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Best grocery stores in Seattle?

  • h

My wife and I are moving to Seattle (maybe Magnolia, Queen Anne or West Seattle?) this spring and would like to know about the best grocery stores. We don't want to be forced into generic Safeways and Kroger branded stores like QFC (Kroger has ruined King Soopers here). We've got a Whole Foods here in Denver, which has great produce, meat/seafood, cheese and bakery, but we're not granola types, so we still have to shop the big chains for cereal, frozen foods and supplies - and wine at other stores. Are there any stores in Seattle we could get a large selection with quality food, cool/hard to find products and "staples" all in one store?
It's great to have this board to save us the hassle!

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  1. I think you'll be pleased with Larry's Markets and the Queen Anne Thriftway. I think there are about 3 Larry's; one is in lower Queen Anne. There's at least one Whole Foods. It's gigantic and is on 65th.

    1. If you end up in West Seattle Admiral Thriftway meets all the needs you mentioned.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Chris

        Chris, I just saw this Admiral/West Seattle Thriftway store mentioned in the latest edition of Seattle magazine from a bookstore here in Denver. Something about take-out foods I think. I took a cooking class recently and my wife and I would like to expand our home culinary horizons a bit. So hopefully we could get new food ideas from a store like that. Are they known for anything in particular?
        Thanks! Harald

        1. re: Harald V

          The Admiral Thriftway and Queen Anne Thriftway have in-store demonstrations, sometimes featuring some of the top local chefs. Among their annual featured presentations are the Copper River Salmon Festival in May, Peach-O-Rama in August and Beajoulais Nouveau in November.

        2. re: Chris

          Another fan of the West Seattle Admiral Thriftway. We consider shopping there part of our entertainment budget! The staff is very friendly and very helpful! There are two Thriftways in West Seattle - I only know about the Admiral Thriftway. Does anyone have comments about the other one?

          Just as a side remark - we live a few blocks from the Admiral Thriftway and really enjoy the neighborhood. Close to downtown but with its own community feeling (fun bookstores, a discount movie theater etc.). The only main drawback is that the traffic over the West Seattle Bridge can be a problem during commute times.


          1. re: ElizabethC

            Elizabeth --
            We go to both the Admiral Thriftway and the one further south on California Ave . . . is it Morgan St? The Admiral location has a great section for pastas, salads, etc made while you wait in addition to the deli items and has a more "full service" butcher counter & seafood. But the other locale has a wider selection overall, including more of what I think of as every day items along with the gourmet treats & good produce. And great service at both locations!

        3. You probably won't live near it but you should be aware of the gigantic, newly remodeled Uwijimaya Asian grocery store in the International District (just S. of Downtown). Excellent seafood department and all Asian staples and specialties.

          The other respondents nailed the choices in the neighborhoods you mentioned.


          1. The Central Market in North Seattle (on Westminster Way around 150th & Aurora) is absolutely great, and it would definitely fit your bill, EXCEPT it's not in any of the neighborhoods you mentioned. Thriftway also runs Central Market, and -- in general -- Thriftway has really well run stores (Queen Anne & Admiral Thriftways, Ballard Market, Greenwood Market, and Central Market are the ones with which I'm most familiar).

            Larry's Oaktree (105th & Aurora)is adequate -- much better than Safeways and QFCs (I never shop at either, unless it's absolutely unavoidable). The Larry's on lower Queen Anne seems to cater to a slightly "fussier" clientele than the Larry's up north. The Queen Anne location seems to carry a slightly better selection of certain items (pates, e.g). But the Larry's on lower Queen Anne is also way more crowded and slightly more expensive.

            When I want excellent meat or some different produce (quince, for example) I go to Whole Foods. For regular grocery shopping I generally go to Larry's Oaktree, because it's very near by. For a shopping treat I go to Central Market, which also has a large Asian section.

            Take it easy,

            6 Replies
            1. re: Jen

              As an outside sales rep I have visited every store listed on the other 4 replies (and then some)and I have to say that the Shoreline area Central Market that Jen mentioned is my hands down favorite. Even if it isn't exactly in one of the neighborhoods you listed, it is worth going those extra few miles -- definitely!!!

              It's like taking the best of Uwajimaya, Whole Foods, and Larry's and rolling it all into this one mack-daddy of a grocer. The live tanks and the amazing array of produce may be worth the trip all by themselves, but they also have wonderful meats, a vast bulk foods section, even slab bar soap similar to LUSH products -- you slice it yourself and it's priced by the pound...lovely.

