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Jan 25, 2007 10:08 AM

Which LA/OC grocery chain is best?

So Ubergeekhaus Anaheim is within reasonable striking distance from an Albertsons, a Ralphs, a Vons, a Stater Bros. and a Northgate.

Which one of those is best? Best produce? Best meat?

I normally buy meat at a butcher, bread at a bakery, produce at a farmers' market -- but sometimes I don't have time to do all that stuff.

So which is best?

There aren't Whole Foods in OC. There's just one Trader Joe's near us (in the Orange Mall) and their produce is terrible anyway. The nearest Mother's Market is in Costa Mesa and the nearest Gelson's is in Irvine. No Pavilions either (though they're all just Vons anyway).

I never go to any of the "normal" markets since we have a great Vallarta near the current house... so I'm a bit at a loss.

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  1. It depends a lot on how well-stocked and how large the market is, whatever the brand. I prefer Ralph's, although I've never heard of Northgate. But the one by my office on Wilshire is leagues ahead of the smaller one in Silver Lake.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chowpatty

      Good point -- it's a medium Albertsons, a big new Ralphs, a medium Vons, I haven't seen the Stater Bros., and the Northgate is fairly large.

      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        Ditto Chowpatty's sentiment.

        Quality and variety will really vary from store to store. I have about 5 Ralphs within a 5 mile radius of where I live and 1 of them I wouldn't shop at even with full body suit of armor, and 2 of them are basic run-of-the-mill grocery chain markets, but 1 is really nice, with wide aisles, fresh veggies and produce, lots of ethnic foodstocks, etc.

        Same goes for the Vons that are near where I live, as well as the Albertsons.

        I would just do a little bit of sleuthing and see which one fits you best.

    2. There's a Whole Foods in Tustin near Irvine Blvd/Newport Blvd.

      3 Replies
      1. re: tgmm

        yeah i go to this one. there used to be one in irvine on michaelson (or was it another health food store) but now that is wholesome choice.

        1. re: tgmm

          Whole Foods will be relocating to Jamboree & Barranca when that Costco/Lowes/Whole Foods/Target center opens up in the Spring/Summer, or thereabouts.
          Ralphs has a Fresh Fare line of stores(their version of Pavilions relative to Vons) that is MUCH nicer than any regular Ralphs. Ralphs is very high priced, however, regardless orf location. Stater Bros. is well-known to have the best meat dept. and Ralphs is probably the worst of those suggested.

        2. If you want a Vallarta-like experience (i.e. a mexican grocery chain with ridiculously cheap produce), there is a Gigante in Anaheim.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ozzygee

            Is that the place next to Le Mart du Wal, on Euclid and Crescent across from Chris 'N Pitt's and the 99 Ranch?

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              That would be it, and a good suggestion to boot.

              You might also look at the Irvine Ranch Markets, which are a mini gourmet supermarket. There's one on Chapman & Newport Blvd in Orange Park Acres, and one on Irvine Ave in Costa Mesa, by the top of the upper back bay park.

              Lastly, it's not a chain, but Wholesome Choice in Irvine is a standout supermarket gem. It's competitor down the street, Super Irvine, isn't a slouch either. They're both Persian owned with a wide ranging international inventory (more true for WC).

              1. re: Professor Salt

                Wholseome Choice is my recommendation for something better, and certainly more diverse, than our local chains. I can spend hours in there perusing all the different offerings while getting my shopping done, and then take home a ready to eat meal of my Persian favorites. It's not geographically desirable to my neck of the OC, but it's worth the trip when I can find the time.

              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                Yep, that's the spot. I haven't been to this one, but it looks newer that the one in Covina I visited. It wasn't as amazing as Vallarta was with its hot food section (I don't think you'll find a replacement, sorry.) but the produce was cheap and good.

            2. This is a very hard question, because I find there is great variety of branches within the chains.

              In my neighborhood, I love the Ralph's at Overland and Jefferson and like the Ralph's on Lincoln in the Marina, but I hate the Ralph's at Venice and Overland.

              I love the Vons Pavilion's on Sepulveda near Jefferson, but only tolerate the Vons on Centinela and just more than tolerate the Vons next to Aunt Kizzy's.

              My wife like the Albertson's on Sepulveda at Palms.

              The point is, no two Ralph's are the same, no two Vons are the same. And no one store is best at everything.

              1. When we lived in OC, I liked Stater Brothers a lot. Its not a fancy Pavilions type chain but I found most of their basic items at a much better price than your average store. I liked supporting them because they were a local chain and the employees always seemed nicer. No silly club cards and last I heard they still had actual on site butchers and not just a cryovac jockey.

                Their meat quality isn't How's level by any means but they run pretty good specials all the time and the value to quality ratio I thought was pretty good. During the summer I used to get their pork spareribs and beef ribs specials regularly for bbq.

                The produce section is very dependent on that store's produce manager. I found inconsistencies from store to store. Also I tended to like the ones that were started from scratch by the company vs. ones they bought out an old Albertsons or Vons and kept most of the staff and furnishings.

                I think its worth visiting a few times to see how they fit your needs.