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Jul 28, 2009 12:48 PM

Five Super Supermarkets

What are your top five supermarkets, making note of any specialties or features that make them great, such as outstanding butchers, bakers or delis, for example? I'm particularly interested in those in N. Va-- but all are welcome. Here are the factors:

Quality- are the produce, meats, fish etc fresh and of good/great quality fairly consistently?
Variety- will I find interesting/unique items?
Price- Yea, Balduccis and DD are great, but rarely a great value. Who has good to great value?
Service/Cleanliness-- does the store appear clean and for higher priced stores in particular, is the service good?

There are at least two wide categories of general food markets: ethnic supermarkets and general "American" markets. Please list both.


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  1. You only need Wegmans.
    Wegmans is by far my favorite market and I will drive 30 minutes from DC to go there. The service is great, the store is clean. Never an empty shelf, everything is fresh and they have everything.

    I can't think of needing any other market if you're able to be a wegmans regular.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Jeserf

      I'd love a Wegmans in my neighborhood, but I won't drive 14 miles each way to buy groceries. I do most of my shopping at Shopper's 7 Corners. Prices are pretty good, because of the ethnic mix of the neighborhood, they have a pretty good selection of produce (if I can't find it there, it'll be at Grand Mart half a mile away) and meats are decent. I haven't been impressed with their seafood, but I'm not big on that anyway. I buy a lot of frozen fish at Trader Joe's, cheese and coffee, too, but they discontinued my favorite cheap espresso. Grrrr!

      Sure, every now and then, I'll want to get something special, but most of the time it's just groceries, and convenience at good prices and within walking distance trumps an hour and a half shopping trip.

      1. re: MikeR

        I"m happy to drive to Wegmans.
        If I drove to a somewhat decent WFs (because P St sucks), Trader Joes, etc it would be just a long in the car.

        I find the produce at wegmans to be far superior to any other market. I love the farmers markets, but aside from being too expensive to plan a weeks worth of meals based on produce there, it's often too busy (and too hot) for me to concentrate on what I'm looking at.

        Just last night I told my boyfriend that we should try to go to wegmans more often. I'm sure he's thrilled :)

        1. re: Jeserf

          I'll usually combine a visit to Wegmans when I need to go to Batteries Plus, and stop in at the Indian place next door (to Batt+) for lunch. But it's too far and too overwhelming for me to do my regular shopping. I can (and do) walk to Shopper's, Safeway, or Grand Mart for exercise, so I've got into the habit of shopping for groceries several times a week. It's part of being retired. <g>

        2. re: MikeR

          Shoppers at 7 corners - I noticed that their produce section has fruit flies all over the place and when I used to shop there invariably the fruit flies would come home with me in my grocery bag. Also, they don't even have a butcher that I can speak with for something special. The quality of the red meat is below par. The prices there are about 15 to 25% lower on average and that's good. Just my own opinion.

        3. re: Jeserf

          There are some things I prefer at other places- fish for example they don't have a huge variety and of that very few are whole fish, what they have is normally very good and they have things other places don't but. They don't have much non-typical meat and it is very hard to get some cuts of even normal meat there. I think their duck and rabbit and lamb is very pricey compared to other places. And they do run out of things. They are often out of certain cuts of meat, they run out of bison frequently. They don't always have the brands of orange juice or soda you always want (last time I went no Fanta Zero or Peach Fresca). But generally they are far superior to most other large supermarkets.

          1. re: Jeserf

            I've been to Wegman's once and while it is nice and clean, perhaps I just don't see the joy others do in the store. I'm often a bit more focused on great meat/fish departments and outstanding/fresh/variety of fruits and veggies. While Wegmans (I went to one in Western New York state) was fine, it wasn't outstanding in those categories. And although the prices were good, I didn't think it was any bargain. Perhaps I need to go back (though there really isn't one close to the Pentagon....

