Western Beef will always be my favorite utilitarian grocery store, but when I’m suburban-ing it up as I’m wont to do every month or so, I lean on Shop Rite. It seems kind of the same as Stop & Shop, which I’ve had an on and off again relationship with, but it’s a little more quirky, open 24-hours so you can have the place to yourself at night (because most people have better things to do at 11pm on a Saturday) and they sell Greek yogurt (three brands at that–I eat this nearly every day so a store without it is most unhelpful) unlike S&S or Western Beef.
I’m specifically referring to a Linden, New Jersey location at Aviation Plaza; I can’t speak to the whole chain. This is an area I’m growing fond of in general because it satisfies most of my rudimentary shopping needs and desire for breathing room (never mind that it’s a 20-mile drive, $16 in tolls and I’m not calculating gas). Despite the sense that there is a sizable African American and Eastern European population (the ATMs have Russian as a language choice and there’s a Polish & Slavic credit union in the same strip mall. You can tell a lot from an ATM. My bank, Capital One, formerly North Fork, formerly Greenpoint, which I only joined because it was the most convenient bank when I lived in Queens, is the house bank at this Shop Rite and even has an office right inside the entrance with two sit-down windows. The fast cash option here is $40, the lowest I’ve seen. In Carroll Gardens it’s $60 and the Wall St. branch near my office it’s a whopping $100. You can also choose to take increments of $10 from this ATM, which is something I haven’t seen offered since my Portland days and they probably are up to a $20 minimum by now.) it feels like a Roseanne neighborhood.
There’s a bowling alley, taverns and lots of ratty motels. If there were a slew of used car dealerships, junk/thrift stores and no Italian delis, it would be the type of no nonsense environs my grandparents lived in when I was in grade school (when they weren’t living in a mobile home in our yard—I’m not joking, though it was probably only for a few months it seemed like a year in kid time).
If it weren’t for the pesky problem of getting to Manhattan for work, I would buy in New Jersey, this part of New Jersey, definitely not the areas teeming with garish new construction. House/condo buying is a real possibility in the next year (through no means of my own) and I like to pretend that I have some say in the matter. I’ve also been entertaining nearby Red Hook but isolation and scrappiness shouldn’t cost $1 million-plus. Same goes for Gowanus. I don’t like being in the thick of things; I want to grow out my nasty gray hair in peace…er, and then go check out a new restaurant. Food is really the one thing that keeps me enamored with NYC. It’s certainly not the people. Though I’m not there yet and may never be, I do understand why at this very moment my sister and her British husband are scoping out property in rural Southern Oregon (I’m still not sold on the idea of a cob house, however).
But back to Shop Rite. They aren’t perfect by any means (and apparently there was a lazy-eyed fat woman with a pregnant accomplice robbing people in aisle nine a few years ago). They don’t have those self-serve bottle return machines that are not only rare in the city, but always hogged by the homeless (hey, five-cent refunds aren’t just for the destitute). I was thwarted by their lack of loose green beans or even prepackaged ones in Styrofoam and plastic wrap. They only had $3.99 bags of organic, which I wasn’t buying.
But they do have maraschino cherries in rainbow colors. Yes, I’m obsessed with the Roland cherries.
And they have ethnic candles and cookware. I have no idea what ethnic cookware is and don’t think they mean woks. I also love that brands La Fe and La Cena are mushed together into single lowercase words.
I don’t generally hang out in the boxed baking mixes aisle so I was surprised at the amount of molten cake madness on the shelf. Americans love the warm and gooey. Those soft-centered monsters are my biggest culinary pet peeves next to Tuscan kitchens. I will admit to being tempted by the 150-calorie microwavable Betty Crocker Warm Delights Minis even though (or maybe because) sugar is my enemy.
Obviously, there’s more to Shop Rite than snack food and candles but that’s for another time. I have my loyalty card so there’s no doubt I will return for more than just savings.
Shop Rite * 637 W. Edgar Rd. Linden, NJ