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Center City Dwellers - Where do you grocery shop? I need recs.

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megmosa Aug 2, 2009 03:42 PM

I live in near Rittenhouse Square and take a lot of time to go every which way to buy groceries. I wind up buying a few items at Trader Joe's, produce at Sue's, meat at Di Bruno Brothers, etc. Sometimes I walk to South Square Market or Reading Terminal Market or Chinatown or the Vietnamese market on Washington.

My problem is that I spend way way too much time looking for things, and aside from Sue's, I'm not really that happy with any of the places I go. My love affair with Trader Joe's has been over for awhile and Di Bruno Brother's is way too expensive and their meat selection isn't that great.

My new plan is to try to go grocery shopping only once a week unless it's a quick trip to Sue's for produce.

I'm looking for a grocery store that it will be easy to catch a cab from. My plan is to walk or take the bus there, and take a taxi back to my house. For that reason, I'd like it to be close to center city.

Things I want in my grocery store:

- Decent produce.
- Is not way way way overpriced.
- Bonus points for a real meat counter.
- Sells ground chicken (I am having such a hard time finding this...)

In the past, I haven't loved Whole Foods, but I guess I could try it again. Last time I went they were out of celery, cilantro, and parsley. How can a real grocery store be out of those things?

Anybody have any ideas of where I should go?

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    barryg Aug 2, 2009 03:57 PM

    I think the bouncing around to specialty stores is part of the charm of living in a city. But, I understand your frustration, especially if you don't like the stores you're going to.

    Probably your best bet is a Whole Foods-Superfresh combo at 10th & South; they are right across the street from each other. Whatever the one doesn't have, the other probably will. Catching a cab is not hard there. I like that Whole Foods and I have not had any selection issues there with produce. If you pay attention to seasonal/local produce, the prices aren't bad and the quality is top notch. Everything else in the store, sans bulk, is overpriced.

    Reading Terminal in general is not overpriced and is high quality so that's another option, if you can do your shopping on the early side.

    2 Replies
    1. re: barryg
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      Buckethead Aug 3, 2009 10:40 AM

      I agree, between those two you can usually find what you need. If you can't find some produce you need, get it at Iovine's in the RTM. Whole Foods is not that overpriced as long as you're buying ingredients, not prepared foods. Also, nothing at WF contains corn syrup or hydrogenated fats, which makes label-reading easier.

      1. re: barryg
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        lawgirl3278 Aug 3, 2009 12:07 PM

        I second barry g. You can kill two birds with one stone by heading towards Whole Foods-Superfresh, and cabs aren't too hard to find over there. I've done the same on the way home from work a few times, buying typical groceries/produce at SF but heading to WF for good meats and fish.

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        Bigley9 Aug 3, 2009 09:46 AM

        I do all my grocery shopping at the Reading Terminal Market and get paper products, sodas, etc at Superfresh (I do Delaware Ave, but that's just because I am equi-distant to that store and 9th and South) RTM definitely has ground chicken.

        1. m
          megmosa Aug 3, 2009 03:30 PM

          Alright, I went to WF on South St. and found everything I need there. Their meat selection is much better than anywhere else I've been going to (outside of the terminal), but like I said...I'm trying to streamline my shopping a bit. I foresee being very busy in the next few months and if I tried to keep going to Di Bruno Brothers, Sue's, Max's, Trader Joes, the Reading Terminal Market shops, etc. every few days, my shopping would not be sustainable (time-wise) and I'd just find myself eating out.

          3 Replies
          1. re: megmosa
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            mazza3 Aug 5, 2009 09:18 AM

            seriously, the superfresh/whole foods trip is streamlined for city life. i am exceptionally busy and when i actually have time to grocery shop, that is always where i go when i am not using a car. di bruno's is closeby so if you have that craving, you can hit it up too. reading terminal has everything you would need to, so i would suggest exploring there more thoroughly.

            and i am not being critical, but it sounds like you might need to buy a car, drive to new jersey and go to wegman's if you want a megamart.

            1. re: mazza3
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              barryg Aug 5, 2009 04:50 PM

              Or get PhillyCarShare and drive to Wegmans, or the stores near Columbus and Snyder, or whatever. Both Whole Foods in town have free parking too.

              1. re: mazza3
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                megmosa Aug 6, 2009 02:55 PM

                Oh no...I don't want or need a car or a megamart. Whole Foods worked out well for me. The first time I shopped at one I was annoyed because they were out of so many things, but this time it was great and I found it was very easy to catch a cab near south street.

