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Nob Hill Foods open in Alameda

The new Nob Hill Foods opened today in Alameda, at the newly christened "Bridgeport Center" at the foot of the Fruitvale Bridge (two blocks along Blanding from the Park St. Bridge and four blocks from my house). When I went by around 6 pm to check it out, it was jammed: not a single space in the whole parking lot and miles long lines at the checkstands. Yesterday Alameda residents got coupons in the mail for $10 off a $40 purchase that are good only for a week, so people really turned out in force. They were also handing out coupon books and store maps at the door -- very thoughtful! Despite the crowds, the mood was festive, especially since there was some kind of lottery going on: periodically they would spin a wheel to pick a checkstand, and someone (the first in line at that checkstand, presumably) would get their order free.

I'm not familiar with Nob Hill's product mix (there aren't any in the East Bay), so I took some time to walk the aisles to see what they have.

I'm pleased to say that this store did not provoke the same hatred that the new Alameda Safeway did. Probably the best thing about it was that the aisles are wide enough for two carts to pass comfortably, and the aisles are broken in half in the middle, which makes it easy to navigate. The product mix is mid-scale supermarket: not Draeger's or Andronico's but not Albertson's either. It has a cafe with a view of the estuary, a post office branch (desperately needed), a bank and a pharmacy. Hours are 6 am to 11 pm every day. I probably won't shop there often -- I'll stick to specialty stores/TJ's for most things -- but it's nice to know it's there for the few things I still need a supermarket for and for late night emergencies.

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  1. Sounds like a "spot on" description of Nob Hill. It used to be a bit better, but that was before Raley's took it over. Still good though -- but, as you say, it's no Draeger's or Andronico's.

    1. I'm a big fan of Raley's and was a regular at one time at Nob Hill. That is a spot on description of these stores. My local Raley's, while not a drop dead produce section, always has some interesting little thing at least once a month ... fresh New Mexican green chiles, baby pineapples, baby yams ... ok, those last weren't worth it.

      The local Raley's also has one of the most caring staffs I have ever seen in any market anywhere. Too many good stories on how they treat the customers.

      Anyway, on that cafe ... is it a real cafe or just tables where you sit after picking up deli items?

      1 Reply
      1. re: rworange

        It's called Java, and they have the typical coffeehouse beverages and fruit smoothies, plus of course you can eat stuff from the deli or bakery.

        There were some interesting things in the produce section, including rambutans. Generally, though, I wasn't that impressed by the produce section, since I usually buy my produce at the natural grocery and farmers' markets.

      2. I always pegged NH as the place old ladies shop...well laid out, better quality then Safeway or Albertson's but not "gourmet" like Whole Foods or what not...and the baggers automatically help people out with a full kart. I'd say old fashion in a good way.

        5 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          You know, its funny you mention that ... ok mine's a Raley's ... but same thing ... BTW, they have a really decent free recipe magazine each month. Also available on line.

          Anyway, a recent staff story ... this older gentleman ... perhaps 200 or 300 years old ... was being helped by the manager and a few clerks. He was having trouble walking and dealing with the cart.

          So, I offer to get one of those electric carts for him and the manager says ... "Thank you but Mr. Methusala is very independant and doesn't want to use the cart."

          So I grab a nearby chair so the guy can sit for a few minutes ... there are two people holding him up he is so frail. Turns out they are trying to get him to his car ... my God !!! ... his car ... he can't negotiate the grocery cart.

          Anyway, they had called the police who took over the situation once the guy left the store and called someone to drive him home. The deal is that not only were they familiar with this customer and knew his name, but through this whole thing, the old guy is handled with respect so that no one injures his dignity without endangering the world by putting the guy on the road.

          I was impressed. It wasn't the first time at that store that something extrodinary like that happened. It is nice when a big store is ... well, human.

