With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Guide to Hartford Supermarkets

One of the greatest things about living in Hartford is that we have a plethora of grocery shopping options within a very small radius. Whether you prefer shopping in the cozy confines of a neighborhood bodega or wandering through a yuppie organic food mecca, Hartford has it all.

So how do you make decision on where to go to buy your food stuff? Let the Sad City Hartford guide to Hartford supermarkets show you the way.

(EDITORS NOTE: For the purposes of this discussion, we have included West Hartford in our overview of Hartford supermarkets. We did not cover every grocery store because this article would be 10,000 words long. The rating system is based on a scale of one to five shopping bags.)

Apple Tree
New Park Avenue, West Hartford
Sad City Rating: Five shopping bags
Quite possibly the best of all Hartford-area supermarkets, Apple Tree has tons of fresh produce and fish. And it's all dirt cheap!
The Good: Too often, people make a big deal about how expensive it is to eat healthy. Apple Tree kicks that argument in the ass. The stuff is fresh, there is great variety and you always end up spending way less than you would expect to - especially if you have been conditioned to Whole Foods prices.
The Bad: Outside of produce and fish, they don't really have anything else. If you're looking for cereal or ketchup, go somewhere else.
The Sad: The Apple Tree cashier don't have UPC scanners. Instead, they punch everything into the register by hand. they know it all by memory and are really fast. They are way better at their jobs than we are at ours. That makes us sad.

Trader Joe's
Westfarms, West Hartford
Sad City Rating: Five shopping bags
A solid, multi-purpose grocer, every time we go to Trader Joe's, we feel like we are on a most wonderful treasure hunt where we might end up with a bag of frozen turkey meatballs or graham crackers that are shaped like cats.
The Good: They've got a great selection of frozen food that is easy to prepare. The prices are pretty good. The produce and meat selection is solid.
The Bad: It's all the way over by the mall. Getting motivated to actually drive out there is challenging.
The Sad: Do you ever go over to where they have samples, eat the yummy sample, continue shopping and then come back later for more, hoping the guy working the counter doesn't recognize you? We're the only ones who do that? Oh...

A Dong
Elmwood, West Hartford
Sad City Rating: Five shopping bags
A great Asian supermarket located in a shopping center in West Hartford. A Dong boasts one of the largest selection of Asian stuff in Connecticut - a real treasure.
The Good: The seafood here is awesome and fresh. It's fun to explore the store looking for interesting things to eat from foreign lands.
The Bad: The grammar. Whether it's the copy on the package labels or the signs around the store, they don't talk good English.
The Sad: We are still not mature enough to be able to say "A Dong" without giggling like a little school girl.

Prospect Avenue, Hartford
Sad City Rating: Four shopping bags
Tangiers is an international foods market with a an old fashioned lunch counter that sells prepared Mediterranean food.
The Good: The takeout at Tangiers is awesome. They have the best falafel in Hartford. The other stuff is really good, too. We often get out of work and head over to Tangiers for a quick dinner.
The Bad: Don't bring your wife/girlfriend to this place. Woman are always swooning over the dudes that work here. They are handsome, very polite and well mannered - the opposite of us.
The Sad: We still aren't sure what Turkish delights are, but it sounds really dirty.

Crown Supermarket
Bishops Corner, West Hartford
Sad City Rating: Four shopping bags
Crown Supermarket is an old school Kosher supermarket.
The Good: Crown has a really awesome Kosher deli. Also, we cannot say enough good things about the hot dogs they sell here. They are much lower in the "lips and assholes" quotient compared to other hot dogs.
The Bad: While we understand that there is some sort of religious compulsion driving their operating hours, could they possibly move to a schedule that's more in-line with other retail establishments? We've never been able to figure out their schedule and it is very inconvenient for us. Please adjust your religious practices for our erratic schedule.

Cosmos International
Farmington Avenue, West Hartford
Sad City Rating: Four shopping bags
The best place to get Indian groceries in the Greater Hartford area.
The Good: They have a great selection of Indian food products. Also, their take out food is pretty good. A recipe for a good "at home" date night is to buy a couple cartons of food and one of the off-brand Bollywood moviews that Cosmos sells.
The Bad: Don't eat the makhana. It's gross.
The Sad: We're still not really sure how to pronounce "Saag Paneer."