            1. re: ClevelandDave

              The Wegmans in WNY are a mix of the old, normal grocery and new, upscale grocery. You might have hit an old one.

          2. Wegman's- It is a good all purpose grocery. Great prepared items, they get some nice whole fish that they will cut for you. I like their selection of salami, tea, sausages and beer and wine plus being able to get normal things. Cheaper than HT for normal things too, good selection of different products too. Service is great and it is very clean. I like the Fairfax store the best. I also like their selection of bread. And their produce is fresh and lasts much longer than that from HT.

            H Mart- good cheap produce, nice selection of fish which they will clean for you, nice selection of different meats for cheap prices like duck and rabbit for $4.99 and $6.99 a pound respectively. Nice prices on pork belly, etc. A very good range of greens. The merrifield location is clean and service is good. Not brand spanking new buildings like Wegman's, but I think they keep it clean. I haven't been to a Super H Mart yet, but do want to try it out.

            Lebanese Butcher- good for getting specific cuts of meat, especially lamb which is hard to get certain cuts in other stores. Very fresh meat, some other lebanese dry goods. The people are very nice. A good value too.

            Whole Foods- great for prepared foods, their buffet and cakes and for some specialty items that are hard to find elsewhere. Not as good a value as Wegman's or H Mart.

            Not a supermarket, but I like to get my bread from Randolph pastries. I also get baked goods because I can't go in there and resist something. I also like Lebanese Market Taverna and the Italian Store for small prepared food stores and groceries.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ktmoomau

              I like H Mart though it seems like there is quite a difference between different stores. I once went to a larger Korean market in a strip mall which was very clean and nice, and they had vats of different kinds of kimchi which I thought was impressive, but haven't been able to find it again.

              1. re: ClevelandDave

                I see a wide variety of kimchee for sale (they have a whole section for kimchee) at the new Lotte in Chantilly.

            2. When I saw your question, I immediately thought how lucky you are to be in the DC area now that Wegmans has made it that far south...and was not surprised to see two replies already recommending Wegmans ;) We relocated to Asheville, NC from Rochester, NY, the hometown of Wegmans and are impatiently watching their progression south--there is NO storebrand products, best sales, best treatment of employees--it is a tourist endorsement by Cher when she was in town a few years back was "TWENTY kinds of tomatoes--can you imagine!" ;)

              1. In no particular order:

                Ethnic Markets:
                H-Mart (Asian on Rolling Road, Catonsville) – Baked goods, produce, sushi
                Lotte Plaza (Asian on US 40, Ellicott City) – Seafood, Lotte products, Korean side dishes
                Caspian Market (Persian on US 40, Ellicott City)
                Lily’s Market (Latino, Columbia) – Mexican Coke
                Seven Mile Market (Kosher, Pikesville)

                American Markets:
                Harris-Teeter (Columbia) - NC BBQ, Skyline Chili, Home Style Beans
                Wegmans – They have it all. Can’t wait for the Columbia store to open
                Giant Eagle (Frederick) - Hard-to-find sodas, candy and grocery items
                Mars (Many locations around Baltimore) - Baltimore favorites, odd-ball items, baked goods
                Fresh Market (Greenspring Ave, Baltimore) - Candy, baked goods, hard-to-find sodas, Vienna Hot Dogs

                4 Replies
                1. re: treetop tom

                  Caspian Market- tell me about that. Is it Russian/Asian focused? Never been out to Ellicott City...also never been to Mars (neither the market nor the planet)-- is it a Baltimore thing?

                  1. re: ClevelandDave

                    Caspian Market is a small Mediterranean market with mostly Persian, Turkish and Armenian/Greek stuff. Terrific flatbread, pistachio nuts, olives etc. It's behind the Burger King on US 40. Very friendly folks.

                    Yes, Mars is a local Baltimore supermarket chain that carries Baltimore favorites and lots of otherwise hard-to-find items. It's the only place we can get our Popeye Spinach, William's Chili Seasoning and Squirrel Nut Zipper candy. They have a terrific in-store bakery and a good hot food bar, too. Produce and meat are only so-so, we go elsewhere for that.

