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Last-Minute Grocery Store Blues

8 August 2009 3,126 views 21 Comments

Last night, Adam and I began putting together dinner at around 8 p.m. I had picked up tilapia and these huge beautiful artichokes at Whole Foods at lunch yesterday. We decided to make oven-roasted artichokes and mango salsa with sauteed fish. We were missing a few simple ingredients — limes and cilantro for the salsa, lemons for the artichokes.

I volunteered to run out to the store. Adam lives just north of the Mueller development in East Austin and the closest stores to his house are Randalls and Casa Grande. Normally, we brave the highway and head to the HEB at Hancock Center to do most of our grocery shopping but this was going to be a quick trip and I wanted to stay close.

casa grandeParts of Adam’s neighborhood are not the safest in Austin, and I wasn’t surprised to see a man wearing only shorts being held up by three police cars in the parking lot of the Casa Grande. Everything seemed under control but I thought it best to avoid that scene and drive on to Randalls.

It’s important that you know at this point in the story that I really hate Randalls. It’s a rip-off and their fresh produce department is an embarrassment — very small, overpriced, etc. However, I decided to give them another try since I had not visited this particular Randalls before.

I should have known.

randallsLimes and lemons were 3 for $1 — an extremely high price to pay in Austin, but I would have happily paid it except for the fact that they DIDN’T HAVE CILANTRO. No Cilantro in Texas, especially in the neighborhood where Adam lives, is like not carrying staples like milk, eggs and orange juice anywhere else. Cilantro is KEY to Tex-Mex food and culture. So, I left.

By the time I arrived back at Casa Grande, the arrest drama was over, and I thought to myself that it was amusing that the store means “Big House” in English, words often slangily used to describe jail.

limesAt Casa Grande, limes are 20 for a dollar. So basically, your dollar goes almost SEVEN times as far as it would for limes at Randalls. And they have Cilantro, of course. Piles of it. I grabbed a bunch and paid $0.33. The lemons though, were small and had some mold starting to grow on them. Lemons aren’t commonly used in Mexican cooking so I was surprised to see them at all. I decided to use limes for the artichokes.

cilantro

Moral of the story: Casa Grande rocks (especially for quick trips to pick up staples that are common in TexMex cooking). Randalls sucks.

Agree? Disagree? I’d really love to know how this place stays in business.

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  • austinurbangardens

    Randall's sucks. I live a stone's throw from 2 Randalls and won't go to either one. Since Safeway took over, they took away all the locally made and produced products and replaced them with their own brand. Hate them. I'll drive the extra distance to Fresh Plus, CM or WF.

  • Anonymous

    I live very close to Randalls too and I've boycotted that store. 2 places I refuse to shop:
    Randalls and
    WalMart

    My favorite places to shop for delicious food:
    Central Market
    Whole Foods

    You pay through the nose at these stores, but you do get quality and a nice shopping experience.

    Melissa

  • MikeH

    My scientific observation over the past year shows that particular Randall's staying in business thanks to the elderly and people without cars.

  • Anonymous

    I have seen them do it more than once: Randall's really knows how to ruin a good grocery store.

  • Laura

    absolutely agree. Randalls and Albertsons are the worst.

    One thing I have discovered is the Asian market on North Lamar. I mean waaay north Lamar. You can get a lot of the items that you only can find at Whole Foods at a much much cheaper price.

  • beco8924

    OMFG, you guys sound like a bunch of rich, white, snobs. I shop at that Randall's all the time because it's two blocks from my house. I agree that the fruit and veggies suck but if you just need milk and bread, it's great. Also, you can't complain about the price and then say you would rather shop at Fresh Plus or Whole Foods. Give me a break.

  • Jodi

    For what they offer, Randall's prices are way off-base. Just curious — wouldn't you prefer that location was taken over by an HEB?

  • Jodi

    Found out who the Troll was. He elaborated on his response above via IM and I feel compelled to share:

    I don't normally shop at Randall's either, if there is an HEB nearby but I have come to appreciate that store. It is close to me, it has most things I need, I like the people who work there, and most of the prices are reasonable, although I know I can get it cheaper sometimes at HEB.

