June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Jews of the tri-state area are fortunate to have a cornucopia of kosher supermarkets. Each store offers quality products across the culinary spectrum, catering to the diverse desires of each and every fresser. Products hailing from the far reaches of the globe magically wind up on the shelves, providing a United Nations-level smorgasbord. No matter a customer’s customs, our kosher supermarkets have every cut of meat to meet our needs.

That said, one could argue that there is no single kosher supermarket that dominates in every single category. Rather, each store tends to specialize in certain areas on which they pride themselves. For example, some kosher supermarkets excel in the produce department, displaying the freshest fruits and vegetables. Loyalists, especially vegetarians and fruitarians, will shop exclusively at the store that produces the best produce. Other kosher supermarkets are renowned for their butchery and choice cuts. Some stores are lauded for their London Broil and praised for their poultry. Some supermarkets flaunt their fresh fish; they are hailed for their halibut and commended for their cod. Some supermarkets offer superior better baked goods, arguably making them baked greats.

Why do some supermarkets have better produce or meat than others? Do they pick their fruit from trees growing in the parking lot? Do they butcher meat from cattle roaming in the stockroom? The answer is unclear but it seems like there might be an unspoken agreement among local kosher supermarkets to maintain parity and foster healthy competition among themselves. It is somewhat strange that no supermarket strives for a monopoly but perhaps the store owners know that they simply cannot handle the burden of making every Jew in the community happy. By spreading the business around equally, each kosher supermarket limits the number of excessively annoying nudniks with whom they have to deal.

In certain cases, one kosher supermarket will be favored over others based less on the food and more on the service. A friendly, efficient cashier can be the key to repeat business. That said, if the food is truly delicious, most customers will keep coming back no matter how unpleasant the checkout experience becomes. The opposite, however is not true. If the food is lousy, customers will not return even if the cashier is super-menschy. In other words, the hungry always choose mauzone over manners.

Most kosher supermarkets offer sushi and, overall, the sushi quality and presentation are comparable from store to store. The biggest difference is how stores name their various rolls. A dragon roll at one store might be the equivalent of a volcano roll in another. The only guaranteed common thread about sushi rolls in kosher supermarkets is the “buy two, get a third for free” concept. Why are supermarkets so intent on having us consume more sushi rolls? Why aren’t supermarkets offering similar deals on other items? Imagine buying two briskets and getting a third for free. To some, that would be a sign that the Moshiach is getting closer.

Strangely, one sometimes finds identical items sold at kosher supermarkets for drastically different prices. What accounts for the gaping differential? Did one supermarket simply overpay for the item? Did another kosher supermarket underpay for it? Once customers become aware of the inconsistency, why on earth would they continue buying the item from the store charging the higher price? Well, one simple answer is the “schlep premium” because some people will pay more to avoid almost any level of schlep.

Most kosher supermarkets have at least one entire aisle dedicated to the least healthy eating options. This aisle usually is loaded with a plethora of cookies, crackers, chips and other fatty and sugary snacks. It is weird that in this day and age of fitness and diets, most kosher supermarkets do not even attempt to scale down the snack aisle or at least give it a less prominent location. The snack aisle is like a sacred rite of passage for every shopping cart pusher, a trip down munchy lane that cannot be denied.

It also is weird that nearly every kosher supermarket offers chocolate and cinnamon rugelach in separate containers but none offer a variety pack featuring both flavors. Variety packs also would work well with kugel (e.g., noodle, potato and broccoli) and knishes (e.g., kasha, potato and spinach). Variety packs, however, would make no sense when it comes to oranges, eggs or kasha varnishkes.

Final thought: Has anyone actually been rejected from a supermarket express lane for having more than ten items? Is “ten items or less” a firm rule or just a soft request? Discuss.

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