            2. sockii Aug 3, 2009 03:55 PM

              I hit Trader Joes & DiBrunos maybe once a month; South Square & the next door Dollar General for sale specials and some basics when I need it; Maxx's on 20th St. for produce; Reading for meats & fish to stock up my fridge and freezer when I can. And then I get my SO to drive me to Walmart for everything else because the savings are worth it and I don't care if I'm selling my soul to the devil to do so. I can't afford to feed my cats on Center City prices when Fancy Feast is 75 cents/can around here but 50 cents at Walmart. Ditto a lot of other basics and packaged standbys. I daresay the savings are worth the cab fare there too if necessary...

              I like the Whole Foods on South St. for some things when I'm in the area but find that Superfresh incredibly gross and not somewhere I want to shop in willingly.

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                Mr. Peabody Aug 3, 2009 07:13 PM

                You might also try the Fresh Grocer at 40th & Walnut; it's a full-sized, inexpensive grocery store with uncommon produce and a surprising international section. As a bonus it's next to the Cinemagic theater, and right by restaurants, the UPenn bookstore, and shops.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Mr. Peabody
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                  Ali Aug 4, 2009 07:32 AM

                  Fresh Grocer is probably my choice for grocery stores in that area because the produce section is fresh and varied, but it's not Center City (nor that inexpensive). There's also no more Cinemagic, having long since gone in lieu of the Radian, which now holds the Capogiro. (There is the Bridge on the other corner, though.)

                  Fresh Grocer is easy to get to via SEPTA, though, so it might be an option for the OP if s/he doesn't mind the small trip.

                  1. re: Ali
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                    Mr. Peabody Aug 4, 2009 02:23 PM

                    Pardon me, yes, Cinemagic closed and the Bridge theater is now there. Compared to Di Bruno's & Great Scot's Rittenhouse market, Fresh Grocer is inexpensive.

                    1. re: Mr. Peabody
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                      perezjl Aug 16, 2009 02:52 PM

                      I have to say, as someone who has had little choice but to shop at Fresh Grocer at 40th and Walnut for the last several years, I disagree that the produce selection is fresh. I've seen way too many fruits growing mold and berry containers full of fruit flies there to encourage anyone to buy produce there. Also it's important to know that they run out of produce items pretty frequently, especially on weekends, so it may not be worth the trek from Center City just to not be able to get what you want. A final warning: check expiration dates carefully on ANYTHING you buy there-- I'm not sure whether they purposefully continue to stock expired dairy/beverages/medicines/you name it, but in any case I've seen them pop up on multiple occasions.

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                  carwash Aug 3, 2009 07:27 PM

                  I recently moved to Center City and I have the same concern about balancing quality with shopping ease. What I've found works for me is to hit up Trader Joe's once a week and RTM on the weekends (Saturdays before 11 are usually manageable). Between Iovine's, John Yi, Harry Och's and the myriad meat counters I'm usually set for the week.

                  I'll fill whatever gaps during the week with tripts to Sue's or Jin's on 20th and occasional wallet crushing stops at Di Bruno's.

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                    PhillyA Aug 4, 2009 07:05 AM

                    Just FYI, there is (or at least was, I assume it's still there) a small grocery story in the basement of Park Towne Place @ 22nd & the Parkway.

                    It won't really address the specific things you were looking for - produce, good meat, etc, but it is (or at least was) much less overpriced for basics you would need. I saved a lot of money when I lived in the area buying my every day mustard, non-gourmet pasta, frozen vegetables, etc from there. I know it's yet another stop, but most of the things you would probably want from there (they HAVE produce, but I don't recommend) would be things you would only have to shop for to stock up once a month or every other month.

                    1. s
                      Susan H Aug 5, 2009 08:02 PM

                      We live at 16th and Arch, and do most of our produce and fish shopping (and bread) at the Comcast Center - same prices and quality as RTM. Paper goods and cleaning supplies are available at Walgreens (when on sale, same price as supermarkets). We stock up on canned goods, milk, eggs, when on the road, at any handy supermarket. If we need something on Sunday, RTM. And an occasional trip to Trader Joe's for some things we just can't get anywhere else.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Susan H
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                        megmosa Aug 6, 2009 02:48 PM

                        Sounds good...are you buying all this stuff from the Di Brunos there, or are there other food sellers?

                        1. re: megmosa
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                          Bigley9 Aug 7, 2009 07:13 AM

                          There are produce and seafood places, a termini's bakery, can't recall what else

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