    But I don't like people disparaging my store! So there.

  • beco8924

    Sure, Randall's is overpriced on some stuff but for me, there is a trade off. If I shop at the HEB on Red River, I have to battle everyone to park, shop, and to check out — it's frustrating and not convenient. Plus, I can walk to Randall's from my house. How nice is that?

    Would I prefer that location was taken over by HEB? Sure. I like HEB. I have nothing against them and if it was more convenient for me, I would totally shop there.

    All I'm saying is that Randall's store in particular is MY grocery store. I like the location and the people who work there are nice to me. There is no hassle and I can be in and out in less than five minutes. To me, that is worth paying a little extra and suffering through hit-or-miss fruit and veggies.

    And I don't like people talking trash about things I like! So there! :-P

  • beco8924

    And I am not a troll. I am an overly-sensitive, knee-jerk, reactionary. That's how I roll.

  • Anonymous

    well testingtouring have you ever thought to go around and look at other places city market, the small meat markets? There is an HEB if that's your thing off 183/manor.Your blog comes off to me as yuppie who wants clean cut hipster spots to shop.

  • Jodi

    Thanks for the suggestions, Anonymous :-) I appreciate your feedback too.

  • Lindsay

    I grew up always going to Randall's (more common and the stores tend to be larger in Houston suburbs i've found), however after moving to Austin I avoid Randall's like the plague. I live in NW Austin and have never been to Casa Grande, however I've found that the Far West HEB is a great compromise for supplying ingredients for Mexican cooking and great prices. Next time I'm feeling adventurous, however, I'll be sure to check out Casa Grande :)

  • Jodi

    This post was shared among the Windsor Park Neighborhood Association and many of the comments were very helpful so I thought I'd share:

    Fun local food blog mention on supermarkets in the E51. Enjoy.
    Ashley

    I've also gone to Casa Grande on the spur of the moment to pick up precisely such items (cilantro, limes) as mentioned in the article below.

    Casa Grande also makes some really tasty and inexpensive breakfast tacos, particularly their chicken (pollo) tacos. I think the price is $1.50/taco. However, on the weekends the chicken is not usually available till about 9ish in the morning-highly recommended!
    Craig on Cloverleaf

    I personally prefer the little store just north of Broadmoor on Cameron,
    between the carwash and the Gomez Western Wear, for this type of stuff. I
    go there for Mexican cheese, chilies, limes, tortillas, etc., mostly when we
    make tacos. The smell of their meat department isn't as overpowering as I
    recall it being at Casa Grande.

    If it's for anything they aren't likely to have, it's generally a toss-up
    for me. Randall's is closer, but they're usually so understaffed that I
    feel like I might be able to get what I want for cheaper and in the same
    amount of time by just heading across the highway.

    I really hope they build something good over at Mueller.
    -jamie on westmoor

    Then there's City Market, which is just a stone's throw from Randalls
    and seems to be much cheaper. I walked in on a whim when I took my car
    to Mark's Car Care and was surprised at the abundance and price of the
    produce. I didn't look at anything else.

    Elizabeth
    Peggy St.

    Another thing about City Market is that they have the coolest oldies music playing at the store. It makes shopping a lot more fun.
    Mike P.

    I like to check out the meat market at the back of the store every so often. They usually have chicken and/or beef strips marinated for fajitas (in addition to other Mexican meats). I can buy 1/4 pound whenever I want a fast meal. Very tasty!
    ruth

    I LOVE Randalls. I love how the produce manager responds to my questions and requests, and just a few weeks ago, I got a BIG seedless watermelon for $3! I go to City Market and Casa Grande as well. Randalls always sells cilantro, and they even run out sometimes, which may have been the case while you were there.

