Four-Star Food Favorites
We invited readers to tell us about their most beloved food institutions. Neighborhood co-ops, farmers’ markets and one-of-a-kind stores and restaurants topped their lists. Below, a flavorful sample. –The Editors
New York City/Le Sueur, Minn.
Paul Wellstone is gone from Minnesota, his loss still felt acutely, but the St. Peter Food Co-op, south of the Twin Cities, continues on strong. Old hippies and new hipsters meet there, the ethos progressive, though an occasional Republican can be found sampling the fare. More than a cooperative grocery store, it offers a self-serve deli and regularly sponsors health and food seminars.
With the food tasty, healthy and often vegan, the St. Peter Food Co-op habit is hard to break. But who’s trying? This establishment, begun in the ’70s, is an influential activist community built around sensible eating.
JJ&F’s grocery store in Palo Alto is surely one of the last old-fashioned family-owned food stores in California, and it’s an integral part of our neighborhood. The prices are reasonable, the produce is fresh and the meat is first-rate, but the same is true of Trader Joe’s. What’s different about JJ&F is the welcoming atmosphere. The owners and longtime clerks greet you by name when you walk in and are glad to exchange news and maybe a little gossip. With a coffee urn near the entrance, it’s as much a social club as a grocery store.
Unfortunately, like most good things today, JJ&F is in danger of closing. The owners of the land want to expand the one-story store to 13,000 square feet and build a high-end office building above it, along with apartments. The city planning commission has balked, saying the project is too big and would clog already limited parking in the area. But at this point no one can be sure what will happen. I do know that for me and many of my neighbors, JJ&F is indispensable–not only as a place to shop but as an expression of community in our increasingly fragmented society.
My vote for the best of our food culture goes to Mission Pie here in San Francisco. Organic, sustainable, local… delicious. These people truly walk the walk. They grow their own wheat for the pie crust (a used combine was shipped in from Indiana) as well as their own fruits, vegetables and other ingredients (chickens, eggs, etc.) for the fillings. And they mentor at-risk inner-city kids in the process of planting, growing and harvesting on the farm and ultimately serving in the shop. The pies, by the way, are always fabulous.