              1. re: Jen

                Thanks Jen, for such a thorough reply. This gives us several places to explore, which can be fun in itself. We'll look at all of them and see. I was surprised at all the Thriftways you named. I've heard some are outstanding and others, a little dirty. The Central Market sounds interesting. I've also heard that Larry's is good, but that sometimes they don't have a complete selection? Either way, we look forward to finding out. Thanks again.

                1. re: Jen

                  Another vote here for Central Market! Yeah, you have to haul your butt up 99/Aurora to Shoreline, but it's Supermarket Heaven! Great Asian section, fantastic produce, great wine section, phenomenal bulk foods, olive bar - unbelievable.

                  I live very close to Whole Foods and the Roosevelt Trader Joe, and shop both places a lot, but still treat myself to a trip to Central Market every so often. It's dreamy.


                  1. re: Jen

                    I understand that the Ballard Market is owned by the same folks as Central Market. The Ballard Market is mere minutes from Queen Anne and Magnolia.

                    1. re: Chris

                      Yes, I do believe they are owned by the same people, but comparing Ballard Market to Shoreline's Central Market is like comparing (excuse the analogy please) apples & oranges...the Ballard Market has some fine qualities, but Central Market is, for starters, probably 3 or 4 times the square footage...

                      Ballard Market does have a great wine selection, as does it's BIG brother Central Market.

                      PFI, it should be noted, strikes me as more of a food warehouse than some people may be letting on, although it is considered by many I know to be a well-kept secret with some great finds at good prices.

                      Whole Foods? I loved it when it first opened, and I like to go once in awhile, but I think they try a little too hard to pass themselves off as organic-based(italics). Sure they have a good selection of organic produce, meats, etc., but so do the other markets we're talking about here -- I have friends who prefer to call it WHOLE PAYCHECK.

                    2. re: Jen

                      I did not see it mentioned by anyone else, but Central Market has a great beer selection. They pretty much have everything a seasoned drinker would want. The prices for beer are fair if not less than some of the other grocery stores in the area as well.

                    3. d
                      Don't Forget Me

                      Not exactly a typical grocery store, and you may already be familiar with them, but there is a Trader Joe's on Q.A. that I shop at when I'm in the neighborhood. From frozen ducks to cornichons, TJ's fills many of my more unusual food needs at good prices. If you happen to go down to the International District, as someone suggested below, an alternative to Uwajimaya might be Viet Wah. A vietnamese grocery store that has better prices and, in my estimation, many more asian products. (I was surprised when I went to Uwajimaya recently and discovered they seems to be catering to a more western clientele, imo) Also, drop by PFI. A sort of low-brow/high-quality, import, bulk, deli-type-place where you can get Bulgarian Kashkaval cheese, sheets of apricot paste, and whatever's in-between.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Don't Forget Me

                        Where is PFI, BTW? I've been hearing about it off and on for years, but haven't gotten around to going there yet.

                        1. re: Karl B
                          Don't Forget Me

                          They have a wholesale/warehouse a little farther south, but PFI's (Pacific Food Importers) retail outlet is called Big John's PFI. The address is 1001 6th Ave. South. I wouldn't call it a secret anymore, not since they moved to their "lush" new digs about 10 years ago. (If you think it's funky now, you shoulda seen the old store off Dearborn)

                          If you can find your way to 6th, look for a Big John sign on the west side of the street. You turn off 6th and drive downhill thru a parking lot about 100 yards to the store entrance. Good luck.

                      2. I frequently find myself doing "The Queen Anne Loop". Start out at Trader Joes for the required items there (bags of lemons & Limes, good bags of salad items, some cheese items, pineapple salsa, dried fruits, etc etc etc) Then on to Queen Anne Thriftway for produce, meats, and oogle at the wine. Finally its Safeways turn for laundry soap, etc etc.

                        A couple other random comments.

                        Thriftways are not all the same , The Q.A. Thriftway, Admril Thriftway, and Tacoma Proctor street Thriftway are all owned by the same folks..The Magnolia Thriftway is a different ownership.

                        The Queen Anne Thriftway is scheduled for a major remodel in the near future...So major that they will be closing the store during construction. There seems to be a controversy over on street parking, and truck loading, so it it ever gets off the ground only time will tell.

