2016 Grocer guide for the Iowa City area

No matter how you grocery shop—once a week or on the daily, at the supermarket or at the hole-in-the wall grocer—be sure to visit these purveyors to find out what’s fresh.

The bigger, better supermarket

Popping up all over these days are grocers who seemingly handle it all. Coffee shops and cafés hover near the entrances, drawing shoppers in. Store aisles are lined with everyday staples and a selection of international standards. The chef-staffed kitchens are now preparing meals to order for eat-in diners, and at most places, you can even order a beer or a glass of wine and enjoy it at a bar.

Bread Garden Market, Iowa City
Bread Garden Market, Iowa City

Bread Garden Market

225 S. Linn St., Iowa City

A full-service option with great prepared foods and an enticing salad and hot bar, as well. An expanded outdoor patio invites shoppers to relax in the warmer months and the wine bar has a curated selection of seasonal wines and tap beers from ReUnion Brewery. Items you better have in your cart include the Local Certified Angus Beef from the meat counter and fresh baked hearth breads.

New Pioneer Food Co-op, Iowa City
New Pioneer Food Co-op, Iowa City

Lucky’s Market

1668 Sycamore St., Iowa City

Swing by Lucky’s Market, the newest grocery store in town, and you’re greeted with a fresh, welcoming environment that feels a bit like a Trader Joe’s. Before you do any shopping, head over to the the bar and get yourself a bargain beer ($2) or glass of wine ($3)––your cart has a drink holder so you can sip while you shop. Best items to score here? There are great deals to be had on produce—many locally or organically grown—and Wednesdays are Double Ad days, when sales flyers from both the prior and upcoming week are valid.

New Pioneer Food Co-op

3338 Center Point Rd. N.E., Cedar Rapids
22 S. Van Buren St., Iowa City
1101 2nd St., Coralville

In both the Coralville and Cedar Rapids stores, enjoy a dine-in experience and feast on organic and locally sourced salads, sandwiches and soups, and even take a cooking class to fuel creativity in your own kitchen. At any location, the cheese department is tops and the small but all-you-really-need liquor selection piques interest with small-batch bitters, drinking vinegars and specialty bottles. When you go, stock up on fancy cocktail mixers and Drunken Goat cheese.

Lucky's Market, Iowa City
Lucky’s Market, Iowa City

The niche grocer

If convenience matters not to you, take an afternoon and drive from one store to the next to stock your carefully curated pantry with treats from around the world. With an abundance of specialty grocers highlighting cuisine from all parts of the globe, you’ll easily find the exotic spices or not-so-ordinary meats you need to complete your dinner party menu.

Chong’s Supermarket

905 2nd St., Coralville

At this shop on the Coralville Strip, you can find a wide variety of shelf-stable Asian foods and a large selection of fresh produce. Get hooked on Yank Sing Pepper Sauce if you aren’t already, snag some in-season persimmons and pick up a few of the bargain-priced sheet facial masks at the checkout counter.

Chong's Supermarket, Coralville
Chong’s Supermarket, Coralville


760 Ruppert Rd., Iowa City

Maybe your new wine shop? Aldi’s adds a bit of levity to the standard wine conversation these days. Recently, a handful of their regularly featured wines garnered high ratings and championship awards. Other wine rooms may boast many more top-tier choices that entice a variety of palates, but for the quirkiness, buy a case of the Broken Clouds label wine. You’ll have a laugh every time you open a bottle.

Saigon Market

803 2nd Ave., Cedar Rapids

Saigon Market sells the freshest Asian produce in town. And if you don’t know what to do with the foot-long pale green bumpy gourd in your hand, they’ll give you a recipe. You’ll also find an abundant selection of rice and noodles, any Asian sauce you may need and, if you’re lucky, roasted duck. In the check out line, grab some Asian snacks: Mr. Brown, canned iced espresso with milk, or Haw Flakes, akin to a tart Necco Wafer.

Stringtown Grocery

2208 540th St., Kalona

Visit this destination shop for a simpler take on shopping. Run by the local Amish community, this modest store is filled with packaged bulk items like grains, nuts, spices and snacks. Stock up on local eggs, cheeses and Amish-raised beef and poultry. Be sure to bring cash or check as they do not accept credit cards. Do not leave here without a Kalona Bar, a housemade ice cream treat for just $1.50!

Taj Mahal Restaurant Grocer

3939 Center Point Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids

Taj Mahal Restaurant boasts a grocery filled with homemade Indian sweets, samosas, colorful grains and legumes, and any kind nut you can imagine. Smells of Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer waft through the grocery from next door and compel you to buy Aloo Bhujia, a spicy fried potato noodle snack, and Besan Laddu, sweetened gram flour balls, a favorite of the young woman working the register, who promises you can’t eat just one.

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