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Jul 22, 2012 04:51 PM

Grocery store comparisons

Okay--can we take a consensus on what you believe is the best local grocery store? And, not just best--where do you shop mostly and then go for the specialty items?

I generally shop at Giant and Mars (location and price point). I.E. CONVENIENCE

I love Wegman's and haven't as yet been to the one in Columbia which is more convenient then the one in Hunt Valley, which I love.

My old standbys for small, very expensive, but great little stores--Graul's in Ruxton and Eddie's on Charles Street. Can't beat the service and in and out quickness. I love the staff who empty your cart onto the checkout belt at Eddie's. Then a person carries out your grocery items.

Harris Teeter in Columbia (last time I shopped there was about 2 years ago--it just isn't a conveniently close shopping venue). Their check-out is great. Prices a bit higher then Giant and Mars. Nice selection of prepared foods. I don't live very far from the Locust Point location and have been draggin my feet to get to their newest location. A must on my upcoming shopping day.

Whole Foods--I am very curious as to all of your opinions--have seen some very negative comments. I used to shop at the Mt. Washington location, but am closer to the downtown location. Haven't been in a while and only shop for cheeses and items that aren't available at the general shopping I do at Giant, etc. Stilll, this store intriques me--don't know why--maybe someone can explain.

And, what about Safeway? I haven't shopped at one in several years. I find that store--in comparison to Giant and other larger markets--to be expensive. Of course, it isn't "gourmet" oriented, but very expensive for general everyday shopping.

One store that I haven't been to but an curious to check out--the Fresh Market. Any opinions?
How are they with brands of foods, in house prepared foods (if any)--price point.

Last, but not least--Trader Joe's--I hate to reveal this, but have shopped only once at the Pikesville location and was totally unimpressed. Please tell me what I missed as I want to give that store a second chance. Thanks to all. FoiGras

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  1. I shop at Trader Joes in DC for wine
    Wegmans in PG County because I live close by
    Costco - for meat, paper goods, sometimes seafood
    H-mart on Georgia Ave -seafood
    DC Wharf - seafood and crabs
    Safeway - purchase items on sale only

    2 Replies
    1. re: agarnett100

      Wow--I'm impressed with your comprehensive reply. I wasn't aware that Trader Joe's sold wine--do they in the Maryland area?
      Aren't you lucky to live nearby to a Wegmans.
      What about Costco? I've never shopped there but friends of mine really like the selection and prices. what, other then paper products and seafood prompt your shopping support?

      I guess that you agree with the price point at Safeway since you mentioned that you "purchase items on sale only." A good review and awakening from your perspective. FoiGras

      1. re: FoiGras

        Trader Joe's- Sells wine in VA and DC I usually visited the DC location once a month and load up.

        Costco - My family go hooked on this store 20 yrs ago when it was called Price Club in SoCal. I like the return policy you can return anything with the receipt - last year I returned a case of lobsters that went bad no questions asked. Its too bad that in the DMV they are not allowed to sell liquid I was in SoCal last week and the price of 1.75 L of Makers was only $28. I also like Costco for wine in VA and electronics( you can return them up until 90 days after purchase)
        I also like shopping at the Amish Market on 29 - for fresh made bake goods, produce and other treats from my youth in PA

    2. In Virginia - Wegman's can be a one-stop shopping Mecca. From meats to national brand dry goods like cereals, they carry it all at a similar price point to Giant and other national retailers. Their cheese selection and olive bars tend to be as well stocked if not better than most Whole Foods and because it is Virginia they have an extensive wine and beer selection.

      For me Trader Joe's is a bit more of a "surrender yourself" experience. You have to trust in their corporate world view and their spin that they source very good products and then slap their brand onto it. You do not get nearly the selection that you get in a major retailer, which lets them keep their stores small and their perishable losses to a minimum. Most of my friends that are regulars at TJ's tend to rave about the "mostly" prepared items that you finish off at home. In my opinion TJ's stuff is not any better that the "prepared" store brand items at Wegman's . . . and Wegman' has a wider selection of stuff . . . .

