Want to be obsessed with your grocery store?
March 8, 2006 4:39 AM   Subscribe

It took 30 years to spread from California to New York but the Trader Joe's grocery store chain is finally making a foothold in the Big Apple. The deniznes of NYC will now be able to obsess about something new. Not everyone is a fan, but maybe it's just that they haven't yet tried the Two-buck Chuck.
posted by scblackman (111 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We're getting anew retail store down the street from my work. Looks like a sub shop.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:55 AM on March 8, 2006

I wasn't all that impressed by the Trader Joe's I visited in suburban Chicago. It seemed like a down-market Whole Foods. Am I missing something?
posted by hwestiii at 4:56 AM on March 8, 2006

It is. It's a down-market Whole-Foods, but an up-market health food store.
posted by crunchland at 5:01 AM on March 8, 2006

I have gotten food poisoning four times in my 38 years on this planet. Twice it was from something I bought at Trader Joe's. Fool me twice, won't get fooled again.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 5:03 AM on March 8, 2006

Am I missing something?

Yeah. Trader Joe's is one of the best places to work in the country (five years in a row). I hear they also sell organic stuff.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:11 AM on March 8, 2006

The Toys R Us right down the street from my office is closing. Another one a town over is closing, too.
posted by tpl1212 at 5:13 AM on March 8, 2006

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posted by Otis at 5:23 AM on March 8, 2006

They sell stuff made with carbon?!?
posted by Captaintripps at 5:32 AM on March 8, 2006

When I lived in Seattle I would sometimes make a special trip to the U District for Trader Joe's. The "natural foods" groceries are almost always pricey, but TJ's is quite cheap. Good stuff, too.
posted by zardoz at 5:35 AM on March 8, 2006

We have a few of these stores in Massachusetts... so how is it news that it's "moved as far east as New York"? Last time I checked, there's another 6 states east of NY.

I like them ok, but I don't think they're that special.
posted by inthe80s at 5:40 AM on March 8, 2006

Joe's is a cheap imitator of Jungle Jim's (sucky site, great store).
posted by Mick at 5:40 AM on March 8, 2006

Trader Joes is a great place to buy booze.
posted by pmbuko at 5:41 AM on March 8, 2006

It's nice, but it's no Ukrop's.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:42 AM on March 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

We have a few of these stores in Massachusetts... so how is it news that it's "moved as far east as New York"? Last time I checked, there's another 6 states east of NY.

You don't get it, do you? New York is all that matters. If you have to look past a New Yorker's navel to see something, it's worthless. Massachusetts? Phht. They barely have pretentious theatre there. Why bother?
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:47 AM on March 8, 2006

Whoa, a wannabe-upmarket food store? Coming to New York? That's fantastic news because, you know, we have a real shortage of those here.
posted by Decani at 5:51 AM on March 8, 2006


Trader Joe's came to the DC area some years back. Much excitement. After visiting on several occasions, I learned that a) their own-brand products are mostly crap, b) their wine selection is entirely crap (drink the Two-Buck Chuck, which will cost you considerably more than two bucks if you live outside sunny Cal, only if it's on your life-list of things to do before you learn better), and c) their stores are generally poky, airless affairs with a "nautical" theme that only intensifies the existential dread one experiences upon entering.

New Yorkers will not be obsessed by TJ's.
posted by the sobsister at 5:52 AM on March 8, 2006

I wonder if they sell snark? 'Cause people seem to be buying a lot of it.
posted by Justinian at 5:52 AM on March 8, 2006

So its going to open on 14th street, about a block from the big new Whole Foods and the Union Square Farmers Green Market ? I'm not so sure its going to do so well. When I was in one near Boston, it seemed liked everything (including veggies) were wrapped in plastic or shrink wrapped - seems like a funny way to sell organic stuff.

Plus, I think that goofy, gimmicky things ... Look ! Everyone wears Hawaiian shirts! ... just looks foolish in NYC (where there is plenty of real eccentricity to enjoy)
posted by R. Mutt at 5:55 AM on March 8, 2006

I have spent countless hours in the Whole Foods in Hadley, MA. Despite their being a Trader Joe's right down the street, I didn't stop in there until just recently (one visit so far). Here's the comparison test:

1)TJ's in Hadley is a mere fraction of the size of WF. Hence less items to choose from.

2)I'm not into cooking. I microwave well. I like nicely "prepared" foods and am willing to pay to get them. The packaged salad that I had got at TJ's was fresher and tasted better than the many I've had from WF.

3)TJ's falafel is inedible. The package of falafel, a pita, a little hummus and a little tabouli was disgusting. I had to throw it out.

4)TJ's artichoke risotto was edible but uninspiring. I doubt I'll buy it again. TJ's did have some nice breads that I liked more than WF.

5)I have a bunch of frozen french toast, some eggplant parm and some other stuff from TJ's in the freezer that I haven't tried yet.

6)The biggest draw for me at WF over the years has been their large "gourmet" food type deli counter. The stuff isn't packaged and you can get clerks to package up everything from fancy salmon dishes to vegetarian lasagna to latkes to green beans in garlic and wine etc. I'm talking about stuff that isn't pre-packaged and you take it home and heat it up. Unfortunately, WF in Hadley expanded within the last year. The selection at the gourmet food case has shrunk considerably and more and more packaged stuff has reared its ugly head in cooler cases. Where are my vegetable wraps and california wraps, for god's sake??? The expanded salad bar isn't bad. The hot bar with mashed potatoes, macaroni, chinese and indian food looks overcooked and awful.

