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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.

                1. Ranch 99 for fresh produce. Always.

                  1. overall ralphs, but when whole foods hits OC, it will be the best in LA overall
                    too bad...I practically live at Whole Foods.

                    1. Pavilions in South Pasadena, before the supermarket strike. Now the produce isn't as good, and they've replaced the experienced people I've known for years, with kids.

                      1. Jon's is good. It reminds me of when I used to live in LA. There's a lot of diversity under one roof. They stock everything from obsure Eastern European deli items to rare global beers/spirits to Oaxacan treats to Persian baked goods to Korean rarities, etc. They also have Salvodorean pupusas and a Mexican hot deli.
                        There's one in OC (Fountain Valley).

                        Also, I can't leave out the Japanese/Hawaiian markets: Marukai, Mitsuwa, Nijiya, Eibisu...

                        Also worth mentioning are : Mother's, Henry's, Gelsons, and Bristol Farms.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: StivKaye

                          My Mom goes to Mother's in HB and 99 Ranch for produce. Occasionally goes to Marukai.

                        2. It depends what I want.
                          Produce used to be great at Northgate in South Gate, but lately some of its pretty crappy (cabbage with red goo all over it).

                          Basically I go to Northgate for regular stuff bread, produce, milk, canned stuff, Mexican products and some meats (mainly fish). A lot of the meat I find there is labeled "litter meat", the boneless chicken breasts are smaller there)

                          A small chain called Super A is where I get a lot of basic stuff too (xtra large eggs are always 99 cents there)

                          Albertsons is the closest "supermarket" as in they sell more name brands and alot of the "fanicer" junk I like to eat sometimes.

                          Stater Bros, Ralphs and Vons are all in Downey which is a little too far to go to most of the time but I like getting the "foo foo" stuff there too and some of the nicer cuts of meats.

                          Northgate and Super A are my main stores because they are simple and cheap and close to home for everyday type of store runs.

                          1. super A is quite fascinating, but their selection is limited. Still, the prices are low and you can't complain about that.
                            while having many shortcomings, Trader Joe's would give Whole Foods a run for your money.

                            1. Ubergeek, I read your posts and empathize with your move. Sorta auld lang syne -- miss the old, embrace the new. As much as I sometimes want to behead the manager for some stupid corporate decision, a big new Ralph's with double-coupons and new service people to cultivate is probably your best bet for weekly general grocery shopping. I get their weekly specials in the LA Times on the tues before, and they are also available online. These are supplemented by a few sometimes great weekend specials in the Sunday Times with coupons good thru tues. There is usually some USDA choice beef or chicken on super-sale.

                              I buy milk, cheese, juice, wine & beer, water, and some frozen or convenience treats at Trader Joes. I try to buy produce at farmer's markets or mexican stores, since produce has gone out of control recently (when not on sale) at the chains.

                              1. There's a Pavillions in Anaheim Hills, I believe off Santa Ana Cyn Rd and Weir.

                                Personally, I hit whatever's convenient (not many in Fullerton--Stater Bros & Ralph's, each < 1mi away). If I'm feeling especially trekky, I head to Henry's off the 91 at Harbor (2 mi away).

                                EDIT: I like to hit Costco too.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: OCAnn

                                  Hm... Henry's is very close to where we'll be (off the 91 at East)... hmmmmmmm.

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    A client of mine who lives out that way has been rattling my cage about Henry's. I may have to make the trek and check it out...

                                    The new Ralphs stores are pretty spiffy, though the produce continues to be grossly overpriced (compared to, say, Farm Fresh). The one we refer to as the Rich People's Ralphs (in west Pasadena, across from the Porsche/Jaguar dealer) has a deli case with stuff I occasionally really, really NEED, like lox trimmings, and a kinda nice (approximately) French-style sandwich of ham & cheese on a buttered baguette.

                                2. Wild Oats is good; it's in Long Beach. I highly recommend the local Farmers' Market. They are amazing. The one I go to is behind Wild Oats off of PCH/2nd Street in Long Beach on Sundays. Prices are great and there are some high quality produce vendors. They have one in Cerritos, which is closer to you during the week. Check this site:

                                  You may also want to check out the OC Farmers' Markets, though I've never been to any. Check them out here:

                                  Bristol Farms is great for meat, but expensive. Also in Long Beach, though off of Bellflower.

                                  Also, the closest Mother's to you I think is the one in Huntington Beach on PCH.

                                  I agree about T Joes's: their produce is awful.

                                  I vote for the Farmers' Markets. Good luck

                                  1. Agree that it varies from store to store, but overall, I find that Ralph's is by far the best of the supermarkets you listed.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Nicole

                                      My sentiments exactly. Especially considering the Ralph's is a "big new" one.

