Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Westerly Natural Market

Westerly Natural Market on 54th St and 8th Ave, is in my opinion the best health food store in the city, second only to the Fourth Street Food Coop. Conveniently located in midtown, Westerly's narrow aisles are stocked to the gills with nearly more health food possibilities than the mind can fathom, with prices which leave the Whole Foods down the block in the dust. Your first visit to Westerly may overwhelm you (there are actually 47 different kinds of organic almond milk? who knew??), but if you've grown accustomed to visiting a conventional supermarket and being limited to about 2 percent of the offerings there, the hyper-variety may come as a welcome change. Westerly is also often on the cutting edge of new health food products and supplements, and often have free samples available of products ranging from probiotics to medicinal honey to raw acai juice.

Raw foodist? Macrobiotic? Gluten free? Partial to kimchee or kombucha or nori or garam masala or vegan marshmallows? Only want certified fair trade? Compostable? Westerly is the place for you. Their products include an entirely organic fruit and veg section; organic and raw dairy as well as non-dairy milks, cheeses, and yogurts; organic and pastured meats and fish; breads and crackers which include sprouted, gluten free, organic, and whole grain; a modest bulk bin section with various grains, beans, and nuts; a wide variety of fair trade chocolate, coffee, and tea; a huge variety of multi-cultural foods, particularly Asian and Indian; snacks ranging from vegan muffins to tofu jerky; a large section of specialty raw foods such as dehydrated kale chips and raw chocolate truffles; a hot soup bar and a fresh juice bar; and a deli-style section of sandwiches and salads to take out. Whether you're planning a four-course gourmet meal or having one of those weeks where you thank humanity for the invention of frozen veggie burgers, Westerly has something for you. And that's just discussing the food! There is a whole other section to the tiny store which contains a zillion nice natural soaps, beauty products, aromatherapy oils, candles, and natural cleaning products and still ANOTHER section wherein you may purchase any herbal remedy, vitamin, or nutritional supplement you could possibly think of.

Here's why they remain number two under the Co-op:
#1 they don't have a good system set up for bulk. If you bring your own containers, which I'd imagine someone buying in bulk would want to do, the cashiers look at you like you're an alien and refuse to subtract the weight of your container.
#2 their produce prices in particular, and their prices in general, are sometimes exorbitant (seven dollars a pound for peppers? No thank you.)
#3 their checkout clerks are often harried and unfriendly (although their floor clerks are incredibly helpful.)
On the other hand, you can only get a fraction of the items available at Westerly at the Co-op, or most other health food stores for that matter.

If you want a bargain, you can't really do better than the Co-op, but you can definitely get a good deal at Westerly if you shop their sale items, of which there are always a ton. I actually like just going in and buying stuff on sale because their variety is so extreme I inevitably end up trying something I never would have tried otherwise (my last trip yielded mustard greens, watercress, and rutabega.)

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