Growing up in Southern California, trips to Trader Joe’s were common. Even my Mom who hates grocery shopping didn’t mind a Trader Joe’s outting. Much to my surprise and dismay, when I moved to the East Coast in 1996 there was not a Trader Joe’s to be found.
When stores finally started opening on the East Coast they were never within easy driving distance. During that time I would have my parents send me packages with dried mangoes, Cranberry Trail Mix, Vanilla Meringues, “The World’s Largest Almonds,” and many other great and reasonably priced products. When I went home I would fill up my suitcase with Trader Joe’s goods. I bought vitamins and salsa and cooking sauces when I visited my Grandmother in Falls Church or my friend in Westchester.Finally, after 10 years of waiting, a Trader Joe’s opened in Manhattan this year. I braved the crowds on the first day it opened. I waited in line OUTSIDE to get in to the store in the following weeks. My friend had finally arrived, and crowds and lines weren’t going to keep us apart. The first night it was open I exchanged hugs and declarations of glee, gidddyness and delight with total strangers who shared my love for Trader Joe’s. This all may sound a little ridiculous to the uninitiated, but to the true Trader Joe’s devotee, you understand.
Well, now that the Union Square store in Manhattan has been open for more than six months the lines are still long (though only the checkout line, I no longer have to wait outside just to get in the store) but definitely worth the wait.
They have every variety of nut and trail mix you could possibly want. And forget those ridiculous prices charged at regular grocery stores – $3-4 for a four oz bag of almonds – at Trader Joe’s you will pay that much for a whole pound. Trader Joe’s prices are LOW and the quality is high. They also have products you wouldn’t find other places – frozen roasted peppers, frozen tamales almost as good as home, a 10 pound chocolate bar. I don’t even like chocolate and I can appreciate this.
TJ’s (as his friends know him) also has a gluten free list that I found quite useful when I was newly diagnosed. Now I know how to navigate the store and read the labels without the list but it was a gift during those first few months.
Not all TJ’s have the same offerings. They work to provide the freshest items at each of their stores so certain items are only available regionally. The Union Square TJ’s currently has two gluten free bread options – the Food For Life pecan bread and Trader Joe’s brand French rolls. The rolls are not my favorite but I am glad to have the option.
They have a wide selection of gourmet cheeses. I plan on doing most of my shopping for my holiday party here.
They have broths, soups, and Indian and Thai meals (perfect for travel) with “gluten free” right on the label. In the past few years they have also expanded their stores to include produce, meat and fish. Get your organic apples at a fraction of the cost of most grocery stores.Try the Chicken Chile Verde next time you stop by. It’s my most recent discovery. My severe lack of Mexican food offerings in NYC has been partly remedied by having Trader Joe’s a short subway ride away. It’s has a great flavor without being too heavy or greasy.
There are so many options at Trader Joe’s you won’t get bored. I keep hoping they will open more in NYC. At least then I might not have to wait 20 minutes in line to check out on a busy night. Thankfully I can still do some shopping while I’m in line.
Is there a restaurant or bakery you want me to check-out? A product you want me to review? Any other questions or feedback?
glutenguide at gmail [dot] com