          1. re: rworange

            That's a funny and scary story...and true about the service. I use to go to a NH on the pennisula when I dated someone there and they'd offer to help w/ the groceries even for a couple of 30-somethings. NH/Raley's always struck me as having a slow charm even on days you'd guess to be really busy like Sat. afternoon. At first I didn't like it but over time I found it much more calm then big national chains. When I go to national chains my objective is get through ASAP, get everything I need and leave. The funny thing is RH is really designed for a slow stroll through there and looking at stuff...like an old lady. Funny the first descriptions of the madness at the new Alameda store didn't sound right to be...but if I had a $40 buck coupon, I'd be there too. I go to Alameda a few times a month, I might have to check it out.

            1. re: ML8000

              A new supermarket is definitely a big deal in Alameda -- it's the first new one we've had since Marina Village was built, and in the meantime, we lost two Albertson's (not much of a loss, but still). And people are curious to check out the new center as a whole: it's a lot more appealing than South Shore, and you don't have to fight your way down Park Street to get there, especially from the Fernside area. And of course, it's the only Nob Hill in the East Bay, which makes it a bit of a curiosity -- I wouldn't have been so quick to check it out if it were just another Safeway.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                A few months ago, I discovered the Nob Hill Foods in Concord (close to Ygnacio, off of Oak Grove Road), and now I divide my grocery dollars between that and Trader Joes. I love their meat selection - they have things more difficult to find elsewhere, and at very reasonable prices. Last Saturday, I got a package of pork riblets to supplement a package of baby back ribs, and it was a great value - 1 1/2 pounds of meat for 4 bucks. They have lamb tongue, veal liver, and other organ meats. They have a lot of space at this store, and their meat department is pretty extensive. If you like bacon, you'll find a wonderful assortment there, from cheapo stuff to more high-end product. It is the source for the Figaro tuna one of my cats craves.

                You'll find items there that will surprise you - remember those packaged pizza mixes, with all the ingredients in one box? Yeah, it's not as good as what you all or I make now, but if one wants a trip down memory lane, there ya go. A good Mexican foods section, a bakery that turns out wheat ciabbata rolls, and an extensive housewares section make this store more attractive to me than other stores in the area. They have an instore brand for many staples, and the prices are very competitive.

                Their carts are regular size, and the aisles wide. Service has been excellent - friendly clerks who bag well. The extra bags never bother me - I use them for kitty litterpan cleanup and don't feel they're wasted. It's a pleasurable shopping trip every time.

                1. re: Seldomsated

                  Oh, yeah. I was pretty pleased with the meat selection -- it looks small, but there's really a lot there. I prefer to buy my meat from my butcher, but he only has a limited variety of cuts, especially of non-beef cuts. My dog was really happy when I came home from the store with a couple of packages of beef feet!

        2. I stoped in last night, it was heaving, I was hoping to pick up a few things but seeing the queue's quickly changed my mind. I was praying for weeks that I wouldn't hate it and I could finally never ever to set foot in that Safeway from hell at South Shore! at least I got the satisfaction of knowing that last night!

          I'll wait a week till it calms and go take a proper look, but I can tell already that it can't replace TJ's or Dan's (for produce). I was kind of unimpressed with the produce and meat sections - thought they would have more space (the butcher counter was almost easy to miss it was so small).

          However two stand out items that will get me back where thin cut lamb steaks, like the kind I haven't seen since I left England, that these cool looking Abalone (sp) mushrooms.

          1. I can't quite picture what you mean by aisles being broken in half in the middle: are you saying there are lanes like a road? Anyway, easy to navigate sounds good to me....

            8 Replies
            1. re: susancinsf

              There's a long center lane in the middle of the store. So lanes don't run all the way from the front of the store to the back with no break.

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              1. re: rworange

                Right. Some stores trap you in their aisles, making you walk all the way to the front or back before you can move to another aisle. It's actually a marketing strategy to force you to be exposed to a larger number of products to get where you want to go. Safeway practices this with a vengeance! The shelving at the Nob Hills was also not as high and there was less overhead clutter than Safeway, leading to much less claustrophobia and sensory overload.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Actually the Nob Hill / Raley stragegy is better marketing. If give them more of the valuable end aisle display to push products ... uh, feature selected products and specials.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I agree, especially since a lot of manufacturers pay stores to display their products on "end caps" -- but clearly Safeway doesn't buy into that philosophy.