The conlusion is this. While the appeal of WF's has waned somewhat for me, I will continue to go there. I get all my organic juice, lotions, cleaning supplies, cereal, milk and such from there. I will probably make a pitstop in TJ's too but if I'm pressed for time I'll skip TJ's. It's nothing spectular and WF's is huge with a very large sleection. TJ's pales in comparison.

...and as far as NYC goes, I've been to the WF in Union Square and Columbus Circle many times. Columbus Circle is a much better store all around -- roomier, a hot bar that looks much better than downtown and staff that actually try to help you. Union Square is a student place and it shows. I'll have to try TJ's near Union Square on my next trip.
posted by bim at 6:03 AM on March 8, 2006

What's the market for two-buck chuck, besides college students and the homeless?
posted by clevershark at 6:04 AM on March 8, 2006

b) their wine selection is entirely crap

Careful with that "entirely," sobsister. The 3-buck chuck is disgusting, but that's no reason to write off their entire wine selection.

Three reasons to go to TJ's (aside from ridiculously affordable good chocolate):

1. Ruggero di Tasso nero d'avola, about $5

2. Nerello de Bastardo, about $10

3. King Shag sauvignon blanc, about $10
posted by rxrfrx at 6:05 AM on March 8, 2006

And Mayor Curley, please note that NYC IS the center of the universe -- not Boston. :>

NYC had Christo's gates in Central Park and you had...the Sommerville Gates. I rest my case.
posted by bim at 6:08 AM on March 8, 2006

My TJ's grocery list:
- Macadamia Nut - Cashew butter. No added salt or suger, just nuts. MMMM.
- Cheap Vitamins
- Good soft Black Licorice
- cheese
- several varieties of Dark Chocolate
- Beer
posted by doctor_negative at 6:14 AM on March 8, 2006

Two of the letters on the big FOODWORLD sign near my house have been dark for months!!!!! It just says FOODWOR!!!!!
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:19 AM on March 8, 2006

Trader Joes may be new in Manhattan but it's been in Westchester (suburb of NYC) for years. I think it's owned by a big German supermarket chain Aldi if memory serves. I think they try to hide that fact and let people believe it was a store created by hippie pirates in sunny California. I have always been a little suspect of the food I buy there. They carry a lot of organic food but as someone mentions upthread - the organic apples come in a plastic shell? It's like a slap in the face. People buy organic food because they don't want petroleum sprayed produce but they are supposed to be ok with adding to the pollution by purchasing a useless shell of plastic? I think they are just going after the organic market instead of trying to make a statement which points to the fact that the organic market is becoming more about marketing than eating right. I believe most of the organic food you purchase in big supermarket chains has been bought out by the big food corporations. My prediction is that within 5 years "Organic" will be more of a brand than a description with the Republican congress slowly easing the laws on what has the right to call itself organic.
posted by any major dude at 6:24 AM on March 8, 2006

Justinian: You got it backwards. You pay with snark.
posted by mullacc at 6:27 AM on March 8, 2006

What New York really needs is a Marks and Spencers food store.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:29 AM on March 8, 2006

"Organic" will be more of a brand than a description with the Republican congress slowly easing the laws on what has the right to call itself organic.

Really? I thought the Republicans were much more like "earth bad. kill now. jesus come." Did I miss a nuance or two there?
posted by telstar at 6:30 AM on March 8, 2006

telstar: Hence, they will be more likely to let Corporation X slap "organic" on whatever it wants in order to push more product.
posted by mullacc at 6:33 AM on March 8, 2006

I admit, I'd never buy produce at TJ's, but I suspect they package it because of shipping reasons. The addition of produce seems more of an afterthought than a real attempt to sell quality produce.

Like others, I only buy a couple things there... they make this pepper spread, I forget what it's called, that is very tasty. And their price on canola oil spray is low, and that's the best way to keep your cast iron pans seasoned. Their prices on fresh cut flowers is pretty good compared to other stores in my area, too.

I can't imagine doing all my shopping there, but then, I can't imagine doing all my shopping at Whole Foods, either.
posted by crunchland at 6:33 AM on March 8, 2006

TJ frozen food selection is generally good. I've had no problems with the chicken, steak or fish, and their frozen berries and veggies are tasty.

I would caution, however, that the heating times for their frozen appetizers and entrees -- spinach triangles, burritos -- are invariably wrong. If the package says to put the thing in the oven for 30 minutes, put it in for at least 50.

