COLUMN: I LIVE IN THE UPPER WEST SIDE’S ‘DELIVERY DEAD ZONE’

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By Joelle Berger

When searching for a New York City apartment, we evaluate the neighborhood: subways, laundromats, grocers, schools. We carefully, prudently, weigh the statistics, determining which are the true deal-breakers and which we can live with. We try our best to make informed decisions, but around every unexamined corner lurks a surprise. Something we never considered, because we never thought we needed to.

Four years ago, soon after renting my Lincoln Square apartment, I discovered my own surprise: I live in a food delivery dead zone. Dead like a side of kale.

My sob song plays as follows. I live on 67th Street, blocks from the Big Bouluds and other post-show establishments. Most Hell’s Kitchen restaurants stop delivering at 59th Street. Most Upper West Side restaurants cut off at 72nd Street. Those of us sandwiched in between must fend for ourselves, in our own little subdivision that objectively appears convenient in all other aspects of life – just not this.

Nonsense, one would think. Not in a city with enough Thai-style noodles to fill the McCarren Park Pool. But a brief analysis of Seamless proves my plight. Fourteen restaurants claim to deliver Thai food to my address; however, one must not be fooled by the labels. Out of those 14 restaurants, eight are actually sushi spots with a splash of Pad Thai. In a worldly fashion, one of these places holds itself out as serving Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. No, thank you. The remaining six Thai restaurants do not fare much better: one charges a delivery fee for my apartment being out of range, one has an hour-plus delivery estimate, and three have a three-star rating or less (for good cause – I’ve tried them all). Ergo, no noodles for me.

We are not completely without options: hummus and sushi options. I could recite a dissertation on which hummus restaurants serve meat and which sushi restaurants serve spicy rolls with super-minced fish. These specialty options, however, lose luster and add up over time.  I don’t order sushi every week for the same reason I don’t walk over to Shun Lee and take out a garlic lobster. Absent the occasional polar vortex, if I wanted to spend that kind of change, I would eat out.

Dramatics aside, living in a delivery dead zone has had its silver lining. Like many bad surprises in this city, we cope with them. Grow from them. This Lincoln Square apartment is where my now-husband and I first moved in together. We were in our mid-twenties, both embarking on our careers and not knowing much about cohabitation, or adulthood. Our delivery dilemma subtly pushed us toward the grocery store. Over time, I learned not just how to cook, but to love to cook, a passion built from circumstance alone. I aim to prepare dinner four nights a week, which affords us the balance of enjoying great meals out on the weekend – far, far outside of our neighborhood.

But every month has its rainy night; or in this year’s case, every year has its snowy month. I may have risen above my culinary challenges, but I still hold out hope that on one such night, a perfect Thai noodle will arrive at my door. Hell’s Kitchen and Upper West Side establishments should take notice: there are thousands of hungry New Yorkers in my dead zone, and likely in other dead zones, waiting with open wallets, looking to open our doors.

Joelle Berger is an attorney by trade and a writer and food blogger by heart. www.averagejoelle.com

Clip art via foodclipart.com.

ABSURDITY, COLUMNS, FOOD | 23 comments | permalink

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    1. Ilene says:

      I’m curious where u grocery shop (assuming you go to a brick and mortar store)…especially since the closing of Food Emporium on Bdwy & 68th! There’s Whole Foods (a/k/a Whole Paycheck) at Columbus Circle and then Trader Joe’s on 72nd (w/inconsistent inventory, subpar produce and long lines) or Fairway even further uptown (74th St). West of Bdwy, it’s difficult to even find a Korean market!

      • Kate says:

        RIP, the Food Emporium on 68th. I miss it every day. The space has been empty for over a year; what a waste.

        It sucks not having a standard supermarket in the neighborhood.

    2. sam says:

      Great article! I lived on 63rd/bway for 3 years and I feel your pain! I was lucky enough to live on the cusp of a number of HK restaurants.

    3. Jeff says:

      That is definitely an awful spot for delivery. For what it’s worth, I did notice that the very good Merilu Pizza al Metro recently started delivering all the way up to the 70s, so that’s one option for you.

      http://www.yelp.com/biz/merilu-pizza-al-metro-new-york

    4. D. Adams says:

      This is spot on! Great writing too! We demand decent noodles.

      I hope the old Food Emporium space is filled with a better grocer. While super convenient, Food Deplorium was terrible and their prices were awful.

      More Joelle Berger articles!

    5. Michele says:

      We agree. Signed, everyone who works at ABC Television.

    6. whatsupduck says:

      Have you considered restaurants that may not be on Seamless? (A convenient website for consumers, but one that isn’t so great for restaurant owners). As someone who grew up in Lincoln Towers, behold my list:

      1) “Original” Rays on Columbus. Yes, they deliver to you.
      2) The West Sider (68th)–great diner food
      3) Ollies–the one that wasn’t burnt to the ground. I believe they also do sushi.
      4) SHUN LEE. HELLO! BEST FOOD AROUND. They deliver to you. I know you commented on the boredom, but are you aware that you can special order a dish, and also order dim-sum from the cafe?
      5) Rosa Mexicana will deliver to you. Call them.
      6) Grand Sichuan — 75thish. They deliver to you.
      7) Every restaurant on 72nd St–Fisher’s, Giacomo’s, the Sushi spot, the Thai place, and the bagel store.
      8) Speaking of which, Bagel Talk. Call them. Talk. They deliver.