Whole Foods
Blue Back Square, West Hartford and Bishops Corner, West Hartford
Sad City Rating: Three shopping bags
While we are too lazy to do the necessary fact checking, we are pretty sure that West Hartford has more Whole Foods stores, per capita, than anywhere else in the world. There are two full size Whole Foods stores only 1.6 miles apart in a town with less than 65,000 people.
The Good: The produce is always really good, albeit really expensive. And it's a great place to go if you're just getting out of work and you want to eat something vaguely healthy, but don't want to cook. But just try to get one of those biodegradable cartons of food from their salad bar and pay less than $10....or $21.50 for that matter.
The Bad: The stuff costs lots of cash money, holmes. Also, we really hate when they give you that guilt trip if you don't bring your own bags. It's never blatant, but you know they are looking down on you.
The Sad: By far the worst thing about either of the West Hartford's Whole Foods are the people that go there. They always seem so snooty and self-righteous because they are paying a 15% organic surcharge for their groceries. One day, when we retire from writing for Sad City Hartford, we might start a new blog in the same vane of Walcreatures, but focused on Whole Foods Creatures. For right now, we have procured this image of a man holding his infant in a Baby Bjorn while using his iPhone as a jogging stroller and hypo-allgenic golden retriever sit at his feet. As far as we are concerned, the only thing that could top this photo would be a West Hartford soccer mom puts gluten-free bread into a canvas bag while her yoga pants display a generous amount of camel toe. Send your pics if you have them, please.

Stop and Shop
New Park Avenue, West Hartford
Sad City Rating: Three shopping bags
It's Stop and Shop. What do you want us to say?
The Good: Stop and Shop reminds us of the bland standard supermarkets that we grew up with in the suburbs. While boring, that's somewhat comforting.
The Bad: They make you carry a savings card to get the sale prices. We really hate those things. We have about fifty of them on our keychain.
The Sad: What's with the new Stop and Shop logo? We liked the old logo. It was a traffic light. It made sense. It represented stopping and shopping. What the hell is the new logo? It looks like a sideways labia painted by Pablo Picasso. We are sure they spent lots of money designing, developing testing it, but they have done a horrible job with their rebrand.

Shop Rite
Prospect Street, West Hartford
Sad City Rating: Three shopping bags
The newest grocery store on the block. They used to be Shaw's.
The Good: The prices are OK. They have all of the standard foods.
The Bad: It feels very generic. Grocery shopping in Hartford should be an exciting adventure. It should connect you with your hunter/gatherer ancestors. When you go to Shop Rite, you are essentially giving up a little piece of your soul and admitting that you have give up on life. 
The Sad: We go more often than we would like to.

Carlos Supermaket
Farmington Avenue, Asylum Hill
Rating: Three shopping bags
Kind of like a big bodega. Overall, best to be avoided.
The Good: Their prices are pretty good. Our theory is that they skimped on signage costs, avoiding the use of a possessive apostrophe, and passed the saving along to their customers. Think of it as the grocery equivalent to Dial-A-Mattress.
The Bad: While Carlos Supermarket as an amazing array of flavored pork rinds, don't try any of them. They are freaking disgusting. (That goes for pork rinds in general, not just Carlos Supermarket pork rinds.)
The Sad: After wasting ten minutes on Google, we still not sure if they should just add an apostrophe after "Carlos" or if there needs to be an apostrophe and a possessive "S."

New Park Avenue, West Hartford
Sad City Rating: Two shopping bags
A European grocery chain, Aldi is kind of like the IKEA of grocery stores, only it's way worse.
The Good: I guess it's kind of cheap. They have lots of cool looking generic brands (La Mas Rica or L'Oven Fresh) that you have never heard of, but are fun to own.
The Bad: The place forces you to put down a deposit for shopping carts and charges you money for shopping bags. What kind of Commie-European nonsense is that?
The Sad: They are probably the grocery of the future.

Gourmet Rose
Pratt Street, Downtown
Sad City Rating: Two shopping bags
The only "kinda" grocery store in Downtown, Gourmet Rose sells mostly takeout.
The Good: The food is solid. Plus, it's Downtown, so it's got that going for it.
The Bad: The hours are pretty much purely M-F 9-5. If you live Downtown, you can't use this place as a go-to grocery. Also, there really isn't anything here by way of actual groceries.
The Sad: Did we mention that Gourmet Rose is the only grocery store in Downtown?

