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Substitute for Trader Joe's in Austin?

I'm a serious Trader Joe's junkie, thinking about moving to Austin but sad that one of my all-time favorite grocery stores has yet to open up in Texas. Is there anything even approximating the vibe of T.J.'s in Austin? Any other local stores/chains that are well-stocked with high-quality ingredients? Think Andronico's in Berkeley, Byerly's in Minneapolis, Fairway in NYC, Larry's in Seattle, Gelson's in L.A., etc.

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  1. I'm from Orange County and was blown away by the Central Market on Lamar. Once you go there, you'll forget all about Trader Joe's.

    Central Market
    4001 N Lamar Blvd # 100, Austin, TX

    1. Central Market is VERY Andronico's-esque. Not as cheap as Trader Joe's, but lots of wonderful things to buy and eat and ogle. There are two in Austin.

      1. I would say Wheatsville Co-op might give you a similar vibe as a Trader Joe's, although it doesn't have quite as much Trader Joe's Brand prepared (ready to eat) foods. Central Market and Whole Foods are better about the ready to eat stuff.

        1. Newflowers on Manchaca/Wm. Cannon?

          3 Replies
          1. re: NirvRush

            All of above do not have anywhere close to TJ prices. The cheese here is SO expensive, I SO miss TJ's!!!
            Newflower has some things a little less, but then some stuff is way more then other places too, so it all even out. There store brand is not organic either.

            1. re: familyof3

              Let's see, Trader Joe's has great prices, but in Orange County (or in the Bay Area, or Massachusetts, or Portland OR, all places I've lived near TJ's) the price of housing is 50-100% more, gas is 30-50 cents per gallon more, those states collect income tax, etc, etc. I love TJ's, there is one 6 blocks from my house, I go a few times a week; yes, some prices are very reasonable on wine, cheese, nutz, etc. And some of the frozen stuff is great. But I wouldn't base my decision to move somewhere because of the presence or not of TJs. Central Market has WAY more variety (and and is far better than Andronico's which I lived near in Berkeley, with far more reasonable prices) , and so cheeses might be a bit more, at least you don't pay state income tax, and so on. And here in Portland, I can't find passion fruit juice concentrate, okra (fresh or frozen), and even pay more for Portland beer here than HEB charges in Austin for the same exact bottle, regardless of the extreme distance and trucking charges. Oh, there's Fiesta Mart! Need a frozen goat or cow's head? TJ's rarely has those things. I'd say, if you like Austin, move, there...TJ's will eventually open there, and in the meantime, watch a few movies during that extra time you save not filing state tax returns, or tied up in OC traffic, or waiting in line at any state of CA gov't office....!!!! The buck or two per pound you save on imported cheese will be worth it...probably!

              1. re: sambamaster

                Wow Samba - tell us how you really feel!

                I do feel lucky to live 5 min from Central Market N. Especially when they first opened. Raised property values just for being there.

          2. There probably won' be a replacement, quality of life with some fantastic and not so affordable shopping vs high living expenses and fantastically cheap groceries. I'll take Austin anyday. That being said I have lived in SoCal for and was "spoiled" w/ TJ, but had to drive there as opposed to living in Austin Texas and being able to walk to the most fantastic store in the country. On that note, anyone been to Natural Grocer on 39th and Guadalupe?

            1. I understand that TJ's is about to open in Dallas. I doubt that Austin can be for behind.

              I am looking forward to finding out what the hype is about. Should be fun...

              7 Replies
              1. re: Rene

                that's all we need need. Another thing for the homesick Californians. Really, we'll never get one. move back, move back, there is still time.

                ...wonder how long before they flag this one.

                1. re: TroyTempest

                  I thought this discussion was about bringing a TJ's to Austin. I'm not sure why you had to bring up your dislike for Californians . Go figure. I thought the people in Austin had an open mind toward change.

                  Either way.... We need a TJ's in Austin!