      By the way if you have access to an H-Mart or Grand Mart or some other Asian supermarket you should start exploring it. You are not going to find any "grass fed" - "organic" stuff there but you will find an incredible amount of produce, seafood, and meats. If you have a big hang-up about industrial farming and sustainable fisheries your head is going to explode when you see these places. But if the occasional industrial produced pork product or mass market beef regularly graces you shopping cart - these places are gems.

      1. Shop mostly at: Giant (live up the street). I think Giant (atleast this one) is probably my favorite grocer in the District. They consistently have pretty good produce (for a grocer), and their peppers are reliably spicy. Meat selection is ok, but on par with others except for WF, which is overpriced IMO. Deli is fairly solid (except for the workers - they need a math course in fractions). They recently got rid of a couple items that we consistently like and get (Uncle Brutha's, Yogi Tea, Stonyfield frozen yogurt) which is annoying though.

        Best in the area: Wegmans. If we lived near one, we'd do all of our shopping there. Great produce selection (though the nod for spicy peppers still goes to Giant). Great meat selection (we end up driving out there a few times a month almost solely for their air chilled chicken, grass fed beef - among others). Deli underwhelms though. Great cheese selection too.

        Trader Joes I rarely go to because their produce sucks and they are really only good for some things (their prepared Indian meals/naan are good, and a handful of other things), but they are generally pretty competitively priced. But you still need to go elsewhere for staples. TJs is good for a single person though.

        Whole Foods is completely overrated. Their produce always looks good, but just isn't nearly that good. They generally have a wide selection of things most other grocers don't (except Wegmans), but there aren't many standouts, and they're overpriced. I do like their deli though.

        17 Replies
        1. re: mdpilam

          I'm not arguing - but I am curious. What makes the Whole Foods deli case better than Wegman's in your opinion.

          Wegman’s seems to move a lot more product, they stock a range of items from their house brands to smaller producers and high-end imported stuff. (Get half a pound of the Henry Gay party ham and do ham & biscuits. For all I know it is Smithfield’s Henry Gay ham, but Wegman’s is the only place in the DC area I have ever seen it.) Personally, I think there store brand product is as strong as anything carried at WF.

          What is a problem at their deli case is the crowds of people who either do not know what the want to order when it is their turn or who have a lot of silly questions. It is sliced cold cuts! Just order some and take it home and figure out if you like it or not in the comfort of your own home! And for the love of God Leave you shopping cart back from the case so people can get to the counter!

          1. re: drewpbalzac

            Wegmans has the worst deli meats and most of there store brands just taste horrible. Shop there every week but not the deli

            1. re: sas

              What do you buy?

              Prosciutto de Parma or San Danielle is the same everywhere I go. Their Deli carries "cold cut" porchetta which isn't even available at most delis cases in the city, even WF's.

              Hoffman's hot dogs and red-hots sold loose are great. Cittero Capicolla is the same everywhere I go . . . no difference between Wegman’s and other stores.

              Their store brands may not live up to others standards but I can't see any difference between the Wegman’s turkey or roast beef and Boars Head, and I think they are much better than the store brand junk at Safeway or Giant. (To be fair I hate processed Turkey and cold-cut roast beef all tastes funky to me.)

              Wegman's deli case caries more brands, and moves more product than any deli counter I have seen in the area. At the WF's I am most familiar with they have to go in the back or drop down into the low boy to root around for the stuff I want, which doesn't give me any confidence in long the product has been sitting around.

              Short of a trip to Canales' Deli in Eastern Market, I think Wegman's deli case puts other places to shame. . . . Except for the crowds.