                                    2. Ralphs Market Faire or Market Basket is pretty good for a chain grocery store. HOWS a small chain is the best I think. Also check out Trader Joes if one is close by, funky, but really great stuff and killer prices. Whole foods is about the same price as Ralphs and they have fresher produce

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: robertpasadena

                                        Whole Foods the same price as Ralph's? Maybe the Ralph's in Tokyo...

                                      2. Don't overlook Stater Bros. They have rather good meats at reasonable prices and a good selection of other items. I buy cut up turkey, which none of the biggies like Albertsons carries, and they deserve a look-see.

                                        1. I have co-workers vouch for Northgate, so I think it would be worth a look-see.
                                          We personally go to Trader Joe's and Albertsons, even though we live relatively close to every other chain mentioned.....just out of habit.

                                          Costco is always nice for bulk, but I do think Wholesome Choice is nice too (if not a bit exotic). We used to go to Whole Foods, but I think I got too used to TJs/Big name grocery store brands. They had a nice fish selection.

                                          Far, but El Toro Meats is a place my friends would swear by (in Lake Forest)
                                          I've liked the times I've been to Santa Monica Seafood - there's a small branch in Orange
                                          Baked goods are always awesome in J&J Bakery (and other similar Asian spots) in Irvine.

                                          1. Fullerton has a Farmers Market every Wednesday morning all year round and then in the summer months they have a Farmers Market downtown from 4:00 pm to about 8:00 pm. The Wednesday market is moving from Orangethorpe to I think Independence Park but I am not sure when.

                                            1. Whole foods (pasadena) Bristol Farms (So. Pasadena) Gelsons (pasadena) are all good and expensive. Kings Ranch Market in Monrovia on Huntington has a great buthcer counter, fresh torillas made right there and decent produce, all much more reasonable. And they just remodeled the market so everything is fresh and new.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: rantsnravesnreviews

                                                These are all good markets but they're also forty miles from Anaheim... thanks though!

                                              2. From the major supermarket chains, I like Vons and Vons is not always the most convenient grocery store to where I have lived, but I always end up going back. Its my main chain grocery store. I shop at all the markets except Northgate.

                                                Ralphs I find to be too expensive overall, even if you take advantage of their double coupons, its sometimes cheaper to get it at Vons or Albertsons with the single coupon. I used to live right behind a Ralphs seriously, less than 45 second walk to the door and I found myself driving to the Pavilions (same company as Vons/Safeway)about 4 miles away. The dairy products I've noticed at Ralphs spoil faster than Vons' Lucerne brand. Ralph's produce seems to last an unusually long time, could be from how they are stored and treated, etc. The butchers at Ralphs seem to be extremely nice and helpful. At Vons and Albertsons, they don't necessarily stand out in my head, but I guess I see the meat at these major supermarkets to be all the same as they are all plastic wrapped for self service. I much rather talk to a butcher and be able to show him/her the exact pieces I want and sometimes they give me a lesson or two about another piece that is better.

                                                I usually buy produce at the local hispanic market or Asian market as they are dramatically cheaper, even though they may not look as nice, it seems fresher, looks like a higher turnover rate, and usually taste better than the stuff I get from the chains.

                                                There are two Superior Super Warehouses in Santa Ana, not sure how close it is to you, but I love their produce and at ridiculously low prices! There's two in Long Beach but I think its probably too far.

                                                1. I've heard good things about Northgate from friends who shop there and have read lots of good feedback about Altayebat (a Halal market on Brookhurst @ Ball). We'll be heading there soon, so I'll pop up a post if it's worth all the gushing.

                                                  For my money, you can't beat the Vietnamese markets in Little Saigon. Great (and very fresh) seafood with lots of selection and live items, fantastic meat and innards, produce as good as the chains with a better selection of ethnic ingredients and lots of staples, all at steal prices. Depending on where you are in Mouse-town, it shouldn't be too much of a trek. They do tend to get really packed on weekends so I'd definitely recommend visiting during the week if you can.

                                                  As far as the bigger chains go, we prefer Stater Bros. but they can vary by neighborhood so your mileage may vary.

                                                  Welcome to the land behind the orange curtain!

                                                  1. I highly recommend the Henry's Market in Fullerton.. my husband & I shopped there regularly when we lived in Anaheim and there is a bus that goes by there.. also the Stater Bros. on Brookhurst that was also mentioned (next to In N Out). =)

                                                    Anaheim has its own farmers market on Thursday.. it'll be on the city website I think.

                                                    Our other fave place to shop for food is TJs whether in Orange or now that we live downtown we have a few more locations to choose from. Still I'll be glad when the Ralphs opens.. we don't get fresh veggies nearly as often as we did when we went to Henry's.

                                                    1. I am pretty sure there is a Whole Foods in Orange County. It's in Tustin.

                                                      Bristol Farm has the best meat and produce. Pekin duck, Prime GRADE prime rib, fois gras, Kobe beef. It's a meat lovers paradise,

                                                      For mainstream markets, Stater Bros. has great cuts of meat.