                    Nob Hill's end caps seem to be oriented toward "impulse" purchases: lots of candy (both high-end and low-end -- there must have been Valrhona in half a dozen different locations, and there were two or three displays of bagged Easter candy) -- and not so much to featured sale items.

                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Thanks for the clarification. Actually, the Potrero Hill Safeway, which I go to occaisonally, has the same 'broken' aisles...it is much easier to deal with, especially in a larger store.

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      I forgot to mention Susan, they have some sort of salad dressing that you were looking for once. You mentioned if you were ever in El Sobrante you'd pick it up. The Alameda Nob Hill might be better.

                      Speaking of candy, Raley/Nob Hill has a nice selection of chocolate bars. My Raley's have them all over the place. So they are on the end of ailes, near the deli, in the candy section, in the organic section.

                      My favorite so far is the Dagoba lavender. They just got in the Hersey single origin chocolate bars too.

                      1. re: rworange

                        oh yeah, might swing by after work some day....thanks! (of course now I forget the name of the stuff, but I will remember when I see it. My sister turned me on to it on a camping trip: waayyyyy waaayyyy better than your average bottled dressing.....)

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Margitza's (or is it Marritza's?) balsamic vineagrette......Comes in a small plastic bottle.

              2. For twenty years I have been happy that Nob Hill / Raleys is an alternative to Safeway and Albertsons. Glad they are making some inroads in the Oakland area. I'm happy with the meat and if I carefully choose, I can find some acceptable fish.
                Produce is usually good, but many of the stores seem to have a few bad springtime weeks when the produce is disappointing.

                1. Raleys was my local supermarket for years and I was really happy to have a non-Albertson's/Safeway option - although things like the bakery counter were pretty sorry (and much sorrier than the old Nob Hill bakery). The fish (there wasn't a service fish counter) usually didn't look all that great, unless there was a sale on an in-season fast moving item. The meats always looked more appealing than the other supermarkets. The deli goods were nothing special, but nothing bad. Their prices overall seemed to be better than the other markets (after the demise of Lucky's) and you don't need any silly card or anything - everyone gets the specials.

                  1. Way to change my mind in an instant!

                    Didn't really plan on getting much at Nob Hill on Saturday but I wanted to give it a go.....I hated it more than I dislike Safeway. what a strange expensive shopping experience that was.

                    First up was those little miniture baby carts/trolley's - what is that all about? That was the first sign that perhaps I wasn't goign to enjoy this store as much as I hoped.

                    Second up was the bizzare lay out of goods, no ryhme of reason to the layout and that break in the aisle doesn't make sense if you have canned goods on one side and then cleaning products on the other - its just strange and it doesn't work for me.

                    Produce while they have some unusual stuff right know, I wonderhow long it will last when sales aren't that great of the expensive 'luxury fruit and veg? Also the section is surprisingly small.

                    Speaking of small, the meat/fish counter is almost easy to miss - lots of pre-packaged things to walk on by but the actual serving counter is way to small.

                    Bakery - didn't get that far I'd had enough in the maze of aisles and products that don't flow together.

                    but the best was at the check out counter, the strange configuration makes it seems very cramped, you are kind of giuded down a little pasageway between registers, it was odd and not a very nice experience in my opinion. Finally the registers seemt o be designed to prevent you from bagging your own grocery's, you are almost forced to accept the naive help they offer.

                    now I'm not from America and so am used to bagging my own stuff, I'd rather do it myself (I usually simply tell the person trying to help it is fine I'lll do it). TJ's is the only store I know of tht they actually get the principal of putting items in logically. I thought Safeway had the monoploy on using as many bags as possible to pack items (I despise the way Safeway helpers pack bags, they simply don't pack mine ever!), but this guy in Nob Hill started bagging and I thought I'd let him role with it. I had maybe 15 items at the most, he managed to use 9 paper bags(he actually still had a few items to bag) before I stopped him and asked if he could just use two - it was plenty.

