Let me preface this by saying: Seattle's grocery store game is going for it. It's not messing around. There's a lot to choose from, a lot to know, but you've come to the right place, especially if you're new in town. I'm not a native but I've been here for awhile now (2.5 years or so) and I've done a lot of grocery store exploring, surveying, data-gathering and general sleuthing.
This is a commentary on my favorite grocery stores. There are others, there are larger chains and farmer's markets and tiny bodegas. Also, this list is not in any particular order or ranking.
Here's what I know.
#1 GROCERY OUTLET
Aka "Bargain Market", this is the Goodwill of grocery stores and I love it. You can find such treasures as: nearly expired, off-brand, organic cocoa crispies; $2 bottles of wine (that's a good day), and, as seen below, tiny jars of peanut butter that apparently have gone to Asia and back, because no one over there eats peanut butter (?!). Then they tried to pretend like it had been here all along by putting a bobo American label over the Asian one (see what a good Seattleite I am? Including all of Asia because I don't know what the heck language that is. But I'm thinking Chinese).
I once did a 'Grocery Outlet Challenge' month with my friend Courtney, where we only shopped there and were at the mercy of what they carried. We both got really into this peanut butter granola that was $.99 per bag. I'm pretty sure we spent way more than we would at a regular old boring Stop 'n' Shop or whatever, but it was worth it.
Here are my Grocery Outlet tips:
- Don't buy the produce DO NOT buy the produce. It's musty and not fresh. Check the frozen aisle, though, because they usually have lots of cheap, organic frozen veggies. Those are safe.
- Check that one aisle that has the fancier 'natural' stuff in it, there are gems to be found there!
- They also carry organic eggs and a decent selection of nut milks.
- Have an open mind. There aren't going to be the same items there all the time. It's like thrifting, but with food...
- Stock up on booze!!
#2 METROPOLITAN MARKET
It took me awhile to come around to loving Met Market (or simply 'The Met', if you're in the know). This is now my go-to grocery store because it's in my neighborhood and I can walk to it, but at first I was having none of it! I thought it was overpriced, snobby, and too specialized to be an everyday store. But I can be easily swayed to spend all my money on good quality food and now, well, that's basically what I do. The thing that really put me in Met Market's corner was realizing one day that their produce selection is broader and of better quality than Whole Foods. And that's the truth. I was shopping for a photo shoot that was happening in my office, so I needed fresh and pretty food, and Whole Foods was not cutting it. Met Market consistently has incredible fruits and veggies, plus they will cut a cabbage in half for you if you're only cooking for yourself and a whole one is just too much cabbage! And, Exhibit A below, they take pride in putting some thought and creativity into their produce displays. #phallic. I love them.
One last thing about Met Market, and I don't actually know if I should disclose this secret, but I will share it just with you. They have tiny cheeses. Meaning, they package up leftover tiny bits (2-3 ounces) of their very nice cheeses and always have a little bin of them to choose from. It's my favorite way to spend way too much on a small amount of cheese, but it brings me a lot of joy. I love cheese. And I love you, Met Market.
#3: Central Co-Op
This place is more like what I'm used to when going to "health food stores' back in New Hampshire and Maine. We have grocery stores there, and then we have health food stores. You go to the health food store if you need nutritional yeast, or tofu in bulk, or carob chips. I grew up eating stuff like that, so I'm into this place. Also, they have realized that they can't keep up with the raisin demand, and just decided to put them in a big barrel, which I think is great. On my last trip there, I also learned that you can get pasteurized almonds, you can get organic almonds, and you can get raw almonds. But no almonds will be all three of those things. Or something.
I don't shop at the co-op very often just because it's pretty far out of my way, but I always feel really good after I do. Like I'm almost ready to think about possibly planning to do a cleanse or something, which I'll never end up actually doing, but I feel good about thinking about doing it. And it's always great to be stocked back up on nutritional yeast.
Ok, I'm the least qualified person to comment on an Asian grocery store, but let me just say: Uwajimaya is incredible. Their produce is fresh, they have things like dragonfruit and passionfruit and burdock root. These are alongside the normal produce and foodstuffs you'd most likely be looking for. It's fun and every time I go there I find something new I want to try. Plus they have a food court attached to the store, and crazy seafood items like whole octopus. It makes me happy.
#5 BALLARD MARKET
It's hard not to gush about this place. Ballard Market sort of has it all. Amazing produce, great salad bar/prepared foods, and a lovely selection of wine and beer. I was looking for a particular cider after having it at my beloved Red Papaya, and the only place I could find it was at Ballard Market. This store is part of a larger group of Town & Country Markets, including the T&C on Bainbridge Island and Central Market, both in Poulsbo and Shoreline (plus a few other locations). Once I got a huge stalk of brussels sprouts at Ballard Market for $2. Not sure if it was worth the hassle of trimming them and disposing of a huge stalk like that, but it looked cool on Instagram. I always *splurge* on some beet chips from their bulk section when I'm there, and recently discovered these okra chips (pictured below) which I didn't get the courage to purchase but hopefully I will someday! Ballard Market- You Rock!
This is another local chain in the Seattle area, and in my opinion, it's better than Whole Foods but one step below Ballard Market/Central Market/Town & Country. It's pretty darn luxurious, their salad bar is bomb, but you know, Central Market has a British section. Not that British cuisine is all that fabulous, but that's how detailed they get. Anyway. PCC is great. I go there for a fabulous and healthy lunch if I'm in Fremont and don't feel like going to a restaurant. I will say, though, that the last time I was there I got a finger-wag in the parking garage from some gentleman who felt very concerned about how close I was to the car next to me while backing into a parking spot (it was fine, no collisions that day!), and then I got really anxious about the price of eggs. They seemed to get more and more expensive the further up I looked. Let me just say, I regularly spend $5-6 on a dozen eggs. I will pay for organic and local when it comes to eggs. I've taken care of chickens. It's not fun. They shit in their own drinking water and they are cannibals when the opportunity arises. I will gladly pay that much for someone else to deal with them. Fresh eggs are awesome. But is there now a range of quality within 'organic'? Maybe they should all be $9 a carton? I'm confused.
PCC, you're fabulous.