Also, they used to use the nastiest low-grade dark meat chicken in their entrees. I think that may have changed recently, but keep an eye out for that.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:39 AM on March 8, 2006

Unfortunately my post got sidetracked on an organic rant that's been bubbling inside of me for some time. I don't hate Trader Joes and it's the one place you can shop where everything you buy is not sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup. Next time you visit your big chain supermarket take a look at the ingredients. Just see if you can find any product with a colorful label that is marketed to children that doesn't have HFCS in it. The body cannot metabolize this substance and they wonder why our children are obese.
posted by any major dude at 6:41 AM on March 8, 2006

any major dude, it's both. It's currently owned by the people who own Aldi, but it was started by a Californian guy (hippie? not sure) who wrote this website about wine until recently.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:42 AM on March 8, 2006

1. Tj prices very good
2. Can not buy booze there in Ct.
3. turnover of help amazes me--new people weekly
4. lots of goodies not available elsewhere.
5. shoppers always holding up goods and examining labels for contents as though they were x-ray technicians.
6. aisels narrow and people jam ujp and bump each other.
7. hot babes often there around dinner time. Older folks there earlier
8. They are required to ask at checkout "Did you find everything you were loking for?" Tell them No. I was looking for love and did not find it.
9. Shopping bags they use are very strong and have handles.
10. usually samples of goodies and free good coffee--I go there for breakfast at opening (9:00am).
11. Fresh flowers for sale daily and the prices are good...I go there for them on Valentine's day, for my girlfriend and sometimes for my wife on our anniversary.
posted by Postroad at 6:43 AM on March 8, 2006

11. Fresh flowers for sale daily and the prices are good...I go there for them on Valentine's day, for my girlfriend and sometimes for my wife on our anniversary.

oh Postroad!
posted by rxrfrx at 6:49 AM on March 8, 2006

The body cannot metabolize [HFCS]

So it just passes right through? Perfect!
posted by mendel at 6:54 AM on March 8, 2006

Postroad's item 9 is spot on: we save TJ's paper bags like gold, they're definitely high quality.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:55 AM on March 8, 2006

This thread RULEZ. The shopping carts at TJ's NEVER squeak and the crappers practically SING with delight when you soil them and this one time, when I was ten, and sad, because I lost my mittens on the bus
posted by docpops at 7:02 AM on March 8, 2006

The body cannot metabolize [HFCS]

So it just passes right through? Perfect!

Yeah if that were only the truth. It just gets stored as fat.
posted by any major dude at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2006

In my city we have Eroski, believed Russian owned which took over SYP. There is also Continente, and El Campo.
They all sell good fresh veggies and the home grown meat is marked as such, but then living in Europe is like that.
We still have 4 functioning daily markets in the city as well.
Maybe this isn't of interest to people who live in New York. But their food stores aren't of much interest to me either.
- snark-
posted by adamvasco at 7:14 AM on March 8, 2006

I find the comparisons between Trader Joe's and Whole [Paycheck] to be incredibly annoying. Sure they both sell food, but I think the resemblance ends there. Comparing Whole Foods to TJ's and then saying that TJ's is somehow lacking as an organic supermarket is just silly. TJ's isn't trying to be an organic supermarket. They're simply offering unusual/exotic/gourmet/fine foods at a reasonable cost. Whole Foods, on the other hand, is trying to sell you the illusion that you live a more holistic and ecologically friendly lifestyle. Which is just bullshit marketing, of course.

I'm reasonably certain that the imported cheese I buy at TJ's and the imported cheese sold at Whole Foods have the same environmental impact - especially when they're the same brand. But Whole Foods charges twice the price so you can pat yourself on the back for how "earth friendly" you are.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 7:20 AM on March 8, 2006

I find the comparisons between Trader Joe's and Whole [Paycheck] to be incredibly annoying.

I agree. In NYC, a better comparison would be with Fairway, which I'd choose over TJ any day. For example, you can actually get good fresh foods at Fairway, whereas TJ only offers processed/packaged foods. Both have a good variety of imported rice/oil/cheese and delicious snacks.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:23 AM on March 8, 2006

I'm actually pretty psyched about this. My g/f is from Chicago, and she's always talking about Trader Joe's this, Trader Joe's that. It'll be interesting competition between them and WF, who are practically neighbors.

Still, nothing will keep my from my coop.

Postroad's item 9 is spot on: we save TJ's paper bags like gold, they're definitely high quality.

I'm WAY more interested in the details of #11.
posted by mkultra at 7:26 AM on March 8, 2006

I agree. In NYC, a better comparison would be with Fairway, which I'd choose over TJ any day.

Absolutely. I just moved (back) to LI after living in MA for many years. I was used to shopping at TJ's for unusual items, so I went there a few times before discovering the Fairway down the block. Olive bar? Fresh coffee? Great produce? Seafood? Meat? Beats the hell out of TJ's (although TJ's still has some nice cheap store-brand products).

As much as I'd like to love Trader Joe's, it's outclassed here.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:29 AM on March 8, 2006

Trader Joes is a great place to buy booze.

Nearly half the floor space in our local TJs (Pacific Grove, CA) is devoted to alcohol. Makes sense: high mark-up, long shelf life, endless local appeal. The rest of the store seems to consist of Little Things to Eat while Drinking.

The city council has facilitated replacing our small downtown Safeway here in Monterey with a TJs, and folks are in a snit- it's the biggest local issue I can remember....
posted by squalor at 7:36 AM on March 8, 2006

Yeah if that were only the truth. [HFCS] just gets stored as fat.