                                                      The Vietnamese and Chinese markets have the best seafood. I was at 99 ranch today where there were huge lobsters for 6.99 a pound, live king crab, live fish.

                                                      1. A veritable embarrassment of riches, the basic concept is play the field if you have time & persistence:

                                                        Wild Oats in Laguna & LB Marina has excellent produce, especially their organic choices, sometimes nice seafood & dairy, shop the specials

                                                        Wholesome Choice in Irvine is a gem, great produce, don't miss their Sangak & freshly baked organic breads, all manner of Persian & Middle Eastern delights thoughout the store

                                                        TJs for cheeses & nuts, potato salad & smoked salmon

                                                        99 Cents Only for occasional good wines, sometimes decent produce

                                                        Smith's Farm Stand on Ellis near Brookhurst for homegrown berries, citrus, asparagus, tomatoes, basil & other items

                                                        99 Ranch for Asian produce & fishies

                                                        Jon's for fairly priced produce of variable quality and Middle Eastern & Russki groceries

                                                        Farmers Markets in different towns different days of the week, Irvine on Sa AM is especially worthwhile

                                                        Pavillions, Stater & even Albertson when they have specials on meat, they'll custom trim for you & go out of way to satisfy given the raging competition: Example, being out of $2.99 semi-boneless special for leg of lamb at PVs, gave me boneless at same price, butterflied & trimmed at no extra cost, amazing. Don't like the filet they cut you on special from Stater, noooo problem they'll keep cutting until you're happy, geez, you'll think you died & went to Bristol

                                                        1. Yes, there are Whole Foods in OC. There is one in Tustin at the corner of Irvine Blvd and Newport. I think Bristol Farms is the best market. There is one in Newport Beach. It is fabulous.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Kaisgraham

                                                            tustin's wfm is one of the smallest wfm but it will be moving to a more spaceous location in irvine (barranca & jamboree). last i heard it was going to be moving 2Q or 3Q07

                                                          2. There has been a lot of improvement in shopping options in North OC the last few years. For Das Ubergeek, the Henry's at Harbor and the 91 in Fullerton is basically just across the Anaheim/Fullerton line. It is owned by Wild Oats and carries many of the same products . The prices are not anywhere near as dear, however, and it's in general more down to earth and a place where "regular" people do their "regular" shopping, just with a major emphasis on natural/organic/fresh. There's also a Henry's in Yorba Linda.

                                                            Also, there's a Whole Foods not far from Anaheim on Newport Ave just north of the 5 in Tustin. There are also several Trader Joe's around. They have their plusses and minuses, and there's a learning curve attached to maximizing your success there. Personally, I found it worthwhile and I couldn't live without TJs. Also, there are many wonderful ethnic markets around ranging from massive like Gigante to mid-sized like 99 Ranch to a plethora of mom and pop stands.

                                                            Fullerton's Wednesday farmers' market on Orangethorpe is more serious about food, but the Thursday night one is OK as well. Sometimes there's some great produce available at the Brea Tuesday evening farmers' market. I am sure there must be some good ones around Anaheim and Santa Ana if one goes to the CFM website.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: stuffed

                                                              The Thurs evening Fullerton Farmers Market operates April - October. The other Fullerton FM and the one in Brea is year-round.

                                                            2. Well, we decided to check out Albertsons -- it was the closest -- and it was fine. Nothing exciting but much better prices than that Ralphs at Lincoln and State College -- whew, sticker shock!

                                                              Also looked at the 99 Ranch on Euclid (cleaner than most) and the Northgate on Lincoln west of Harbor (not Vallarta, but will do until I can check out Gigante).

                                                              1. We usually get beef tri tip (for ground meat), baby back pork, pork chops and chicken thigh meat at Costco's. I imagine the nearest to Anaheim is the one on Harbor exit off 91 (same plaza as Lee's Sandwiches).

                                                                Also get angus steaks and produce at TJ's at Brea (Imperial exit off 57 North). I think it's probably about 15 minutes in non-congested traffic. Their veggie selection is decent and very fresh generally.

                                                                For the ultimate freshness in produce go to Irvine Farmer's Market saturday mornings (it ends about noon). It's in the same plaza as Lee's Sandwich, Steelhead brewery, In-N-Out, I think at Univerity and Campus. In the winter the selection isn't as great, but in the summer I've found heirloom tomatoes, some sort of small round white squash, squash blossoms, and great strawberries there. BTW, there's a strawberry stand (not open right now - not in season) off Imperial Hwy in Brea (right on Associates Rd on the way to TJs) that has one of the better strawberries here - I think they rival Harry's Farm.

                                                                Lastly I go to either Stater Bros or Albertson's for the rest of American food that I can't get elsewhere. If there are Korean supermarkets near you it's probably worth a try. They generally have very good produce and fresh noodles assortment.

                                                                1. Depending on where you live some supermarket chains are different from other locations. Some stores sell better quality items while others don't.