                    1. re: treetop tom

                      Squirrel Nut Zipper Candy... sounds kinda erotic... care to explain???

                      1. re: ClevelandDave

                        They are like a Sugar Daddy with crushed peanuts mixed in. A real salty/sweet dichotomy.

                        From the Necco Website:

                        "The Squirrel brand origins date back to 1890 when it was started as the Austin T. Merrill Company in Massachusetts. Incorporated in 1899 as the newly named Squirrel Brands Salted Nut Company, the company’s ownership changed; and two long-time employees, Perley G. Gerrish and Fred S. Green, began to run the business. As the company grew, it moved from its Boston located to Cambridge in 1903 and then to a larger building on Boardman Street in Cambridge in 1915.

                        From salting to roasting peanuts to chewy candy favorites, Squirrel Nut Company developed a loyal and enthusiastic customer base. It supplied candy and roasted nuts to the armed forces. Some of their brands over the years have including Butter Chews, Nut Twins, Nut Chews and Nut Yippee. They also manufactured peanut butter kisses and salt water taffy.

                        The flagship product “Squirrel Nut Zippers”--vanilla, caramel and nut taffy--had an interesting beginning. It was named after an illegal drink during Prohibition. During the 1990’s, a retro swing band named themselves “Squirrel Nut Zippers,” and gave out the candy during their performances.

                        In 1999, Squirrel Brand Company was purchased by Southern Style Nuts and the operation was moved to Denison, TX. The Squirrel Nut Company was one of the oldest family-owned candy businesses when it closed its operations in Cambridge.

                        In 2004, Necco picked up the license from Southern Nut Company to manufacture Squirrel candy brands. Squirrel Nut Zipper and Caramel Chews had come back home to Massachusetts. "

                2. Hey Dave - are you really from Cleveland? I'm originally from Parma myself. I'm echoing everyone else's vote for Wegmans. I drive 30 mins to get to one, so only go periodically and stock up on the things I don't like from my local stores. My local Super Fresh (Rt. 40 in
                  Ellicott City) has very nice produce at a reasonable prices. I won't buy meat or seafood there, that's why the Wegman's run (or Frank's Seafood in Jessup) Super Fresh is ok for other staples. But I understand many other Super Fresh's are NOT GOOD. Sounds like Harris Teeter is the same - some great, some not so good. Thumbs down from me on Giant, my local Safeway has crummy, bruised, old produce. ugh.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: ivysmom

                    Well, you'll understand Ivy that Cleveland is a great grocery market town. You can start with the West Side Market, which every foodie should go to if they find themselves in Cleveland on a market day. There's simply nothing like it in DC- Eastern Market is a totally different beast.

                    Then you've got a great local chain, Heinen's which is like Magruders if they ever got their act together. And you've got some great local one or two location general markets-- which is what I hoped to find here. Miles Market with outstanding fruits and veggies plus a very good bakery, wine selection and decent deli. Lake Road market which is the remnants of Fazios. And there is a new place, I think called Greengrocers which is at Chagrin and Warrensville which was impressive on my last visit back home.

                    Then there are lots of ethnic specialty markets- Italian, Jewish, Polish, Chinese etc. And when all else fails there are the chains- Safeway, Giant Eagle, Whole Paycheck. DC's got more variety on the ethnic markets, and there are some specialty stores (Cheesetique and the butcher next door, or Slavin's for fish) however other than that I haven't been really impressed-- and I'd like to be!

                    1. re: ClevelandDave

                      I'm from Cleve, too, and always die when I step into any grocery store there.... and all those little ethnic shops... and I miss the health food stores. DC grocery stores don't compare in my opinion. I have been to Wegmans, but can't justify the drive. I shop at Harris Teeter now, because it's close and a thousand times better than the Safeway and Giant by me (not saying much). Whole Paycheck for the stuff I'd rather buy at a little health food store. Make do, basically. Have been in this area for 20 years and still am mystified at the awful grocery stores.