So the problem is the way we do metabolize them. Those words mean specific things, you know!
posted by mendel at 7:42 AM on March 8, 2006

6. aisels narrow and people jam ujp and bump each other.
Oooooo v. v. fond memories of TJs in Marina Pacifica, Long Beach, CA. Their original store there was insanely crowded so it was something of a war campaign to shop there-- especially at Christmas time. Then the whole shopping mall was remodeled (10 years ago?) and TJ moved into a much bigger space. For years after I moved to North Carolina, a trip home to Long Beach meant a suitcase dedicated to TJ loot.

And now I see Bellflower Blvd (LB) is getting another TJs but still no TJs for NC?! Trader Joe hates the South-- nothing in Tenn, Miss, Georgia, North or South Carolina.

Meanwhile we have Whole Foods and Southern Seasons to tide us over, neither of which is a satisfactory replacement for me; Whole Foods too pricey and too wholesome, Southern Seasons waaaay too pricey.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:45 AM on March 8, 2006

If you expect to do one-stop shopping and get all your groceries at Trader Joe's, you're bound to be disappointed. Their prepared and frozen foods are great, however. The produce lacks. I am lucky, my Trader Joe's is next door to my co-op...I can get good frozen foods, cheap booze, etc. and TJ's, the roll into my co-op for fresh produce, bulk items, and plenty of more-vegan-than-thou attitude.
posted by chupacabra at 7:57 AM on March 8, 2006

You don't get it, do you? New York is all that matters. If you have to look past a New Yorker's navel to see something, it's worthless. Massachusetts? Phht. They barely have pretentious theatre there. Why bother? - Mayor Curley

Ahh, I see now. New York is Toronto for the US.
posted by raedyn at 8:01 AM on March 8, 2006

NYC had Christo's gates in Central Park and everyone else on the planet fell down laughing. You keep telling yourself how great that stuff is, OK?

TJ's here has free helium balloons. My daughter likes that.

I have had food poisoning twice, that I can remember. Once was a Dunkin' Donut (cream-filled), the other time was some burger my mom thought was still fresh. No problems with TJ's food yet.

Nautical theme? Hawaiian shirts? Not around here.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:02 AM on March 8, 2006

I've lived in various places in my life and have experienced most of the markets that have been discussed here. And I am always amazed when I hear people talking about them because they so far pale in comparison to Central Market that its funny. But then I remember that Central Market still relatively new and is only in Texas.

But as someone who has been to Trader Joe's many times (and would advise against the infamous Two Buck Chuck--its only a novelty) and someone who lives about a quarter mile from a Whole Foods, I still consider it worth the extra time and money to drive over to Central Market as it blows away all other stores beyond words.
posted by dios at 8:04 AM on March 8, 2006

And if you live in the Boston area, Russo's is the only "destination market" that really matters.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:09 AM on March 8, 2006

i like my two buck chuck (probably about $4 in NYC) and I can't wait for the one on 14th street to open.

interestingly, they had to separate the wine store from the main store probably due to the silly nyc liquor licensing laws.
posted by hpsell at 8:17 AM on March 8, 2006

Thanks, Secret Life, for the memory. Marina Pacifica, it is, late 80's. TJs a fabulous source for stuff on the cheap that was totally out of reach in NYC. Most notable of all, at the time, were pine nuts (pinoli). In NYC, tiny jars at a high price. In TJs, a 1lb bag for 1/3 the price of the jar! And then there was the "If Pigs Could Fly" chocolate mouse cake. At the time, I found it heavenly (and love the name). Didn't shop there for 'groceries'. Just tried stuff and went back for what we liked.

Aldi connection? Doesn't sound good. But I thought Aldi was owned by Walmart. Unless I'm confusing a similar name to some chain in the UK. (I might be, I remember Aldi in Germany, it wasn't the same. But Aldi was about low cost).
posted by Goofyy at 8:44 AM on March 8, 2006

Goofyy: You're thiking of Asda in the UK, which is owned by Walmart.
posted by darsh at 8:51 AM on March 8, 2006

Oh, and TJ's in Newton, MA, has awesome paneer and frozen naans. Oddly, not all the stores seem to carry it though.
posted by darsh at 8:52 AM on March 8, 2006

I just wanted to point out that most people blame the wrong food for causing thier food poisoning, it usually isn't the last thing you ate. By far the majority of bacteria that cause food poisoning have at least an 8 hour incubation period before showing any symptoms, and many of the common types have a 1-3 day incubation period. See http://www.emedicine.com/ped/topic795.htm if you want to know about a lot of things that can make you sick.
posted by TungstenChef at 8:54 AM on March 8, 2006

When I first moved to LA, I went to a Groundlings show that had an entire sketch consisting of two people gabbing excitedly about how awesome Trader Joe's is, while a third person tried desperately to change the subject. I actually thought they made up the idea of "Trader Joe's," because I couldn't imagine a real supermarket actually inspiring that level of cult-like devotion.

Then I found Trader Joe's was real, and for a while, I felt like the third person in that sketch. The first few TJ's products I tried were OK, but not great.

