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Friday, December 04, 2009

Gotham City

It is harder and harder to find products and shops unique to New York City or any other. The architecture of the city itself, of course, cannot be duplicated.

But as I endeavor to ferret out things unique about this city, I am often surprised when it comes to merchandise and food. The influences have become a two-way street. Many of the products once exclusive to this city are often available in the suburbs or countryside. And New York City has seen the influx of stores which are now part of the national landscape. Places like Whole Foods Natural Market are no longer the exclusive domain of the urban dweller. A quick search online will show how many of their stores are now located in the suburbs. I am careful to boast about any services, products, or restaurants that we might have in this city - all too often, the response I get is that "we have that too."

The world really is becoming smaller. The Internet and electronic media have leveled the playing field for nearly everything and everyone. New products, information, music, film, and TV no longer take years to seep out from cultural centers in a slow migration. People are instantly informed of anything. I have met people across the world who watch HBO regularly and are familiar with programs like Sex and the City.

I thought that this enormous Korean supermarket in Flushing, Queens, Assi Plaza, most certainly had to be something exclusive to New York City or perhaps a city in California. Flushing has a large Korean population, estimated at 10%. However, visiting the Lotte Assi Plaza website shows 13 stores nationwide, with the company having been established in Maryland in 1976. Of course, overall, this is not to say that neighborhoods like Flushing, or even Assi Plaza, are going to be an everyday experience for the average American, but this is everyday life for someone living in the city.

When you narrow the focus, that's where New York City shines brightest. But it is still quite a challenge to find food products and restaurants that are very special and unique to this city. Even looking at a very specific ethnic group such as the Korean Americans, I was surprised to find a list of over 200 Korean supermarkets in the United States, not all of them in large cities.

But I will continue to narrow the focus as tightly as necessary and, in that light, illuminate the unique things I find that either loom large or hide in the cracks and crevices of Gotham City...


Anonymous said...

Sometimes we find the best things hidden discreetly in the cracks and crevices.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Don't want to do a "we have that too," Brian, but we have a wonderful Korean hypermarket called H Mart in suburban Chicago. Still, even if various elements of things found in New York are now found across the country, they don't add up to the amazing whole that is New York. The city itself is unique to the city.

Brian Dubé said...

Terry B - I have been surprised at the number of large Asian supermarkets outside New York City. There are enough Asian Americans in the US to support markets like this in various locales.
You make a good point - the summation of all the things in NYC is what makes it truly unique.

kyungmee said...

Nice piece:) It made me smile to see H-Mart on your site. Korean towns and H-Marts are all over...and sometimes I wish more in especially in some of the suburbs of Jersey:) We often travel to Palisade Park area/Fort Lee to do our shopping and day in Korean Town. It is certainly a mix blend of so many flavors..I love that and still hold its history and sub-cultures of its various "New Yorkers";)

Anonymous said...

This post got me thinking. I've lived in a few areas of this country, Houston TX area, Chicago, Philly, spent 3 months in SF Ca, and have lived off and on in many other places.

The one thing about NYC is that many people can do the "we have that too" but they can't do the "we have EVERYTHING that NYC does" and that is what makes NYC special.

For instance how many places offer a brand new disposable suit for wall street execs? (and I'm sure you can relate that story better than I can as to why that place exists)