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Fresh and Easy open in Spring Valley/Casa de Oro

Alice Q Feb 6, 2008 09:24 PM

I haven't had a chance to go in yet, but the parking lot was packed today at noon when I drove by. I think they actually opened today. Has anyone shopped in one of these around town, and if so - what do you think of it? Any recommendations for can't miss products? I believe these stores are new to the San Diego area - 3 have opened or are opening around the same time.

  1. l
    Linda O Feb 17, 2008 07:41 PM

    Fruit Not So Fresh
    I visited the new Fresh and Easy on Navajo and Lake Murray and bought a package of Apples. 2 out of the 4 apples had rotten spots on them. I am afraid this soured me to the whole experience though the macaroni and cheese from the deli case was good. Oh well live and learn.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Linda O
      DiningDiva Feb 17, 2008 10:40 PM

      I stopped in the San Carlos store on Friday to check it out. I think it has some good potential, but you just confirmed one of my initial impressions. The produce seemed a bit on the pricey side and the quality didn't seem to fit the high produce prices. I can get better produce for less $$$ at Henry's or Windmill Farms in Del Cerro. Other than that, I thought that some of the meat and prepared items looked pretty decent.

    2. l
      LisaSD Feb 8, 2008 10:45 AM

      Went to the new Fresh and Easy in Spring Valley last night. They said they opened Wednesday and someone (very nicely) asked me not to take pictures due to company policy. I explained that I was doing it for some forums I participate in to let them know they were open and she said if we wanted, we could make arrangements with the manager and then come in with them and take pictures.

      It's definitely different than anything I've ever shopped at and let me tell you, the scanner at the checkout was super fast and efficient. None of the problem that Wal-mart and other self-serve scanners have about the weighing of the item after you scan it. A pretty girl at the end of the counter allowed us to pick out any bouquet we wanted to take home. I went there at the end of the night, so maybe that is how they get rid of their older flowers? Or maybe just a sweet, opening week gesture?

      Vegetables looked super fresh, lots of interesting unique items...

      2 Replies
      1. re: LisaSD
        s
        sdnativa Feb 8, 2008 11:46 AM

        A Fresh & Easy is under construction about 1/2 mile from my house and I could not be more thrilled. It is the site of an old Albertsons (and back in the olden days, Food Basket). If they sell milk and eggs, I'll be a happy camper as there are no grocery stores close by. And the really great part is, a Peets in going in too!

        1. re: LisaSD
          nancyluna Feb 8, 2008 03:47 PM

          Yes, F&E has eggs..and milk. I've been writing a lot about F&E since it announced plans to open in Orange County. I cover it on my food blog. There's an interesting dialogue going on, in my last post..Many people are weighing on on what they LIKE, and HATE about the store. Here's the post:
          http://fastfood.freedomblogging.com/c...

        2. j
          JeffSD Feb 7, 2008 09:32 AM

          I've shopped at the Chula Vista Fresh & Easy three or four times since it opened last Thanksgiving. Going there is a curious experience. Maybe that experience is best summed up by what my friend said after five minutes in the store: "This is like the Stepford Wives!" Overall, the store is sanitized and plasticized to within an inch of its life, devoid of any passion for food, a store with no personality, a store on xanax with very even flourescent lighting.

          To back up, the concept here is to create a store that is almost totally automated. The check out is totally self-serve, but there are a few staff members who can assist shoppers the who get tangled up in the store's self chechout process. The underlying idea is to automate the store and have few actual humans in attendance. So all of the products for sale are sold in containerized plastic cartons, including produce, fruits, and vegetables, which are already bagged and scanned for easy check out. Thus, its hard to go in and get one banana since they are already bagged in containers of 3 or 4. Likewise if you want a rib eye steak or center cut pork chop you'd have to buy two since meat is packaged in multiple quantities.

          I was interested in the unfrozen prepared foods section. There are several types of food available to take home, heat, and have a complete dinner ready for two in 10 minutes at a cost of $4-5, a pretty good deal. We've tried the butter chicken, mango chicken, carnitas, and a thai selection. They were all ok, nothing wonderful and nothing terrible, although the carnitas was perhaps the worst of the lot. The rib eye steaks we bought looked good, were fairly tender, but not very flavorful. Same for the center cut pork chops. Prices on these items were lower and the quality a bit higher than at a typical Big Box supermarket. We tried a few of their packaged dessert items and they too very ok but not outstanding. The Fresh & Easy brand dark chocolate gelato is outstanding. Others have raved about the banana gelato, but we haven't tried that one yet.

          We haven't tried to buy much in the canned foods sections, but it looks like they sell a combination of regular and Fresh & Easy brands at fair prices. Many wines are offered, some under $5, A few of these turned out to acceptable.

          Inevitably, Fresh & Easy is going to be compared to Trader Joe's. They are difference concepts, with Trader Joe's having lots of personality in terms of its workers, goods, and store layout. Fresh & Easy is basically trying to be an automat, devoid of people and any of the passion that can be associated with food.

          None of the Fresh & Easy stores will be near where I live, so I won't shop there much if at all. Whole Foods and Bristol Farms are closer and better for where I live. But, I could see shopping Fresh & Easy if I lived close to one and the others were further away.

          4 Replies
          1. re: JeffSD
            Alice Q Feb 7, 2008 10:17 AM

            Thanks for the report - it does sound kind of like a giant automat!

            1. re: Alice Q
              l
              LaurenZ Feb 7, 2008 12:43 PM

              We checked out the F&E in the OC last weekend when visiting my parents. I didn't mind the lack of character, but I don't plan on shopping at this store often we are big Trader Joe & Henry's fans.