                  1. re: austxca

                    it was a joke, but seriously if it wasn't for the all the Californians driving up housing prices in the late 90's, Austin would be a lot nicer (and cheaper) place to live.

                    While i'm on my soapbox. I have never been to TJ's, and I'm sure that it is real nice, but I have about reached my saturation point in hearing how great Trader Joe's. (and in and out burger as well) There is no way it can live up to the hype.

                      1. re: rudeboy

                        I hope it is, for all the love it gets, but then P. Terry's gets a lot of love, too...

                      2. re: TroyTempest

                        Trader Joe's lives up to the hype, if you love food, you feel like a kid in a candy store and everything is pretty cheap too. In-N-Out isn't the best burger in the world but they only cook burgers and fries, nothing else and they do it well, everything is always fresh, the restaurants are always clean,it's really cheap, the staff is always friendly... It's that In-N-Out is so much better than any other fast food restaurant, its no contest against Mcdonalds or the like.

                        1. re: trask

                          Agreed on the In-N-Out point. I wasn't overly impressed by the burger, but it was better than McDs & Burger King; just not as good as the burgers from Top Notch and Dan's.

                          I did like their fries though. Probably the most potato-y, fresh tasting fries I've had from a fast food joint.

                2. When I was living in LA we'd shop at the TJ's in Culver City every now and then. It's SUCH a teeny-tiny place though so I'd try to just go there for a few particular things. One of those particular things was their KILLER key lime pie. It was really, really good.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bloody hammer

                    "I understand that TJ's is about to open in Dallas" that's exciting to read....hope it is true, I have heard oppisite, because of wharehouse stuff, etc.....
                    I love Central Market and Whole Foods, so I am happy here already. Regular HEB not too bad either. Have to check out Fiesta, been meaning too for a long time~

                    1. re: bloody hammer

                      Y'wanna know who's got really good Key Lime Pie?

                      Red River Cafe on Medical Arts down just north of Dean Keaton, oddly.

                    2. Central Market and Whole Foods comes close. Also this fall, a Sprouts will open in Round Rock (I"m hoping for good things) and one down south. Fiesta has been hit or miss for me. Mainly miss. I seriously question their food holding conditions in their seafood dept and meat dept. 2 times I've picked up bad food...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: TaseT


                        Very nice pick-up. Sprouts is similar although IMO much better than New Flower Market.

                        Their new locations will be in these areas in late 2009 and 2010

                        Round Rock
                        Cedar Park
                        Sunset Valley

                        I think Austin has amazing grocery possibilities.

                        BTW Gelson's is good, but I think that Central Market, Downtown Whole Foods, and other options blow it away.

                        1. re: TaseT

                          Really? I looooove Fiesta. But for different reasons. They don't give you super fancy and chic food for discounted prices. No, Fiesta is so authentic it will make you feel like you're actually grocery shopping in Mexico. And that's something that Central Market and Trader Joe's and Sprouts will never do.

                        2. Rumor has it; TJ's will open a store near the Arboretum.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: austxca

                            It would make the most sense for Trader Joe's to move into the Gateway shopping center as soon as Whole Foods vacates for the new Domain store.

                          2. If you want something small, Sun Harvest offers a vaguely similar experience. It's not as cheap but they have plenty of bulk and specials on Wednesdays I think.

                            I've been to a few of the ones you mention, HalMadDad, and I agree that once you get your tour of Austin grocers big and small, Trader Joes will be a quickly fading memory!

                            1. i was told sprouts out of colorado si coming to both the arboretum this fall and to round rock.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: nytexan

                                Don't know why all the California hatin'. Been there forty years, now in Austin and wouldn't go back for anythiing. But Texas and Cali soldiers need to chill; let's just say these are the two best states (of being) and leave it there.

                                So . . . TJ is great; unlikely to see its exact replacement here. But Central Market and Whole Foods are superb. Fresh Plus and Cissi's (on South Congress) are top notch. And even mega-liquor stores like Spec's and Twin Liquors have respectable supply of gourmet stuff to go along with premier liquor.

