10 Kinds Of Grocery Stores That Cover Your Every Need

It's always good to inject some variety into your routine.

It's been almost three months since I moved to New Orleans from my home town in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and in this new city, as with any other, I've had to figure out all the best places to go grocery shopping (or as people say here, "make groceries"). That might be easy for some people, but not for me.


I'm not a one-stop grocery shopper or even someone who does well inside superstores like Costco; I'd much prefer to seek out a variety of smaller options. I credit this preference to my mother, a first-generation American who grew up before supermarkets dotted (some might say blotted) the landscape. Her family's routine, like that of many city dwellers, was to patronize multiple stores close to where they lived.

Even when bigger stores arrived, my mother wasn't interested. My aunt Maxine, a research scientist who joined our household when my father died, did the shopping. She would head out with note cards on which my mother had jotted the specific brands, types of produce, and weights of meat and seafood that she wanted. To satisfy her requirements, Maxine had to visit multiple businesses. And when I began doing my own shopping, I adopted the same habit.


Back in Ann Arbor, I didn't give grocery sourcing a second thought, although things got a little challenging during pandemic shortages. But those gave me an opportunity to seek out some places I didn't patronize in the before times, and that experience is helping me find all the best stores in my new city.

Here are 10—yes, 10—different types of stores where I do my grocery shopping. Even if you usually give one store all your business, it's always good to seek out other options. You never know what you might discover.

A source of seasonal, local produce

I want to eat strawberries when they are red and sweet, asparagus when it's crisp, and tomatoes that have summer sensuality. While Ann Arbor and indeed the metropolitan Detroit area are blessed with great sources of produce, from farmer's markets to big growers to individual farms, I have not had as much luck in New Orleans. While the Crescent City Market is held three times a week, my primary supply comes from my farm share box.


A reliable local grocery chain

Big chain grocery stores have always made me uncomfortable. I don't like trying to figure out where things are, and an overabundance of products makes me acutely aware of food waste. I always look for medium-sized, local chains, which often are directly supplied by nearby growers.


Luckily, New Orleans abounds with several good modest-sized grocery chains. Robert Fresh Market has gorgeous stores that look like food museums. I'm a fan of Breaux Mart, which has a store not far from my house, and also is hilarious on social media.

A corner store for emergency shopping

In big cities, people rely on their bodegas, convenience stores, and mom and pop shops when they only want to pick up one or two things. Here in New Orleans, it's often so hot that I can't manage the hassle of a bigger grocery trip. I've become a fan of Zara's, a corner store in the Uptown neighborhood that makes po'boys to order and offers a full selection of prepared foods. Many gas stations have decent grocery sections, as well as fried chicken, plate lunches with your choice of a protein and sides, and yes, po'boys.


An international market

One of the first places I asked friends about when I got here was where I could find groceries for non-American cuisines. It was something I got used to in Ann Arbor, where my neighborhood abounded with Asian stores, including a supermarket, two Asian bakeries, and a bubble tea shop. We had at least five full-sized grocery stores catering specifically to shoppers from Asian and Middle Eastern countries, while a quick trip to Dearborn or Detroit brought even more choices.


New Orleans lacks those individual stores, and instead, it has one international superstore: Hong Kong Market. Despite its name, it has a vast selection in every category with items for many regions of the world, including the Middle Eastern groceries I could find in Dearborn and Latin American groceries for the area's large Hispanic population. The produce section is a standout: If you want any kind of unusual fruit of vegetable, you'll find it there.

A source for bread and baked goods

In a world now filled with artisanal bakers, you want a source for different types of bread and breakfast items. I didn't have high hopes for bagels—I was never able to find good ones in either Boston or Phoenix—but I've struck gold here in New Orleans.


The latest place to open is Flour Moon Bakery, which had a line down its front porch when I visited last Sunday. It's easily on par with New York's best known bagel bakers. Laurel Street Bakery is another good source of bagels, as is Gracious Bakery. Don't sleep on the bagels; these places often sell out.

A gourmet market

I recently wrote about smart shopping in gourmet markets and I've discovered I'm spoiled. Back home, Zingerman's Deli is the ultimate source of specialty items, with competition from Knight's Southside Market, which opened during the pandemic. This is an area where New Orleans could improve. Although Fresh Market has a strong selection, other places have only a few brands of hand-crafted pasta or single-origin chocolate, and that's prompted me to explore other sources.


Less expensive options

I've never known anyone who did all their shopping in Trader Joe's or ALDI, but they are fun places to look for unusual or trendy items as well as staples. That's the same reason people join Costco, Sam's Club, and BJ's, and if you can use massive quantities of toilet paper and bulk bags of snacks, go for it. I recently trekked to the area's only ALDI (more are on the way) and I admit to coming home with doubles on mint chocolate bars.


A place for protein

I have cut way back on eating meat, but I prefer to buy from a local butcher rather than from a grocery store. My mother says my grandmother used to flirt with her butcher and sometimes came home with an extra pork chop or a particularly plump chicken.


Here in New Orleans, I have yet to find a butcher to flirt with, but I have discovered fantastic sources of seafood. One is the shrimp lot in Westwego, Louisiana, across the Mississippi River, where there are multiple vendors selling seafood, including shrimp, crab, and whole or filleted fish. In town, multiple shops advertise boiled (cooked) seafood, the grocery stores feature big displays, and you can even pick up shrimp and crab from roadside vendors.

A liquor store

In the Detroit area, liquor shops are called "party stores" and every community abounds with them. Total Wine arrived in Ann Arbor shortly before I left, and if you've ever been inside, you know that you can spend hours looking at thousands of bottles and many varieties of beer. Ann Arbor also has multiple spots with plentiful options of craft beer, and the Produce Station even has an entire section of zero-alcohol choices.


New Orleans is definitely a drinking town, with drive-thru frozen daiquiri stores and adult beverages readily available. Total Wine is here, as are individual wine stores, but booze, beer, and wine are available everywhere from cheese stores and gourmet groceries to supermarkets. Plus, bars and restaurants have long been allowed to sell drinks to go, a feature that became popular elsewhere during the pandemic years. I haven't seen any place yet that features non-alcoholic beverages to the same degree as spots up north, however.

And finally, dessert

In the past couple of years, Ann Arbor's dessert market has simply exploded. You can get cannoli made to order, Vietnamese shave ice puddings called che, many flavors of soft serve, housemade ice creams, and different types of plant-based frozen desserts. Cake makers abound, sometimes hosting popups in local coffee shops, selling at markets and taking custom orders.


New Orleans, as I've written before, has its own frozen feature called sno-balls, with stands and shops all across the city. There are places to buy gelato, ice cream, and sorbet, and it's easy to find colorful cakes, including those made by Asian bakers. Even Breaux Mart and Rouses have big refrigerator cases with cake slices as well as whole offerings. Never skip dessert.