But then I started stumbling across TJ's stuff that I really, really, really liked. And soon I understood. As has been mentioned, TJ's is useless for one-stop shopping. And no one person is going to love every product the store sells sell. BUT... it is virtually guaranteed that they sell at least one product that you will find delicious, easy to prepare, and surprisingly cheap. For me, it's the trail mix, the chocolate-covered cashew nuts, and the frozen Italian and Chinese dishes (especially the chicken shu mai.) I live in the UK now, and Trader Joe's is one of the things I miss most about the US. Marks & Spencer does NOT compare.
posted by yankeefog at 8:57 AM on March 8, 2006

I love Trader Joe's. It's no Wegmans, but it's still a good place. It's not a one-stop grocery store, however. It's true their produce sucks. But they sell several items that I find exceptional, especially for the price.

Maple syrup--a quart for $11! And it's good! $11! A quart! Exclamation points!!!

Booze--they have some decent wines, and some bad ones. Once you find a good label, it makes it worth the trip. Their beer prices are reasonable but not great. They did offer a beer, "Trader Joe's Vintage 2005," made by Unibroue, which was fantastic--and only $5 a bottle!

Cheeses--their selection isn't as good as Whole Foods (what is?), but what they do carry is pretty tasty for the price.

Frozen seafoods--They're frozen fish and shrimp is always good. Had some turbot fillets last night for dinner. Like butter with a pleasant white fish taste.

Frozen burritos--I thought I gave up on the frozen burrito thing when I graduated middle school. But then my wife brought some home. Damn tasty!

There are quite a few other items that I go out of my way for. TJ's is great for a few specialty items, but usually I do all my regular shopping at a grocery store and save TJ's for the specialty items that I don't want to shell out for at Whole Foods.

And all you haters can suck it.
posted by slogger at 9:09 AM on March 8, 2006

A breakup note to Trader Joe's....
- When we first started seeing each other things were great. I loved you for your tasty and unique variety of frozen snacks, sauces and dry goods. I was never so happy as when I was sipping a glass of your shockingly inexpensive chardonnay or tasting a wonderfully decadent miniature dessert. It never bothered me that your pleasantly hippy exterior was just a transparent cover for your low-grade snob appeal and nagging need to be trendy. I admit, it really attracted me in a forbidden way - I'm also an elitist ass and couldn't come to terms with my nascent desire to be cool.
posted by OU812 at 9:12 AM on March 8, 2006

I stop at Trader Joe's (in NJ) every few months to restock our pantry with a few particular products. I agree that their produce is unappealing compared to WholeFoods and other grocery stores in my neighborhood, but Trader Joe's does have a lot of quite good packaged foods at very reasonable prices. We're particularly fond of their jarred bruschetta and I've been trying some of the tapenades with reasonable success. Until recently they were also my source for inexpensive Ghirardelli nonpareils. In general I've been happy with their store brand products, including pretty much everything I've tried that comes packaged for longer storage in a can, jar, box, or sealed freezer bag. A few of their house brand beers are pretty good too and they have a small selection of other good beers, though these aren't as well priced. I've heard pretty dire things about some of the Trader Joe's coffees, though, even from people who are otherwise happy with the taste of canned coffee.

On reflection: This reads like a discussion about IKEA.
posted by Songdog at 9:14 AM on March 8, 2006

I have gotten food poisoning four times in my 38 years on this planet. Twice it was from something I bought at Trader Joe's.

What was the culprit?

Also, does anyone have any info on if the TJ vitamins are really good? They are definitely cheaper than other brands, and I was just wondering about their relative quality. Seems like a good deal, but then I kind of wonder to myself, why skimp on vitamins? Or, if they're all the same, why not?

TJ's is a great place to get organic meat, too. Especially Niman Ranch products, which are godawful expensive elsewhere.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 9:22 AM on March 8, 2006

Two Buck Chuck is one of the nastiest wines I've ever had. How anyone can think it is any good boggles the mind. Now they did have a really sweet deal on an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon that was around $4. Totally drinkable. Then it disappeared. Jesus Wept.
posted by Windopaene at 9:34 AM on March 8, 2006

I like Trader Joe's generic beer. Last time I was in, I noticed they had some generic TJ branded styles of beer. I bought some and enjoyed it as well.

As for the rest of the store? I have no idea. It's always too crowded to browse and I'm too laden with beer to walk around.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:35 AM on March 8, 2006

I tried the Joe's Ordinary Beer stuff and thought it was awful. Budweiser-league carbonated alcoholic water.
posted by rxrfrx at 9:38 AM on March 8, 2006

I like Joe's a lot.
But how can they still be selling non-ripening bananas after all these years? Who the hell is buying them??

(But they do carry King Arthur flour for at least $1 cheaper than anywhere else. Good peanut butter, too.)
posted by maryh at 9:41 AM on March 8, 2006

Having move to LA from Portland, Oregon, Trader Joe's is like an oasis. I've found quality microbrews there (most people in LA are confused by the concept of). I feel decidedly less dirty shopping there than I do at Ralphs. As for the booze, here's what the man himself says on the topic:
Trader Joe's built its name first on wines, then on foods. During my years as Trader Joe, I tasted at least 100,000 wines. Most of them were not terrific, but on the other hand most samples were submitted by vintners who were desperate for money. That's how Trader Joe's got those low prices. That's also how I learned that a lot of wines that are marginal can be very good--if served with the right food.
There you have it. TJs doesn't have bad food either. When I lived in Portland I preferred New Seasons, which is somewhere between TJs and Whole Foods. There's nothing like New Seasons here though, and I'd prefer not to spend $9 on a single serving of alfredo sauce, so TJs it is. And they sell Jagermeister for $17 a bottle! What!?
posted by mullingitover at 9:53 AM on March 8, 2006

Where we are (Santa Barbara, CA), it's basically, Trader Joe's, the mainstream grocery stores, or the absurdly expensive and very inconvenient upscale grocery store (called Lazy Acres- how's that for an awful name?), so we buy almost all of our groceries at TJ's. (We try and get our fruit and veggies at the Farmers' Market when possible; TJ's is not so good on most fruits.)

