Living in a city makes grocery shopping difficult. If you don’t have a car you must limit your purchases to what you can carry and even if you do have a car you might not have a parking spot at your house (i.e. me). Shopping in the city is quite an art. Even those re-usable grocery bags break sometimes, I learned the hard way. If you are lucky enough to have a park spot right at your door, the grocery store itself might be a nightmare!
So, where should residents of the District shop? I’ve heard nightmare stories of lines around the block at the new Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, and sadly, D.C. isn’t too different. In the following paragraphs I will weigh in on my D.C. grocery stores of choice, and the ones I try to avoid!
The worst place you can go is the Whole Foods on P St NW, they are by far the biggest in D.C., but they are also the busiest and therefore get very picked over on the weekends. If you can get there on a Saturday or Sunday before 11am you’ll be fine, but otherwise stay away. It is impossible to get a parking spot, even with the garage, expect to wait 5 to 15 minutes on a weekend. During the week it isn’t as bad, but one time I visited around 8pm on a Tuesday and still had to dodge other 20-somethings and kids raised on soy milk and tofu.
They do have the largest selection of prepared foods in DC, but they are always running out of stock during the busy times. Plus it isn’t even fun to buy over-priced organic sundries when you can barely maneuver your cart. One upside is that there is plenty of seating if you make use of the hot bar and can’t wait until you get home to eat your vegan General Tsaos chicken!
My absolute favorite hidden grocery gem is the Whole Foods in Glover Park it does fill up on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, but NEVER to the extent of the P St Circus. The store is always well stocked and has just as many prepared selections as P St. The butchers are nice and tell you how to cook your meat, they have Mac and Cheese in their hot bar by the deli which P St doesn’t actually have. And, you can always find a parking spot, huge plus. Lastly, the vitamins and toiletries section is totally separate from the rest of the store, it’s like an organic beauty product paradise! The only downside is limited seating if you want to grab some food and eat it there. However, the few times I have I’ve found a spot!
Next, when the wallet isn’t totally in the mood for $100 worth of groceries i.e the WF, the new Harris Teeter on Kalorama Road(near Adams Morgan) is a great bet if you live in the neighborhood. Though smaller than some of its sister stores in Virginia it has everything the others do including the awesome bread, a superstar deli (with sub-par service), lots of produce, good sales, and even a prepared food section. Plus you can’t beat the $3.99 rotisserie chicken on sale every Sunday, it tastes the same as the $10 one at WF.
If you are in the Foggy Bottom area Trader Joe’s is great for stocking up on frozen food, book club meeting appetizers, cheeses and all that other fun stuff they sell. They do a great job of stocking the shelves and even though the lines sometimes appear to be very long, they move quickly and the customer service is great. They have a parking garage and the few times I’ve been a spot was easy to get, but it does get congested on the weekends, so, when in doubt, walk.
Lastly, if you do have a car and some time there are a few great options in Virginia, Harris Teeter in Ballston is a great bet for everything under the sun. It does get busy, but it is so big that parking is easy, lines move fast, and dodgingother shoppers is nothing like P St. If you want to go to the mall and get your groceries you can try the Harris Teeter in Pentagon City, but parking isn’t easy and it’s a little busier than Ballston…
If you want to get your Clarendon on go to the Whole Foods on Wilson Blvd. It is across the street from Clarendon’s Market Common (Apple Store, Crate and Barrel etc, do I sound like this blogger yet?). Though, it can get as busy as P St. and even with a parking lot attendant you may have to wait!
Lastly, I must mention that this review is based on where I live in DC and what is most convenient for me, but I’ve heard great things about the Whole Foods in Tenleytown and the other new Teeter’s that have opened in the District. In case you didn’t already infer, I stay away from Giant at all costs, but if you need a few quick ingredients for something I’ll allow it.
Happy shopping! If you have any other insight please do share.