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Triple Shot: Irregular grocers

Skip Safeway this week and head to alternative grocery stores

 by Katie Kelberlau  published on Thursday, March 31, 2005

Dance senior Marilyn Maywald enjoys a healthy lunch at Gentle Strength Natural Foods Co-op./issues/arts/692662
Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Dance senior Marilyn Maywald enjoys a healthy lunch at Gentle Strength Natural Foods Co-op.
 

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Sure, it may be easy to stop by the local 24-hour megagrocer in the wee hours of the morning clad in pajamas and giant foam flip-flops. Safeway, Fry's, and Bashas have seemingly everything --from 18 flavors of Doritos to fridge-sized packs of Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper. Yet, there is nothing out of the ordinary or stimulating in those aisles -- nothing to discover

In this week's "Triple shot," SPM finds grocery store alternatives; markets that are full of exciting fare, spices, health foods and bargains. On some sunny afternoon, when the typical grub isn't that appetizing, head on down to one of the following shops and try some tasty, new food.

Phoenix Ranch Market
5833 S. Central Ave., Phoenix
(602) 276-3800
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily

Best reason to go: Perusing the fresh produce while sipping a cool cup of freshly made horchata.

It's a bit of a journey to get to Phoenix Ranch Market, but the incredible produce and low prices will keep ASU's most intrepid students coming back for more. The Ranch Market has typical grocery fare, but with an exciting addition of real, honest-to-goodness Mexican food. That's right; no Rosarita's refried beans.

On the right side of the store lies what appears to be a typical bakery and deli, but rather, it's filled with delicious traditional Mexican baked goods, including the sugary pan found in Mexico City's plentiful panederias.

Next to the bakery, the cafe cooks up fabulous burritos, tacos, tamales, and tostadas in gigantic, inexpensive portions. There are also delicacies including cayenne pepper-coated mangos and spicy corn.

The market itself is large and has everything from Raisin Bran to pinatas. In a stand near the produce, a worker spoons up refreshing cups of jugo de pina, jugo de fresa, horchata, and limonada. The produce at Ranch Market is among the best in the Valley with lower prices and often riper and juicier fare than what "normal" markets carry.

So if you're looking for true Mexican food, then stock up on supplies at the Ranch Market, or just buy a bag of fresh avocadoes and munch a spicy mango.

Gentle Strength Natural Foods Co-Op
234 W. University Drive, Tempe
(480) 968-4831
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Best reason to go: Munching a delicious Evolution Earth sandwich while stocking up on natural cookies and chips.

Gentle Strength Natural Foods may be small, but it holds the key to food minus hydrogenated oils, artificial flavorings and other edible waste. Though the market may be a bit too pricey or limited to fill complete shopping needs on a college budget, it has wonderful items for those interested in organic and natural health food.

For those who are really dedicated to the natural life, Gentle Strength sells all natural shampoo, toothpaste, pet food and other household items. Additionally, they have one of the best selections of bulk herbs and natural medicines.

Gentle Strength is a cooperative, a community investment in which locals own the store. Membership is $30 per year and comes with minimal monthly volunteer requirements. Members, in turn, receive discounts.

The attached cafe, Desert Greens, has an extensive menu of organic, vegetarian and vegan cuisine.

It is tough to eat healthy and resist the urge to gorge on Sonic or Whataburger every day. But this neighborhood co-op makes it a little easier to mix in some good, wholesome foods.

Haji Baba Middle Eastern Food
1513 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe
(480) 894-1905

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Best reason to go: Munching on falafel while loading a cart full of packaged spices, fresh cheeses and exotic juices.

Though small, Haji Baba's never ceases to delight in its exotic array of spices and foods. For those who have dined at trendy new Middle Eastern cafes, but would like to try preparing traditional delicacies at home, Haji Baba has a full arsenal of supplies.

The store stocks packaged bags of fresh spices including coriander, paprika and curry, as well as delicious boxed mixes for an array of Middle Eastern foods. The tabouli and baba ganoush mixes are incredible.

For the more adventurous, Haji Baba carries deli-fresh cheeses, meats and olives. The fresh feta is a welcome accompaniment to any salad or pasta.

The market has a small, attached cafe with inexpensive gyros, hummus, falafel and more. The cafe is open only for takeout on Sundays, but otherwise is a great way to sample foods before trying to prepare them at home.

One-stop shopping Haji Baba is not, but for those with eclectic taste buds (and perhaps a handy Arabic-English dictionary to read labels), the market holds no shortage of delights. From marinated okra and fig jam to rose water and an entire aisle of tea, Haji Baba has real, authentic Middle Eastern specialties and makes them accessible to the home cook.

Reach the reporter at katherine.kelberlau@asu.edu.



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