                      1. re: wookyluvr

                        I must say if you shop the specials at HT that the bill works out fairly reasonable. In particular, they seem to have much better than average specials/quality on meats. Anyone know if the Harris in HT is related at all to the Harris Ranch?

                        1. re: ClevelandDave

                          Harris-Teeter HQ is down in Mathews NC, if that helps.

                          I drive past a pretty new Giant to get to my regular H-T, but in about a month we'll be getting a brand-new H-T just one mile from my house.

                          I was a regular Giant customer for nearly 30 years but thanks to Royal A-Hole, uh I mean Ahold, they lost me.

                          H-T has a good, if somewhat limited, seafood counter. Wegmans has bigger/better meat and seafood depts, but the two closest Wegmans to us are just a bit too far for regular shopping. It would be my regular market for sure. Wegmans' house-brand products are excellent.

                      2. re: ClevelandDave

                        I went to college in Pittsburgh and hate - HATE - Giant Eagle.
                        I'd rather shop at Safeway, and I loathe Safeway.

                        I understand people's beef with Wegmans, but to us, their huge natural foods section (cheaper than WF), their actual local produce (more local than WF, and cheaper than the farmers market), and exceptional cheese (also cheaper than WF) make it worth the drive to us.

                        That said, their prepared food is $ and I rarely if ever get it. They also give you free 'broken' cookies at the cookie shop, so another reason I love it :)

                        1. re: Jeserf

                          Not to mention that Wegmans has better prices for regular everyday groceries than anybody else, and their house brand items are first rate quality and exceptional bargains.

                          1. re: Jeserf

                            They do "broken cookies" at the Crystal City Shoppers, FYI. Think it is a nice little thing, IMHO.

                            1. re: ClevelandDave

                              Been to shoppers once, nothing for someone like me as most of the produce was rotton and everything else was prepared. Not trying to be snobby, but since we are veggies, I try to go places with more fresh dairy and produce. I've heard good things about their bakery and have been there to stock up on some things for a party, but for our general shopping, it's not worth it.

                              1. re: Jeserf

                                Probably either a bad day or a bad Shoppers. I've never seen anything rotten at the 7 Corners Shoppers. There's no excuse for mostly rotten produce. When I've been in there fairly early in the morning, it seems there's nearly always someone from the produce department poking through the bins, pulling out the occasional piece, and re-stocking. Looks to me like at least that store cares.

                                I've never tried any of their prepared foods but I suppose like most, some are OK, some are bleah.

                                1. re: Jeserf

                                  While Shoppers isn't my first choice, I doubt that most-- or even much-- of the produce was "rotton." In the Shoppers near me they have a large prepared section, but not as large as the fruit and vegetable section. In fact they've got a nice olive bar, decent bakery and as others have mentioned, a nice ethnic food area as well as overall good prices.

                                  1. re: ClevelandDave

                                    I went to the Shoppers in Rockville before a party - and the only produce for what I was making that I could use were the avocados.

                                    You don't have to convince me that it's a nice market - but it seemed best for people looking for packaged foods, snacks, beverages, etc. None of that is on our regular shopping list. And a lot of the produce was prepackaged.

                                    Prices are good, yes, but when I went, what we buy on a regular basis wouldn't be worth schlepping to Shoppers now, but next time I'm near one maybe I'll give it another chance - maybe they've improved or it was an off Saturday.

                                    1. re: Jeserf

                                      The Shoppers in Potomac Yard really does not sound like what you are describing. They have a produce section that is fairly large (larger than any Giant, Safeway or Magruders I have been to in the same area). A nice Kosher section, a pretty good Gluten free, etc. I

                                      1. re: maoj

                                        That's great.
                                        If I needed Kosher or Gluten Free food :)