Boston Chefs Recommend Their Favorite Local Grocery Stores
Avoid the lines and shop local.
There is little arguing that grocery shopping is a fraught enterprise right now. And in an effort to get it all done in one fell swoop, it’s tempting to hit a huge chain store and call it a day. But the news headlines these days could not be clearer: It’s the small businesses that need us now. If no one else is going to bail them out, we have to do our part.
We reached out to four area chefs and restaurant owners -- Tiffani Faison, Jeremy Sewall, Kristin Canty, and Frank DePasquale -- to see what their go-to mom-and-pop grocers are right now. From corner stores and cheesemongers to wine shops and farm stands, the spots are doing curbside pickup and practicing social distancing and other protective habits to make sure others are well-fed. Let’s stand up for them, too. So grab your mask and support these local Boston grocery stores.
The massive market, which straddles the South End and Chinatown, is a favorite of Tiffani Faison, chef-owner of Sweet Cheeks, Tiger Mama, and Fool’s Errand. Ming’s has an outstanding variety of live seafood, soy sauces, frozen dumplings, and fresh produce.
The shop has created a “greatest hits” menu of its favorite cheeses, charcuterie, produce, and accoutrements. You can also turn the choice making over to one of their trusty cheesemongers, who will create a platter of your size choosing -- and add in wine pairings if you’re feeling frisky. “Super nice people who do a great job,” says Sewall, the chef-owner of Island Creek Oyster Bar and Row 34. “They’re taking phone orders and curbside pickup, which means we don’t have to sacrifice snacking on our favorite cheese and wines.”
The farm, which has a CSA currently running and a market opening in two weeks, is undertaking strict measures while planting this spring. In the meantime, keep an eye out for their homegrown arugula and romaine, both of which you can preorder now (the to-go market opens on May 4). “They have everything from beets to parsnips to microgreens right now, and they also have lamb,” says Kristin Canty, who owns Adelita, Woods Table, and Woods Hill Farm.
A favorite of Faison’s, this Armenian market is offering delivery for Watertown residents only, and also a broader curbside pickup option ($25 minimum order). You can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, bread, dairy, and even homemade prepared meals.
“Our local fishmonger is closed, so we’ve been supporting people with online ordering,” Sewall says. “Red’s Best is my go-to resource for fish in Boston. We’ve been stocking our freezer with some of their premier products like their new frozen collection.” Look out for this great offer -- a package deal of two dozen Island Creek oysters with one pound of frozen scallops.
A North End staple for more than 30 years, the family-owned, full-service market also serves smoothies and deli sandwiches. “They have pretty much everything we need, and it is never too crowded,” says DePasquale, who owns restaurant group DePasquale Ventures, which includes grocery shop Bricco Salumeria. “I get all of my staples there, plus it is right around the corner from my home.”
“Hutchins Farm in Concord is an open market that uses the honor system,” Canty says. “They are currently selling seedlings and potting soil, but will be selling more over the next week.” The self-serve porch stand is cash or check only. Current spring seedlings include tarragon, beets, chard, parsley, thyme, and onion plants.
This family-owned spot has been in business since 1932 and has just about everything you could think of under one roof: spices, deli meats, candy, pasta, nuts, tea, and coffee. “For Italian specialties, beans and spices, I go to Polcari’s, which is on the corner of Parmenter and Salem Street,” DePasquale says. “It has been a family-owned grocery for generations. I speak Italian with them, and they have all the unique products that I need to cook with.”
Both the farmstand and the greenhouse are currently offering curbside pickup, which means you can stock up on your fruits and veggies while also beginning to plot out your spring gardening projects. “My wife Lisa and I shop here at least once a week for fresh produce, great sandwiches, and prepared foods,” Seawall says.
The all-natural wine shop is still doing consults by phone and will deliver anywhere in the state -- with free delivery for orders over $200. “It is a small business, and they are so knowledgeable about different wine selections,” says DePasquale. “They have a wide variety and they do curbside pickup, as well.”
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