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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.

Thanks!

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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 comparison...best storebrand products, best sales, best treatment of employees--it is a tourist attraction...an 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 :)

                        2. Wegmans:has it all
                          H-Mart: great prices, great fruits, veggies and fresh fish
                          Balducci's: can't believe no one has said it. Although it is expensive, everything they sell is prime and fantastic, Extensive meat, seafood, deli, fresh fruits and veggies, smoked fish, wine and beer, cheese, bakery and prepared food and everything looks and tastes perfect
                          Whole Foods:
                          Roots

                          1. Well, clearly I have to get myself to Wegman's. With so many choices in this area, it is hard to motivate myself to drive all the way from Alexandria.

                            Mainly I shop at:
                            Magruders (mexican/central am staples and produce/great prices)
                            Whole Foods (cheeses/high end speciality items)
                            Grandmart (produce/sauces/frozen goods/prepared korean)
                            Harris Teeter (convenient location)
                            Safeway (convenient location)
                            Costco (meat, avocados, coffee, etc.)

                            Also frequent
                            Trader Joes (everything!)
                            Mediterranean Bakery (pita bread, spices, prepared middle eastern)
                            Dungrats market (thai noodles, sauces, etc.)

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: tcamp

                              You will be happy to hear that there are plans to build a Wegman's in Kingstown in the near future.

                              1. re: tcamp

                                Another vote for Wegmans in the Baltimore area. I drive approx. 12 miles to Hunt Valley while happily passing a multitude of Giants', Safeways' and others. Simply no comparison for all the reasons cited above.
                                Had my first exposure to a Harris Teeter while in the OBX last week and while good, it still doesn't measure up. Also a bit pricey at least down in that neck of the woods.

                                1. re: tcamp

                                  all that way? Isn't there one on rt 1 in Dale City now? That's like 20 minutes from old town if even.

                                2. No one has mentioned the Lotte in Chantilly yet. It's about twice the size of any of the other ethnic supermarkets, new (opened in March), and has a wonderful selection.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Lori D

                                    Is it larger than the Super H in Fairfax?

                                    1. re: sekelmaan

                                      Yes.

                                      Apparently the location used to be a Hechinger's, so it is bigger than most grocery stores.

                                      I found one source saying that it is 75,00 sq ft.

                                  2. I'll be the odd one out here: I think Wegmans is overrated. Yes, it's nice and clean; yes, it's large and has a good variety of products; yes, yes, yes, it's great.

                                    However, I happen to live within 10 minutes of Wegmans, Giant, Bloom, Whole Foods, and Super H Mart, and, while the Wegman's pistachio muffins have a pretty powerful hold on me (even though they're not fooling me--those are walnuts inside those muffins), I still try to avoid it. Wegmans is, no fail, at least 5 times more crowded than all of the other stores at any given time, and, for me, nothing is worth circling the lot trying to find a parking space and then fighting mobs of people once I'm inside.

                                    Plus, Wegmans cannot compete--not even close--with the produce section at Super H Mart. Super H Mart is by far the best in price, selection, and quality. Where else can you get 10 juicy limes for a dollar? Not at Wegmans.

                                    And the meat section at Super H Mart is pretty great, too.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: glacier206

                                      Wegmans can get crowded, that's for sure, but I'm always completely stunned with how fast the lines go. I can be in Whole Foods simply checking out for 20 minutes. The lines are SSLLLOOOWW.

                                      I've been to H Mart and got those limes! Many of them yielded no juice, but still, getting that many at one time was kind of fun!

                                      1. re: glacier206

                                        What do Chowhounds think about Bloom? I've only been in one and they seemed to have a good bakery and organtics but other than that I'm not impressed. In Cleveland there is an outstanding natural/organitic oriented market called Mustard Seed which is very impressive. Anyone ever heard of it?

                                        1. re: ClevelandDave

                                          I looooove Mustard Seed! My family recently relocated to Cleveland and I spend summers here. I totally agree with your post above too, about Cleveland's great grocers. I've yet to find anything in DC close to the West Side Market. DC definitely does have the ethnic speciality stores, but the farm-to-table philosophy is just really shining in Cleveland (and Ohio in general, and I'm sure the midwest as a whole). It's awesome to see that the majority of restaurants downtown pride themselves on their incredibly close relationships with Ohio farmers like Tea Hills and Woolf and the like.

                                          1. re: emmaleeb

                                            I must say that DC does have very nice farmers markets, as does Cleveland. Boy, if you want to see the difference in regional farm to plate produce (and similarities) just go to/compare a great farmers market like Shaker Square in Cleveland or Dupont Circle here!

                                            1. re: emmaleeb

                                              Mustard Seed Market is awesome. I try to visit the Montrose location each time I go to Ohio. I wish Baltimore had a store comparable to MSM. You must try the vegan chocholate cookies...awesome! I'm a meat eater and they sold me on them.

                                            2. re: ClevelandDave

                                              Our nearest Bloom is actually the closest supermarket to our house, but I drive past it (and a Giant) to get to Harris-Teeter.

                                              I'd say Bloom is pretty good, certainly a lot better than the pre-renovation Food Lion in that space. The seafood counter is very nice, but the produce section is weak.

