New to MSP...Dying for a good grocery store
After living in Chicago for the past four years, I have been spoiled by insanely cheap, insanely fresh markets like Harvest Time Foods and Jerry's Fruit & Garden. Anybody from Chicago knows the places...yellow and green poster board with red and black magic marker signs advertising 20 for a dollar limes and $0.49 per pound apples. If you haven't been to one of these, you won't believe me, but even at those prices the quality is WAY above the chain grocers (including whole foods). These are the kind of places that don't have the same thing every week because it's all seasonal. We've tried WholeFoods, Cub, Rainbow, Byerly's, and Kowalskis and can't find anything that compares in terms of selection or price.
Anybody know a good option? I'd drive just about anywhere in the metro to find a place. There has to be an ex-Chicagoan who knows what I'm talking about.
Hi fellow Chicago Expat! I started a similar thread on the old Chowhound board nearly mirroring your statement above...though I wept for my lost Caputo's and $2.50/lb portobello mushrooms :)
I will say this: if you have settled into the Twin Cities and plan to be here for a good long time, eventually you will fall into your own good deals, but you will never find produce like you had in Chicago, so readily available and cheap. I have been here 4 years now, and I will say that when I go back to visit these days the only thing I bring back in bulk is fresh corn tortillas. But what is lacking here in readily available cheap produce is made up for with great farmers markets, coops and a really accessible food scene. I don't have any specific suggestions for you that haven't already been mentioned, but I did join a CSA this year (Featherstone Farms), I also buy produce in bulk at Costco every couple of weeks, and try to be a bit more mindful of waste.
The upside is that you won't be constantly tempted by delicious italian beef sandwiches (dipped), vienna hotdogs, italian ice, combos, italian sausage, and all the other fatty and delicious Chicago specialties. That frees up more money to buy good produce! :)
re: puddin head
Just a note on the tortillas - have you been to La Perla at the Mercado Central on Lake Street? Because they are good (IMO), made right there, and you can buy them in large quantities. Might be worth a look if you haven't already tried it.
1515 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hi LiaM! Thanks for responding! I have indeed tried La Perla. My issue with them (and most corn tortilla makers) is that, even though they are locally made, they use many "extra" ingredients in their corn tortillas such as gums, etc. (I apologize, I don't have a pack in front of me to recite the ingredients.) My favorite tortillas have nothing but ground corn, lime and water. They are just amazing and clean-tasting. Luckily they freeze really well, and stay forever in the fridge, so I just haul back 20-30 packs to get me through for a few months until my next trip down. :)
Thanks for all the replies. Eisenberg's looks like a great start and is pretty close to where I work. I think I got a little side tracked on the price thing....I care much more about quality. If it's cheap, that's just frosting on the cake. This may sound dumb, but I'm really looking forward to checking out all the places listed in the posts below.
Very much appreciated!
Chris, now that you specified quality as your priority, I unhesitatingly will point you toward the coops, and organically grown produce in particular. Organically grown fruit, citrus for example , is usually ripened on the tree as opposed to being picked green and dyed orange, therefore, much sweeter....and organic citrus is often economically priced as compared to other fruits. I ask the produce workers on the floor for recommendations of what's good, ask them for a sample or two... Mississippi Market often has several fruit/veg samples out........at Selby and Dale in St Paul...good luck and report back!
I've heard, though I do not have a source to substantiate, that in fact the Twin Cities have the largest number of co-ops per capita of any city in America.... So yes, check out some coops! We are members of Mississippi Market, which has 2 locations in St. Paul. But we sometimes also go to Seward, which is fantastic too.... others will have other favorites.
Also the St. Paul Farmers Market is amazing. The season is just starting, but by mid-summer the variety and quality of produce to be found there is mind-boggling.
yup that is true. msp is the co-op capital of the country, as well as being the local foods capital of the country! so the op should check out and perhaps learn to appreciate co-ops for sustainable & local produce.
i remember the other thread where ironically another ex-chicagoan was going on and on about where the 7cent limes at. . . and people kept having to repeat that we just aren't at the crossroads of every shipping route in america here in msp, so we're not going to have the super-cheap nonseasonal nonlocal stuff here, and the person was not really hearing it. what do chicagoans make with all those 7cent limes? :)
Welcome to the Twin Cities! We're glad to have another person who's passionate about good values for good food.
But remember that natives learn about the best places gradually. If you were stuck shopping at Chicago's Whole Foods and Fox & Obel, you'd be just as frustrated. Me, I avoid places like Whole Foods and Kowalskis like the plague. I'm a co-op shopper (I'm a member at Seward Co-op); it's not cheap, but I love the quality.
It's good that you're willing to drive anywhere, because I'll bet that you don't live in (or near) downtown St. Paul. But that's where you need to go.
The answer for you is ---- Eisenberg's! It's the Twin Cities' most unhearalded treasure for bargain produce. Ignore their drab and uninspired shelves, and go straight for the center display of "too ripe to sell in mainstream stores" produce. There's always something available for an amazing bargain. I've scored organic berries for $1/basket in the summer (non-organic berries were 50 cents), and pears in the fall for just pennies a piece. Eisenberg's is a paradise for canners, jam-makers, bakers, and people who love really ripe fruit.
http://www.eisenbergfruit.com/ -- Check the Specials tab - that's what you want
There are other treasures scattered around the Twin Cities, but you have to hunt through far-flung neighborhoods for the best bargains.
For example, if you want good, cheap limes and mangos, go to a big Mexican grocery - for me, that means El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul (south of downtown).
If you want great Asian produce, head to the Hmong Market (St. Paul) or one of the big Asian groceries on Eat Street (Mpls) or University Ave (St. Paul) - or United Noodle in SE Mpls for the Mother Of All Asian Groceries.
For fava beans and other Middle Eastern produce, check out The Holy Land on Central Ave in Minneapolis.
And I hear that various Indian groceries in the suburbs are well worth investigating.
P.S. These other threads might be of interest to you:
MSP: "Best" Grocery Store: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/588575
MSP - Groceries on the Cheap: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/420435
MSP - Food stores other than WF: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/410732
El Burrito Mercado
175 Cesar Chavez St, St Paul, MN 55107
920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN
Shuang Her on University has good prices as does Golden Dragon a bit farther north on Dale. Then there is always Steve's So-Low over in North Minneapolis. They also are one of the few retailers of Moo and Oink in the Twin Cities - so it's worth a trip for that alone.
785 Marketplace Dr, Waconia, MN 55387
There is a fruit store in DT St. P, conveniently just a few blocks from the Farmers Market (which rules in full bloom). I forget the name of it, I've never been, but it's been there forever. I believe it starts with an E. I get as much as I can from the St. P Farmers Market, unlike the Mpls location, everything has to be from within 25 (or 50, I forget which) miles.
I shop at a combination of stores, one store just doesn't have everything for a reasonable price.
I think I remember reading a similar complaint on the old Midwest board, with most people agreeing that prices are just higher here. But here are some things you might try:
The co-ops (Seward, Wedge, Mississippi Market, etc.) - these are not cheap, but the quality is generally high.
Farmer's markets, especially for local & seasonal produce - though at the downtown Minneapolis one, you can get non-local stuff as well. I can't say whether it's a great price or comparable product to Rainbow et al., probably comes off a similar truck. I stick to the local/seasonal foods at the farmers markets and I'm almost always happy with them.
There is (or at least used to be) a good fruit & vegetable wholesaler at Midtown Global Market - I haven't been there lately, but there were some very good deals to be had on often very good stuff.
Good luck! I hope you find something you like.
Midtown Global Market
920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407