              I will say that I liked being able to buy british style "back bacon" for $6 and they do great markdowns on produce when its time to rotate the new stuff in. I got 2 fresh anaheim peppers for like $.50 and they were perfectly good when I used them last night in chili. I think this store will be a nice and occasional place to shop at.

            2. re: JeffSD
              j
              jturtle Feb 7, 2008 06:10 PM

              It sounds like they use a lot of plastic and overwrap things in order to promote their concept? Is this true? I try to shop at markets where I leave the littlest carbon footprint I can and this may be the opposite of my goals. Is there anything there that stands out that would be worth the trip?

              1. re: jturtle
                Alice Q Feb 7, 2008 08:09 PM

                This doesn't appeal to me either, hopefully most of it can be recycled. I bring my own bags to the farmers' market now and even the plastic wrapped stuff at Trader Joes drives me nuts.

            3. j
              jturtle Feb 6, 2008 09:39 PM

              Pretty sure the bubbly girl reviewed them last week or the week before in the UT. She seemed positve and compared their prepared items to Whole Foods I believe, but that is all I have heard.

              13 Replies
              1. re: jturtle
                Alice Q Feb 6, 2008 09:44 PM

                Really? I'll have to go look it up, and this time I'll try to refrain from telling her to read her own articles. ;-)

                1. re: Alice Q
                  j
                  jturtle Feb 6, 2008 09:47 PM

                  Let me know if I am thinking of the wrong article--and yes, that might be a good idea (hee hee)!!!

                  1. re: jturtle
                    Alice Q Feb 7, 2008 01:02 AM

                    found it - http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontr...

                  2. re: Alice Q
                    DiningDiva Feb 7, 2008 08:24 AM

                    A chef friend visited the Fresh and Easy in CV and came away unimpressed. I'm patiently awaiting the opening of the San Carlos branch on Navajo at Lake Murray.

                    1. re: DiningDiva
                      e
                      Ewilensky Feb 7, 2008 08:35 AM

                      And one will be opening on University near 32nd St. I read recently in the North Park News...

                      1. re: Ewilensky
                        Alice Q Feb 7, 2008 09:07 AM

                        Jeez, and I thought we were special! ;-) It's so convenient for me, I literally drive right by it going to and from work, I'm sure I'll be shopping there some. I hear they have decent prepared ethnic foods, so I am looking forward to checking those out. I get the impression it's like a slightly lower budget version of Marks and Spencer in England.

                        1. re: Alice Q
                          DiningDiva Feb 7, 2008 09:28 AM

                          Where exactly in Casa de Oro is it. My 90 year old aunt lives on Mt. Helix and doesn't (by choice) cook. This might be a good option for her.

                          1. re: DiningDiva
                            Alice Q Feb 7, 2008 10:14 AM

                            It's right at the Kenwood exit - in the Ranas shopping center.

                        2. re: Ewilensky
                          geekyfoodie Feb 7, 2008 09:34 AM

                          Did the NPN say when it was going to open?

                        3. re: DiningDiva
                          c
                          Cathy Feb 8, 2008 05:21 PM

                          The sign on the building says Feb 13...I am hoping there is a soft opening going on this weekend.

                          1. re: Cathy
                            Alice Q Feb 8, 2008 06:22 PM

                            The one by us opened on the date the sign said, on the 6th. I went twice today - once to check it out in the AM, and then - lo and behold - I needed something on the way home, and popped by again. They are giving out coupons for five dollars off a purchase of 20 bucks or over, so I used one tonight.

                            It seems relatively inexpensive, but very few items are organic and they don't seem to have any humanely or grass fed meats. Also - keep an eye on the expiration dates. I bought a multipack thing of baby organic carrots, and discovered when I got home that they expire tomorrow. A couple of other things expire on the 10th.

                            On the recommendations of others, I bought the roasted banana and chocolate gelato - they are very good.

                            This morning I bought a couple of sandwiches which I took to work and shared with a friend for lunch. The chicken salad was especially good, and the mozzarella/tomato had really good cheese on it.

                            Overall it reminds me more of the food section at Target than anything else - with some packaged ready to eat foods added in. I was hoping for a wider selection of that stuff though, more like Marks and Spencer. I really don't need another place to buy boxes of Kelloggs cereal or Oscar Meyer wieners - so in that respect I'm a little disappointed - maybe they'll revamp though, as they figure out what customers really need.

                            1. re: Alice Q
                              c
                              Cathy Feb 8, 2008 08:38 PM

                              I suppose the dating is part of the "fresh" part...

                              I look at it more like a high end 7-11, or an expanded refrigerated counter at TJs for a place to get a sit down meal when life is busy...

                              As an example- I think the special this week is lasagne/salad/garlic bread for 2-4 people for a bit less than $10. It is easy, and fresh.

                              It is a place I will go to when I am rushed, but not a regular weekly stop.

                          2. re: DiningDiva
                            j
                            JRSD Feb 13, 2008 03:27 PM

                            I went to the San Carlos branch today to pick up lunch. Definitely a place to go mostly for convenience foods but the Ahi fliets looked very nice and the scallops looked good at $13.99/lb.

                            They had a wide variety of pre-washed, broken up lettuce and a good variety of produce that all looked fresh.

                            Bought a spicy tuna roll and was told that they get their sushi fresh every day. It had either a super-hard avocado piece or very soft cucumber in it, and was not very spicy. Also tried a couple of slices of the uncured corned beef which was very flavorful, but a little too tangy.

                            I would definitely go there for specific things that I needed or for the pre-prepared meals, but I don't think I could do all my grocery shopping there.

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