                                              1. re: ClevelandDave

                                                only thing I know about Bloom is a certain chocolate chocolate chocolate cake that my coworker sometimes brings in for birthdays and it is absolutely sinful.

                                                1. re: ClevelandDave

                                                  The biggest draw for Bloom was that the one by my house was 24 hours. Now it closes at midnight, so it's just a place I buy catfood and laundry detergent. I get almost all my produce and meat from H Mart now.

                                              2. 1) Wegmans (I do drive from Alexandria) - Great produce, etc
                                                2) Trader Joe's - Old Town
                                                3) Costco - Pentagon City
                                                4) Harris Teeter - Duke Street
                                                5) Giant - Alexandria Commons (Because I can walk there only!)

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: maoj

                                                  Just a few places that haven't been mentioned.

                                                  I prefer smaller ethnic groceries and other specialty stores....

                                                  -Bangkok 54 Market in Arlington
                                                  -Yas Bakery/Grocery in Vienna
                                                  -That Persian grocery in Rockville next to Joe's Noodle House
                                                  -El Chapparal in Arlington....though not for produce (eck!)
                                                  -Penzeys....yes, its a chain, and yes, its not a grocery stores, but its cool nonetheless.
                                                  -I'll second Grand Mart....nice produce section
                                                  -Bethesda Co-Op is pricey but good for some organic bulk hippie stuff.

                                                  1. re: CoconutMilk

                                                    Yas is a fun little market- isn't there also another Persian market on Columbia Pike?

                                                  2. re: maoj

                                                    I like a lot about Wegman's but will not buy their produce. At the Fairfax store, I have had issues with the pricing of pre-marked items (like cherry tomatoes, bags of onions, bagged salad). The price often rings up for more than the sign says. I have spoken to the produce manager, customer service and also left a comment card for the store manager (this was after multiple incidents). I never heard from the store manager. The produce manager was unhelpful ("the sign was just in the wrong place"). I mentioned to customer service that other stores honor their signs. The answer was to shop other stores.

                                                    I still go there for some items, but do not give them much of my business.

                                                  3. Brabo Butcher's Block-Old Town, Alexandria

                                                    Cheestique- Del Ray Area, Alexandria

                                                    http://www.cheesetique.com/

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Smiles2008

                                                      Oh, boy, forgot Cheesetique. Kids are at camp so dinner last night was salami and cheese (Red Square) from there, crackers and wine from TJs. Such a lovely place.

                                                    2. So many good answers already here!

                                                      Probably wise to separate into ethnic/general categories:

                                                      Ethnic:
                                                      Super H (you gotta love a place where, on a weekend, you can see two pretty girls elbow-deep in kimchi showing off the process) ... freshness, cleanliness, A+
                                                      Grand Mart really quite good for both Asian and Hispanic ingredients.

                                                      General:
                                                      Nobody has yet mentioned Shoppers - their in-house bakery is very good, particularly for breads. Meats - not bad.

                                                      Giant has been renovating stores and sacrificing selection for broadened front elbow-room, so Shoppers wins the selection battle. Wins the price battle as well. Giant's seafood is pretty good.

                                                      I wish there were a Wegmans anywhere near me.

                                                      Whole Foods disappoints me on so many levels, from the time I was looking for Hershey Kisses and the staff looked at me like I was a messenger from hell, to the prices, and let's not even get into the "organic is worth so much more" argument. I guess I'll stick with my 'partial foods' ... I'm not dead yet.

                                                      Harris-Teeter: pricey. In-store bakery really good for what they do. Very good service.

                                                      Almost forgot Cheesetique - love 'em! So friendly, so helpful, and such a selection!

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: wayne keyser

                                                        Is Shoppers owned by Albertson's? I bought a product there recently and it says it is distributed by Albertson's so I'm wondering if it is part of the Boise-based mega chain...

                                                        1. re: ClevelandDave

                                                          Shopper's is a subsidiary of Supervalu Inc., the same group that owns Albertsons, Acme and Sav-A-Lot, among others. Shopper's got their start as Jumbo Food Stores, a local DC chain.

                                                        2. re: wayne keyser

                                                          Shoppers is not a bad market. Prices are good and the ethnic aisles are very good. Also, they have the biggest donuts I've ever seen in my life.

                                                          1. re: Bob W

                                                            OMG I LOVE their donuts! The best one is the chocolate iced with coconut shreds on top! Mmmm!!!!

                                                        3. What is the difference between a Super H-Mart and an H-Mart? Is the one in Catonsville a Super H-Mart?

                                                          I'm a little leery of buying seafood from H-Mart -- it just doesn't seem as fresh, for some reason, as compared to Wegman's or even Whole Foods sometimes. Though the closest Whole Foods to me (Mt. Washington) has a sadly limited selection of seafood.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: daveinmd

                                                            That is the nice thing about the H-Marts in Merrifield and Annandale, they are very busy so there is really good turnover on so many of the products.

                                                            1. re: ktmoomau

                                                              There's something about the name of H-Mart that turns me off. It makes me think of Box-N-Save or some other low end grocery store. It must be a good place though if alot of CHs like it!

                                                              1. re: lrebetsky0423

                                                                H Mart is just the way that the name was anglicized; in Korean, it is Hanh ah Reum.

