Tuesday, June 27, 2006

There Goes The Neighborhood

Rents are getting too high in my neighborhood for businesses to continue operating. Just over the past six months, three take out places have closed including Chicken Fair which had really good rotisserie chicken, Rice Bowl, an Eddie Bauer, a dry cleaner, a Chinese restaurant, an EMS store, a wine store, a horridly ostentatious antique furniture store, a cell phone store, a pizza place and a deli over by the climbing wall at 62nd and Broadway. Longtime residents Lincoln Stationers and the West 63rd Street Steakhouse are also long gone. Iridium, the jazz club closed a couple years ago, and it was supposed to become a branch of P.J. Clarke's, but the sign for P.J.'s has disappeared, so who knows what that space will be.

The latest casualty in the commercial real estate war is my favorite Korean deli. It was at 182 Amsterdam Avenue at the corner of 69th & Amsterdam. Actually, it looks like the tenants on the whole block which included that antique store, and the wine store as well as Mama's Famous diner and a Chinese take out place are going to be gone as of today. Only the Citibank and the Meskerem Ethiopian restaurant are sticking it out. But I'm guessing they'll be gone too because I think the entire block is being redeveloped. Anyhow, the Korean deli was closed for a little bit a couple years ago for renovation where they got rid of that nasty hot/cold food buffet bar. Those things are gross. Store owners leave the lunch food in the hot/cold trays until dinnertime, by which time the whole buffet has become a deadly hot 'n' cold Petri dish of romping pathogens.

For 6 years, I bought milk, those sweet and chewy Korean rice cakes with red bean filling, Vitamin water, the occasional six pack of beer, Haagen-Daaz cartons, and all sorts of assorted produce at this store. I really liked this store because they really had a good selection of produce, including lots of herbs, that was always really fresh, and it was the closest place to me where I could get Kimchi. The store was clean and was practically a full grocery store. I'll be sad to see it go.

Right now, they're having a "Buy One, Get One Free" promotion on every grocery item in the store. So I stocked up on flour, sugar, kosher salt, yummy De Cecco pasta and olive oil. Actually the olive oil I got was some bottles of really nice olive oil including a couple of bottles of Oliviers & Co olive oil. Like most serious cooks, I buy a ton of olive oil. You'd think I bathed in it judging by the amount I buy. But I don't buy really expensive olive a lot of the time. So it's always nice to get a deal for really good oil.

It's really sad that neighborhood businesses have such a tough time surviving in this city. I'm going to miss all the little stores and restaurants in my neighborhood.


teahouse said...

OMG..they're closing? Where am I going to get my cheap orchids and Asian food??

I LOVED that place. Hadn't been there in a couple of weeks, but I'm usually in there at least once a weekend. I'm going to cry now. And I'm also going to head down there and get me some good deals while the gettin's good.

tim said...

Isn't it sad that eventually the only things around the corner will be a Subway or a Starbucks? I blame the rest of our community for patronizing the corporate chains. I mean, c'mon, give a little to your local deli. Okay, I have to go to work at Whole Foods now.

Scott Spiegel said...

I lived in that neighborhood for four years ('01-'05), and know most of the places you mentioned. Chicken Fair was great, but closed in 2004—I was sorry to see it go. Rice Bowl was, in my opinion, a hideous place with awful food and staffed by pimply high-school ignoramuses, and I’m glad to hear it’s gone. If the antique furniture store you’re talking about is the one a few doors down from Burger King, then all I can say is that it looked kind of sad from the start. Is the deli by the climbing wall Empire Farms? They were also horrible and deserved to close. Lincoln Stationers, though, was a great neighborhood institution that closed last year but should have stuck around.

I shopped at your Korean deli for three years before it became the Korean deli it is now (or was recently), with new owners. The old owners were really sweet, and really ran a family business; the new owners are nice but a little more businesslike and efficient. I guess they weren’t businesslike enough, though.