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Jungle Jim's international grocery store--worth a visit? And what else should I eat in Cincy?

I'll be driving down from Michigan (where I'm really close to TJ's, Whole Foods, and several other excellent local grocers) to Cincinnati for a 9-day trip. Is a side trip to Jungle Jim's worth the 30-minute drive? Do tell!

Also, are there good vegetarian options in Cincinnati that are downtown near the convention center? I'll be able to drive, but it won't be as convenient of course.

Thanks!

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  1. Definitely worth a visit. They have an astonishing beer selection, including a large variety of Belgian ale. I also recall an enormous number of hot sauces. They organize their ethnic stuff by giving each country/region its own aisle. The place is mammoth so allow some time to take it all in. You should be able to find anything you want and you may want to bring a cooler.

    1. Jungle Jim's is on the short list of thigns to visit in Ohio, not just the Cincinnati area. The produce section alone is as big as a small chain grocery store. Lots of exotic/international produce. Large health food section, aisles and aisles of International groceries, specialty items, and priced very competitively, as well.
      It tends to get very, very busy on weekends.

      1. I went to college near Jungle Jim's. It is an incredible grocery store destination with endless aisles of munchy curing goods to explore and try as a college kid. As sammyo mentioned, the beer selection was another huge draw along with the hot sauces and long aisles of international foods. Plan on spending a good amount of time and definitely don't forget to bring your cooler.

        -----
        Jungle Jim's Cafe
        1923 N Peoria Rd, Springfield, IL 62702

        1. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with good vegetarian options downtown. I've only dined at a couple steakhouses down there, and a Chinese restaurant called Wah Mee.

          1. Here's another perspective from someone who lives in a very large, urban, and multicultural city. It was interesting (like the first time you visit a Costco) but it didn't wow me. It's half warehouse, 1/2 kitshy amusement park. You can get many international gourmet items like cheese, butter, salami, as well as pantry items. The liquor section is very large. Interesting produce. But for me, there wasn't anything there that I couldn't easily source at home so I guess it depends on what's available in your home town. I on the other hand don't have a TJ's and would much prefer that.

            8 Replies
            1. re: tuttebene

              What do you mean "source at home"? Like order over the internet?

              I'm kind of curious if anyone has any downtown vegetarian suggestions.

              1. re: Fibber McGee

                I mean I don't live in Cincy so it's not special for me; stores that carry the same goods are plentiful in my town. And I was suggesting that unless the OP was from a small town in Michigan, they may not find products unfamiliar to them. They have a TJ that they referenced as a comparison. I know that there's nothing else like JJ for the area, but that's not the case in other states or larger cities, with respect to the products. I happen to love Cincy and spend time there every year but the last time I looked my friend, it's neither large nor multicultural (unless you include Covington?????). I may be the lone voice of dissention, but that was my honest impression and opinion of the place. The decor is pretty hoaky. What would you call a roller coaster ride in the parking lot? In my town, they are only found in amusement parks - but then again, it's urban.

                1. re: tuttebene

                  Hey now, it used to be the tram in King's Island wildlife park. They only have a few diorama's, it's not like the store is predicated on them. Most importantly, it's the only place you can get certain essentials. Cases in point: durians, Bundaberg Ginger beer, Tim Tam's, preserved lemons, linguica...well, you get the point. You may find some of these items by hunting high and low in specialty stores, but JJ's is the only "under one roof" store where you can find everything. Except Tastykake's and Drake's Cakes. But I can get those when I visit my mom in Philly.

                  1. re: tuttebene

                    Fair enough, tuttebene. Apologies if my comment seemed smarmy.
                    I think JohnE O did oint out some items you really can't find in too many places, urban or not. Durian, lamb's head, rattlesnake and Inca Cola are not something you find in one place regardless of area size, I would think.
                    Speaking of visiting family in Philly, the one thing they don't have is Yuengling.

                    1. re: Fibber McGee

                      Weird that you mentioned Yuengling's. I've got a friend over the next block and we have a deal. Whenever one of us is in an area that sells it (my family is from Philly) we have to bring back a case for the other. I'm down to my last 6 and he forgot to pack his cases when he was visiting his kids in SC.

                      1. re: Fibber McGee

                        OK, you got me on the Yuengling (what is it?) but we've got 3 Chinatowns and Durian is as common as apples. As I read about everyone's reverence for JJ, I feel even more fortunate living where I do because everything is so available. But I must admit, we've no really good Mexican food as scrumptioussouschef's post reminds me of that fact - I'd even settle for adequate. Closest good Mexican to me is Detroit. Road trip!!!

                        1. re: tuttebene

                          Yuengling is a beer that is brewed only in Pennsylvania and Florida and distributed pretty much only in East Coast states. It's like the anti-Coors (back when Coors didn't distribute East of the Rockies). High-end beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers probably think those of us who make such deals like John are nuts.
                          We can go back and forth all day, I'm sure. And you're right, tuttebene, I guess being in an area like SW Ohio, places like JJ's truly seem like an glowing Oasis when true ethnic choices are few, far-between or secrets. Which is why we appreciate it so much.

                          1. re: Fibber McGee

                            Good to know FM! I'll look for it in my travels to PA (or JJ's ).