                                                                In regard to daveinmd's comment, I should note that the Virginia Hanh ah Reum stores I have been to (Merrifield and Fairfax) seem to be run much better than the one in Maryland I have been to (Wheaton), including the seafood department.

                                                                1. re: lrebetsky0423

                                                                  Box-N-Save SUCKS!

                                                                  Don't waist your time in that dump!

                                                              2. re: daveinmd

                                                                We buy fish from H-Mart and also Lotte all the time without problems. You have to know how to pick the fish from the bins and look for signs of spoilage. The people do a decent job in cleaning and if you cook it within a day or so of buying the fish, you won't have any problems.

                                                                1. re: dpan

                                                                  I wish I knew more about picking fish. I buy extensively from asian groceries but rarely buy the fish because I'm, frankly, intimidated by the process. By "bins" you mean the fish laying on ice in front of the counter? Versus the ones swimming around in the tanks?

                                                                  1. re: tcamp

                                                                    Yes, that's what I mean. We rarely buy the live fish as the variety is very limited, unless you're into tilapia. My wife, the designated fish picker, looks at the eyes for indication of freshness. If it's not clear (cloudy, etc.) that means it's not fresh. So far she hasn't been wrong.

                                                                    1. re: tcamp

                                                                      There really isn't much to it, broadly speaking: like dpan says, look at the eyes: clearer is better. Smell the fish: it should not smell strongly- it should have a light clean smell, or perhaps slightly like the ocean. Look at the flesh: is it tight and of good color for the kind of fish is? Ask the person handling the fish how long it has been on ice or when it was defrosted. Eat it within a day or two of when you buy it can keep it cold (but not frozen)....

                                                                2. Whole Foods
                                                                  Bristle Farm
                                                                  Albertsons

                                                                  1. Balducci's, Whole Foods (especially for seafood), and Wagshal's (for meat).

                                                                    I do not understand the cult status of Wegmans.

                                                                    Imagine a large Wal-Mart. Gut it and replace the interior with a upmarket Safeway and bits and pieces of Whole Foods. Add an appalling wine selection and acres of poorly prepared foods and endless steam tables (!). Stick in an sushi bar to mystify the locals. Sell low quality meat (not much better than Food Lion). Round it off with poor flowers and the best available pushcarts.

                                                                    All these people rhapsodizing about Wegman's -- where did they grow up? Trapped inside an old Giant?

                                                                    Personally, I miss Neam's in Georgetown.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: OldGeorgetowner

                                                                      "All these people rhapsodizing about Wegman's -- where did they grow up? Trapped inside an old Giant?"

                                                                      LMAO!!!

                                                                      1. re: OldGeorgetowner

                                                                        I respectfully disagree with virtually every word of that post, but as they say YMMV.

                                                                      2. Here in Wheaton, Maryland we've got Magruder's in Kemp Mill and H-Mart off Georgia and Arcola, Marchones in the triangle for Italian specialties, Thomas Market on University for Middle Eastern specialties, Hung Phat for fresh noodles, Shalom and Shaul's for Kosher foods and great challah, Full Key and Paul Kee for their bbq meats (Full Key has renovated and gotten better)---I could go on---a trip around the sidestreets is worth it.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Pesel

                                                                          Which is better/what is the difference between Full Kee and Paul Kee?

                                                                        2. I don't think Magruder's is getting the credit it deserves. The produce there seems to be at least half the price of the bigger chain grocery stores, and they have a reasonably priced wine selection. It's not Wegmans, but I like the idea that I'm not paying extra for mood lighting and flattering display cases. I wouldn't go there to buy any sort of frozen/prepackaged stuff, but for straight up food - fresh proteins & produce - you can't beat their prices. If you want your food to look pretty when you buy it, I guess Wegman's is the place to go if that's your thing; good luck finding a parking spot on a weekend.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: allyooop

                                                                            I know you are discussing mainly VA but here is where I shop now in MD They aren't 'supermarkets' per say but they supply what I need. Moreoever, they tie to the local food movement which is an intricate part of nutrition, environment,etc. I am not buying convenience food but am making most things from scratch nowadays, but my grocery bills are down. The bulk selection at the co-ops are amazing and it is so much more pleasant to shop in this environment than those huge stores.

                                                                            1. Takoma Park Food Co-op
                                                                            2. Silver Spring Food Co-op
                                                                            3. Glut Food Co-op (Mt. Ranier)
                                                                            4. Norman's Produce Stand (East-West Highway, 7 days a week through November)
                                                                            5. Any of the zillion farmer's markets

                                                                            And of course, Trader Joe's. Still looking for a good supply of local, pasture fed meat. I'm only going to regular stores for basic supplies (cat litter and sparkling water). Can't say I miss my Giant runs.

                                                                            1. re: britton1923

                                                                              For local, pasture-fed meat: Check out the butcher shop on Main St. in Historic Laurel - I don't know the name of it but you can't miss it; it is the one with the huge cow statue outside.

                                                                              1. re: AcupunctureGirl

                                                                                Laurel Meat Market. It was very good when I used to shop there in the 90s. Also had great prices on jumbo lump crab meat.