                    I then got two bags (not double bagged) that would have benefited from double bags.

                    anyway I hate Safway, but I buy so little from there anyways that I will simply go back to shopping there, Nob hill was horrible and unless they re-design the store I won't be going back in a hurry. As my wife pointed out they seem to have knocked down a building, re-built one that is exactly the same size and do little to enhance its styling. Are supermarkets' banned from having windows? they had a location on the water, why didn't they open the store up a little?

                    oh ye and it was expensive for what they sell....nothing exciting and over priced.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rob133

                      I'm sorry you didn't like it -- sounds like the things I liked about it are the things you hated about it!

                      It's actually pretty open for a supermarket -- the older Safeways had windows across the front, but the newer supermarkets never have windows: they take up too much valuable display space and distract the shoppers from the merchandise. At least the cafe area has windows, and on Saturday they had tables outside overlooking the estuary.

                      If you like bagging your own groceries, I would have thought you'd like the self-check-out option.

                    2. Self checking - only if I have a few items - there is never any room to put anything at those.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: rob133

                        I'm certainly not trying to change your mind, but for anyone who may not have tried Nob Hill/Raley's ... a few points

                        They have had specialty produce for the few years I've been shopping there and I'm guessing the reason they continue is because it is only one or two products.

                        That works for me. I'm not overwhelmed and I get to try a new item on each shopping trip.

                        The only thing is many of those items are not repeats. I missed the baby pineapples, so they have me trained to snap up something new ... well, maybe I SHOULD have bought those baby sweet peppers yesterday.

                        They other thing is that the unique little items they get I usually don't see at other markets, even Berkeley Bowl.

                        They have a VERY good mushroom selection too.

                        And that is how it is with the whole store ... in every category there is at least one thing that no other market sells ... btw, Susan if you are reading this, I don't think they carry that salad dressing anymore ... glancing at the shelves it seems a few other brands have moved in.

                        The one thing that took A LOT of getting used to was the organic/natural section. Things you would expect in a regular section like Kettle Chips or ... oh one of the brands of bottled water ... show up in that section. On the other hand they have Strauss products like butter, eggs & ice cream. Some interesting organic ice cream too that I haven't seen elsewhere ... half gallon though so I haven't commited to it yet.

                        That perhaps is the biggest challenge is that they spread out stuff. LIke the Hershey's premium and upscale chocolates ... or chocolates in general.

                        There's end displays of chocolate ... chocolate up front ... organic chocolate in various places around the organic section ... the candy section.

                        The latter I've been watching because they have premium Hershey's but no single origin. Then I'm checking out the rotissarrie chicken (the best supermarket bird, IMO) and there between the deli and the wine is the single origin Hersheys and tinned Hersey truffles.

                        The premium sausages are in a different display from the regular sausages ... and so it goes.

                        Maybe because I'm used to it, that doesn't bother me.

                        No matter where I've been the staff has been nice ... and not that way that one market was for a while where they were required to ask you how you were ... ok ... Safeway ... it was Safeway ... shopping at 4 in the morning and being accousted by four cheery perky clerks trying to engage me in conversation ... how are you today ... how can I help you ... It's 4am ... leave me alone.

                        Anyway, just tell them you want to bag. No problem. I personally don;t like self-bagging ...except sometime at Berkeley Bowl when I'l be damned if someone is going to bruise my organic purple spotted bananas.

                        I like certain Safeways but most of them just get bigger intead of having a larger variety of products. The one on Market is like that. On the other hand the Safeway in Fremont has a real cheese counter ... the Safeway in Marin carries Friendship cottage cheese.

                        I don't buy everything at Raley's. I don't buy everything at any one market. But I shop there the most for being able to get regular products with a nice little surprise here and there.

                        The deli is only marginally better than most ... except the chicken ... and the potato salad.

                        The bakery is forgetable ... but they do make the best supermarket red velvet cupcakes ... I just MIGHT give those hot cross buns a try.

                        The meat and fish is not great ... but they are selling their own brand of organic chicken ... and there were those unusal smoky links I saw ...

                        And there you go.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Exactly which Safeway in Marin carries Friendship cottage cheese?

                          For that matter, are there any stores in San Francisco that carry it?


                          1. re: Beans

                            The one in Strawberry Center. It was still there when I was that a few weeks ago.

