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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.