                                                                          2. Typical - Wegman's in Fairfax -
                                                                            Quality - good,
                                                                            Variety - better than giant/shoppers/wholefoods,
                                                                            price - slightly more + the gas to get out there, Service is standard for the suburbs

                                                                            Ethnic - Super H-Mart in Fair Fax
                                                                            - quality - decent
                                                                            - variety - in comparison to shoppers/giant, great. versus other ethnic markets, couldn't tell you
                                                                            - price - Pineapple was 1.69 there, when I normally pay 3-4 bucks for it

                                                                            1. The Safeway at PanAm shopping center (29 and Nutley) reopened last weekend. It was already a nice store but wow have they spruced it up. Bordering on a specialty store now. I grew up in this area and never liked Safeways. But much prefer this one over any local Giant (much better than the 'super' giant in Oakton). Check it out if you're in the area. It's a great happy medium without the exorbitant prices at Balduccis. I buy everything but meat there, which we always get at Costco.

                                                                              1. Quality -- My Organic Market (MOM's) -- produce is great!, Trader Joe's
                                                                                Variety -- Rodman's, Shopper's, Mars
                                                                                Price -- My Organic Market, Trader Joes
                                                                                Service/Cleanliness -- Harris Teeter
                                                                                Ethnic -- Super H Mart

                                                                                That's the local stores. If we're talking GREAT supermarkets, the best is: CENTRAL MARKET in Austin. If you've been there, you know what I mean.

                                                                                Haven't been to grocery stores in Cleveland; clearly a road trip is in order!

                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Transplanted Texan

                                                                                  "Lettuce" know... happy to give some recs. Cleveland is a great food town!

                                                                                    1. re: ClevelandDave

                                                                                      Dave

                                                                                      I noticed upthread you indicated your Wegmans experience was a store in Western NY State, and I gathered you thought it was just OK. I obviously don't know what sort of Wegmans that was, but that area is full of older ones, and if that was the type you were in, you should know that there is a big difference between those and the newer stores such as those in the DC metro area. Night and day. If you still haven't been to one of the newer stores (135,000 sq ft), you do need to check one out sometime.

                                                                                      BTW, I don't know where that Old Georgetown guy was coming from (post on Aug 7), but his description of the quality of things at Wegmans is completely and utterly looney. One example--he states the meat is barely better than Food Lion. FL is mostly good grade. Wegmans sells choice, and if you want prime that they dry age themselves, one of the few grocery chains to do so. I assure you the meat is very good. To compare it to FL is just nuts.

                                                                                      1. re: johnb

                                                                                        Just came from a visit to the Butcher's Block in Annapolis. Small store but what a neat selection of prime, choice, American Kobe and exotic meats! Beautiful cuts of the best looking steaks I've seen in a while, had an American Kobe boneless prime rib (26.00 per pound) that was out of this world. Bought some elk, buffalo, and elk/bear burgers for the freezer as well as a small pc of foie gras that I can't wait to try. I understand from other threads that they'll deconstruct a pig or a side of beef and I put my name on the list at the store if they do it again. I don't know what the terms will be, but I'd gladly go in with 10-15 people who would take 5-10 pounds each, or pay like $10 each for a few hours of watching an expert deconstruct a pig or a side...

                                                                                    2. re: Transplanted Texan

                                                                                      You think the CM in Austin (the original not the south location) is better than the flagship Whole Foods?

                                                                                      1. re: WestIndianArchie

                                                                                        Oh, yeah! Well, I guess it depends upon what you're looking for. But yeah. Man, I miss Central Market. Even more than the great restaurants.

                                                                                        1. re: Transplanted Texan

                                                                                          When I was in ATX *sigh*, I took dates to that Whole Foods. I don't think i've ever seen a grocery store as opulent as that one. I did most of my shopping @ CM though.

                                                                                          1. re: WestIndianArchie

                                                                                            >>>When I was in ATX *sigh*, I took dates to that Whole Foods.<<<

                                                                                            What a guy! My hat is off to you, a true chowhound.

                                                                                            1. re: johnb

                                                                                              I also lived in Austin and just went back for a business trip...and visited that Whole Foods three times in a 48 hour time period. Now I live across the street from the new one in FH and its gorgeous, but man do I understand the "whole paycheck" thing. I walk in to get coffee and walk out 20 minutes later with things like emu eggs, which they actually carry everyday. The issue is: how can emu eggs, which I am sure very few people buy, be qualified as a sustainable grocery item? Don't they all go to waste?

                                                                                              I agree that I actually prefer the CM to Whole Foods as well. Gorgeous!

                                                                                              Hit up Patak Brothers in silver spring for your whole spices. Amazing prices, interesting imports if you like to cook Indian or Asian food.

                                                                                    3. In Silver Spring, and I can not believe no one has mentioned it, Snyders, my number 1-5. Nothing fancy, good prices, good produce, good meats, great service. I go other places to fill in but Snyders is just the best, they even bag your groceries and bring it to the car.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: cappie

                                                                                        I think I may have mentioned it... Sniders is good if you hit their specials (look in the fridge case to the left for short-date merchandise at great discounts) and they get in some good produce. The deli counter varies from good to very good but I generally stay away from the small meat section. It isn't the cleanest store in the world and the aisles are jammed, but worth a trip out of the way a few times a year, at least for me...