One thing my wife and I like is that they don't seem surprised when we bring in canvas bags for groceries instead of using paper or plastic. In fact, they have a weekly raffle to encourage it.
posted by JMOZ at 10:05 AM on March 8, 2006

darsh- Spot on about the TJ frozen naan. We got some at the Brookline store and just had it last night for the first time. Super tasty!

I guess I'm the only one who likes Two Buck Chuck, but then again, my favorite beer is PBR, so I just have crummy taste in booze....
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:12 AM on March 8, 2006

Before you go dismissing the "2 (or 3) buck Chuck" as all swill - note that the Charles Shaw shiraz made it to the finals in a wine competition in 2004.

I wouldn't necessarily serve the Charles Shaw wine at a gourmet dinner, but when you just want a basic glass of wine with your basic dinner at home, it's perfectly fine. And it's tons better than boxed wine!

My favorite things at Trader Joe's are the "simmer sauces." Moroccan Tagine, Cuban Mojito, Curry...they're great, quick ways to turn plain chicken breasts into a really tasty meal. Also, they have a "BBQ Chicken Pizza" in the frozen section-- same basic ingredients as the California Pizza Kitchen version, at half the price. Also, the same Gruyere cheese that my local Jewel grocery store sells at crazy prices like $17/lb., TJ's sells for half the price.

No, I don't think I could do all of my grocery shopping at TJ's. But it's a great supplement to other stores.
posted by dnash at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2006

In lovely organic Oregon we've got teh choices!!!
  • Whole Foods is for rich bitch hyuppies. (Hippy yuppies?)
  • Wild Oats is better.
  • New Seasons is teh bestest.
TJ's is definitely hit or miss. We had to toss some frozen edamame from China one time that smelled like magic marker. But I don't know what's wrong with you Chuck haters. Who buys a $2-$4 bottle of wine and expects it to please the most sophisticated wine snob palette? I know I don't have a wine palette. Therefore, I save a few bucks.
posted by Skwirl at 10:21 AM on March 8, 2006

My shopping list for Trader Joe's:

1. English Muffin bread
2. Cinnamon Swirl bread (toast + butter + cinnamon sugar = omg awesome)
3. Tangerine Juice
4. You can't go wrong with their awesome small packaged salads
5. Ice cream (some brand with rainbows on it?)

It's way cheaper for a few things than Whole Foods, and WF doesn't carry english muffin bread :(

Certainly not a replacement for whole foods, but good at what they do.
posted by AaronRaphael at 10:24 AM on March 8, 2006

Until our local Vons remodeled, Joe's was the place for cheap organic stuff (eggs, butter, milk, meat, frozen wild caught fish). It's also the go-to place for party snacks that a) taste as good as Whole Paycheck and b) are a lot cheaper.

According to a vitner I talked with last Christmas (wine tasting in Santa Ynez...what a way to celebrate Jesus's birth), only the first year of Two Buck Chuck was an excellent buy, but that's because Charles Shaw got hold of a freak bumper crop's worth of excellent grape juice at ridiculously low prices. Spend the seven or eight bucks and get something that's actually good.

But who am I to tell New Yorkers what to do?
posted by RakDaddy at 10:32 AM on March 8, 2006


you know you can get a much larger selection of refrigerated Indian breads at the Indian store a couple blocks down Harvard Street from TJ's, right?
posted by rxrfrx at 10:35 AM on March 8, 2006

rxfrx- Totally didn't know that, thanks! We rarely do much in Brookline, but I'm willing to cross town to get delicious Indian breads.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:39 AM on March 8, 2006

According to a vintner...

No one should pay attention to a vitner. They're mad, the lot of them.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:40 AM on March 8, 2006

rxrfrx - while the refrigerated parathas at any Indian (or chinese) store are fabulous, I've never seen good naan in an Indian store - they're always rubbery and chewy. Although if there's a particular brand you can recommend, I'd love to try it out!

And banjo_and_the_pork, there's a couple of Indian stores in Somerville/Cambridge, if you don't want to trek to Brookline. Check out this link for names and addresses
posted by darsh at 10:48 AM on March 8, 2006

Finally! A place in Manhattan to buy food!
posted by milquetoast at 10:59 AM on March 8, 2006

For my weekly shopping, I usually start at TJ's and get the stuff that makes sense to get there. Their wine IS hit and miss but one can get lucky. They started out selling Marbrough Sav Blancs for like 7 bucks a bottle, but now it's up to 12, probably due to demand. In Oregon, it's 3 Buck Chuck and the two bottles I have purchased have been terrible.