                      2. I live about 5 blocks from it and I liked it, period. It's GROCERY store, isn't that what it's suppose to be???? Designer carts, who needs those?? If I want good fish I go to Alameda Marketplace and let Joey take care of that. As far as normal grocery items, it'll work just fine.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rtmonty

                          I actually like the carts -- they aren't so deep that they're either uncomfortable to take things out of the bottom (I'm not very tall or long-armed) or that things will end up getting squished on the bottom.

                        2. I was in Alameda a few days ago and stopped by to check it out. I was really impressed! Anyone who lives close to it in Alameda or certain parts of Oakland is lucky, especially if those crowds die down a little.

                          I've had overall good experiences with Raley's and NH. I think rworange just about covered it, but I'll just add to the Raley's/NH love by saying I like how they're a step up from those old Albertsons/Safeway locations but aren't all yuppie-pretentious like Whole Foods and Andronico's, and seem to beat them all when it comes to customer service. Even with all the grocery options in and around Berkeley, I wish a Raley's or NH were close by.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Agent 510

                            I went in to buy stuff on Saturday, and I think the problem might be that the parking lot is just too small. The store was busy but not insane, and the wait at the checkstands was minimal, but every space in the entire lot was full, and people were circling. Considering most of the other businesses in the center haven't opened yet, parking is going to be an ongoing issue.

                          2. Wow... I must be the only one that likes the new Alameda Safeway... I couldn't stand the Albertson's near me, or the other two in the nearby area, nor the Safeway up at MacArthur or Redwood. I can't always afford TJ's or shopping at Whole Paycheck, either.

                            I'll continue to go to the Alameda Marketplace when I need good fish or meat, but admittedly, I bought a perfectly good beef loin (a long version of filet mignon) from the butcher at Safeway, at half the price than at Baron's... and it was just as tasty!

                            1. The most if not all of the stuff I buy at TJ's is cheaper than it would be at Safeway (if they carried it at all!).

                              1. It seems the Alameda Nob Hill has online shopping available. Enter your order and drive up to the curb to pick the order up. The main page will have a box about the Alameda store.


                                  1. re: Gary Soup

                                    It's me that lives four blocks, not rworange. And yeah, if I have 20 pounds of groceries to lug home, I drive four blocks.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      I WAS replying to you, not rw. The threading layout is confusing, but if you look for the little arrow and the re:, you won't find them.

                                      Me, I'm the one tha shops at Costoc by bus.

                                      1. re: Gary Soup

                                        Depending how close you live to a bus stop, that could be less than four blocks!

                                        BTW, I stumbled across a very chowish Costco the other day -- the one in the Rengsdorff center in Mt. View is in the same center with an In N Out, a Krispy Kreme and a Goldilocks bakery.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          It is about 4.5 blocks, not including the walk distance to transfer. 40 lbs. is probably my max, but it's level or downhill all the way home

                                          I walk about 7 blocks to Safeway, 6 to TJ's. Uphill all the way home, though.

                                  2. I went in to check it out after the crowds died and was pleased this store opened in Alameda. I like the bins of bulk foods and nuts, the grind your own peanut butter, the ethnic offerings seem broader than others on the island and the clerks in the deli and check out were fantastically nice and helpful. A nice addition. To compare, I dislike the Safeway at South Shore, do most of my shopping out on Bay Farm, hit TJ's about every 2 weeks for odd ball stuff and cheeses and drive to Lunardis in Pleasant Hill for meat and poultry bulk shops. I think the Nob Hill is the best option for every day shopping on the island now.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: foodfan

                                      One of the things I really didn't pay attention to until recently is that most of those bulk items are organic. I had a craving for popcorn and for $1.39 lb, I noticed the popcorn was organic as were many, if not all, of the items in the bulk section.

                                    2. Would like to add (and how could I forget this?!) that they carry Sheer Bliss ice cream, the closest I've gotten on the Left Coast to Graeter's ice cream. Sheer Bliss carries pomegranate ice cream, if you're on that antioxidant brand wagon. I am partial to the coffee flavor myself.

                                      Also, the Concord Nob Hill store has a selection of British tinned and packaged foods, located by the produce section.