                                1. re: nytexan

                                  The first Sprouts is opening up off Bee Cave Rd in the same shopping area as Panera. It's schedule to open (at the moment) at the end of September and mid-October at the latest

                                  1. re: shan

                                    all the cm lovers here may not like what i have to say here, but trader joe's is a lot better than cm (central market); produce is not that great at central market , although you do get a lot of choices. the prepared foods are full of fillers/artificial flavors, colors/etc... if you print out the labels, you'll see a very long list of ingredients for , say, even potato leek soup. prepared foods are wholer and more natural at whole foods or wheatsville.
                                    i'm waiting for the day trader joe's comes to austin.....

                                    1. re: hungryfoodie

                                      I'm curious, are you referring to the prepared foods in the cold case as being full of fillers, artificial flavoring and artificial coloring? Other than the soup, can you give some examples?

                                      I don't think the prepared foods at CM are "health food," but they seem to me to be fairly straightforward, as in they are what they say they are.

                                      1. re: hungryfoodie

                                        I'm not a total Central Market fan, but you CANNOT compare the pre-packaged produce at TJ's in any way with that of Central Market. I live a few blocks from a TJ's in Portland OR and would NEVER buy produce there. NEVER. "A lot of choices"???????? Central Market produce is pricey. but it is 100000x better than TJs even when they call cardoons "Italian celery" which is ridiculous. Trader Joe's is a cool store, has some really decent cheap wine and cheese. And some interesting frozen items. But it will NEVER be Central Market. cheap cheese, in the end, is cheap cheese...though TJ's seems to find the better cheap cheezes. I get a lot of cheese there. And some interesting frozen Indian foods. but Central Market, in spite of it's friendliness to Jello puddings and other crap (back when they refused to carry, what??, normal graham crackers for pie crusts, they had 10 linear feet of jello crap), will kick TJ's butt on pretty much every count (ok, i get TJ's 5.99 Chianti regularly, and I doubt CM has anything at that price as good...). But, having lived from coast to coast, CM is the market to beat on pretty much every count.......except bread, and I don't understand how, since opening, their bread has gotten worse, and worse, and worse????

                                  2. I think the best place to find ingredients similar to Trader Joe's is at HEB. Different HEBs have different stuff and if you take the time to really look around you can find quality ingredients at trader joe like prices, but doesn't have the trader joe's "feel". Sun Harvest and Sprouts has the same feel as trader joe's. Unfortunately, I haven't found $3 six packs and $2 wine anywhere in Austin

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: trask

                                      $3 wine at Newflowers. They're really not bad. Tisdale is pretty reliable.

                                    2. I've always heard Trader Joe's isn't in Texas because our alcohol laws don't fit their business model.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: The Tres Leches

                                        For those of us who ARE interested in the possibility of a TJs coming to Austin, I just read an interesting article:


                                        Here's the part I thought was applicable...

                                        Trader Joe's purchases directly from the manufacturers, which then ship their wares straight to Trader Joe's distribution centers. A U.S.-made cheese, for example, is sent to distribution centers nationwide, where it's sometimes cut and wrapped, taking another cost out of the equation. At a traditional supermarket, that same cheese would probably go through a distributor first, tacking on another cost. Trucks leave the distribution centers daily for the stores. Trader Joe's small stores don't have much of a back room, so ordering from the distribution centers has to be precise.

                                        This distribution process helps determine where the company opens its stores. Texas and Florida have cities that boast consumers Trader Joe's covets, but insiders say the current distribution infrastructure makes it difficult for the company to efficiently get products to those states.

                                        1. re: The Tres Leches

                                          eh, i'm from MA and many of the TJs couldn't carry alcohol because of local blue laws.
                                          they did fine w/o it.
                                          i think it's more about the distro system, noted below.

                                          1. re: dinaofdoom

                                            When I lived in Culver City, Ca I was crazy for that Key Lime pie you could get at TJ's.