              1. re: drewpbalzac

                The only things I've had from the deli at Wegmans (again, we don't shop there frequently, and just "discovered" it about 3 months ago) were turkey and ham - don't recall the brand, but I didn't care for any of them. I pretty much only stick to Boar's Head from grocers as well (which I've found was better than Wegmans).

                1. re: mdpilam

                  By the way - I like Boars Head just fine and when I shop at stores other than Wegman’s, I only get Boar Head or if it is not available Dietz and Watson.

                  Frankly, I don't care for "luncheon meat" much and tend to get prosciutto and specially cold cuts from deli cases, Which is why I find the accusation that Wegman's deli case stinks so remarkable.

                  1. re: drewpbalzac

                    I will try and get some cured meats next time I'm there to give them a shot.

              2. re: sas

                I was glad to see this. I like a lot about Wegman's but find their deli not to my standards. I really don't enjoy pre-cut meats. And I have not enjoyed much of what I have tried at the deli.

              3. re: drewpbalzac

                Yeah, all of the deli meats I've tried at Wegmans have tasted bad to just ok. Granted, I haven't eaten extensively from WF's deli (and most of my experience comes from the CA WFs), but it has generally been pretty good to very good (for a grocery deli).

                1. re: drewpbalzac

                  drewpbalzac--hee hee hee. I got a laugh out of your description of those who stand in lines at deli counters and make a big production out of ordering common place, ordinary lunchmeats. For goodness sakes, those people should just buy prepackaged deli meats. It's not "brain surgery" as they say.

                  My other pet peeve--those standing in line at the deli/prepared salad type foods (I'm referring to Giant--not Wwegman's or Harris Teeter, where those sections are seperate)--but the yakking yakking people talking on their cell phones and holding up the line by saying "ohy wait a minute-and they continue their conversation". I know, I know--this isn't about the food--so I'll switch back so I don't get bumped off by the CH Team--

                  I wish that Giant had more prepared salad-type foods.. Here is my point--the local one I shop at in Baltimore has about five different potato salads and three coleslaws. What about carrot salad--southwest corn salad--chicken/turkey/tunafish salads. Seafood salads. Various fruit salads--pasta salads and rice salads or preparations. Once in a while the Giant will have crabcakes (and the last time I tried one--it really was pretty darn good, espcially considering the price point).

                  I still like to shop at Graul's and Eddie's for prepared foods and salads--Harris Teeter is good--Whole Foods--I've had good and no interest. FoiGras

                2. re: mdpilam

                  I like Trader Joe's for many specific items (e.g., their Rice Krispies), but agree that you still have to shop elsewhere. On my last visit I was surprised to learn they don't carry baking soda, baking powder, or cornmeal.

                  1. re: bmorecupcake

                    I think you need to focus a bit, I have purchased all three items at Trader Joe's. I cannot believe that the store you were shoping at was out of all three items.

                    1. re: drewpbalzac

                      The Pikesville store was not out of these three items. Rather, I asked staff and the Pikesville store does not carry these three items. You must have purchased these a while back because there isn't much variation from store to store. Which Trader Joe's have you purchased these items from?

                      1. re: bmorecupcake

                        I'm ot a fan of Trader Joe's--but will definitely give it another shop-by at sonme point. but, I am under the impression that it is a store that one goes to for specific items--not overall general shopping--i.e., none food items like toilet paper and cleaning products and general boxed typed items or canned prodcuts. I could be very wrong as I only went to the Pikes ville store one time about 5 years ago and walked out without purchasing anything. I am open to being enlightened. FoiGras

                        1. re: bmorecupcake

                          I found all three items at the TJ's in NW DC just last Thanksgiving.

                          I think you had a bored or unfriendly worker. If they sell flour they are going to sell baking soda, baking powder, and cornmeal.

                          But your accusation that they do not carry these items does have me curious, I am going to take a field trip at lunch to see what I can find.

                          1. re: Dithyramb

                            I actually go out of my way and drive to the Pikesville store from Catonsville specifically because everyone there is extremely helpful.

