When I think "fresh produce", my mind doesn't ordinarily leap to "midtown Manhattan" and certainly not to "Port Authority."
Or at least it didn't used to. But now that I've discovered Stile's Farmers Market, a tucked-away wonderland of fresh, dirt-cheap produce, my mental map of New York food has changed.
Stile's is located on an idiosyncratic stretch of Ninth Avenue just behind the Port Authority bus terminal, nestled between a dollar slice joint and a meat market called Big Apple. Stride by too quickly, and you might miss the entrance, narrow but adorned with colorful images of fruits and vegetables.
Stile's doesn't look like a brick and mortar store; it's a tent. A big yellow fabric tent, with normal grocery store aisles of fruits, veggies and staples underneath. Sometimes, as the shadow of a pigeon flying tracks along the fabric overhead, you forget you're inside, and instinctively duck out of the bird's way.
Shopping at Stile's is a bit like going to the circus: There's the tent, yes, but also the bright, lime-green walls decked out with tinsel, bows, and Mardi Gras beads, no matter what time of year it is. And there's the jazzy, upbeat music is piped out of the store's speakers.
If all this isn't enough to charm you, Stile's prices certainly will: they're among the lowest in Manhattan, which comes as a shock considering the store's Midtown location. At Stile's, $1.50 is the magic number: it'll buy you two pounds of potatoes; a pint of grape tomatoes; a wheel of dried figs; or two ripe plantains. A pound of pasta costs just $1; a liter of Italian olive oil is just $8.
Judging by the mid-afternoon crowds on a recent Friday, Stile's is no great secret, but it was a revelation for me: I had no idea Manhattan groceries could be so affordable. So the next time you get off an interstate bus with a hankering for a ripe avocado or a crisp apple, check Stile's out for yourself.
Stiles Farmers Market
569 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10036 (map)
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a freelance catering chef, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.