Avocados are always priced low, and the string bag they come in seems less stupid than the shrink wrapping on most produce.

My daugther lives on the organic raspberry jam from there.

The people who work in the Eugene store seem busy but for the most part happy with their jobs.
posted by Danf at 11:02 AM on March 8, 2006

darsh- Sweet, thanks! It looks like there are a bunch in Somerville, which is super convenient.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 11:08 AM on March 8, 2006

Are we talking about Indian food in Somerville now, because after living in Cambridge for 5 years, I finally discovered that the best Indian restaurant in all of Boston was India Palace in Union Square Somerville. If you haven't had the chicken tikka masala there yet, prepare to die.

<on topic> The Twin Cities is getting a Trader Joe's too, but here it's all love, no snark. I shall fix that.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2006

re: TJ's House Beer

Yeah, I know the Ordinary is a Bud-relative, but it really hit the spot on a hot day infront of the grill. Beer is a lot about context, after all. A DFH World Wide Stout may be a great beer, but it's teh sux if you want something to swig while paddling around the swimming pool.

I think I've ordered from India Palace in Union before. Or maybe it was a different India Palace, as that seems to be one of the Top Five names for indian food joints around here. I'm hoping to see more roadside-style "fast" indian food joints around these parts soon.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2006

Their Gila Monster beer is cheap and drinkable.
posted by Songdog at 11:36 AM on March 8, 2006

darsh, banjo:

Getting totally off-topic, yeah, the Indian store is very close to TJ in Brookline. In fact, I think there's two of them (or there used to be), sort of across Harvard St from each other.

This list of Indian grocery stores is somewhat useful but it is missing a few... also, for the love of god, don't ever go to the Indian grocery store across the street from Market Basket (I'm not sure which of the 3 Union Square places it is). Mouse droppings all over everything.

The best Indian grocery I've found in the Boston area is the large one on Moody St in Waltham. Very good produce, clean store, nice people.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:39 AM on March 8, 2006

So, the TJ's I use has no booze, because I live in a dry town.
Well, only sort of - they allow restaurants to serve alcohol now. (progressive!)

Anyway, so no booze, which is sad. But what I DO like to get from Trader Joe's is the frozen stuff: Good pizzas, instant rice, risotto, Thai Vegetable Gyoza, spinach dip. Prepared foods that aren't expensive, last a long time, and are great for quick snacks or meals. Also, they have great prices on fresh flowers, and the tulips I bought there recently lasted over 2 weeks.

I do have to say, however, that I had a disturbing incident there a few weeks ago. I was rounding the corner (after grabbing the flowers and some cheese), and I realized that the song playing on the speakers in the store was "Hangin' Tough."
Now my relationship with TJ's is strained, and I think about how they played that song in their store every time I round that corner.

If Metro Boston could just get a Wegman's or three, that would be so great.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:09 PM on March 8, 2006

New Flash:

New York City = Not the only city in the United States
posted by nonmerci at 1:41 PM on March 8, 2006

God, you MeFites are ridiculous! I only read through the first 1/3 of comments and was astounded by the comparisons to Whole Foods--are you all a bunch of goddamned yuppies, or what? Round are way, not everyone has piles of cash to throw at stupid hippies and their overpriced food: at Trader Joe's, you can get EXTREMELY good produce, at least in the PNW, healthful, organic foods and all sorts of other delightful things. It is INFINITELY better than Whole Foods, Wild Oats (formerly Nature's), and any of those other 'rich white people' grocery stores.
posted by nonmerci at 1:44 PM on March 8, 2006

Is this a gay or metrosexual thing to be so friggin caught up on shopping for goodies at a local store no matter where it is and then boasting that MY store is better than YOUR store?
Wow...let's talk cars instead
posted by Postroad at 2:03 PM on March 8, 2006

I 've been a loyal shopper since my early days in LA when I stumbled across their first store in SoPasadena.

My TJ shopping list:

Nuts, nuts, and nuts -- best prices, complete selection, and the pistachios are shelled.

Dairy -- again, best prices. Milk, eggs, butter -- it's the only place I go. Cheeses, too, sometimes.

Chocolate -- once again, best price in town. Belgian, too.

The tetra-paks of fabulous Roasted Red Pepper soup.

Juices. The previously-mentioned tangerine juice and the Only Pomegranate (a fraction of the ocst of that silly "Pom" stuff).

Their $1.70 loaves of Sourdough bread. (Wondering if that's even available Back East.)

The comparison with Whole Foods is baffling -- WF stock is all absurdly over-priced, I never shop there -- it's for the rich. Whereas TJ's original mission was to be a place where people like teachers could buy decent wine and cheese.
posted by Rash at 2:04 PM on March 8, 2006

ocst cost
posted by Rash at 2:05 PM on March 8, 2006

I'll take a look when it opens.

Mainly for:
Dates. Preferably pitted. Are they decent (not all dried out) and cheap?
Figs. One link had someone complaining about the quality.
Fresh Salsa. If it's good, and cheap. Too lazy to make my own in the winter.
Various dried fruits, trail mix shit. If they're cheap.

