- “These food trucks are terrible… and such small portions!”
Part of commuting to DUMBO for work is getting to complain that lunch here sucks. It’s common knowledge to everyone who works here. But is it actually true? Yesterday, Gothamist reported that the neighborhood would soon be getting a farmer’s market, news that turned out to be untrue (it was just the three-year-old local CSA), but it was enough to get people excited. “DUMBO is a bit of a food desert,” the website reported, “with Peas & Pickles and Bridge Fresh as the only options of fresh-ISH produce (unless you want to pay triple at Forager’s—$6.99 for a 1/2 cup of blueberries today!).” But having three places (in, what, a six-block radius?) to buy whole foods does not quite a food desert make—you know, there are neighborhoods where people literally can’t buy produce.
But I get the point, at least about Forager’s. I’ve worked in DUMBO for five years, and I’ve been in Forager’s once: I went in, looked around briefly, freaked out, and left, never to return. They really do just add several dollars to the prices of everything—many of which you could literally just buy a few doors down for a few dollars less. But Peas & Pickles actually has a fine produce section, and a good food selection beyond that.
Maybe it’s because I don’t understand what people want to eat for lunch? I’ve been vegetarian and then vegan over the time I’ve worked here, and compared to Bay Ridge, where I live, DUMBO is, like, a paradise of lunch options. I mean, there are several things I can get from Peas & Pickles alone: a vegetables wrap from the hot-lunch counter, vegetable sushi from the sushi bar, prepackaged Asian noodle dishes, vegan chicken-salad sandwiches, Tofurky cold cuts and a roll (and I make my own sandwich at my desk!), plus various fruit cups, salad bar options, and snacks—vegan muffins, brownies, jerkies. And this is just one store. For someone with a very limiting diet. (Oh, and the coffee is cheap, and they have soy milk!)
Then there are the food trucks. “Most of the food trucks are awful,” one Gothamist commenter writes, but really? Many of them—and there are usually at least three or four parked within a very small area; there’s a Twitter feed that just tracks which food trucks are around—often have ridiculously long lines at prime lunch times. I’ve only ever eaten at Cinnamon Snail when it rolls into the neighborhood, which is rare, but you know where there are no vegan food trucks ever? Bay Ridge. Anyway, during the summer, on Thursdays and Fridays there’s, like, a freakin’ food festival under the archway, where lately you could get expensive-but-delicious quinoa falafels, plus lots of other foodstuffs. Then there are places to sit down: Superfine, reBar, Pedro’s (though one of our editors recently told me a black bean taco from there was the worst thing she’d ever eaten)—and that’s just one block.
For me, the problem isn’t that there’s nothing to eat in DUMBO but that eating here can be expensive. (Though that deli on Front Street just west of Main Street ain’t as bad, right?) If I lived here, it would probably suck to do my grocery shopping at places with high prices. But of course I wouldn’t live in DUMBO because to live in DUMBO you have to be a kajillionaire who probably doesn’t need to complain about a few dollars extra on a grocery bill. Also, it’s a pretty quick walk to Brooklyn Heights, where there are more-reasonable supermarkets—and more places you might also get some lunch. If anybody needs access to affordable produce, it’s not the residents or workday commuters of DUMBO; it’s the residents of the Farragut Houses only a few blocks away, where the median income is under $21,000 a year. For them, Forager’s really isn’t an option.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart