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.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sad City Classic: Guide To Supermarkets

(Originally published by Jumper on July 11, 2010)

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, West 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: We 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? (Yup, still accurate)

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. Once again, this blog delivers on guaranteed laughs. I have no idea who you are, but thank you.

  2. You should add The Center Market in Hartford, on Farmington Ave. on the side of FedEx-Kinko's. It's great.

  3. Great article...I have enjoyed shopping at these places and had some unforgettable moments both at these supermarkets and the bodegas that are on every corner. At the new park stop and shop I saw a guy buy a candy bar with his EBT (food stamps) card and then get about $100 cash back. Doesn't seem right, but hey, that's Hartford for you. On a good note Tangiers rules!!!!

  4. Most of the top places are in WEST Hartford. Why aren't there any worthy supermarkets in Hartford (a completely different city)?

  5. I live across the street from Sav-A-Lot. You are not kidding that you may be stabbed in the parking lot. I visited this store once out of desperation and witnessed a fist fight at the check out line. Even the pork rinds don't make this place worth visiting again.

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