                            I'm not sure what to tell you guys. Likely the larger Towson store carries items the Pikesville store does not. But I just called both the Pikesville and Towson stores, respectively 410-484-8373 and 410-296-9851. In fact I called the Pikesville store twice an hour apart and spoke to two different workers (and one even went to check the shelves.) At both stores I was told baking soda and baking powder we not in stock and I was told baking soda and baking powder are oddly seasonal items (come in October-Novemberish). Also, at both stores I was told they did not have cornmeal in stock, and furthermore don't even have cornmeal listed in their system anymore, seasonal item or otherwise.

                            1. re: bmorecupcake

                              I stand corrected - I just came from the DC store and they did not have baking powder, baking soda, or cornmeal. . . . They did however have dozens of stevia products, 3 or four iterations of mesquite honey and almond flower.

                              Obviously, I got these things during the seasonal baking rush. . . . TJ's falls even lower in my estimation.

                              1. re: drewpbalzac

                                Baking powder and baking soda are back at Trader Joe's.

                                Unfortunately, however, I confirmed a long time suspicion today. I was informed all of Trader Joe's smoked fish arrives frozen. I didn't ask about the caviar. I first discovered this practice at Whole Foods after asking why their smoked mackerel and smoked salmon are sometimes leathery.

                    2. The original comment has been removed
                      1. This is a timely question as I’ve recently retired and am doing a lot more cooking these days.

                        I’m a huge fan of TJ’s. You can’t get everything there but they have stuff there I can’t get elsewhere or tastes better here: no-salt-added spaghetti sauce, shredded gruyere/Swiss combo (great for quiches), great selection of cheap beer/wine, cheap milk, frozen pie crusts that taste much better than Pillsbury, Calabrese salami, bagged cauliflower, mirepoix….

                        Pre-retirement my go-to store was Giant but now that I go there more frequently, I am disappointed with their prices and quality. Their shredded cheese on sale is more expensive than ShopRite’s regular price. Unfortunately, there is no ShopRite near me. Their meat is good, but I’m always worried when I buy fish there because half the time, it smells old. I do love their corn on the cob that I believe they get from local farmers. Some of their staff is surly so the shopping experience is not so pleasant, unlike…

                        My new discovery, Harris Teeter, where they are as friendly as can be. They also have free wifi, which is great, because I no longer have a data service for my Blackberry. However, I have not gotten it to work on the BB yet. Their sales are really good, so I feel that compensates for some other goods being pricier, although at this point I don’t know prices well enough to say which place is more expensive. They have a much wider selection of meat than Giant. For instance, I was looking for Boston butt last month to make pulled pork and only could find it at HT. One time I went to HTand they were not stocked very well: had to ask them to put out more ribeye (there was only one out), only one sad sweet potato (that I begrudgingly bought because I didn’t want to go to another store), and no corn on the cob. I hope that was an anomaly and maybe afternoon shopping is more fruitful than morning shopping?

                        I hardly ever go to Safeway and when I do, the stores near me are invariably old, grungy, and sad-looking. I wanted to buy a baguette and their was no inhouse bakery—I had to buy some national brand. They also don’t have salad bars which is so strange since DC is such a worker-bee town.
                        I hardly ever go to Whole Foods although their strawberry shortcake is really good. I think they are expensive, but never bothered to confirm this. I probably will troll through it one day to see what is good there.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Mulan

                          Mulan Shopper Food Warehouses regular sells Boston Butt Aka pork shoulder at reasonable prices

                          1. re: agarnett100

                            Actually I had checked Shoppers as well and they didn't have it that day. My theory was that maybe everybody stocks them after 4th of July and I was looking for them mid-June?

                            1. re: Mulan

                              I have never been to a Wegmans that doesnt have a good supply of pork shoulder in the meat case. It is always one of the cheapest meats per pound, so I make a lot of Carnitas with it.