Do they have Beef Jerky?
Still looking for a source cheaper than making my own.
posted by HTuttle at 2:24 PM on March 8, 2006

yes, postroad. we're all gay. come here. we need to ass rape you.
posted by crunchland at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2006

Danf -
Well, if they ever build that parking garage, there will be a Whole Foods to compare it to.
posted by madajb at 3:34 PM on March 8, 2006

they can't be all bad. That's where I get "2Buck Chuck"
posted by snsranch at 4:04 PM on March 8, 2006

oops, missed the original comment.
posted by snsranch at 4:06 PM on March 8, 2006


I think you'll find everything you're looking for but the figs; I can't remember if I ever saw fresh figs at Joe's.

But you'll score with the dried fruits and nuts, salsa and dates. Especially the trail mix stuff.

Also, jerky aplenty.
posted by RakDaddy at 4:19 PM on March 8, 2006

Mm, Salsa Autentica from TJ's...
posted by nonmerci at 4:43 PM on March 8, 2006

I like to shop at Half Foods....
posted by ParisParamus at 4:50 PM on March 8, 2006

By the way, the premise of this post is false: TJ's has been in the NYC area, including in the NY 'burbs for a number of years. And so has TJ Maxx...
posted by ParisParamus at 4:51 PM on March 8, 2006

There's a TJ's opening here in Albuquerque on Friday; the closest one at the moment is up in Santa Fe, about an hour's drive north. I agree with the posters who said it's a great place for odd stuff you can't get anywhere else - I wouldn't buy all of my groceries there, of course, but it's good for those occasional cravings and not as expensive as the fancy places. It's also across the street from a Raley's (quasi-upscale general grocery store along the lines of Andronico's in the SF Bay Area), and if those two places can get along, I think I'm set for good food (not to mention the independent food stores here, like Talin Market and Keller's).
posted by wanderingmind at 7:26 PM on March 8, 2006

Store opens in New York City. Film, and local reaction, at 11.
posted by zpousman at 8:02 PM on March 8, 2006

why no trader joe's love for us colorado-ans?

a friend of mine from the pnw has been raving about this store for as long as i can remember...
posted by narwhal at 8:24 PM on March 8, 2006

Skwirl writes "Who buys a $2-$4 bottle of wine and expects it to please the most sophisticated wine snob palette? I know I don't have a wine palette."

Actually it's "palate."
posted by clevershark at 8:32 PM on March 8, 2006

Yeah, well at least he got the "snob" part right.
posted by crunchland at 8:35 PM on March 8, 2006

Love TJ in so very many ways, but worst premade sushi ever - the fish was halibut was cooked to death and the rice was one solid gelatinous mass (local chain groceries like Jewel and Dominick's do much better).

Frozen side dishes, frozen veggies, precut veg, cheese, condiments all great and very very cheap.
posted by Jesse H Christ at 8:58 PM on March 8, 2006

why I really like TJ's:
-their peanut butter stays creamy, even when kept in the fridge, and even though it's all-natural, with no sugar/preservatives.
-simmer sauces + excellent quality frozen organic veggies + cheap frozen brown rice = my wife and I can have a home-cooked meal, even with our 15-month old son running amok.
-when it comes to organic prepared foods, they just get it. there's always a great-tasting, amazingly low-priced organic pasta sauce, soup, etc. right next to the great tasting, amazingly low-priced non-organic version.
-check-out is the most fun part! we always seem to experience reverse sticker-shock (we got all this for how much?)
posted by ericbop at 9:23 PM on March 8, 2006

I'd be tempted to try the "two buck Chuck" out of curiosity.

I've tried an Australian wine recently (Australian Juggler) and found it tasting like it was bottled much too early and tasted of oak chips, a trick used to make non-barrel-aged wine taste like it was barrel-aged. I could tell this distinctly, and I'm a beer drinker.

I don't know why people who just want to get wasted don't just go for something like gin-and-juice or vodka cranberry. Wine is still one of those areas where you can tell where the money went (up to a limit of course). You don't need to be a snob to notice this, you just need taste buds.
posted by clevershark at 9:24 PM on March 8, 2006

Like somebody mentioned way up the page, that Charles Shaw has been good a few times due to weird circumstances, like the post-9/11 grape glut. But you can do much better for a buck or so more per bottle.

I like the Trader Joe's Coastal cab & merlot for $4. Some of the Italian and Spanish bottles are damn good in the $6 range. For some reason, stuff like Yellow Tail runs a few dollars higher than other grocery stores.

Best part about Trader Joe's is that it forced other "normal" supermarket chains to carry some decent affordable wine & cheese & pastas. Just 10 years ago, a lot of supermarkets didn't have wine at all, and cheese was limited to Kraft and there was no fresh bread. Now you can put together a good dinner from almost anywhere in the U.S.
posted by kenlayne at 12:11 AM on March 9, 2006

Recent ba.food thread.
posted by Rash at 1:23 PM on March 9, 2006

Like folks have mentioned, it's not one-stop shopping. It's got great items, but I usually have to stop by another store to complete a dinner.
posted by Bear at 3:04 PM on March 9, 2006

clevershark: G'ah. Can I blame synesthesia for the confusion of taste and color?
posted by Skwirl at 5:36 PM on March 23, 2006

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