Insider’s Guide to downtown Grocery shopping

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Got milk? Recently, downtown resident Jen Thornton did not… “I was home alone with the girls. Everyone was cranky, and I didn’t want to pack everyone into the car to go to the grocery store, as all I really needed was milk. So I put the girls in the stroller and headed to Natures Way. I got there, they were out of milk. I recalled that Green Harvest had some half quart bottles in their cooler. When I got there, I told Doreen my plight. She offered to sell me one of her gallon jugs if milk from behind the counter instead – she saved the day!” You can find a few yummy staples at Green Harvest Gourmet food Emporium: locally-made Bank St Creamery (aka, Purple Cow) ice cream, milk, eggs, butter, produce, bread, rolls, and baked goods.

You may have overheard a comment or two regarding the dearth of ‘bona fide’ grocery stores in downtown Easton, but look just a little closer and you will find a few walkable and creative food options.

Let’s work our way west, now that we started near the free bridge… Eastonian condo owner Steven Heyman says “if you can’t find it in Nature’s Way, you’re just going to have to get in the car.” Natures Way Market has been a downtown fixture since 1975 – selling healthy/sustainable/organic foods and remedies.

Connexions gallery owners & downtown resi’s Anthony Marracinni & Alice Kwaitowski note that markets scattered throughout downtown have some very unique finds. “The Vietnamese Market on Northampton may not be much to look at from the exterior, but they get some pretty good produce and meats in in certain days… especially Thursday afternoons.”

Hot Bijouxx gypsy jazz/swing ex-vocalist and certified permaculture designer Kristin Jasionowski (with Lumaria Gardens) knows a thing or two about good food… “I try to do all of my shopping at the farmer’s markets, and try to only shop for certain things at health food stores like Nature’s Way or Kimberton Whole Foods (I work down in Ottsville) once or twice a month. For certain exotic/ out-of-season things, I’ll hit up the bodegas. I was getting a lot of asian greens during the winter from Viet-Hoa. At the 5th & Northampton bodega, there are a lot of Latin American items. You can get 5 limes for a dollar(!), and they have all the good corn flours. (We’ve been making our own tortillas & arepas).

Downtown is kind of a food desert, and I would love to see some sort of farmer co-op for processing & distributing staple grains & legumes to supplement the produce at the market …maybe the Weller center new farmers’ market venue has potential for this.” According to project manager and Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP) employee Jared Mast, the building will primarily host the market’s vendors but will also feature offices for GEDP partners such as the Easton Ambassadors and Easton Farmers’ Market ~ from Express-Times, July 2 article. Jared is now accepting suggestions for the Weller Center marketplace… and now let’s continue on our westward grocery quest.

City resident Jen Thornton says “Viet Hoa is a great shop. Fresh Thursday is amazing. The ladies at the counter are great, they have given me cooking/preparing advice when they see I am buying some complex combination of ingredients. Some of the prepared foods they sell at the counter are not to be missed. Quite tasty! Thursday afternoon is crazy – cardboard boxes filled with ice and whole fish, boxes of vegetables lining the already narrow aisles. For my husband Chris’ birthday, when we went to the shore for a week, we bought a case of limes and a case of mangos from them. I’ve also done supplemental shopping at Joe’s Deli and the dollar store.”

Viet-Hoa (literally, ‘Vietnamese-Chinese’) gets their fresh shipments in by around 4 on Thursdays. I asked the owners’ daughter Kathy Trin what people’s favorites are here and she mentioned that people like their fresh fish and meats and unique asian veggies – special bean sprouts and the fresh golden mangoes are especially popular. I asked whether they have considered doing the popular Bánh mì Vietnamese sandwiches and she mentioned that they actually do have these, in their fresh Thursday shipments (this calls for further investigation!)… they also get special pastries and spring rolls and sell many scrumptious asian sauces and specialty drinks. There is quite a following and she mentioned that the prices are much better than what you will find in the ‘asian aisle’ at some local super markets and their customers love this. Owner Tuan Trin and his wife Phung Van hail from Saigon originally and have had their asian grocery here in downtown for about 10 years now.

Julia and Anne Nicodemus frequent the farmers’ market for produce and can get much of our other needs met by Nature’s Way (although they feel it’s a bit pricey). “We particularly like their eggs and milk. There is a bodega on Northampton and 5th, that we go to to get queso fresca for making Mexican dishes. We also go to the Asian grocery store on Northampton to get specialty items for Asian recipes.”

Jamie Cabreza loves the D&G Northampton & 7th st. bodega… “George’s is a go-to spot. We go there for dried peppers and our tortillas…. and definitely Viet Ho – they have the best bok choy too.” Downtown resident Barbara Whiteside’s best secrets for downtown goodies are the salmon at the health food store, the veggies and seasoning at the Vietnamese store, the sorrel at the bodega on Northampton and 5th and she also loves Arreola’s Mexican market a little further down.

You do have some healthy fresh choices downtown, and there are also quite a few sources for processed or frozen foods. Former San Francisco resident Elizabeth Johnson has lived in the city of Easton for two years now and relishes the fresh… “For me, downtown Easton means the twice weekly Farmer’s Market and Nature’s Way — I cook at home all the time and we build our meals around the best fresh organic fruit, veggies and bulk staples. Ice Cream is healthy too – Thanks Purple Cow!” [now Bank St Creamery].

Here’s a handy walkable downtown find-grocery map. Please feel free to comment if you have some other good spots… of course if you don’t feel like cooking Easton is swarming with some excellent delis and restaurants (find foodie easton here).
Also check out the handy new downtown Easton “app” for other downtown goodies and Palmer resident Alice Guffy’s neat reflections of the way it was, to go into downtown for groceries maybe 40-50 years ago.

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