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Olive bar

I'm new to San Diego (moved from Bay area), and I'm looking for a decent source for olives, something along the lines of the Berkeley Bowl or Market Hall olive bars. I tried Whole Foods, but their olive bar was pitiful and entirely pitted.


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  1. Which Whole Foods did you check out? If you are in the La Jolla - University City area, you may want to check out Bristol Farms. I don't think they have a huge selection, but my recollection was their olives were usually in better shape.

    I've heard decent things about Keil's, but I've never tried their olive bar.

    4 Replies
    1. re: RB Hound

      I buy olives from Keil's on a semi-regular basis (that would be somewhere in the range of every couple of months). Their olive bar is not big, nor is it exotic, but it does have whole, pitted, and 2 or 3 stuffed. Most of the olive bar is green olives, but there are usually at least 2 and usually 3 or 4 types of black olives. Price is, IIRC, $6.99 per pound. It's self serve and the pack out containers are 8, 16 and 32 oz.

      I love olives but do not consider myself an expert or afficionado of them. I like the olives I get at Keil's, they suit my tastes and I frequently use them in cooking with fine results. I also like that they have a fairly long shelf-life. The problem with Keil's is that unless you live in Clairmont of San Carlos, it's going to be a schlep just for olives.

      The Henry's/Sprouts on Spring in La Mesa used to have a decent olive bar, but I haven't been in that particular store for a couple of years, so I can't confirm it's still as decent as it used to be.

      1. re: DiningDiva

        Update: Unfortunately, Keil's has discontinued its olive bar, at least at the Clairemont store. :(

        1. re: DoctorChow

          Still going strong at the San Carlos store

          1. re: DiningDiva

            Huh. Well maybe it's just a temporary shutdown at the Clairemont store. I hope so. Right now, the only way you can get fresh olives there is in pre-packaged containers in the cheese section.

    2. The Mona Lisa Market on the corner of Hawthorne and India Street in Little Italy has a small but respectable selection of olives. Finding something like the Berkeley Bowl in San Diego is, unfortunately, not going to happen anytime soon.

      1. The olive bar at the WF in Hillcrest has a decent number of olives with internal pits. Whether the available non-pitted olives (often including Luques, Cerignola, Nicoise, Kalamata, and one or two others) are to your taste is another matter. And whether selection meets your criteria for adequate variety, again, is another matter.

        You might not like them. There may not be enough of them for you. But they are there.

        1. Try the International Market at 5907 Balboa Ave in Clairemont (http://www.balboamarket.com). They keep the olives in the back corner, near the deli counter.

          1. If this were 5 years ago or so, I'd immediately suggest going to the Middle Eastern place that's next to Carnival in Kearny Mesa. They used to have quite a few large open containers of olives (not quite barrels, but big) and large scoops to get them out. I don't know the name of the place -- we used to call it the "olive place", and still do. The big tubs of olives went away when they changed hands a few years ago.

            These days, I get olives from Keils (Clairemont), as DD mentioned, although they rotate their stock from time to time and don't always have my favorites. Keils also has some tasty items other than olives at their bar. All $8.99/lb.

            Between Keils and the International Market off Balboa, which cubano noted, you can probably find what you like. But I miss the big tubs at the "olive place", which reminded me of the outdoor olive merchants in Italy. Last time I was there (which has been quite some time now), the olives didn't compare well with those from Keils. I don't know of any place in SD that has large tubs of self-serve olives now.

            1. Thanks, everyone! This is really helpful. The Whole Foods I went to was in Hillcrest; possible there's another olive bar there, but this one had nothing but pitted, mostly kalamata. Very poor selection. We live in Lakeside, but work in Del Mar; my first impression is that grocery options will be a challenge. I've found the bread at Bread and Cie, wine sources I've never had a problem with, so now my primary gaps are a) olives; b) cheese; and c) arugula and affordable lemons!

              12 Replies
              1. re: kimlife

                You are from the bay area and now you live in Lakeside? Oh dear...on behalf of the east county food scene, I offer my condolences. It's a bit of a desert out here, though you will find solace in the growing Middle Eastern food scene. and as for olives, well, hmmm

                Harvest Ranch in El Cajon might offer a small respite for you. It's like mini Whole Foods. But in East County, so keep that in mind.

                1. re: kimlife

                  For cheese, try Venissimo Cheese. They have a branch at the Flower Hill Mall in Del Mar.

                  1. re: kimlife

                    For a great cheese selection, check out Venissimo Cheese. There are a few in SD County and there's one in Del Mar at the Flower Hill Mall. Great cheese selection along with accompaniments. They'll let you 'try before you buy'. If you give them your e-mail address they'll track which cheeses you've purchased for future reference (voluntary of course). There's a decent wine store in the same mall as well.

                    Lemons are best if you grow your own. I get a couple hundred per year from my tree.

                    Enjoy your new life in SD! We also moved here from the Bay Area about 10 years ago.

                    1. re: kimlife

                      The price of lemons is exceptionally high right now because lemons are in exceptionally short supply. The market has been challenged for at least the last 6 weeks and not a lot of relief in sight yet. Quality is ranging from fair to poor. Both my produce companies are recommending against lemons at this time and suggesting operators remove them from recipes and menus if possible for the short term. This is one of worse lemon shortages in a long time.

