Foodie Update: Best of Chain Grocery Stores

Fresh local produceFrom California to Maine, we’ve seen some of the best and worst grocery stores across the U.S.A. There’s been many a week when we haven’t found anything resembling fresh local produce. Lucky for us, there’s been a handfull of large chain grocery stores that have kept us from getting iron deficiencies and scurvy when no local farm stands were to be found. Here’s a handy list of some of the higher quality ones that may scratch your foodie itch while traveling cross country.

Hornbacher’s, Fargo North Dakota
This was another one of those wonderful surprises we found while visiting Fargo. Hornbacher’s is a family owned chain of six stores in the Fargo-Moorehead metro area. The gourmet and ethnic selection in this huge mega-store blew us away; we not only found Lefse, that popular Norwegian potato tortilla, but also got our hands on some Spotted Dick.

Spotted Dick Bread PuddingPick-N-Save, Wisconsin
The Midwest is lucky to have this chain of regional grocery stores. At first glance, I refused to go there because of the name; in California, Pick-N-Save was a chain of dimly-lit, bargain barrel closeout stores, long before Dollar Trees popped up everywhere. But because of extreme starvation, I agreed to go inside and look around, and was blown away. Pick-N-Save had a great bulk foods selection, plenty of vegetarian options, and a huge produce department.

Hannaford Supermarkets, Burlington. VT and Bangor, ME
The greatest surprise of all was when we stepped into Hannaford. Their produce is great, if you don’t care how far your food was trucked in, and their bakery, deli and meat/seafood markets are insane. If you do care, skip the produce and head straight for the bulk bins and ethnic food aisles. At Hannaford, they don’t say “Hispanic” or “Oriental” foods on their aisle signage, when they mean Mexican and Asian. This was a clear sign that we were heading towards real culture. At Hannaford, I found Soyrizo, home made tortillas, Yves veggie lunch meats, and great Itallian gnocchi and desserts.

Notice that all of these stores are parts of regional chains. They aren’t some behemoth grocery store, like Krogers or Safeway, which carry the blandest selection of groceries anywhere. Instead, these family owned chains carry what’s important to the locals, giving you a better sense of what’s good eats across America.

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