                                                                                      2. Is it true the new Wegman's is the largest in the country?

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. It has relocated from Burtonsville to Laurel and has opened in a spot that has less parking but I'd point you to the Dutch Country Farmers Market for some very cool food on Thurs to Sat. They have a mix of operators that sell a wide range of quality stuff. Beiler's Meats is a large source for natural grain fed beef, organic grass fed beef, pork & turkey. The place will get packed on weekends & you have to take a number but the service is fine and they will cut anything the way you like.

                                                                                          I go nuts over the soft pretzels. They are stuffed with meat & cheese or are sweet or just salted.

                                                                                          Another operator has bakegoods; someone sells cheese, produce...on and on. It is much bigger then the old place and they have the Lantz restaurant as well, good for b'fast or lunch or dinner.
                                                                                          One other counter sells smoked or bbq ribs, chicken or fried chicken...this is a great place to go and shop hungery.
                                                                                          www. burtonsvilledutchmarket.com
                                                                                          my only beef is the parking lot is too small and you may consider parking in Home Depot or across RT.198.

                                                                                          1. Late to the discussion - I am one of the rare people who looks forward to grocery shopping. Used to cry as a kid if I couldn't go with my mom. Anyway, I heard about Wegman's and looked forward to it - expectations extremely high - I thought it was a nice store (Virginia off I-95). Better than any other grocery store, though overwhelming. And I guess that's the key, the original poster referred to value, which you're not going to find at a Balducci's, which has quality food surpassing Wegman's. There are a lot of Wegman's fanatics on this board and I understand your enthusiasm when comparing to Giant, Safeway, Shoppers. Hands down, Wegman's leaves them far behind. Harris Teeter has made its entry in the Maryland suburbs and makes a strong effort. They've definitely made Giant and Safeway focus more on the customer in the areas where they are competing.

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: pizzah

                                                                                              It's funny to watch how the grocery stores in the area are scrambling to keep up with Wegmans. Check out the new Safeway in Georgetown. But as long as these stores keep their business models as they are, they will fall short of Wegmans. Wegmans is a privately owned venture and has more lateral movement based on buying trends, and local purveyors.
                                                                                              They may not have the cheapest this or fresh ramps but they have a lot to make me want to keep going back there. The atmosphere, prices and quality are in a superior category not seen by other stores. If you buy national brands only then you might not have the same shopping experience that most shoppers have at Wegmans. But Wegmans brands are cheaper and in most cases as good if not better. I love their organic meats, organic ice cream, and Italian style frozen pizzas. I even like their fresh food court, it's fun to eat and shop at the same time. Overall the quality is superior and I will keep driving out of my way to shop there.

                                                                                              1. re: keithlb1

                                                                                                My humble abode is ring-fenced by four or five Wegmans stores but none of them are close enough to offset the advantages of our new Harris-Teeter about five minutes away.

                                                                                                If there was a Wegmans a few miles closer that would be my regular market; I think they offer a great shopping experience, excellent store brands, good prices on regular groceries, more-than-adequate meat, fish, and bakery departments, and nice extras like the humongous made to order subs.

                                                                                                1. re: keithlb1

                                                                                                  I have to say that most of the Wegmans in-house brands are ok, but not really all that superior to the some of the name brand items I've tried. From pickles to sauces, to dressings to soda, I've found them to be just ok. Other stores, such as Trade Joes (where most everything is "in house") or even Harris Teeter seem to do as good or better job. Any thoughts on this?

                                                                                                  1. re: ClevelandDave

                                                                                                    I had their boxed butternut squash soup as opposed to V8 brand and it was terrible. However their imitation Archway cookies are pretty spot on.

                                                                                              2. Rodman's is fabulous with interesting selections from every part of the world, a great wine shop and an odd array of home goods in the basement. Wagshal's, Cheestique, Let's Meat on the Avenue, Slavin's Fish Market and the Italian Store are also not to be missed.

                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                Italian Store
                                                                                                3123 Lee Hwy, Arlington, VA 22201

                                                                                                Fish Market Restaurant
                                                                                                105 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: SolangeDC

                                                                                                  Rodman's is great for canned/packaged goods, but I've found their dairy/fruit/veg sections lacking- more out of date merchandise, poor selection of cheese, too many wilted fresh items...

                                                                                                  1. re: SolangeDC

                                                                                                    Two cheers for Rodmans! Sure, you're probably not going to find an unbruised lemon, but you can find dulce de leche, the most comprehensive selection of beer around (reasonably priced) and random party goods in the basement. You need to save time to go to Rodmans....they have so many interesting things I'm like a kid in a fun house.

                                                                                                  2. Ethnic [Korean] Supermarkets:
                                                                                                    The Super H-Mart in Fairfax is vastly superior to the ones in Annandale and Falls Church. (The Falls Church one has gotten better since the slight "makeover.") The layout in the "new" Annandale location is just awkward, and the check-out lines are too short.
                                                                                                    The new Chantilly Lotte is amazing, but the closer to me Fairfax one is still pretty good.

                                                                                                    I use Korean supermarkets for the produce, seafood, and Korean-specific ingredients. I avoid buying beef and chicken because there are just too many chemicals in them. (Cheaper than conventional supermarkets, but still similar quality.) I like to buy meats in Costco (or Wegmans) if available.

