Favorite Grocery Store in Santa Cruz and Why
Hey all --
I'm curious where the other SC chowhounds do their shopping. I have a few different stops, for specific things --
produce and meat: Shoppers' Corner. The yellow onions are never more than 49c a pound, often less. Celery is 99c, green onions 69c, butter lettuce 99c . . . best produce prices in town, and excellent quality. As for meat, their prices and quality are also very good. I buy my ground turkey and ground beef there for $2.99/lb.
bulk bins and seafood: Staff of Life. The bulk spice/tea selection is great, and if I only need 1/2 tsp. of something for one recipe, I end up there. re: Seafood -- I've never been steered wrong by the fish guys at SofL. Delicious red trout, scallops, and roughy. Nothing has smelled fishy or been the least bit off.
I hit up Trader Joe's for dairy, eggs, cereal, and tortillas. Costco for cheese. Safeway for national brand name things I can't find at my usual haunts (though, the Safeway in Seabright is always understocked in what I happen to need, and doesn't have as good a selection as the one on Mission). Oh, and on Wednesdays, I go to the farmers' market downtown for fresh herbs.
Where do you shop, for what items?
Nob Hill (Capitola) - consistenly good for a wide range of grocery store items.
Shopper's Corner - high quality.
New Leaf - for health food store items, vitamins, also like their deli counter for prepared foods.
I live in Seabright, and Shopper's Corner is my all-purpose market. I typically buy their Happy Dan whole chickens, sausages, Molinari salami, and any meat that looks fresh and is on special. Their produce is pretty good, as is their wine and cheese selection when I don't feel like going to a specialty market. For being a relatively small market, they carry a lot of different items and stay on top of food trends.
Yes, Staff of Life is great for bulk food and herbs and spices. Their sale prices can be very good deals too. I've not had much luck w/ their meat or seafood. For instance, the fresh sardines that I purchased recently were not gutted properly, and their beef (I forget from what ranch) was pretty flavorless. Their Fulton Valley chicken is good though, and I really like their Beeler's thick cut uncured bacon. They have some good smoked fish too. Their produce is not so hot. Has anyone tried their bulk oils or vinegars? I'll have to get some peanut oil from there next time I'm frying up some chicken.
I'm shopping less and less at Trader Joe's these days because the nuts are always rancid or stale and the dairy products turn bad quickly. The quality just isn't there anymore, and many places offer more care and quality. When I do go, I'll stock up on Plugra butter (my #1 baking butter), Pellegrino, olive oil for cooking, canned beans, dijon mustard. Most of the snack food tastes weird to me.
I get most of my produce these days from a CSA: Two Small Farms. It's my first year doing it, and I'm loving it so far. We are eating more veggies that are packed w/ flavor and nutrition. I'm particularly enjoying the summer squash, fresh-dug potatoes, and gypsy peppers lately. I'll supplement by going to the Sat. Cabrillo market or Sun. Live Oak market on occasion.
If I'm on a Mexican kick, then I'll make a trek to Del Pueblo in Watsonville. Yamashita Grocery is also a good stop if I'm in the area. For Viet or many Asian ingredients, I'll go over the hill to San Jose.
Since our wine consumption has been increasing, we are buying more and more wine from Soif downtown. They have some excellent, well-priced wines and the personal service is invaluable. I have enjoyed (to varying degrees) every bottle of wine I've tried from them. While I'm downtown, I also may pick up whole bean coffee from SC Coffee Roasting and loose leaf tea from Chaikana.
We are probably the only people who don't have a Costco membership, but I hope to keep it that way. :-)
I thought you might subscribe to the same CSA since I noticed your inquiry on home cooking. I've been w/ them for about 10 wks. now, and the produce is progressively getting more diverse and interesting (ie, less greens and more summer crops!). I can't wait until they get eggplant and tomatoes. And I'm definitely planning on my annual visit to Mariquita's farm when they have u-pick tomatoes open to the public.
I was worried about getting bored or feeling constricted w/ a set box, but not in the least. I usually check the link below a couple of days before my pick up so I can do some menu planning.
