Coffee with Eli Zabar

When it comes to experiencing the ‘real’ New York, there is nothing more authentic than experiencing Eli Zabar’s food stores, restaurants, and delis! I passed by Eli’s several times during my visits to New York over the years but I didn’t really know the extent of the offering until I visited Eli’s Market on the Upper East Side. I was keen to learn the story first hand and I had the honor to meet Eli in person along with his Coffee Director Wayne, during my visit to the city in February 2020. We spoke about the coffee, the food concept and what has kept Eli driven over the years!

How would you describe your coffee offering?

We have been roasting coffee for 25 years. Zabar’s was the inspiration behind our brand and when we opened we wanted to venture into specialty coffee. Wayne started with our chocolate department after which he started running our specialty coffee department.

We are sourcing coffee producers from locations like Colombia and only roasting specialty coffee. We are extremely selective and our ethos is about sustainability and supporting the communities we import from.

What is the philosophy behind Eli Zabar?

Our philosophy is to continuously become better at what we do. We associate with producers who have a similar ethos and ethic to ours. We want to engage with the right businesses and get to know the people behind them. For instance, when it comes to wine, we only work with Old World wines. We like to get to know the suppliers personally. Nobody knows the business to the degree that we do as we specialize in many departments and work on our products 365 days a year.

How would you feel consumers have changed since you opened?

Things have changed a bit. The consumer this day and age is food conscious and want to be knowledgeable about what they’re consuming. We love chatting to our customers about the products and guiding them with their flavor profiles. We believe there is no end to learning and we’re here to share knowledge.

What has been the biggest strength of Eli Zabar?

When I started there was nothing like us in Manhattan. I loved food and pulled it all together. When I first opened we hired some women to bake for us and the issue was the inconsistency. Being dependent on a third party made me realize we needed to do this ourselves. When you are able to create products in-house you can make a quick call on whether to keep them or discard them. We found it easier to make changes and moved baking to the forefront of our business. We now have a wide variety of offerings be it our sandwich bar across the road that turns in to a beer bar in the evening or our location on Broome Street – we have something for everyone!

Eli’s Market on the Upper East Side is going through a refurb so do pay them a visit this year to explore the wide range of offerings under one roof!


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