I love the grocery store; I love making lists, I love the produce section, I love mapping out my plan of attack in my brain (produce, pantry, dairy, frozen, out)- I love grocery stores so much that I even work at one, and am to this day enamored by the incredible food selection in Austin, TX. For the AFBA City Guide 2016, I put together this list of my favorite grocery stores in the city. I will preface by saying that I did not include ethnic or specialty grocery stores in this list, and, in interest of full disclosure, that I do work for Central Market (HEB). Check out the other incredible blogger guides at the AFBA City Guide 2016!
Westgate: 4477 S Lamar Blvd | North Lamar: 4001 N Lamar Blvd
Central Market has the most incredible produce department I have ever seen in my whole life. You make three turns into the store before you even end up at the twelve different types of organic apples. Five foot tall stacks of broccoli crowns, three different colors of cauliflower, and twenty different types of citrus don’t even begin to cover the exceptional variety. The meat and seafood alley includes proteins that the partners can trace back to the individual farms and distributors, and never touches antibiotics or hormones. I don’t buy pantry or standard dairy items here, but I do think the value of the produce and proteins is worth the slightly elevated prices, but I think those are justified when you see the quality. North Lamar is a bigger store, but Westgate is equally as nice and with natural lighting, which is a big plus. Westgate is also equipped with a coffee roasting bar and they make their own cold brew which is supremely delicious. But you can see my face at North Lamar a few days out of the week, so there’s your plus!
Things to Buy: 4th Anniversary Salsa, Envy Apples, Anthony’s Chocolate Mousse Cake, Harissa Paste, Local Bulgarian Yogurt, Dave’s Gourmet Pasta Sauces, Austin Slow Burn Hot Habanero Peach Jam.
525 N Lamar Blvd
So I have this love hate relationship with Whole Foods. Hate the pretentiousness, love the whole ‘get-people-to-care-about-what-they-eat’ thing. I like their produce and meat departments just as well, but they really shine when it comes to prepared foods. The salad bar is absurd, and you can get almost any topping to your baby kale that you could ever want. Also, Whole Foods, especially in Austin, is very big on local products. To the right are breads from Easy Tiger bakery in downtown Austin, just a few of the examples of local Austin fare. End caps and displays are set up to feature local food artisans, beekeepers, and urban farms. I am big on promoting small businesses, but I am not big on Whole Food’s big business prices. I don’t feel as if one should have to spend big money to eat well, but the access Whole Foods gives to its customers is commendable. The Domain location is gorgeous, with high ceilings and food hall featuring a ramen bar, an extended coffee and tea bar, and Korean barbecue.
Things to Buy: Easy Tiger Breads, Bark Thins Snacking Chocolate, PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter, Spicy Sprouts, Organic Girl Greens.
4001 S Lamar Blvd
Wheatsville Food Co-Op is fantastic if you are totally aware of what you are getting into. Expect hippies, dreads, and Vegans. The tofu selection is excessive, but I do appreciate the responsible sourcing of the yogurts. The staff is very friendly and will let you try anything, just ask! I tried the Paqui Very Verde Tortilla chips and almost took home every bag. I like how this store should have Whole Foods-esque pretension, but the open layout and clean, easy-to-read labeling of products helps you want to learn more about eating alternatively in a positive way.
Things to Buy: Ginger Lemonade, Paqui Very Verde Tortilla Chips, Anti-Grain Flours, Hat Creek Provisions Pickled Carrots.
2508 E Riverside Dr
I have mixed feelings about including two HEB stores on this list, but I do have strong feelings about HEB Plus!. When you experience the hell that is the Congress HEB on a Sunday night, you might think I am justified in including the Plus! on this list. Tall ceilings, large aisles, and twelve different types of tortilla chips make me like going to the ‘normal’ grocery store, where I typically buy my milk and flour. The HEB Plus!, I also feel as a new Austinite, is a little piece of Texas culture. Sometimes signs are only in Spanish, there is a whole section dedicated to dried chiles, and another whole half aisle dedicated to Mexican chile candy. It’s definitely the value option in this list, but I do feel as if this store offers the best everyday shopping experience in Austin. The Plus! does make a difference, and I am lucky to have this store as my closest HEB.
Things to Buy: Kale and Pineapple Agua Fresca, Shredded Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Scarletts Grapefruits, Tortilla Chips, Fever Tree Ginger Beer, Horizon Milk, All the Mexican Chile Candy.
Farm to Market Grocery Store
1718 S Congress Ave
Farm to Market has an impressive selection when considering its location and size. Yes, it is more like a convenience store than anything, but they have beautifully arranged avocados that I just can’t resist. They also have a whole case dedicated to ice cream, and an extensive collection of hot sauces and salsas. I appreciate the convenience factor of this store, and the items that they have chosen due to the fact that their size limits the amount of products.
Things to Buy: Epic Bars, Austin Beerworks, Cosmic Kombucha, Lick Ice Cream.
Other Notable Stores:
2610 Manor Rd
in.gredients is Manor’s darling when it comes to grocery stores. It is small, but is packed with local products and produce. It also serves as a pickup location for Johnson’s Backyard Garden CSA boxes. in.gredients is also perfect for events, they host many musicians and local organizations to convene in the yard, complete with garden and play station for the kids.
1418 Barton Springs Rd
There are a few of these stores in Austin, but they are great resources for Beer and Wine on the go! I recommend the location on Barton Springs after you have spent a day at Zilker. Great for quick refreshments on your way home.
Royal Blue Grocery
This grocery store is located in the middle of downtown, perfect for a pedestrian looking for a few quick items. Royal Blue is like a convenience store, but has kicked the Cheeze-its for Kombucha. Look for artisan peanut butters and try the pizzas by the slice.
Check out the other incredible blogger guides at the AFBA City Guide 2016 and click here to find out more about the Austin Food Blogger Alliance.