Mariquita Farm CSA
142 Linden Rd, Watsonville, CA
High Ground Organics
521 Harkins Slough Rd, Watsonville, CA
Staff of Life for milk, yogurt, soy/almond milk, Glaum eggs, bulk bins, and non-farmer's market produce. Not a fan or their beef at all but the Fulton Valley chicken is good stuff.
Shopper's Corner, on occasion, for meat and other items I need at the time. A couple of their butchers seem to go through the motions at times when helping me while others have been great.
Since I live in Soquel, I'll go down to Deluxe Foods for meat and a few other things that I might need at the time. And for the selection of cheeses. Their butchers are always friendly and I know where to go if I ever decide to splurge for a dry-aged prime steak. Certainly not the best bargain in town but great quality.
I definitely am not someone who does the bulk of his shopping at Trader Joe's. I agree with Carb Lover that certain TJ's items aren't the greatest quaility. The milk always seems to have off flavors and spoils way too quickly. It is good for cereal, Martinis olive oil, Mediterranean/Greek yogurt, and some frozen fruit and frozen prepared food and few other things. Thanks to Brown Ranch Marketplace management, having to see the same charity workers asking for donations at the Capitola store week in and week out doesn't help matters either.
The Cabrillo and downtown farmer's markets are where most of the fruits and vegetables come from. New Leaf, Capitola Village Produce, Nob Hill and Safeway all see occasional trips.
Has anyone purchased the Harris Ranch-sourced Natural Choice "Never Ever" beef that New Leaf now carries?
I've always wanted to participate in CSA but have never gotten around to it. I think you might have convinced me! As for the question. . . Cabrillo Farmer's Market on Sat for veggies, and Deluxe market to fill in. A bit pricey but very fresh, and the veggie guys will order anything you can think of, at a normal price. Never veggies at Safeway, actually only paper and soap products if needed from there. Meat at Deluxe, and sometimes from the organic rancher at the farmer's market. Glaum or Uncle Eddy's organic eggs. If you take your child to the Glaum Egg Ranch on Valencia, you can put your money in the machine on the wall, and the chickens do a dance, then you get your eggs. Corny I know, but then it's the small pleasures in life. DELUXE WALL of CHEESE. What else can I say about that? TJ's has not been tempting for quite awhile. We just traveled through Oregon and stocked up on honey, jams, syrups, etc. for the year. Wine too. The Safeway in Aptos, though remodeled is still dark and dreary, seems dirty, though I don't know. Parking is a pain too. For me, Shopper's is not that impressive, the butchers are kind of rude, and the veggies are uninspiring.
You should consider joining a CSA like Two Small Farms. They are all full right now but have a wait list. You can do a 4-week trial before committing to additional weeks. $20 a week for top-notch, organic produce that I pick up about a block from work is a great deal...
The Aptos Safeway is downright posh and luxurious compared to the dreadful one in Seabright. Talk about dirty, cramped, and understaffed. Safeway is good if I'm baking cookies at midnight and realize I need more sugar or something since the Seabright one is open 24/7, but it's not a regular stop. The Aptos Safeway has a pretty good wine selection though w/ some great discounts. I also bought some nectarines (99 cents/lb) from there a few weeks ago, and they were really juicy and flavorful...more so than the ones I recently bought from Shopper's.
I never make it over to Deluxe Foods these days but wasn't that crazy about it when we used to live nearby for a couple of months. It felt more like a "boutique" store than an everyday store for me. They did have an impressive ice cream collection though...
There seems to be more new faces behind the butcher counter at Shopper's these days, but everyone is generally helpful and attentive in my experience (and I can be picky about my meat). I'm not one for small talk or too much friendliness. I can't think of a time that I ever perceived rudeness from any employee there in my 4 yrs. of shopping there.
It will be interesting when the two Whole Foods open up in the county. I went to the one in Cupertino recently and found the selection dizzying...
I live in Phoenix but have been to Santa Cruz several times and really like Shopper's Corner. I was trying to get a flatiron steak last week, which they normally don't stock, so out comes the side of beef and they were offering to butcher it for me. I appreciate that kind of service. I ended up with their pork tenderloins which I've had before and they've very good. Nice wine selection, the produce is good and priced well. Wish it was my local store.