                                                                                                    I only go to Harris Teeter during their double/triple coupon events.

                                                                                                    -----
                                                                                                    H-Mart
                                                                                                    800 N Rolling Rd, Catonsville, MD

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Unraveled

                                                                                                      I like the meat at Harris Teeter- I've never found the Korean markets to be strong in the raw meat (beef) area but perhaps they cut/prepare them differently. All the more traditional supermarkets could learn something from the produce aisles in the better Korean markets- fresh with really great prices.

                                                                                                      1. re: ClevelandDave

                                                                                                        I stay away from the beef in Korean markets because they entirely too much red dye (or whatever they do to meat to make it red to look "fresh").

                                                                                                        I can't afford the organic meat everyday, so I stick with Wegman's/Costco's if I can plan ahead.

                                                                                                    2. I'm thrilled to see the enthusiasm about Wegman's; I'm going to drive half an hour out of my way this evening to see for myself whether it is the grocery store Xanadu that I now expect. I've been in D.C. now for about a year--I come from Texas by way of New York, so my standard is set by Central Market in Austin (by far the best thing I've seen in the way of grocery stores; I hope that someday H.E.B. will fill the void in the mid-Atlantic and bring Blue Bell ice cream with them) and Fairway in Manhattan. (Is there a California equivalent to these standard-bearers? Something in the Midwest?) I've been more than a little disappointed by the quality of the local stores and the farmer's markets--which are great primarily for radish and asparagus lovers this time of year--but recently discovered Balducci's, which has made things a little more bearable. I've found the discussion here invaluable--Super H Mart is worth a trip even if you don't buy anything!

                                                                                                      I tend loosely to evaluate grocery stores on the following six criteria:

                                                                                                      1. Quality/source/selection of fresh produce, which should be local in season and carefully selected out of season. This is probably the most important category for me. It's my opinion that if you're selling exclusively California peaches and apricots in July and August, your grocer's license should be revoked.

                                                                                                      2. Quality/source/selection of fresh beef, poultry and fish.

                                                                                                      3. Overall quality and selection. I look at five things here, just as a test: selection of jellies and jams (i.e., can I buy small-batch French strawberry jam?); selection of ice cream (is there a selection of artisinal ice cream with unmatched mouth-feel and high quality ingredients? or am i stuck with the icy organics and mass-market offerings that taste mostly of HFCS and preservatives?); selection of marinades (barbecue sauce, jerk sauce, curries, etc.); selection of coffee and wine; selection of cheeses. I'm sure my test here could be greatly expanded, but these are the things that tend to be important to me.

                                                                                                      4. Quality and selection of fresh bread. This is a stand-alone category; some people might lump it in with the five things above, but I think it's a general predictor of overall quality--more so than the others items.

                                                                                                      5. Price. Think about this in both absolute terms (how much is a bottle of Heinz ketchup?) and in relative terms (is the additional expense of the dry-aged porterhouse proportional, considering the relative quality, to the packaged sirloin?)

                                                                                                      6. Overall shopping experience. (Are the lines long? Is the store clean and well-lit? If I forget my rewards card, is my bill 25% higher? Am I made to feel guilty if I accidentally leave my re-usable shopping bags in my car?)

                                                                                                      To give you a sense of where I'm coming from, if each of the above criteria has a maximum value of 10, then I grade Central Market (Austin) very close to a 60, though their prices could use some help. Fairway (UWS) tops Central Market on price, but, given the overcrowding that comes with its location, it takes a big hit on the "shopping experience." (But with Zabar's a five minute walk away and Citarella next door . . . well, I'm in D.C. now . . . so enough with the nostalgia . . . moving on.) But, Central Market and Fairway both top 55 for me.

                                                                                                      So, recognizing that I'll be going to Wegman's tonight for what I hope are high-quality, late-season berries, here's my D.C.-area list to date:

                                                                                                      1. Balducci's. I don't understand why it's mentioned only once on this board; I was a tiny bit heartbroken when they closed the (admittedly overpriced) store in the West Village, and was thrilled to discover that it had found a new life in a more forgiving market. I know that it's pricey and small, but if you want fresh bread, meat, or poultry--or any of hundreds of magnificently-sourced specialty products--this is your place. And the Balducci's store brand is on par with its other offerings. The wine selection is also very good for a grocery store. The produce selection could be expanded considerably, but they've generally had everything I need. I don't know if I'd try to feed a family at Balducci's, but I tend to go here first, even though it's ten minutes out of the way, and fill in the gaps at HT. (If it were fifteen or twenty minutes out of the way, I'd probably only go when buying food to entertain.)

                                                                                                      P: 6
                                                                                                      M: 10
                                                                                                      Q&S: 9
                                                                                                      B: 9
                                                                                                      Px: 4
                                                                                                      SE: 10

                                                                                                      Total: 48

                                                                                                      2. Harris Teeter

                                                                                                      HT is at number 2 mostly because it's a real grocery store (so comes in just ahead of TJ), and it's super-convenient. The stores are bright and clean, and the selection is just a cut below what I would expect from a premium store. I see almost nothing that's locally sourced, but I haven't been through an entire summer with them; maybe they'll surprise me later with good sweet corn and peaches. My biggest problem with HT is the relative price. I feel like I pay a significant premium over Safeway, for only a marginal improvement in quality and selection. I haven't done an apples-to-apples comparison, but when I shop at Safeway, my bill is regularly 10% less than I expect it to be; when I'm at HT, it's 10% more. (All of you armchair social psychologists will have a field day with this unscientific analysis. But rather than criticize my assertion, do a field test yourself. Or, maybe I will--what should be in my basket of, say, 25 items?) I'm fine with a modest premium; the selection and service has a cost, but I always get the sense that I'm overpaying. If you're really watching your nickles and dimes, find the nearest (remodeled) Safeway instead.