                        Ballard Market is another consideration, pretty standard supermarket, but a really, really good wine shop.

                        My last comment is that I do not shop at Larry Market on Lower Queen Anne. I used to, but had three bad experiences in a row there. Fish that was off, Bad produce, and a really bad chicken. Also I had a bad experience with their "epicurion club" . The wine department is VERY OVERPRICED. So needless to say, I really try to avoid Larrys.

                        John Maltman

                        1. thanks harald for starting a nice string on grocery stores! very informative to even a lifelong seattlite. if i may make some suggestions/concourences: pike place market, pacific food importers, and whole foods. as touristy as it can sometimes be, nothing beats the experience of shopping at THE market. pike place market is simply the best. seafood, produce, ethnic, spices, etc - its all here.

                          pacific food importers is THE secret imported food mecca located in the most non descript of places - between the us immigration building and the new football stadium. the best pricing on cured meats, cheeses olive oil, olives, etc. this place is a little funky but a treasure non the less.

                          finally, the roosevelt whole foods. this place gave me hope in modern american civilization. it is an absolutely brilliant, well thought out grocery that arrived in seattle just in time - just as qfc started to tank after being bought out (2x) and larry's quality really started to fade. i dont know what the denver whole foods is like, and i certainly agree with many in the string that it is not the place to buy everything, but wowza - this place just knocks my socks off! the cheese section, the wine section, the produce section, the prepared foods section - heaven!

                          welcome to seattle friend!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: thefluid

                            Thank you Seth, for the warm welcome. I've been gone for many years, but I grew up in Seattle at a young age and intend to embrace the culture once again. After living in a few other cities, I am eager to return to Pacific Northwest food.

                            I'll have to check out this PFI. Sounds like an adventure in finding great deals and very rewarding at the same time. I've been to Whole Foods in other cities, but I hear many on the board talk about the one on Roosevelt, so we'll have to visit.

                            We just want to be "wowed" in our grocery experience and be able to make one stop for our needs. It seems it's too much to ask for in some cities, but evidently not in Seattle.

                            As you say - when one can find a place with outstanding cheese, wine, produce and prepared foods - that's heaven. I mean, if we can go into a store to get a great $15 bottle of wine, taste a new cheese to take home and be able to get fruits or veggies that aren't bruised - then we are loyal to that store.

                            Can't wait to start in!

                            Thanks again!

                            1. re: Harald V

                              As someone else who returned home to Seattle from Denver, I hope you don't limit yourselves to one-stop shopping. Food shopping can easily be entertainment here. Don't miss the Farmer's Market this summer in the U District (Saturday mornings), and numerous specially and ethnic markets in various parts of the the city and surrounding suburbs. Hope you have a wonderful move!

                          2. c
                            Charles Drabkin

                            Just to be upfront, I am a board Member at the Madison Market Co-op on 16th and Madison. That being said it is a great place to shop. We have a friendly and knowledgeable staff, one of the best seafood departments in town, a great cheeses and a fantastic variety of produce.

                            We are open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and I invite you all to come and Check us out.

                            Good Eating,

                            Link: http://www.madisonmarket.com

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Charles Drabkin

                              Please do not use this bulletin board to advertise your own place of business. This defeats the purpose of this board.

                              1. re: Charles Drabkin
                                non-board member

                                I'm not a board member or even a member, but I stopped in there the other day (I've only been in once or twice since they moved) and was very pleasantly surprised. I bought some good organic produce at reasonable prices, and a red pepper (non-organic) at a less-than-QFC price. In addition, I found a St. Marcellin cheese and bulk arrowroot--all reasonable/cheap and of very good quality. I'd stop in again when I'm in the neighborhood.

                              2. Larry's is my choice for the best. I cook all the
                                time and can always find the ingredients at the
                                store. I usually ask to smell the fish no matter
                                where I buy it (in answer to someones post) I like
                                the loose herbs and spices.
                                I also shop the outdoor veg market on S. Jackson
                                in the International district. They usually have
                                the best fresh herbs in the back of the store.

                                1. I dream about Larry's Markets... wish they were here in New York. Shopping at Larry's (and running home to cook) was one of the high points of my two years at UW. The other high point was the great student lunch and dinner specials at all the ethnic restaurants in the U District.

                                  1. This is a very cool thread. Harald and Mrs. V., enjoy your new home.