Fire Island Market Cherry Grove
161 Bayview Walk
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9.a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 9:30 a.m.- 8 p.m.
A Fire Island grocer has to be part engineer, part curator, with a healthy dollop of magician mixed in. Limited shelf space must be utilized with zero-margin for error. Selection of items must be chosen with the same quality standards that their customers will demand. And of course “the gift” is required, because the season is short.
As a year-round resident of Ocean Beach, I always look forward to when I’m on assignment in Cherry Grove, because it means I can stop by Fire Island Market of Cherry Grove (aka The Grove Market) and pick up some treats perhaps not found in my neighborhood. It is an unassuming building that is painted bright turquoise and always bustling with energy inside as customers roam about their narrow aisles, as well as the busy family that operates it, with patriarch Reggie at the helm.
“The market improved greatly when Reggie took over about a decade ago,” said FIN Columnist Bob Levine. “He listened to what people out here wanted, then expanded the business to include catering and more premade meals.”
Indeed it is more like the kind of gourmet market one might find in upscale enclaves of New York City or Greater Long Island. Here you will find beautiful breads, vegan sausage, oak milk frozen yogurt bars, gluten-free frozen pizza, and a variety of olives all colors of the rainbow. However they also sell lottery tickets and beer, as well as umbrellas, beach chairs and other sundry staples that an convenience store near the oceanfront will have.
This day I am not making a pit stop after an assignment – this is my assignment. The objective is to bring home dinner on the water taxi, and foolish me, I forgot my shopping bag! We will have to worry about that later. Right now there are choices, so many choices. The deli case is packed with scrumptious looking items: samosas, crab cakes, and Swiss cheese & mushroom chicken burgers. The heated food bar offered plump rotisserie chickens and St. Louis style fire braised ribs. The grab and go section had a plethora of salads – including a chicken curry salad that I regret not picking up – maybe next time.
What I did choose were those ribs, some apple-cranberry coleslaw that sounded interesting, as well an oversized cupcake for dessert. The Grove Market caries a brand called Sweet Sam’s cupcakes, and they are a personal favorite for this writer. Their chocolate peanut butter is usually my flavor of preference, but this time the one with snowy white coconut frosting was calling my name.
At the checkout counter Reggie’s wife even set me up with a reusable grocery bag to take it all home in. After sliding in my credit card the best word I can use to describe my transaction is sticker-shock … because the total due was lower than expected. Even the price of the grocery bag was comparable to what I would have paid at any chain supermarket on Long Island.
Later that night I reheated the ribs in the oven and served it with the slaw and some mashed potatoes we already had on hand, because that’s what eating at home is all about. The cupcake was saved for our afternoon coffee the next day. Leftovers made rib meat and coleslaw sandwiches the day after that.
“Get those ribs again next time you’re in the Grove,” my husband said later in the week.
High praise from one of the toughest food critics I know. When my next assignment in that neighborhood comes around, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
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