Is your local DC supermarket getting worse?
Saw this survey of bad supermarkets (Stop and Shop is the same as Giant)
and it made me think how awful the markets seem now. I like Safeway produce, but the meat and seafood are way over priced for the quality. I am finding it harder in the DC area to find stores that sell quality meat and seafood. H-Mart isn't convenient, but I go there frequently for seafood. A small Fresh and Greens has a decent butcher who will order specially.
What is your experience?
Ahh, one of my favorite topics when it comes to the challenges of living in DC. Coming from CA, I was shocked at what passes for an acceptable grocery store in DC. I'm not one of those people who thinks that everything on the west coast is better than the east, but when it comes to grocery stores, we blow this place out of the water. Moving to DC was the first time I ever experienced woefully pitiful produce (and walking out of stores because I couldn't find a single piece of produce worth eating), and empty shelves (apparently inventory management is a massive problem across all chains here. And the crazy thing to me is that most residents are totally complacent with these subpar grocery stores, even in swanky neighborhoods.
The Trader Joe's stores are usually pretty consistently good. However, the lines are sometimes ridiculously long. I walked into the TJ in Foggy Bottom and found the line wrapping all around the store all the way to the front door. The Old Town Alexandria store is usually a bit better for lines, but sometimes they too can be extremely long. Best customer service of any grocery chain in DC.
Whole Foods - usually excellent. However, the selection and offerings can vary wildly store-to-store. The lack of consistency can drive me crazy, but the meats and produce are always excellent and surprisingly well-priced. Often my shopping bill at WF is lower than at my local Safeway. Customer service is a bit lower than you'd might expect.
Harris Teeter - usually has an extensive selection of specialty items. Produce doesn't seem to be their strong spot, and prices are generally higher than average. Potomac Ave. store is one of the best on the Hill.
Safeway - totally hit or miss. The Soviet Safeway in Dupont will bring back memories of perestroika. Good luck finding milk or eggs after 6pm. All locations have a nickname ("Sandinista Safeway," "Sketchy Safeway"...), and the "Social Safeway" in Georgetown is probably the nicest of the chain with the best selection and most amenities, though a trip today for small size sour cream left me empty handed (but they had 20 types of hot dog buns). Prices are average, though often higher than WF.
Giant - average. The Rhode Island Ave. store is often labeled as "ghetto," but it's not that bad (just totally mediocre like most Giants). Prices can be pretty good - on par with Safeway.
Shoppers - yuck. I think their produce is abysmal and their prices are just a tad cheaper than most other chains.
Also, grocery baggers are about as common as elevator operators, which makes the lines at most stores go as slow as molasses.
When I lived in DC in the 90s, my local DC supermarket was already bad. That doesn't mean it couldn't get worse, of course! I missed Kroger, and would always stop there when I was in Charlottesville. But now we have Harris Teeter and Wegmans, as well as many more Trader Joe's locations, so things are looking up a bit.
I only do Safeway because it's convenient. I find I have to hit different stores for different items. No single grocery manages to pull everything off.
For fresh seafood, I hit Maine Avenue or Bestway off Telegraph.
For bbq meats, it's Fresh World in Springfield.
For fruits and vegs, it's Shoppers or Bestway again.
I avoid Giant like the plague.
Looking forward to "G Mart" opening off Route 1. Looks like they're going to give H Mart some competition.
My shopping patterns sound a lot like yours. I don't know why it is that I hate Giant so much. Every time I'm there, something goes wrong, I can't find a simple item that is urgently needed, they're out, etc.
I also shop at an indian grocery in Springfield and another in Alexandria. And the Mediterranean Bakery for bread and more.
Quite a few Latino bodegas like Bestway are a great place to get to know your butcher and fishmonger. I like being able to get a fresh, whole fish off the ice and have them scale, gut, or even filet for a couple buck tip. It's worth seeking out the halal butcher shops as well for the obscure cuts of lamb or goat or bulk spices. Some really good deals to be had on imported items.
I gave up on Giant years ago. Some of the Safeways are pretty decent. They have certainly improved greatly over the years (i.e., the new store on Arlington Rd in Bethesda) and they have definitely increased their selection of healthier foods and more "exotic" foods. For instance, they now carry Lundberg Rice, several of the Lotus rice varieties, and numerous kinds of soy and almond milks. Even some of the store brand items have improved in quality though you have to read the labels carefully to avoid various substances that may be of concern to you such as high fructose corn syrup.
