Zabar's to me is a capsule of my childhood. Since I was a little girl, this has been the go-to spot for my family, who lived in New Jersey. And since moving into the city, I make my rare forays to the Upper West Side for this store, because it truly is something special.
I think the food is pretty good overall; the matzo balls hold a place of honor in any high holiday celebration in our family. If some people complain about the price, then they haven't gone to Eli's or Dean and Deluca's - those places are just exorbitant. The prices for the overall quality I think are justified. It's a happy medium between standard supermarket fare and snootier-than-thou 'gourmet', where the costs seems to support the overhead and not the product. Here at Zabar's, you're spoiled for choice by the array of cheeses, fish, meats, and prepared foods here. Whether your tastes run to the mundane or truly eclectic, you. will. find. something here. No question.
Yes, it's cramped and noisy and commotional, but that's the fun of shopping here. Here, getting elbowed aside by a little old lady in a proper hat and gloves just seems funnier than it does at Whole Foods. I've had my cheeks pinched by the fish manager when ordering their world-famous smoked salmon and had an unofficial advisory board at the deli counter on whether I should get the brisket or the pastrami. Zabar's necessitates interacting with your fellow New Yorkers and whether it's positive or negative, it's always an authentic New York experience.