Western Beef: New York, NY

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Another grungy New York City icon is gone. Western Beef supermarket recently moved from West 14th Street to West 16th Street and lost its personality in the process.

In its old location, Western Beef was sandwiched between a bottle service nightclub and a stylish Belgian bistro. With its orange signs and sidewalk carts overflowing with discount corn chips, the store was the neighborhood eccentric. The new store is sadly much like any other faceless chain supermarket.

I ran into a friend at the new Western Beef over the weekend and they summed it up best: "When you saw blood on the floor of the old store, you could never be completely sure if it was cow blood or if someone got shot." The old store was both fascinating and disgusting.

The new Western Beef has managed to hang on to the store's more savory features: low prices, wide selection, and friendly employees. While the new store is smaller, it is also cleaner and easier to shop. The new store has a meat locker section offering some value prices on large cuts of meat, just like the old store did.

It is easy to miss the new 16th Street store. There are no signs up yet, just a row of shopping carts mark the small door to the store. The new store is a block uptown from the more upscale Chelsea Market. Attention value minded shoppers -- pick up a few specialty items in Chelsea Market and then go around the corner to fill in with inexpensive basics from Western Beef.

Western Beef serves a market ignored by other lower Manhattan grocery stores. According to their website, Western Beef "establishes supermarkets primarily in inner-city neighborhoods . . . By concentrating on the ethnic backgrounds, income levels, population density and food preferences in our neighborhoods, we are able to stock our stores with the brands and sizes of products our customer prefer. Realizing that many of our customers hail from foreign countries, we supply the ingredients that complete their favorite recipes."

Western Beef moved after taking "a big buyout deal from the developer that owns the 14th St. property," according to The Villager. To learn more about the changes in New York City's Meatpacking District, visit Forgotten NY. Rumor has it that a Swatch store and and Manhattan's third Apple Store will take up the 14th Street corner where Western Beef was.