Finding the best grocery stores in the USA took a bit of travel. In 2011, we traveled 20,000 miles across the USA, spanning 30 states and 9 months. We toured businesses, volunteered at non-profits, went on roller coasters and ferris wheels, visited more children's museums and science centers than the average person will see in a lifetime, and saw a whole lot of...grocery stores.
Since our mode of transportation was RV, we had a kitchen with a refrigerator, stove, and oven. We also had a mini Weber grill for outdoor cooking. As such, we cooked almost all of our meals.
In general, we noted that bigger cities have better grocery stores. Not a big surprise since more populous cities have the advantage of competition, innovation, and more spending power. Smaller towns tended to have "country store" style stores with high prices, less selection, and lower quality picks (organic, local, and freshly made items were harder to find).
After grocery shopping all across the country, there were three stores that stood out as examples of cleanliness, excellent design, product quality, and in-store amenities.
Without further ado, may I present the BEST grocery stores in the United States.
If I could transplant only one grocery store to my hometown, it would be exactly like the Central Market in Austin. The store has fresh, beautiful produce in every color, a decadent and overflowing bakery, an expansive beer & wine section, and better prices than Whole Foods. If you're looking for meal inspiration, you can register for a class (typically $10-$85/person) at the store's Cooking School. Plus, the store has a cafe on-site (the food is pretty good too!), a gelato bar, outdoor patio seating with live music, and a super fun playground. Kids can pay a quarter at the entrance to select a piece of fruit to eat in-store.
At 80,000 square feet, this flagship store is absolutely mammoth. Opened in 2005, the tone of the store matches the tone of the city - young, vibrant, artistic, upscale. There is a bounty of fresh produce, baked goods that will make your mouth water, a hefty bulk foods section, and an on-site butcher with fish & meat options. Touted as "America's Healthiest Grocery Store," Whole Foods Market has stricter standards than most grocery stores we visited. For example, you won't find ANY ice creams in the frozen section with high fructose corn syrup. Two thumbs up! Best of all, there are at least a half dozen on-site restaurants so you can eat + shop simultaneously. Parents will also appreciate the playground for the little ones. In the winter, the rooftop also converts to an ice skating rink! The only downside we saw was that parking was not for the timid driver. There didn't appear to be enough spots to match the number of shoppers. Traveling to Austin? Don't miss a visit to this grocer - even if you don't have any shopping to do.
Jungle Jim's website says that the store is "more than a grocery store, it's a destination!" I couldn't agree more! I thought Whole Foods was big, until we walked into this 200,000 square foot warehouse wonderland. It's so big that there are maps at the entrance. Though it doesn't hold the same "charm" as the two aforementioned stores, our kids were enthralled by the life size animal displays and the giant can of singing Campbell Soup. There were also sections of the store based on regions around the world with corresponding decor. We even made our way through Sherwood Forest and saw Robin Hood! If you enjoy beer and wine, you'll be stunned by the vast selection. The Jungle Jim's personnel recommend allotting 2-4 hours for your visit...and they're not joking. This is not the kind of place you swing by for milk and eggs. ;)
What is the best grocery store in your area? What amenities do you wish your neighborhood grocery store would offer?