    I make a few considerations when shopping. Price isn't everything. I don't know what employees earn at the other markets, but I seriously doubt they have any benefits. A friend worked as a cashier at a Randalls while she was dealing with some serious issues in her personal life, and I was so impressed by the ways the management supported her. I have also watched a manager at a Randalls support an employee who spoke English with an accent and was treated really offensively by a customer; he asked the high-tone customer to no longer return. And one last thing I appreciated about Randalls is that they featured a poster celebrating gay liberation for the month of June.
    I heart Randalls.

    Thanks Maria.

    Randalls also has some really good sales.

    I was thinking how Randalls never fails to support non-profit groups with not only their continual good neighbor program but whenever we ask or the many schools in our neighborhood ask, they ALWAYS give a donation.

    Plus I just like going in a store that is not a MEGA store!
    Gloria N.

    One good thing that this thread reveals is how very passionate we are about our stores — but also that our neighborhood is VERY well served already in the options available to us — for small, specialized stores (Casa Grande), through moderate-sized local supermarkets (City Market), to chains (Randall's). I can personally WALK to each of these…. and choose which one I want to use, or go further afield by car if necessary to HEB, Fiesta, Costco, etc.
    Amanda on Linda

  • Nancy

    There's an IGA (I think it's called-used to be Minimax) in Crestview on Woodrow just South of Anderson Ln. They have good produce and a large beer and wine selection. Most things are a little more than HEB, but it's not crowded at all. Very convenient!
    Nancy

  • Judy

    There is an ART to shopping, which I learned from my father who would qualify as one of your 'Millionaire Next Door' kind of guys, and was an EXCEPTIONAL cook. Most of these comments completely miss the point of stocking our fridges, freezers and pantry's. If you ever pay regular price at Randall's you ARE overpaying and not getting the value to be had by shopping there. When it comes to convenience and needing a last minute ingredient you pay the price for that convenience at Randall's. You have to know your prices, be organized, use coupons, (on items you would normally buy, by the way), and shop the weekly AD to stretch your dollars at Randall's. There are GREAT deals to be had if you do so. If I don't save more than 35%, at the cash register,(buying brand name quality staples and exceptional meats and when exceptional in price & quality sometimes seafood), I am disappointed. I typically DO NOT buy produce there, too many other great options for that in our area, Farmer's Markets, HEB, Sun Harvest, Central Market and yes, I am purposely leaving out WF, which I refer to as a corporate wolf in 'doing what's right' clothing. Jodi, I would be happy to give you a tutorial on how to work the Randall's GAME, yes folks, it's a game and if you're not playing it you will overpay at Randall's. Buy your staples on sale, with coupon's and you WIN the game. When it comes to shopping I'm confident I qualify for the winners circle. Fabulous Judy

  • http://www.tastytouring.com/ Jodi

    You are awesome and oh so fabulous, Judy. Are the coupons you are referring to specific to Randalls? How is Randalls better than HEB for staples? Thank you so much for weighing in :-)

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  • jodibart

    Adam took me to City Market on the corner of Cameron and 290 and I was dancing in the aisles. I agree with the commenter above that they have a great taste in music. Today I jammed to “We wear short shorts.” The meat is very well-priced and they have a wide variety, especially for those that eat meat from nose to tail. The milk was pretty expensive though. They have a good produce section and in case you are interested in these types of things, limes are 8 for $1.

  • jodibart

    Adam took me to City Market on the corner of Cameron and 290 and I was dancing in the aisles. I agree with the commenter above that they have a great taste in music. Today I jammed to “We wear short shorts.” The meat is very well-priced and they have a wide variety, especially for those that eat meat from nose to tail. The milk was pretty expensive though. They have a good produce section and in case you are interested in these types of things, limes are 8 for $1.

  • jodibart

    Adam took me to City Market on the corner of Cameron and 290 and I was dancing in the aisles. I agree with the commenter above that they have a great taste in music. Today I jammed to “We wear short shorts.” The meat is very well-priced and they have a wide variety, especially for those that eat meat from nose to tail. The milk was pretty expensive though. They have a good produce section and in case you are interested in these types of things, limes are 8 for $1.