Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Sioux Falls Grocery Scene: The Introduction

If you truly love to cook, you should probably also love to go to the grocery store and find good ingredients to cook with.  If the size of grocery stores these days and the variety available is any indication, then the whole country must be refining its tastes and demanding more and better ingredients.

Here in Sioux Falls, there are probably less grocery stores in town than there were 20 years ago.  Let's see around 1988, give or take a few years, there used to be Hy Vee, Albertson's (or maybe it was Randall's then), Sunshine, Prairie Market, some of the neighborhood grocers like Andy's and the Franklin Food Market, and probably a few other places I cannot remember. 

Back then, grocery stores were pretty ubiquitous.  They all carried the same things, more or less.  As far as ethnic foods, you might find a can of Chung King chop suey and some soy sauce in the "Chinese" aisle and maybe some Old El Paso refried beans or Pace salsa in the"Mexican" area.

Now, the Sioux Falls grocery scene is pretty much dominated by Hy Vee and Sunshine.  Oddly, there was a time when the Hy Vee store on 33rd and Minnesota was one of, if not the, largest grocery store in the state.  That has changed pretty fast in the last two or three years.

Twenty years ago, it was tough to swing a dead cat and miss one of those little Sunshine stores 8th and Spring, 10th and Cleveland, and my personal favorite 33rd and Minnesota where, circa 1988 icy cold six packs of Miller Genuine Draft in bottles always rang up at $1.89 regardless of what the price on the shelf said.

Now we have grocery palaces here in Sioux Falls- especially the new Hy Vee stores.  Sunshine has built a new store at 57th and Cliff that has to be as nice a venue as Sunshine has ever occupied.  With the new stores has come services and products unlike any we have seen in Sioux Falls.  We have full service meat counters, fresh seafood selections, bakeries, full selections or organic and natural foods, deli service, full wine, beer and liquor selections, and wide choices of all sorts of other products.  Oh yeah, even Wal-Mart sells groceries and has some nice selections.  (Note: The Fork hates Wal-Mart for a number of reasons.  So, rather than devote time to saying nasty things about Wal-Mart and how it has done more to ruin the U.S. than help it, we'll just ignore Wal-Mart.)

We also have new specialty markets in Sioux Falls like Look's and Cleaver's.  Even World Market offers interesting specialty foods.

Altogether, we have it pretty good, but we still have things to talk about, and will in the coming days and weeks.  For instance:
  • Is the one-stop-get-your-groceries-and-booze-here arrangements good?  Sure, it's handy to roll into a store where you can get a bottle of cheap Sauvignon Blanc to use in your shrimp scampi recipe, but will the inevitable loss of small, local liquor retailers a good thing?
  • Bread.  We have a lot to discuss here.  How can Hy Vee offer varieties of soy ice cream, but can't offer a decent loaf of made-in-the-store French bread?  For that matter, why can't Sunshine offer decent French Bread?
  • Meat.  Pricing, quality, service, and selection.  Lots to complain about here.
  • Produce.  Who's got the good stuff and who doesn't?
  • Deli.  We have nice delis in almost every store in Sioux Falls.  Can we increase the quality to match the quantity?
Gotta watch Top Chef now.  Have fun, eat well, live well, and stay tuned.


Pete said...

O.K. So we have how many grocery stores in this town, and yet I can't get a good steak, good bread and good wine without making threes stops. It is pathetic.

Kelli said...

While the selection has changed, I think the quality of produce available has decreased. I can't tell you how many times I have picked up an Avocado at Hy-Vee and Sunshine that is either hard as a rock or is so over-ripe that it should be thrown out.

Sioux Falls lacks any options for good produce, other than the Farmer's Market during the summer.

Sam said...

More does not mean better. I prefer to get my ethnic foods from local ethnic grocery stores, like the Asian store over by John Morrell's.

Mike Haas said...

So I'm in Sioux Falls for a few months, recently arrived, and having a hell of a time finding any real food options. Are there any seafood markets? Specialty ethnic markets? Anywhere I can get good artisan meats and cheeses? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Sunshine Foods isn't really cutting it.

The Secret Fork said...

Mike, there are a lot of treasures in Sioux Falls, but you need to look for them. As far as fresh fish goes, you are not going to find any stand-alone fresh seafood markets. Nevertheless, I suggest you check out Hy Vee, particularly at 37th & Minnesota on Wednesday and Look's on Friday. Look's has some pretty amazing stuff on Fridays, like entire loins of sushi grade ahi. Hy Vee is not too shabby either. Frankly, dude, this far from any salt water means you have to adjust your expectations a bit, but I have found both of these places have great options.

Ethnic markets we got and are getting more. There is an Asian market over by John Morrell on Rice Street. Really great place. You can't miss it. They have tons of great stuff ranging from fresh produce to dried items to lots of kinds of soy sauce. Be prepared to spend some time looking around, but it's a great adventure. There are also several Mexican mercatos around. I haven't checked out Nikki's new place on 8th street, but it looks great and I am planning on stopping in soon.

You can find some exceptional artisan choices around. Check out Look's, Cleaver's and Taylor's Pantry. Also, check out The Market On Phillips. Each has a selection of good quality cheeses and meats. I particularly recommend The MArket for some great unique choices.

One great thing about Sioux Falls is that it doesn't take long to drive across town. Keep the better part of a Saturday open. Hit the Farmer's Market and then spend the day exploring the options for fresh foods, restaurants, and bars.