Well… I think I am modifying my wish. I think if the Whole Foods people are not paying attention, then I want a Central Market in Puerto Rico instead. I have a new supermarket crush and it’s called Central Market!!!!
I learned about Central Market from my friend Ana Yolanda, whenshe told me Central Market was her favorite supermarket while living in Austin, TX. I was a bad best friend apparently because I never visited her in grad school and never went to a Central Market with her. But I always remembered how she raved about this supermarket and how everything was super fresh and pretty. Fast forward to a few years ago, when I visited my first Central Market in Houston, TX. I was AMAZED!!!! It’s like a Whole Foods, but even nicer.
Central Market is the answer to Whole Foods from the H-E-B people. A company based in San Antonio, TX, H-E-B started in 1905 and now have 329 locations all over Texas and Mexico. H-E-B has grown and developed the Central Market concept since 1994, and now with 9 stores all over Texas. Last month, I returned to Texas, now in Dallas for the first time, and had to do some shopping and couldn’t bear to go anywhere else than Central Market.
A Central Market brochure explains it best… It’s part grocery store, part amusement park. And I dig it every step of the way.
What I find most fascinating about Central Market is their produce and fresh foods sections. I fell in love with their produce section, it’s delightful. It’s so large and vibrant. Most things are organic, even though they have some conventional stuff too. Everything is well-identified so you know what you’re purchasing. Tomatoes, avocados, Meyer lemons… everything looks so fresh that invites you to cook.
I was fascinated with their herbs section, how they present it like it’s a home garden. Lovely!!!! Here are some pictures I took from visits prior and from my most recent one. I even met a lady that told me she visits Central Market every day and does her daily shopping for what she wants to cook/eat that day, just like the Europeans do. Very apropos when Central Market is indeed inspired by a European market…
I don’t know if they still do it, but a few years back, they had a table of fruits and kids could just place coins in a piggy bank and serve themselves the fruit they wanted. The funds would support children activities in the store and the community. I didn’t see this table at the Dallas store, but I hope they keep it up.
They’re bulk foods section is incredible… they have an ample selection of honeys, nuts, rice, beans, snacks, candy, coffee, grains and everything else you can think of. They even have bath salts… I held myself back from buying everything and anything I wanted. Remember Madelyn… you don’t live here!!!! You can’t cook here!!! (Why do I say that to myself?? As if I had never ever done grocery shopping outside of Puerto Rico, right???)
Their bakery section is AMAZING!!! They have a very wide variety of whole grain breads.
And the Cheese section… TO DIE FOR!!! They claim to have over 700 cheeses. And who am I to question that!!! I was fascinated with a basket of “cheese orphans”- small pieces of very expensive cheeses, perfect for the single consumer like me or if you just want to try a cheese without committing to a larger piece. I must say, I “adopted” three of these orphans and they tasted delicious – some emmethaler swiss cheese, smoked gouda and grana padano, all with microbial rennet, making them vegetarian.
Their prepared foods section is huge… and this section of the store was packed with people looking to buy their dinner for that day. I saw many young, apparently single, people. The place was bustling… I gravitated towards the olive bar, with over 20 different kinds of olives. I had to contain myself from sampling a few…
What I’ve always found a difference between Central Market and Whole Foods – their packaged goods section. Central Market now has a more ample gluten-free section than before, possibly from the popularity that gluten-free diets have gotten in the last few years. But you’ll see at Central Market a more limited variety of packaged goods and even some regular national brands, like Nabisco or Kraft, where in Whole Foods you would never see. I was very pleased to see Central Market carries a wide variety of Tinkyada pastas… my favorite brand of brown rice pastas. So a word to the wise for all of you who have asked me where to get it.
I also found their prices are much more affordable than Whole Foods, or Puerto Rico for that matter. Look at the price on these Coconut Yogurts @ $1.79. I know, I know… these are still expensive, but much more affordable to the $2.99 I have paid in Freshmart when I’ve had to go dairy-free for periods of time. I also considered buying myself a few single-serve organic milks for my hotel room and the same package/brand was $1 more expensive at Whole Foods than at Central Market.
And the clincher is their fresh flower section… They have such a wide array of fresh flowers and at great prices. And I can’t believe I have a picture of that section. Possibly because I was working and that was the main reason I visited Central Market in the first place – to buy flowers for an arrangement I needed to build for a client. Three bunches of flowers for $10… Yes!!!! Beautiful, gorgeous, fresh and affordable too.
If you live in Texas and have a Central Market nearby… consider yourselves so lucky!!!! I kinda envy you a little… only the good envy, of course. But I you don’t, and don’t have a Central Market near you… please visit one the next time you go by Texas. They’re an amazing store chain and one that I hope I can orchestrate to bring to Puerto Rico.
Wouldn’t that be nice for Central Market to expand to Puerto Rico as their second out-of Texas market??? Have you been to a Central Market?? What’s your favorite thing about Central Market???