When I lived in Memphis there was one choice in supermarkets – Kroger. To be fair, there were many different sizes and flavors of Kroger, but the mega-chain came in and bought all of the other grocery stores after I’d been there about 5 years. Wild Oats was there and eventually became Whole Foods, but it was never as nice as most of the Whole Foods I’ve come to know and love. I hear it’s better now, but I’m not there, so I have no idea.
In Indiana, I could never find a grocery that I loved. I grew up here in Baton Rouge, and food is where it’s at in this town. My friend Jan calls Baton Rouge “the land of good food”. So, I really suffered in the rural Midwest with the limited selection of great groceries. At times I got so desperate that I drove an hour and a half to Chicago to shop at Trader Joe’s.
My first grocery choice when I moved here was Calandro’s Supermarkets. It’s a local independent grocery that is a cross between a gourmet specialty store and a neighborhood grocery. I still shop there with about the same frequency as I shop at Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is cheaper on my greek yogurt, but Calandro’s has such great chicken salad and local produce that it’s hard to pass up.
My friend Keri in Memphis is originally from New Orleans. When I told her that I was heading to Memphis over Thanksgiving (that’s been sand-bagged now), she asked if I could find a local grocery that sells oyster dressing. Her Dad had a hankering for it, and, apparently, some of the old New Orleans’ local grocers used to sell cartons of it at Thanksgiving. I couldn’t find it at Calandro’s, and she recommended I call LeBlanc’s. I had never heard of LeBlanc’s, so I called to check on the dressing. They didn’t have it, but the place sounded interesting enough for a visit, so I thought I’d check it out.
I got on a new local virtual garage sale app today called VarageSale. It’s sort of a local eBay except you don’t bid on items. Much to my surprise one of the first items I saw was a pair of Keen’s sandals which would be perfect for camp shoes when I’m backpacking. I needed some comfortable sandals which with room for me to wear socks. I contacted the seller Kelli, and we agreed to meet at LeBlanc’s. I had time to go in and look around, and I was so excited about this new store.
My Uncle Bump said it is new, and it was a Hi-Nabor before it’s remodel. It’s clean and modern and has a huge deli-bakery. My favorite cake of all time is a lemon and chocolate Dobasch cake, and they make them there! They have muffulettas, cartons of gumbo, red beans and rice and packages of spaghetti and meatballs. The hot bar tonight featured fresh veggies and Chinese food. Of course, they had a complete liquor store, and they had a bulk food section. It was sort of a cross between Whole Foods and an old-time independent grocer. They even carried healthy items such as Kombucha and Quinoa drinks. My favorite cold brew coffee was $2.00 cheaper than at Whole Foods, and they had my Greek yogurt on sale for $5.39 for a 32 oz. container. I was impressed.
I bought a box of my favorite Stash Chai tea and made a note to myself to go back when I have more time. It’s just going to be hard to decide where to grocery shop here. I have so many options. Trader Joe’s is my Seattle favorite and has the best selection of nuts and dried fruits. Calandro’s has my favorite chicken salad. Whole Foods has the largest selection of organic dairy and health food items. The farmer’s market is hands-down the best place for produce. And, now I’ve got this new place. I wonder what great things it will offer. At any rate, I wish I ate more than I do because I’ll never need enough food to shop at all of these places regularly.
So what I love today about Baton Rouge is the variety of independent grocers here. I’m glad to see that they can still make a profit and survive among the big chains. It shows that people here support local businesses especially when it comes to their food.