      This list is just off the top of my head, mind you, but surely there’s a lot more.

      You have a strong stylistic voice and good thoughts. You might want to consider a bit more research (or asking your law intern to do the fact-finding for you) before penning another piece.

      Thanks for the good read.

      • Jeff says:

        Not sure why you assume the author is unaware of these options just because she mentions Seamless. In any event, this list is unlikely to be helpful, as the options are mostly mediocre at best and/or relatively expensive and/or not dinner material (e.g. bagels). That area is bad for delivery, and picking up the phone won’t do much to change it.

        • Mike says:

          It sounds like she is complaining that the restaurants she likes don’t deliver to her. If that is such an issue, maybe she should have picked an apartment near her favorite restaurants. That sounds like a crazy way to look for a place to live, but there must be dozens of restaurants within 10 blocks of 67th street.

          • whatsupduck says:

            Thank you, Mike. That was exactly my point. The author speaks of the paucity of options, yet only cited Seamless.com as her source. Also, as you note, there are plenty of restaurants nearby.

            It’s not like she’s living on Gilligan’s Island here. She can find food without foraging.

    7. denton says:

      @Ilene, grocery shopping is a challenge but after three years at Lincoln Towers I think I have it down. However it involves several stores.

      Every three months or so I go to Costco for staples. I go to the one in Brooklyn which involves driving but I moved here from Brooklyn so I know the store. Still, I know several people that shop at Costco in Harlem and cab it.

      I’m sure this won’t be popular but next I go to Western Beef on WEA and 62nd Street (?). You’ll want to pick the times you go there and yes the place has a certain vibe, and the cashiers can be slower, but if you pick and choose what you buy you can save a shocking amount of money. Produce is considerably cheaper than even Fairway, Things like yogurt and OJ are cheaper than everywhere. Zabars proudly displays Jarlsberg swiss when you walk in @ $11/pound; WB has it for $7. lol. Meat is problematic there but if you are making stock they have like ten different kinds of bones.

      Before I started going to Western Beef I went to Jubilee on Freedom quite often. Seldom go there now, but no complaints with them other than being expensive (and I understand with rents being what they are it’s not exactly their fault).

      The Saturday greenmarket at 65th Street & Bwy gives me fish for two days all year long and veggies in season.

      When I need really good meat and/or non-local fish I go to Citarella’s. If I take that trip I’ll stop in Fairway’s and see what they have. Zabar’s is a hike from down here but if I’m entertaining and want the best in cheese that’s the place. They also have house brand jams that have more fruit and less sugar than most other brands, and quite inexpensive.

      Not a fan of Whole Foods… too crowded and slow. Trader Joe’s I have no idea what the attraction is unless you buy a lot of prepared/processed food. I will go there once in a blue for certain kinds of rice, nuts, and frozen veggies.

      And there is a Korean market on 72nd and WEA. Produce is generally pretty bad. but it’s the same beer you can get anywhere.

      I fill in on the way home at the pleasant but expensive Gourmet Garage since it’s between the #1 stop at 66th Street and LT.

    8. Susan Berger says:

      There was a Seinfeld episode where Elaine couldn’t get her food delivered so she pretended to live somewhere else. So sorry this is for real!

    9. arlene says:

      You are so accurate. I also live on W. 67th St. Seems so negligent for restaurants and food markets to continue to ignore this pocket…Considering money and profit factor into every decision, this pocket is densely populated and has tremendous wealth. We certainly need a more conveniently located market as I too “manage” our food needs by having to drive somewhere to get groceries. That’s not the living in NYC experience everyone else has or we used to have.

    10. TG says:

      If you want Thai, I admit it’s a little brutal for you that Land Thai Kitchen cuts off their delivery at 69th.

      One place near you that seems to get less attention than it probably should is the Legend Sichuan restaurant that opened on 72nd. It’s always empty when I go in, despite the other Legends in the city usually being packed.

    11. Lili says:

      I live on 67th and get delivery a lot…

    12. EL says:

      Maybe you should cook your own dinner.

      • D. Adams says:

        EL, clearly you and some others posting comments didn’t read the article. Looks like the author loves to cook.

        “Over time, I learned not just how to cook, but to love to cook, a passion built from circumstance alone. I aim to prepare dinner four nights a week, which affords us the balance of enjoying great meals out on the weekend – far, far outside of our neighborhood.”

    13. ShermCraig says:

      Not sure if this really helps, but Chirping Chicken delivers to your neighborhood. They aren’t Thai, but they are delicious and have plenty of healthy choices. Good luck!

    14. Sarah says:

      OMG story of my life! I live at 71st and most restaurants are very strict about not delivering here! I am more likely to get delivery from a place at 50th street than 80th!

    15. ck says:

      Love this article! I’ve lived in the neighborhood for close to 5 years now and thought it was just me that was challenged by delivery to the area. Compared to other areas in the city, selection is limited, more expensive and often arrives cold! I, too, find myself cooking more than when I lived in other areas. But, the trade off is that we live in a great neighborhood and its worth the hassel!

    16. patrick says:

      Talk about problems of the 1%. Its good that you cook for yourself.. Eating take out every night would make you fat and unhealthy!

    17. ron shapley says:

      Joelle……I feel your pain. Living in Hamilton Heights our delivery choices are chinese; chinese and oh, Chinese…