Lock ‘Em Up & Toss the Key
"Your Neighborhood Store and So Much More,?" as the Key Food slogan goes. It's that so much more bit that gives me pause. I'm not the mellowest person to begin with, but this Key Food makes me violent. When I've lived in raggedy neighborhoods like Sunset Park, I kind of accepted the fact that grocery stores were few and far between, and the ones that did exist were pretty shitty (and even the Fifth Ave. Sunset Park location resembles a normal grocery store, complete with wide aisles and semi-decent produce. Heck, they even have those bottle deposit machines. The Fifth Ave. Park Slope location is actually kind of swank).
I can't figure out what Carroll Gardens' excuse is. I can't see all the demanding high standards mommies putting up with the lameness on Court St. My guess is that all the SUVs lining the streets aren't just for looks and that families are navigating the rough terrain to "real" grocery stores, or judging from the boxes tidily tied on recycling day that there's heavy Fresh Direct usage in the area, or gauging from the number of black nannies carting around whiny white kids that many residents don't do their own shopping and as long as their tykes get YoBaby (that's probably not good enough–YoYo's contain yummy Nutraflora).
I do everything possible to avoid this store, which is difficult because it's the only shop on my way to other thing like the subway (that's not even true, I still have to go a block out of my way. How about some courtesy south of 4th Pl.?). I'm not a Met lover by any means, but I think it's a tiny notch above the KF, it's just more of a haul. Yes, I know the neighborhood (for now) rife with old school purveyors like Esposito's and Caputo's, but I'm suburban, I want one stop shopping. And honestly, if you want anything non-Italian (which in my case is almost always) you're kind of screwed. Serrano ham and gruyere (which is hardly exotic) have both proven to be tough finds.
I can't decide which component of Key Food is the most irksome. Sometimes I think it's their selection. If there's anything I need they're sure to not have it. Basic things like coffee filters, like I said cucumbers, mint, those stupid long Italian peppers that are everywhere and that I normally have no use for. And if they do have what you're looking for it will be way expensive, in bad shape, or needlessly organic. Once all I wanted was run of the mill half and half, not like $10 special half and half. I was thwarted. Same with that cucumber, I desired a nondescript 50-cent cuke, not a $2.99 seedless hothouse version. It's about choice, and the fact that there's not a lot to be had in the neighborhood (don't even get me started on the countless mediocre Thai restaurants popping up like lemongrass weeds).
Sometimes I think the people (customers and staff) are the painful part of the KF experience. Like I said, there are a lot of strollers. Narrow aisles combined with clueless new moms, cranky seniors using walkers and those wheeled carts, and shelves continuously in mid-stocked states, boxes piled into roadblocks make for unpleasantness. The cashiers consist of teenage Brooklyn girls who never seem to actually be doing any cashiering. If their back isn't to you because they?re talking to other cashiers or they're not sucking on lollipops, the top of the register is open and there's a problem with the receipt tape.
What I do love about this Key Food is how developmentally disabled folks always seem to find me. I wonder if there is a group home nearby. The other day a large older woman with a gray monchichi haircut accosted me near the yogurt, complimented me on my blouse and then recommended custard-style Yoplait. A little crazy, but at least pleasant. My favorite encounter was the time I was in my usual no holds barred hurry. I started bolting down an aisle only to be blocked by a weird little man that looked like a short pre-op Al Roker, with a giant brought-from-home cart. I started to bust a gasket, but stopped, calmed down, put a smile on my face, and politely waited for him to reach the end of the row so I could head down. He stops, looks at me, then says, "I like your hairstyle. Did you go to the beauty shop recently?" He totally caught me off guard and instead of indignantly huffing off I answered truthfully, "well, about a month ago" to which he added "you're a very pretty lady." Ha, that was a good one. But weirdo complement or not, it totally cracked me up. More of these types please, they made Key Food bearable.
Key Food * 395 Court St., Brooklyn, NY