                                                                                                      P: 6
                                                                                                      M: 7
                                                                                                      Q&S: 7
                                                                                                      B: 7
                                                                                                      Px: 5
                                                                                                      SE: 9

                                                                                                      Total: 41

                                                                                                      3. Trader Joe's

                                                                                                      As I said above, it's not really a grocery store; it's more of a feel-good experience (with friendly staff and cheap wine--"Two Bells"--it's more festive than a grocery store ought to be). We go every week to pick up the handful of things to which we're addicted (peanut butter cups, anyone?); that are best-in-class and/or super cheap (bananas, flowers, sparkling water); that are truly ridiculous values (wine); and that look so tasty in the frozen section but that will actually just sit in my freezer until the next big snowstorm (general tso's chicken). The problem I have with TJ's is that it would have been perfect for me in college or graduate school--when I didn't really cook anything and didn't have a baseline against which to judge some of their subpar offerings (turkey chili, green curry sauce, ice cream)--but isn't a great fit now. If you're trying to cook for a tough crowd, or are looking for an _exalted_ food experience, you won't find it here. But if you're trying to feed yourself on a budget or a tight schedule, while still enjoying a great selection of food that breaks the trend of turkey sandwiches, ramen noodles and spaghetti, Trader Joe's is hard to beat. And that seems to be the source of its cult following; if I had been within shouting distance of Trader Joe's in school, I'm sure that it would be closer to number 1 on my list.

                                                                                                      P: 5
                                                                                                      M: 7
                                                                                                      Q&S: 8
                                                                                                      B: 4
                                                                                                      Px: 7
                                                                                                      SE: 8

                                                                                                      Total: 40

                                                                                                      Honorable Mention:

                                                                                                      Safeway. Because if you're trying to feed your family on a budget, it's hard to beat. The prices are low enough to offset the frustratingly limited selection. They do stock Shiner Bock, and if I were planning a backyard barbecue, I could do a lot worse than buying the supplies at Safeway.

                                                                                                      Super H-Mart: I went recently and didn't buy anything. But I walked around for twenty minutes like a tourist in a South Korean fish market--because that's essentially what I was. Even if your specialty isn't Korean food, it's still worth going at least once, to see whether this fills any gaps in your current rotation. I'm not a sufficiently inspired or creative cook to make much use of the selection (I was mostly overwhelmed at H-Mart and could have used a tour guide), but if you're reading this far into entry 105 on this post, you're obviously pretty motivated to find a good store. So go. Take a friend and make an excursion out of it. And if you actually know how to make a killer bipbimbap, well . . . you've been missing out.

                                                                                                      The Scourge:

                                                                                                      Whole Foods. I have such fond memories of shopping with my grandmother at the original in Austin, 25 years ago. She bought things I'd never seen before--multigrain bread, organic peanut butter, amazing fruits like kiwi and mango. But the formula hasn't translated, and all of the good will I had for Whole Foods (I remember being ecstatic when they put one within walking distance of my college dorm) has dissipated. I want the highest quality food at the best possible price. I don't want beautiful packaging and New Age marketing at prices designed to force me into an ascetic life. (This complaint from someone who shops at Balducci's, mind you.) WF's produce section tells you everything you need to know: The fruit is shiny and beautiful, but it's also tasteless and invariably imported from four thousand miles away. I admit that I wind up shopping at Whole Foods more often than at Safeway, but I am invariably disappointed. In the store and in myself.

                                                                                                      bloom: Don't be fooled. It's Food Lion. Just kind of/sort of cleaner. In the one I've been to, it has something like a CVS up front, so you're drawn into the store by the smell of laundry detergent and household cleaners, not bright produce and fresh-baked bread. Weird all around. Maybe there are better stores out there, but from what I've seen, this doesn't fill any needs in an urban environment, whether you're on a budget or not. The re-branding is important for Food Lion, though, because if I were in a rural community with only a Food Lion, I'd just stop keeping food in my house. With bloom, I'd go if it were my only option. So that's a pretty big improvement.

                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                      H-Mart
                                                                                                      800 N Rolling Rd, Catonsville, MD

                                                                                                      Balducci's
                                                                                                      600 Franklin St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: dcdc1

                                                                                                        Which Wegmans are you going to? I would have to argue for a first time the Fairfax or Leesburg location probably has the most variety. I am not as fond of the sterling layout. and some other stores lack some of the items of those stores (for instance Gainsville has walk in beer fridge, but doesn't have loose leaf teas or as many different meats, or the whole fish selection of Fairfax).

                                                                                                        1. re: ktmoomau

                                                                                                          Gainesville has loose leaf teas. I buy mine every week when I'm there.

