So, it’s Christmas day and you need a fresh rugelach from Zabar’s. Or maybe it’s July 4th, and you need an air conditioner. Or it’s Thanksgiving morning, you’re coffee maker just went on the fritz and you’re out of those Zabar’s whole beans you love. No problem. Zabar’s, an Upper West Side fixture since 1934, stays open 365 days a year with a Zabar family member there every day.
Zabar’s— an eclectic store offering an incredible variety of specialty foods, baked goods, prepared foods, coffees and more (and that’s just the first floor)— occupies almost an entire block on Broadway at West 80th Street. Any time the store opens its doors, you’ll find a crowd of UWS locals and tourists alike. On weekends, bus loads come from Pennsylvania, Canada and beyond. The family-owned store runs a robust, worldwide mail order business as well.
The second floor (the Zabars’ call it the mezzanine) features an equally wide assortment of house wares. They have everything from gourmet cooking utensils to air purifiers and other kitchen equipment. You’ll also be able to find handy accessories such as slicers, peelers, specialty tools, pans, coffee makers, kettles, blenders, rice cookers, toasters, waffle makers, etc..
Then there’s the coffee: Roasted on site, overseen by the family. Last holiday season they sold 32,000 pounds of it in the store and by mail. The store draws more than 35,000 customers a week and annual sales top $40 million.
Since the store stays open on Thanksgiving, it’s not unusual to see Upper West Siders looking for some last minute items at Zabar’s during the holidays. The cafe also stays open year-round and is well-known for its famous signature coffees, baked goods, and homemade soups.
The cafe menu offers tons of kosher goodies. The classic breakfast specials are delicious and will boost your energy levels. For example, the any nova sandwich and lox combo is served with a cup of Zabar’s coffee and a cup of orange juice. Another option is the full continental breakfast which includes a plain or chocolate croissant with a 100oz cup of coffee and a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice.
Their popular grilled panini are also available to order at the cafe. You can choose to top them with a variety of different toppings such as turkey, grilled veggies, reuben, and ham and cheese. There are also sandwiches, croissants, knishes, cupcakes, rugelach, wraps, and yogurts. Another popular menu item is the cheese blintze served with sour cream and apple sauce. A smoothie bar right next to the cafe offers delicious fruit combinations such as pineapple-coconut and strawberry-banana.
The cafe also has a ton of options for those who don’t have time to cook at home. There are potato latkes, pizzas by the slice, chicken jambalaya, salmon meatballs, sushi, quiches, quesadillas, fried chicken, and much more. The prepared seafood section is just as tempting with dishes like Dijon salmon fillets, balsamic tilapia, and home smoked mussels.
Breads & Desserts
Their homemade bread is baked fresh directly from their ovens every hour. Some of their most popular bread types are signature rye, olive, potato-onion, and rosemary puglise. They’re really all truly exceptional. Their homestyle babka is freshly baked and is prepared with either chocolate or cinnamon. It’s a sweet treat that Upper West Siders can’t get enough of! They also have tons of other baked goods such as the ever popular cinnamon walnut coffee cake.
The dessert selection is also nothing short of exceptional and you’ll often find sweet treats such as fruit salads, bread puddings, cinnamon raisin danishes, cherry danishes, whole wheat croissants, and raisin scones. The muffins are also amazing and have lots of different flavors to choose from like corn, yogurt and chocolate.
The secret to Zabar’s success isn’t so secret. They sell top quality stuff at pretty good prices. (INSIDER’S HINT: There is always a loss leader as you walk in the main entrance. Great bargains to be had.) The staff is knowledgeable, efficient and friendly. It’s common to hear the guy behind the fish counter asking a customer how she liked last week’s purchase or how his son is doing in college.
Is Zabar’s the place to do your everyday grocery shopping? Nope. You won’t find Tide, Doritos or a vast array of fresh fruit there. It is the place to go after your every day grocery shopping to get those quality specialty items that put your meals over the top: kosher foods, fresh or prepared meats, lox, white fish, any kind of cheese. For example, Zabar’s has an aged European cheese section offering Danish havarti, Dutch gouda, Danish blue cheese, and French raclette. They also have a wide array of local cheeses available such as NY state cheddar, Tillamook extra sharp cheddar, jalapeno muenster, and private stock cheddar which is vegetarian and made in Vermont. Of course, today with other stores such as Citarella, gourmet delights are not so rare, but Zabar’s was offering them long before they were common.
Some of these delights include a section entirely dedicated to caviar. Zabar’s has different varieties of amazing caviar on stock such as red salmon, siberian, osetra, and sturgeon. There are also different types of salmon available for your lox spread such as scotch cured salmon, double smoked salmon, nova scotia salmon, whitefish, smoked tuna, and sturgeon.
Zabar’s started life as a rented table in the Daitch Market, a collection of sellers stalls located a few blocks south of Zabar’s current location where The Food Emporium is now. But Louis and Lillian Zabar soon moved to their own location on 80th in the distinctive Tudor-style, half-timber building known as the Calvin Apartments. Their sons Saul and Stanley expanded and expanded and expanded, eventually taking over the whole building. And they still run the store with some of their children managing various departments.
It’s common to hear Zabar’s name dropped in movies and TV shows peppered with “inside New York” jargon; Seinfeld, Gossip Girl, 30 Rock, You’ve Got Mail to name just a few. It’s more common to hear it dropped by Upper West Siders whose daily routines include stopping by to see if the sandwiches have gone on sale yet—a normal occurrence near closing time!
Learn more about Zabars here.
Be sure to also check out these wonderful Upper West Side food shopping spots:
Fairway on the Upper West Side
Trader Joe’s on the Upper West Side