With 900-plus members, Elm City Market has been open for a week as of this writing, and it's been packed every time I've visited. It's not the hugest space for a grocery store, but Elm City Market uses the space well. Marketing and Member Services Manager Amy Regni says that "New Haven is our customer," and it's reflected in eclectic selection in which Goya beans sit below packs of kale chips, and Smirnoff Ice sits alongside Chimay. The market has to appeal to a broad range of tastes in a small space, and it does.
Right now, Elm City Market is playing grocery Tetris — and beating the computer. Here are five reasons why.
1. Condoms. That's right, condoms. And Tampax and Advil and Lady Speed Stick, too. Elm City Market sells practical provisions, the kinds that other healthy grocery stores sometimes don't, making it extra convenient to shop there: There's no need for an additional pitstop at the drug store to buy Solo Cups or other basics. And if you feel like getting frisky, the market carries Sir Richard's condoms: In addition to coming in a stylish check box, the condom does a whole lot of good on the other side of the planet — for every condom purchased, Sir Richard's donates one to a country where rubbers aren't quite as available.
2. Bigelow Lemon and Ginger Tea with Probiotics. It smells like vanilla yogurt; it tastes like cake; it doesn't have any caffeine; it might even be good for me (on account of all the probiotics). At $2.49 a box, it's worth it for study-break sipping, and it's in the massive tea section, alongside virtually every Yogi tea known to man, many kinds of chais (including reduced-sugar chais — hooray!). The hot beverages are carefully selected, and had a number of varieties I hadn't seen before. Exciting!
3. Weleda Cleansing Milk. My need to use cleansing milk, and only cleansing milk (not a soap or a crème cleanser or a scrub), lest I break out into deep cystic acne and/or horrendous dry patches, is probably one of my biggest/lamest/most annoying First World problems. (I have a lot of them.) To make matters worse, New Haven is a cosmetics wasteland. There are grocery stores, drugstores, the Clinique alcove in the Barnes & Noble basement, and Origins. That's it. It's a Sephora Sahara, and it means that people with temperamental skin (like myself) and expensive taste (I wish) have to mail order, schlep to the mall, or face the possibility of being ugly. Not anymore. While Elm City Market's wellness section is small, it's well-chosen to the point of being curated. And it's reasonably priced. Virtually everything I found in the Wellness section was on par or cheaper than anything in other area stores — my cleansing milk, for instance, was actually priced at the same price as Amazon ($15.79). (Also, points to whoever figured out that Suki is the next Dr. Hauschka.)
4. Izzy B's Allergy-Free Cupcakes. These cupcakes are free of gluten, dairy, soy, egg, and refined sugars. And they taste like a cupcake should. Possibly better. They're available individually in the baked goods department, and in packs of four in the frozen foods section. But it's not just Izzy B's Allergy Free Cupcakes. It sells gluten-free beer, chocolate muffins, pizza, and more. Elm City Market is a haven for allergic eaters: It's a gluten-free free-for-all, a vegan happy hunting ground, an agave oasis — right in the heart of town.
5. The Dixwell Avenue Sandwich. Pulled pork and onions and mayo all on a roll. There's also the Wooster Square (a meatball sub), the East Rock (a panini with veggies and pesto), the Long Wharf (a tuna melt) and more. The sandwiches are named after the right neighborhoods, but if you feel like being inventive, you can build your own sandwich for $5.99. The selection of cured meats and cheeses in the deli section is also pretty impressive, and the hot bar posts its carefully labeled offerings online every day. Apart from the carts, this is the best place to get a healthy, cheap, quick lunch in New Haven.