Last week we read a great post on the site New York Daily Photo about Sunrise Mart, a relatively hidden Japanese grocery store above St. Mark's Bookshop in the East Village. NYDP called it "the real deal" and it got us thinking about some of the other great Asian markets in the area where you can get boxes of Japanese curry or satisfy that strawberry Pocky addiction.
Tucked away between the countless, cramped Japanese izakaya on St. Marks, JAS Mart boasts the Italian Tomato café on the first floor (there's nothing Italian about it, though), complete with small cakes, pastries and the standard Asian bakery offerings. There are also sandwiches, sushi, and hot food in the back, which you can microwave to your heart's content. But downstairs is where the real fun starts, with aisles of everything from rice, relatively cheap produce, Japanese snacks, and frozen food, to noodles, rice cookers, and even beauty products.
Good For: A quick bite or lunch, as there's seating in the café. Precooked frozen fish packages that I haven't seen in the other marts (check the far right aisle downstairs). Deals on snacks, rice and condiments from time to time.
Not So Good For: The quality of the meat is hit or miss. Premade food runs out fast. There's almost nothing left if you come here around early evening.
35 St. Marks Place, New York NY 10003; (nr. 2nd Avenue; map); 212-420-6370
Sunrise Mart forms the trinity of three great Japanese stops on this corner. It's upstairs from Panya Bakery and next to Village Yokocho, one of the bustling izakaya in the area. It's a bit hard to find at first, but simply take the elevator to the second floor. It's smaller than the other Asian groceries, but prices can be much cheaper here. Open until 11 p.m. on weekdays, Sunrise Mart is ironically more popular at night with people traipsing in after work.
Good For: Filling bento sets; $6 gets you rice, side vegetables, or tempura, and a generous portion of salmon, mackerel, or some type of meat (pork, bulgogi, etc.) They also have curry and sashimi rice bowls, with the sashimi-grade fish looking the freshest here. Simply put, Sunrise Mart has the most appetizing premade food offerings out of all the marts. There are also plenty of wagashi (traditional Japanese snacks), like kushi dango (mochi balls on skewers, with toppings like red bean or black sesame paste) or individually wrapped mochi dumplings, all for for less than $2. And if you're too lazy to go next door, they sell Panya's bread with no mark-up. In the back room you'll find cute rice bowls, some rice cookers, and assorted kitchenware.
Not So Good For: Rice is pricier here than elsewhere. The three pack of precooked rice was about $7 when I went by last week. Products are predominantly Japanese, and you won't find Korean or Chinese products here. Tends to be much more crowded than the other grocery stores, so it can be a long wait to purchase.
29 Third Avenue, New York NY 10003; (nr. 10th Street; map); 212-598-3040
M2M is the most convenient if you want to pick up other groceries in addition to your Asian-specific goods. Most goods cater to the Korean palate, like huge tubs of various kimchi and premade banchan (the side dishes you get at Korean restaurants), which can be found in the back. If you're feeling hungry, order udon noodles, sushi, or a rice bowl from the deli and eat it in the seated area up front.
Good For: Kimchi fans, who can get a medium jar for $5; hardcore aficionados can get a giant bucket for a very reasonable $7. There are also plenty of Korean packaged foods, like mul naengmyun (cold buckwheat noodles in beef broth) and instant jajangmyun, plus more stuffed bun and dumpling varieties than you can shake a fist at. The meat and fish selection looks the "safest" here, coming in premarinated pork and beef sets for those looking for a cheap, quick way to satiate an emergency Korean barbecue craving.
Not So Good For: Stay away from the Japanese products, which are cheaper at Sunrise or JAS Mart, and with greater variety. Not a good spot if you're craving Asian baked goods.
55 Third Avenue, New York NY 10003; (nr. 11th Street; map); 212-353-2698
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