Green Apple
Farmington Avenue, Asylum Hill
Sad City Rating: One shopping bag
The Good: Green Apple is nicest of the scores of bodegas that dot the Hartford landscape.
The Bad: Like most bodegas, the place is overpriced and not that good.
The Sad: We are obsessed with the white truck that is always parked in front of the store (see the picture) or across the street in the vacant Dishes parking lot. We're sure the truck brings merchandise to the store from New York, but it always looks so sinister and carries amusing graffiti. This is sad because we spend way too much of our time noticing this truck.

Park Street, Parkville
Sad City Rating: Zero shopping bags
The ghetto-est of the ghetto supermarkets. Caution: You might get stabbed in the parking lot.
The Good: Umm, when it comes down to ghetto supermakets, this place really takes the cake. A must-see for ghetto tourists everywhere.
The Bad: Pretty much everything. The food is old and gross, the shelves are chaotic and there is nothing worse than waiting in line while the cashier explains that, yet again, you can't use a WIC check for cigarette cartons.
The Sad: We weren't joking. You might get stabbed in the parking lot.


  1. I feel the need to add Price Rite on New Britian Ave
    The Good: Dirt cheap, stock up on generic condiments.
    The Bad: Buying meats is risky. Charge for bags and shopping carts.
    The Sad: We get way to much enjoyment using a departing customers cart and avoiding the quarter "cart-use" fee. Gaming the system is awesome.

  2. You forgot Ctown bro they are every where

  3. Globillo - we had them in a mix, but as far as stores go, they feel almost exactly like a Carlos Supermarket.

  4. Very Interesting Blog. I like it. I think that with your wit you have the making of a great daily news in review TV show.

  5. I just read your reviews to a few folks in the office. You're so right about everything. I would add, though, that between the time you wrote this and now, Appletree got scanners with pix of food on them to ring you up with, just like the self-checkouts at Stop & Shop have. So it's better.

  6. Try the Cibao Market on Sisson and Farmington Avenues, them folks will hook you up after 9pm on a beer run, EVERY BODY goes to them...they even sell Hard Liquor(should I say that?

  7. D & D on Franklin. Best salumeria and butcher in the city. Plus they get bread from Arthur Ave. in the Bronx!

  8. Stop and Shop and Giant have the same logo. The parent company Ahold may merge the two. Good reporting.

  9. Trader Joe's is junk food being marketed as natural or healthy food. In reality it's owned by the same people as Aldi's and a lot of the products are the same exact thing with different packaging. It's kind of funny that you rated TJ's so much higher than Aldi's considering this...I guess their marketing really does work.

  10. Shop Rite on Prospect deserves more credit than it's given here, for the meat case alone. If you're interested at all in offal or even less traditional cuts of meat like hanger steak, duck or rabbit, this store has the best selection by far and is priced reasonably.

  11. Actually, Trader Joe's isn't owned by the Aldi German Food Chains, through both families know each other fairly well. Wiki has the full story. And, while youare right that there is a lot of junk food, it isn't Junk Food. They are also a lot of good stuff to buy. The prepped food is great. Whole Foods I just won't shop the CEO and employment practices are terrible.

  12. false: http://consumerist.com/2011/03/aldi-is-trader-joes-for-the-rest-of-us.html

  13. Great blog! In regards to the Stop and Shop listed here, it is actually in Hartford and not West Hartford. The one thing I like about it is that it is conveniently located but also that it carries a good selection of Latin products that you normally don't find at other Stop and Shop's (like Inca Kola for example). C-Town on Park and Sisson is also pretty good for Latin products. I think BJ's should be on the list too. Although you gotta pay for a membership, their prices are great and the membership actually pays for itself in a year with the savings you get...

  14. D & D on FRANKLIN!!!!

  15. I grew up outside Hartford (now live in LA) and your blog is hysterical. My father was a fan of Debaco's on Franklin Avenue.

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  17. If by Hartford, you mean West Hartford, then your opening paragraph is spot on.

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