We usually shop at the Whole Foods in Friendship Heights and it hasn't gotten worse. It has the same problems it has had since it opened! Namely - they seem to be incapable of keeping the shelves stocked. I've been forced to hoard staples because I've found that 1 out of 3 times, the items I need are not available and I don't have the time to run to 2 or 3 stores to try to find the missing items. Also, their deli section (not the self-service part) is oddly pathetic compared to other Whole Foods Stores both in selection and appearance. They really should re-think what they offer in the service deli, as some of the prepared foods really look disgusting. Anything with a layer of cheese, for instance. Overall, the items in the service deli case look dry and unappetizing. They have a limited selection of sandwiches. Otherwise, it is a fairly good store.Produce is very good.
As a newcomer to DC (and the States) I find this really interesting. I'm enjoying discovering what's good where, from chorizo in Eastern Market, pitta bread at Union Market, greens and apples at the Dupont farmers market, squid in Maine Avenue fish market and cheese from a deli in Alexandria. Obviously I shop in supermarkets too for convenience. My local store at the moment is the 17th St Safeway but I visit P Street Whole Foods (luckily I can go in the day, weekends and evenings are a pretty traumatic experience in there!) and Trader Joe's much more often. In fact since I've found I can order from Safeway online I've not been in!
We're moving this week and our locals will be the Safeway and Whole Foods on Wisconsin. They seem better than the Dupont locations, the Safeway certainly (great wine selection, there isn't any on 17th!)
Elyssa, the 17th Street Safeway actually has some good produce, if you know what to look for
. Broccoli is nearly always first-rate. Zucchini generally good. When the green beans look good, you can count on them to taste good.
I agree, I wouldn't buy a steak there, though I will get their ground beef. And I haven't forgiven the store for pulling its small but decent fresh fish counter and replacing it with a sandwich stall -- in a neighborhood with I don't know how many Subways.
re: Deborah R.
I guess the operative becomes "If you know..."
The store should be doing some quality control so you don't have to. Did you complain to the manager? I would.
I complained to the manager of my local Giant and it was an eye opener to here the complaints of the manager about the central office of the chain.
Our regular market is Harris-Teeter, following by Wegmans, with regular visits to Costco, less regular to BJ's, and occasionally to Trader Joe's and Lotte Plaza (esp. for produce).
Have never been a Safeway regular. Don't think much of it. Was a Giant shopper from my college years in Baltimore until Harris-Teeter invaded, and dumped Giant immediately.
Royal Ahold (or A-hole as I call them) has pretty much ruined Giant. I grew up with Stop & Shop in RI, and I suspect they suck now too.
Bloom was (is?) an upscale Food Lion. Same food, fancier display, different sales.
The Bloom near me (Annandale) lasted about a year and a half, and has been vacant now for months.
I'm pretty happy with what I get at Shoppers as far as vegetables is concerned. Meats are so-so, but priced accordingly. I stopped into the new Red Apron Butchery to see what a classy steak was going for these days, but decided not to take out a home equity loan for it. ;)
Safeway is on one of my regular walking routes, so I stop in a couple of days a week and pick up staples when they're on sale. Same with Harris-Teeter, and go to Trader Joe's for a few things. I'm not very fussy.
I agree about the produce being rather poor in a lot of grocery stores but I think we brought that on ourselves. It is like in the book about american tomatoes the author interviewed a tomato farmer about why his tomatoes were so big, so red and so bland. The farmer's reply was, "I get nothing for flavor".
Do you remember when red delicious apples were juicy and delicious? I do, and they were nothing like what we get in a red delicious today, but the apple looks like the very incarnation of apple perfection.
Anyway, I think the produce LOOKS great at Harris Teeter but tastes better at Giant. And Giant has good sales on fairly good Choice beef. Though Safeway and Harris Teeter have cuts of beef that look spectacular, when you get up close you see that the marbling is non-existent. Harris Teeter on Harrison has a good seafood selection and there is usually one good sale item. For items like mushrooms and fresh vegetables though, I really like Harris Teeter.
I have given up on Safeway, most of my shopping is split between Harris Teeter and Giant.
I do go to H-Mart for the Mak Kimchi, it is really good. (mak means simple or homemade, depending on who you ask) Kimchi is like bacon, everything is better with a little bit of it on the side.