Words and Photos by Kaci Hamilton
On a recent trip to Essex Street Market for some hot pepper sauce, I wondered about shopping for Jamaican and Caribbean cooking supplies in the city. Where were some other places for picking up that hard-to-find seasoning, or fresh seafood and choice meats? So I did a little homework. It was like jumping on a plane to Kingston.
The Boogie Down Bronx
The only place you need to go to in the Bronx is S.Y. Grace West Indian Supermarket (4010 Boston Rd). They have EVERYTHING. From Ribena, to corn pork, to Grace instant cornmeal porridge. I think the most exciting part was the spice aisle. I would hazard a guess that there were about 20 to 30 different kinds of hot sauce alone. It’s also a great place to get all kinds of fresh seafood, snacks of every kind, and great produce.
What are the chances: the best place to find West Indian cooking supplies in Queens is in Jamaica. Singh’s West Indian Grocery (16407 Hillside Ave.) and J&L Guyana West Indian Grocery (180-12 Hillside Ave.) on Hillside Avenue are both great. You can get all the staples, and even a few treats, like an amazing variety of soda, and breadfruit.
The Fort Greene Farmer’s Market, held every Saturday from 8 am to around 4 pm, is a great addition to every weekend. The produce is fresh and you can find some of the veggies that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. Plus, there are tons of samples while you stroll and fresh bread and preserves for those continental breakfast mornings. For the real Caribbean deal, head further into BK and take a stroll down Nostrand Ave. Labay Market (1127 Nostrand Ave) is small but well-equipped and varied. There’s seafood, snacks, produce, and a good little collection of spices. A A West Indian Grocery (481 Nostrand Avenue) is a little bigger and, as they say, size does matter.
If you’re near the Lower East Side, Essex Street Market (120 Essex Street, at Delancey) is a great one-stop shop. Fresh seafood and meats, great collection of spices, fresh produce, and the prices are super competitive for the city. When all else fails, hit Chinatown. The produce is so fresh there’s still dirt on it, and the fish are still moving.