                                                                                                          1. re: Manassas64

                                                                                                            Hmm do they have the whole big section with them in cans or just a few already bagged? Because when they first opened they didn't have the loose leaf section like the one in Fairfax?

                                                                                                            No offense, but at least when I shopped there they lacked man of the more high end products that Fairfax and Sterling had. Some of the types and brands of fish and high end meats, selection of certain cuts. And just certain products. I am sure they do a lot of research into what sells in what areas and the one in Fairfax is very close to the very nice Whole Foods.

                                                                                                            1. re: ktmoomau

                                                                                                              Yes, they have a whole section, just like in Fairfax, with the cans to bag your own. I haven't noticed any difference in meat or fish selection between Fairfax and Gainesville, but I only buy organic or if they don't have organic I buy their FYFGA brand (which is just uncertified organic).

                                                                                                        2. re: dcdc1

                                                                                                          Friend, I don't have the patience to complete such a lovely algorithm but I have a similar background to you: grew up in western new york with a Wegmans but spent two years in ATX before moving to DC. i adore Wegmans, probably because its like a slice of home for me (be sure to get yourself some Weber's mustard), and in fear that you will be disappointed I want to proactively defend my Weg's: it unfortunately doesn't compare to Central Market. CM is just too good, too beautiful, too comprehensive. Wegmans will not have that many jellies or jams: maybe a few artisanal brands in one of the international aisles set apart from Smuckers. It won't have the crazy fruits and veggies and the sourcing of their fish is sometimes questionable. However, they are well-managed, a fortune 500 company with significant local philanthropy and community ties, and in the Buffalo stores they often feature produce from local farmers. It's well-organized, has a wide variety of international foods, a wine cellar and awesome catering department. CM and Wegmans are in two different classes, but both should be commended for what they offer.

                                                                                                          Some people on here complain that Wegman's is too busy on the weekends. Isn't that a sign that its a good grocery store?

                                                                                                        3. 1 - For the best overall quality and selection
                                                                                                          Giant Food - 1230 W Broad St Falls Church, VA 22046
                                                                                                          They have the 2nd best cuts of beef and chicken in the area. You can ask the butcher for special cuts. Their produce is very high quality. You have to pay a little more but you are what you eat and it's worth it.

                                                                                                          2 - For the 2nd best overall quality and selection
                                                                                                          Giant Food - 3480 S Jefferson St, Falls Church, VA
                                                                                                          They have the best cuts of beef and chicken in the area. You can ask the butcher for special cuts and he will help you along the way. The guy I speak with has been there for years and is very helpful. Their produce is very high quality. Same thing as #1. You have to pay a little more but you are what you eat and it's worth it.

                                                                                                          3 - For good halal beef and Palestinian olive oil
                                                                                                          Al Amanah Market - 3811-I South George Mason Drive, Falls Church, VA 22041-3763
                                                                                                          The beef is excellent and the butcher will cut it any way you want it.

                                                                                                          4 - For good halal beef and Lebanese olive oil
                                                                                                          Lebanese Butcher - 113 E Annandale Rd, Falls Church, VA
                                                                                                          The beef is excellent and the butcher will cut it any way you want it.

                                                                                                          5 - Shoppers Food Warehouse - 7 Corners
                                                                                                          In a pinch it will do. Stay away from the fruit section.

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          Lebanese Butcher & Restaurant
                                                                                                          109 E Annandale Rd, Falls Church, VA 22046

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: Culinary_Kid

                                                                                                            Can't speak to the halal markets- neither of the ones mentioned are true supermarkets, they're both 1,000 sf or less and specialty stores, but I can't believe that Giant or SFW are in very many peoples top five supermarkets or grocery stores in the area.

                                                                                                          2. Only Wegmans for me. I drove to Sterling weekly when it first opened, then moved to the Fairfax location since it was right around the corner from my office and now I shop almost exclusively at Gainesville since it's easy to get to as well.

                                                                                                            I have been forced to step into a Giant once recently and the difference is night and day. Giant can slap a fresh coat of paint on their stores, but until their staff gets the sticks out of their butts and freshens their meat and produce, it can't compete in my book.

                                                                                                            Quality- are the produce, meats, fish etc fresh and of good/great quality fairly consistently?

                                                                                                            I've never had a problem with freshness of meat or fish, plus they will order me anything I want and repackage anything I need. I've never been told that they've just cleaned the machine and can't help me (as they have at Giant).

                                                                                                            Variety- will I find interesting/unique items?

                                                                                                            I find they have a good variety and they frequently change things up (sometimes to my detriment as they will stop carrying a variety of something I like in favor of something new).

                                                                                                            Price- Yea, Balduccis and DD are great, but rarely a great value. Who has good to great value?

                                                                                                            Wegmans has the best prices overall. Certainly cheaper than Giant. Sure I can find some items cheaper at Walmart or Target, but I don't go there on a regular enough basis and I don't see it as a savings if I have to waste an hour of my life in each store to get something 30 cents cheaper. My time is more important to me.

                                                                                                            Service/Cleanliness-- does the store appear clean and for higher priced stores in particular, is the service good?

                                                                                                            The thing I love about Wegmans is you always see staff checking product, testing refrigerator temperatures, etc. It's also fun to see them putting the produce to bed at night if you're there late. ;o)