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So this Billerica woman walks into a Somerville Market Basket . . .

I had an appointment off Somerville Ave, a couple blocks away from a Market Basket. My kid wanted some sweet plantains so I figured we'd swing in to MB and get some.

This Billerica woman was in for a mighty shock. First, there is no swinging into MB. Parking is a chaotic tangle of carts, cars going every which way, people strolling wherever, what a mess! I quickly acclimated to the drive style and shot to the other side of the lot and beat out another car for a spot. We walked in the store and headed for the produce aisle. What fun! Sugar cane, yuca root, pile sof plantains both green and yellow, lemongrass, and many oddly formed and colored produce I had never seen before. The melons were actually ripe, the greens fresh and with a snap to the leaves. The only rotting produce I saw was in the organic produce section.

Massive bags of rice blocking one aisle, A huge bag of still hot corn tortillas for $1.19. Nicely cleaned and fresh squid. We kept looking and discovering and exclaiming. There were five people working behind the deli counter. I actually got waited on immediately!

It was so crowded with no one seeming to pay attention to the people behind them as they held upl traffic to peruse the grapes or what-have-you. All the different ethnic groups and languages and dress -- much more interesting than shopping in Billerica.

Half of the aisles were taken up with stock. That drove me crazy. Loved so much of the rest of it, though. The produce aisles were a dream come true with great prices.

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  1. Cool.

    Somerville Market Basket: "We're not in Kansas any more."

    1. Ah, good memories! I used to live in Union Square and shopped there all the time. It's a lot easier if you can walk and not have to deal with their insane parking lot.

      To this day it's the only place I've ever seen fresh-picked (unbrined) olives for sale. I bought some of course, (how could I not?) with no idea what I was going to do with them. They ended up as cat toys.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BobB

        Go to Russo's and you will see fresh olives for sale (in season, of course). They also regularly carry all the other produce that the OP mentioned, except I can't remember seeing anything organic there, rotting or otherwise, with the recent exception of some bananas. They were the same price as regular bananas and in perfect condition.

      2. I love this. As others have pointed out, the day-time stocking helps to keep the prices so low as they don't have to pay 3rd shift to stock out of customers' way. It's a pain to move around them, but if you take a xanax before you hit the parking lot you'll do just fine.

        3 Replies
        1. re: yumyum

          I advise wearing flip-flops - makes you walk slower than, say, sneakers. Helps for the downshift that is really necessary to peacefully negotiate the Basket.

          1. re: Bob Dobalina

            Sneakers are almost a must to get any traction on the sawdust they spread all over the floor!

            1. re: TokyuFoodShow

              That's exactly my point! Need to really slow myself down from the typical power-walk through the supermarket.

        2. I found it 100x more pleasant when I did my grocery shopping wearing an iPod. And having recently had a margarita.

          It's not just stockers blocking the aisles. Plenty of Somerville MBers do the weekly shop with three generations of family, and it's at a stroll-on-the-Malecon pace.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dulce de leche

            I am always amazed at the new and varied ways people find to block an entire aisle with just one person and one cart.

          2. I had a friend who called that Market Basket "The League of Nations"

            1. SSSSSHHHH ... you're not supposed to post great thing about my fav supermarket, it's only going to make the parking worse.

              I try to go when my handicapped neighbor needs to shop. But even the HC spots are hard to get. Produce at MB is cheap and fresh... it's so busy in there, it doesn't have time to sit on the shelf. I buy 80% of my produce there... like cilantro, avacados, fruits and shrooms.

              It also has some great bargains on dry goods and staples. And if you're looking for something out of the ordinary, you'll find it there. Only thing I'm a bit leary about is their meets and fish, I've had a couple of bad experiences, but it wouldn't deter me from buying chicken there.

              6 Replies
              1. re: zizzpudding

                Interesting; I like the fish because turnover's so fast. But as always with fish, good to stay on one's toes.

                1. re: zizzpudding

                  Does anyone know if they carry organic and natural stuff? Like Weleda's skin products, or non-bleached paper towels and such? Organic veggies? Canned goods from Eden Organics (no BPA)? We're spoiled by years of shopping at Whole Foods, but need to cut back on our food bill.

                  We thought we'd give MB in Somerville a try, but I am a bit scared. I went in once out of curiosity because I happened to be walking by (on a Saturday afternoon) and as soon as I got in the door almost had a panic attack from the chaos (not a fan of loudness and people getting into my personal space) and left. I guess I should give it a go at 7am... Or is the rumor that it's a lot more quiet between 9-11 am on Sundays true? I just want to see what they have, but I'm not prepared to loose a toe over a can of beans.

                  1. re: Cattie

                    I doubt they have any Weleda stuff. However, organic skin products are getting more common- there's usually a whole Burt's Bees section at CVS. But Market Basket is not where you go for that type of thing. They may have some recycled paper goods, not sure. The organic produce there is limited. It doesn't turn over as fast as the rest of the (excellent, in my opinion) produce but I do buy organic for carrots and a few other things there on a regular basis.

                    It may be a little less crowded at 9 on a Sunday, but by 11 it will be crazy for sure. If you have any weekdays off, weekday mornings are the best time. And on a Sunday, the earlier the better. That said, you will save tons of $$ off a comparable Whole foods shopping list.

                    1. re: Parsnipity

                      I've found weekdays 6:30-7:30 pm not too bad.

                      1. re: Aromatherapy

                        I was there this past Sunday about 5 p.m, and it wasnt' bad at all. I'm not sure if that was an aberration or not, but I breezed through.

                    2. re: Cattie

                      At the comparably pathetic MB at which I normally shop, Amy Broccoli Pot Pies are $3.39. A bag of organic carrots is 89 cents. Other organic produce is hit and miss. Sometimes organic apples are $1.29/lb but organic strawberries are rotting. I have not seen unbleached paper products. There are Eden canned beans but they are more expensive than the 365 Whole Foods brand so I don't buy them. The 365 brand of regular milk (no BGH) is 20 cents cheaper a gallon than Garelick Farms milk (heard it was BGH free).

                  2. Sunday's are full contact days. Suggested wear: football pads.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: lergnom

                      Thank you all for your input! I think I'll give it a go early on a weekday. Will report back! :-)

                    2. Since a recent separate thread on this went unanswered: Is the "new" Market Basket in Wilmington any improvement over its predecessor? It's actually not far from me, but I haven't had occasion to head in that direction recently. Before I retired I shopped in Wilm weekly since it was on my commute. It was mediocre but not terrible.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: greygarious

                        There's a new one in Chelsea that a friend loves.

                        I am practically jumping for joy that I have a part time temp gig that is a reasonable walk to MB Somerville. Love that produce section which, to be honest, is all I tend to buy there. I used to go at 7 am on Saturday when I lived near and the parking lot wasn't too bad but was jam packed by the time I left.

                      2. You are directly describing the Market Basket near me in Ashland. I sometimes walk over there on Sunday mornings. I have to go early, or I'll be in there a VERY long time. Someone told me the aisles are much narrower than Shaw's, so your already slowed down before someone "pulls over" to browse the rice.
                        I like the place because I have gotten to know Chris, one of the meat guys. He will cut a roast how I like it, find me or make me just what I need. Pretty cool. When you hear someone on Food Network say "get to know you your butcher", they are not kidding. The produce selection is unmatched. There are many pros to off balance the cons.

                        1. I have to say, shopping Russo's on weekends isn't much less of a full contact sport than the Union Square Market Basket, just a lot more Anglo.