Someone please visit Rainbow's cheese dept. and tell me I'm wrong.
- Syre Aug 31, 2001 08:37 PM
I feel as if people are just rejecting out of hand my claims that Rainbow has the best cheese dept. in the city. Will someone please go there and post an opinion either agreeing with me or telling me why I'm completly full of it?
I once again was on Fillmore street today, and went into Molly Stone's and Artisan Cheese.
Molly Stone's cheese department was almost void of any interest to me, and Artisan once again had extremely expensive cheeses mostly of indifferent quality and a very limited range of types.
Rainbow has not only more range, but much better prices than any other place I've been to in this town. Is everyone refusing to consider it because of its "granola" natural foods image?
Where is Rainbow? Do they specialize in any particular types of cheese? I only visit the city occasionally, and haven't been to any of the places you mentioned. I usually go to Mollie Stone's at Belmont, which is probably their biggest and best store--I know the one in Burlingame isn't as nice or interesting, and I know nothing of the SF one.
I believe I myself recently posted that Rainbow was at Division and Folsom; however, studying an old Thomas Bros. map makes me think that may be not quite accurate.
It's at 1745 Folsom between 13th and 14th Streets, but because it's adjacent to the street that runs under the Freeway, it's a tad confusing with street names and numbers, but really easy to find! One enters its parking lot from the street that runs under the freeway. I meant to look at the street sign to see if it said 13th or something else.
To reach it from downtown, take Harrison and turn right on 14th and right at the next stoplight onto Folsom. If you can't find street parking, turn right again at 13th (aka Duboce!)--just beyond Rainbow--and make a quick right into parking lot.
From northern part of city, Gough across Market, staying in left lane if possible, curve around, then left turn arrow onto 13th. After traffic turns for freeway entrance on South Van Ness, get into right lane and you'll cross Folsom and see parking lot.
Rainbow is open till 9 PM every day except--I believe--Gay Freedom Day, MLK's birthday, May Day, and Labor Day.
I agree with you. Rainbow doesn't carry a ton of cheeses, but what they have is very fresh and reasonably priced. I prefer to buy my parmesan there; it's always in better condition, and less expensive then anywhere else in SF.
Rainbow also carries awesome thick corn tortillas; they are often sold still warm.
Whole Foods really pushes my button because so many, including food writers one would hope should know better, refer to it as a "health food store" or a source of organic produce, whereas in my visits there I've found the nonorganic produce both far more prevalent than the organic and the prices higher than for organic versions elsewhere.
The bulk choices, compared to Rainbow or even Real Food, are laughable. The markups on standard items like milk are appalling. And the error rate at the cash register is the highest of any store I've ever patronized, with an annoying requirement to go to another location and wait for an employee to show up in order to get a refund on any overcharges.
It breaks my heart that, apparently partly because it offers parking and partly because it's so much Yuppier, the SF Whole Foods hit Polk Real Food particularly hard.
The fact is, Rainbow has a DEPARTMENT. Artisan and Say Cheese are ALL ABOUT cheese. That's some dedication on the part of their owners.
As for Mollie's, I think most everyone on this board agrees that it's the Belmont Mollie's which takes the cake. I work in Sausalito, and our mollie's is good, but has a miniscule cheese dept (yes, even compared to Rainbow).
And, I'll repeat what I posted weeks ago (which you never responded to, I might mention): the kids who often work the cheese counter at Rainbow do not know the first thing about the rare cheeses carried there. Perhaps it's because I do my grocery shopping on the weekend and the "real" buyers have the weekends off. I don't know - but it IS rather frustrating.
As I've posted here before, I live just two blocks from Rainbow, and go there frequently. What I don't understand is why you insist on being RIGHT about this. Some people like Mollies, others like Artisan, and still more like Rainbow. Please let it go.
I think you do miss the buyers when you go to Rainbow on the weekend. There are some people who know what they're doing there.
And the reason I keep bringing it up is that after I mentioned that in my opinion Rainbow's cheese deptartment is better than Artisan's entire store, no one except you actually said they'd been to Rainbow, and other people said they'd made special trips to Artisan but didn't mention Rainbow.
So I was concerned that people are staying away because they think a cheese department in a natural foods store couldn't possibly be a serious source of serious cheese, and I think Rainbow is, hence my other plug.
It's fine if you prefer one place to another after going to both places. I just want people who haven't gone to go, and then tell me what they think!
I drive quite a ways to shop at Rainbow, where I spend the bulk of my food-shopping dollars.
Anyone who bakes--especially breads--has to go there. Indeed, in my opinion, anyone serious about food has to go there at least occasionally because of the breadth of choices in not just flours and grains but legumes and much more. It's always an education.
Anyone trying to shop prudently and ecologically in SF will find so many items in bulk--olive oils, shampoos, etc.
I don't know any other source of, for another example, organic handmade tortillas.
And whether it's because it's a workers' co-op or some other reason, the staff is uniformly helpful.
And for those of us who believe it's better for both the earth and the farmworker to buy organic, Rainbow offers far and away the largest percentage of organic products of any store I know.
Syre, the only thing I would disagree with in your post is that the prices at Rainbow are not the best in town. The best prices in town for cheese are at Trader Joe's. The Gruyere is like two bucks a pound cheaper there. I don't know how Trader Joe's does this, and I suspect it's because they're doing something weird, like buying it with an illegal U.S. Army purchasing order or something.
Of course, the cheese selection is not as interesting there, and neither are the tattoos of the help. But they do have a lot more types of cheese than Safeway or Bell.
re: Food Dog Man
Trader Joes makes huge volume deals on it's stock. Their buyers negotiate great deals, and that is religiously passed on to their customers. They work on the premise that you will be a customer for life, and they aren't far off the mark.
As for cheese shops in general. I haven't been to Rainbow. I know it's a collective, but thats about all. As far as cheese and collectives go I can offer 2 words. Cheese Board. The 30 year fixture in Berkely's "gourmet ghetto". I have put in enought time in grocery stores to know that it is all to easy to find butchers that don't know meat, produce men that don't know produce, and deli clerks that don't know cheese. The Cheese Board, being a speciaty shop, tends to have better more knowledgable cheeseheads.
I have been to Rainbow foods and i think that aside from the Andronico's cheese department that they have a fine selection for cheap. You are not being stupid. However, there are some fine cheese shops in this city that are not that insanely over priced and worht the smell alone to go visit. 24th Street Cheese company is a good one, as well as the cheese shop in Cole valley. I prefer to buy my cheeses in a variety of different places. The country cheese co. on Divisadero and Oak have a great stinky soft brie and some nice hard spanish cheeses, but if you want over all quantity, variety and selection, i would say 24th street cheese, and then andronico's and rainbow. they are both on par with each other.