We live in a country that offers a huge selection of international grocery stores, from local mom and pop shops to larger chain retailers. Rather than a "be-all-end-all" comprehensive list, this is really a roundup of stores our writers have visited and our readers have recommended — a sort of collective diary of our favorite places to shop for international groceries. There's a lot here, but there's also a lot missing, so we welcome your additions from anywhere in the US...send us an email!
Talin International Market
Recommended by reader coffeebuzz76, this is "New Mexico's largest international food grocer." They're open daily and they sell thousands of products from hundreds of countries. (They describe their offerings as 'World Food Fare.')
La Palma Mexicatessen
This San Francisco store makes their own corn tortillas, tortas, and tacos, all prepared right there and great for a quick lunch. For the home cook, they have good prices on bulk dried chiles, tamale husks, beans, whole hominy and a variety of canned and bottled sauces and salsas.
This supermarket in San Francisco's Japantown has everything you need to prepare Japanese food at home. There's sliced, prepackaged sashimi, fish cakes, and cod roe. They've also got a huge selection of super high-end sake and tons of snacks, teas and sauces.
Duc Loi Asian Supermarket
Located in the Mission, this is an Asian market in a predominantly Latin American area, and the Vietnamese owners are focused on meeting the needs of everyone in the neighborhood. Look for a range of culinary items from Costa Rica to Malaysia.
Reader mmepatty recommends this Berkeley market, founded by the Fujimoto family in the 60s and still run by sons Bill and Ken Fujimoto. It's a "village-based business" that carries local organic produce, groceries, wine, and beer "for the multi-cultural clientele of this neighborhood."
First and foremost a Chinese grocery store, they sell just about every type of Chinese sauce, noodle, or dried mushroom you could desire. Their meat and seafood departments really stand out; this is a good place to buy crabs lobster, and fish—either whole or fillets.
Reader ncsuemme calls this Middle Eastern Market their "favorite place on earth and SO affordable." They're a great place to shop for pantry items: coffee, nuts, grains, spices. First established in Manhattan in 1898, Sahadi's has existed in its current incarnation as a specialty shop since 1948.
Chicago French Market
Relatively new to Chicago, the French Market — also called the MetraMarket for its proximity to Metra commuter trains — is being billed as Chicago's first "year-round, European-inspired indoor market."
Jungle Jim's International Market
Readers Tara and k1princesa suggested this marketplace of 22 shops with "500 different kinds of produce including local, American, International and organic." A Cincinnati landmark, it's often described as a "theme park for foodies," with over 75 countries represented.
Recommended by reader thelifeinstereo, the Westside Market is Cleveland's oldest public market. They have over 100 vendors selling international meats, seafood, produce, baked goods, flowers, and dairy products. It's open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Carfagna's Italian Market
Reader amylou61 says, "Here in Columbus, OH we have Carfagna's Italian Market. They have a great selection of imported wines, cheeses, meats, and lots more! I love browsing the pasta aisle, as they have shapes and sizes I've never seen anywhere else."
Reader seidhr recommends Phoenicia, a 55,000 square foot market that carries over 6,000 products from 50-plus countries. The focus is on European specialty foods, including breads, pastries, cheese, seafood, meat, wine, and beer.
Chinatown Food Market
Located in the River District along the edge of the Missouri River, this market carries a high volume of Asian fare, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Filipino, Malaysian, and Indian. If you want Asian ingredients and products — you'll find them here!
Farmer's Ranch Market
Reader bsand says, "Farmer's Ranch Market in Van Nuys is cheap. They have Middle Eastern, Russian and Kosher food, and fresh baked goods from local bakeries. They also have somewhat exotic fruits and vegetables in season, grean almonds, fresh garbanzo's, and green plums."
Marukai 98 Super Stores
This chain, a long time staple in Little Tokyo, imports Japanese food, furniture, home accessories, and small appliances. Marukai also has several 98 Super Stores, similar to typical "Dollar" stores, except that almost all the items are imported from Japan.
Bay Cities Italian Market and Deli
Since 1925, Bay Cities Italian Market and Deli has provided Santa Monica with an unparalleled selection of Italian goodies. Shelves are packed with dozens of varieties of olives, capers, tapenade, marinated artichokes, olive oils, and vinegars.
Located in the Kips Bay neighborhood, it's filled with spices, dried beans and fruit, teas, sweets, cookware, and many other surprises from soup mix to nuts. There's also a counter upstairs serving falafel sandwiches, hummus and a selection of cheeses.
The Karamouzis Brothers opened International Grocery amid scores of Greek stores over fifty years ago. Most of those stores are gone now, but International Grocery remains, selling a great selection of spices, flours and coffee, all of which you can buy in bulk, and other Mediterranean-inspired goods.
Buon Italia in Chelsea Market
The store offers several types of imported olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerated cases are full of fresh pastas and cheeses, and there are little fish preserved in oil, including the bianchetti, which look like bean sprouts with eyes.
Reader 'Kel True' offers a mini-guide to Milwaukee: "I'm voting for Anh Chau Market on 27th, Indian Spice on North, Glorioso's on Brady and El Rey (either old or new) in Milwaukee." We're seconding El Rey, a hispanic supermarket and taco shop with multiple locations in the city.
K & S World Market
Reader MidwifeMegan says, "as a former Nashvillian, I can vouch for K&S down in good ol' Music City." They carry a mix of Asian and Mexican foods, with shelves and shelves of packaged imports, as well as produce, meat, and dairy products.
The French Market
Originally founded as a trading post in the 1770s, it's the country's oldest farmers market. This French city staple has 6 blocks of shops, restaurants, flea markets, and a newly renovated farmers market open daily and year-round from 9 am to 6 pm.
Reader stumptownmary recommends Fubonn, "the largest Asian shopping center in Oregon." The Oregonian calls it "Oregon's first door Asian American minimall," with a main store surrounded by Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese Restaurants, as well as bubble tea and coffee shops.
Barbur World Foods
Stumptownmary says, "Its owned by a Lebanese family and stocks hard-to-find items from everywhere. The bulk spice section is awesome. Definitely hit up the deli—the Lebanese pizzas are made to order and delicious."
World Spice Merchants
They sell a wide variety of pure spices, spice blends, salts, chiles, and herbs by the ounce, with a one ounce minimum. The store is located behind the Pike Place Market, home of Market Spice, another well-known Seattle spice and tea store.
Pdxbiker recommends this Asian grocery store chain, which has locations in Seattle, Bellevue, Beaverton, and Renton. They carry packaged imports, produce, meat, seafood, wine, saki, and they have a deli where you can order lunch.
Jay International Foods
National flags hang above the store aisles, and shelves are packed with items from Japan, China, India, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ireland, England, and more. They sell produce, meat, and dairy, but the real draw is the huge selection of hard-to-find packaged goods from around the world.
Online & Multiple Cities
Reader Midwife Megan calls this national chain "a-w-e-s-o-m-e!" They specialize in Asian foods, including specialty noodles, rice, and condiments, and they have markets along the East Coast and in Georgia, Texas, Illinois, and California.
Kosher.com makes food and products available through the Internet that previously could really only be found at local specialty shops. They offer a pretty complete range of kosher products, including travel meals and a kosher bakery.
The Spanish Table
This chain store has locations in Seattle, Berkely, Mill Valley, and Santa Fe. Their approachable cookbook ($19.99) teaches Spanish ingredients and suggests wine and music pairings. Thumb through the cookbook and then move though the store or website picking up what you'll need to make your meal.
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Photo: Sarah Coffey