                      Best to either plant your own tree or find a neighbor with one.

                      Welcome to the boards.

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        Wow. perhaps we rethink not transplanting our lemon tree from Hayward. We'd be lost without lemon--we live on arugula salads with home-made lemon vinaigrette (and the infamous feta and olives on the side).

                        1. re: kimlife

                          Don't worry the lemon market will come back :-). It's just a matter of time

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            Just stripped the last 50 or so ripe lemons from my tree... I didn't realize they were a precious commodity!

                            1. re: firecooked

                              You might be doing well, but a colleague of mine from work that lives in the UC area has not been getting many lemons at al this year. We've had an incredibly dry year - very little rain since January. Yes, you can water the bejesus out of your yard to help, but the usual amount of irrigation isn't going to cut it. The roots have nothing.

                              1. re: RB Hound

                                Yeah. Even my "drought-resistant" landscape plants have been getting stressed. But inland there's been some rain.

                                1. re: RB Hound

                                  I am very lucky to have an old but good producing tree... I'm in Coronado, and do irrigate. There are plenty of green lemons on the tree that will start ripening by the end of the year too...

                            2. re: kimlife

                              Yes, but lemon trees do so well here! Even when lemons can be plentifully had, your own homegrown will be outstanding. All you have to do is add water...

                          2. re: kimlife

                            Good arugula can be found at Chino Farms in Rancho Santa Fe. However, it is hit and miss, depending on the season and weather. I was just there this weekend and did see a number of green lettuces. If you ask, they'll let you know when they'll have more arugula.

                            On your way back to the 5 from Chino Farms, hit up Venissimo at the Flower Hill Mall....get a 2 for 1 on your trip...

                          3. I don't know the places you mentioned in the Bay Area, but you might try North Park Produce. I haven't been in a couple of years but IIRC they have a very good selection of olives. I absolutely remember they have an excellent selection of feta cheeses. Good luck!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: steveprez

                              Mmmm, feta! That's my next search: I had a small store in Hayward that sold a spectacular Armenian feta that I have to find again. They gave me the empty bucket to photograph to help me find it here. If you see some crazed woman strolling through the market with a large, empty feta container, that'll be me!

                              1. re: kimlife

                                I'd say give International Market a call. If they don't have it, they might be able to order it for you.

                                1. re: kimlife

                                  North Park Produce in Poway has normally a good selection of fetas available.

                                  1. re: kimlife

                                    I'll keep an eye out for you! ;) You should definitely visit North Park Produce. I go to the one on El Cajon Blvd. Last time there I counted >10 types of feta for sale in bulk (i.e. they have huge slabs in the deli counter and slice off the amount you request). Prior to going to NPP, I had no idea that there were so many types.

                                2. Valley Foods in El Cajon http://www.valleyfoodsmed.com/ has a few olive choices that they pack for you and many Feta choices. (DO NOT confuse this with Valley Farms Market http://www.valleyfarmmarkets.com/ which has a cheese section, but nothing exotic; they are known for their BBQ and house made sausages


                                  Down Main Street (West) are several more small markets. Big Bear Produce (502 E. Main) also has a fair selection of olives and Fetas as well as Halal meats and a nice bakery section.

                                  1. Since you live in Lakeside and I know what it's like to want a brand of something you used to get where you used to live, I went over to International Market (which is a lot closer to me than to you) to see if they had the feta cheese you're after.

                                    I counted 16 different brands of feta cheese in their refrigerated section (which is in the produce area), as well as many related white cheeses, but I didn't see that brand. (They also have a number of bulk fetas in the deli.)

                                    So I asked the manager if he knew of Brinza and if so would he be willing to order it. I took a printout of your picture on which I'd also written "Brinza White Cheese 50% EDM 3 lb" and showed it to him. He said he'd be happy to order it but wasn't familiar with it and didn't know who to get it from. He seemed a bit confused when I said it was a feta, by the way. Maybe a mis-read on my part.

                                    I guess you'd need to know who the distributor is and if they market in SD.

                                    I also went to the place next to Carnival, the "olive place" I was referring to earlier, which is actually called "International Grocery of San Diego". It's changed yet again, and was a little wierd, I thought. They said they didn't have any feta at all, which I found surprising. They used to have a lot. I didn't see any olives, either.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: DoctorChow

                                      Holy cow, Dr. Chow--thank you!!! No misread--it is feta, and the best I've ever had, so if you like feta, stay tuned here, because I'll hunt it down! It's a very subtle, creamy, noshing feta, even better all by itself.

                                      1. re: kimlife

                                        You're very welcome.

                                        BTW, what I meant was that I might have mis-read the manager's reaction, not that I'd mis-read the label...that was clear enough on your photo. You'd said it was a feta (and I'm sure you know!), so that's what I told him. I thought he had a bit of a puzzled look when I kept insisting it was a feta, that's all. Maybe he was just trying to figure out where he could get it.

                                        1. re: DoctorChow

                                          I'll ask the store manager in Hayward for the distributor name. Now, on to researching hay for horses!

                                          1. re: kimlife

                                            OK, well I can't help out with the hay situation!

                                            Anyway, nice to have you in our area, and I hope you'll continue to post!

                                            So keep us, um, posted.