espresso; the range of fresh fruit on offer includes breadfruit, calabaza, mangoes, plantains, taro, yucca, and papaya.

Saxelby Cheesemongers, founded in 2006, is the country's first shop wholly devoted to American farmstead cheese. Co-owners Anne Saxelby and Benoit Breal source cheeses from more than 30 small, sustainable producers—places like Spring Brook Farm in Reading, Vermont, whose aged Tarentaise, a semihard cheese with a sweet, hazelnutlike flavor, is made with raw milk from the farm's Jersey cows and cultured using whey from the previous day's cheese making.

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