For a small town, Maplewood certainly has a lot to offer food shoppers. With three grocery stores within the city limits and a Whole Foods just over the border, virtually any ingredient you need is just a short walk or car ride away. Kings, Extra, A&P and Whole Foods carry some of the same merchandise. Nonetheless, each store brings its own philosophy and off-the-beaten path products to the community—which is certainly a better place for it.
Located in the heart of downtown, Kings specializes in produce (if you need six different kinds of tomatoes, look no further), fresh meats, bakery items (including daily deliveries from the acclaimed Balthazar bakery), and upscale packaged goods (they are the go-to establishment for lingonberries), enabling customers to purchase anything and everything “from every day to fabulous gourmet.” Even though the store is small and space is limited, Kings manages to squeeze in a nice selection of flowers, free recipe print-outs for customers, and a bit of local flavor, offering heirloom tomatoes from South Jersey’s Maugeri Farms which further supports its motto, “expect the unexpected at King’s.”
A&P, which is short for “The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company,” has been providing “fresh thinking for 150 years.” The local branch on Valley Street (which is a stone’s throw away from its neighbor, South Orange’s Pathmark) is a larger outfit that dedicates much of its retail space to a wide variety of packaged goods. Chances are, if your recipe calls for seltzer, gelatin, or stuffing mix, the A&P will have the greatest selection in the area. While it does not have a dedicated seafood counter or bakery, A&P offers a beer and wine section and a rare commodity in town—a parking lot.
Extra Supermarket’s claim to fame is being the self-titled “king of the lowest prices,” however what’s truly unique about the store is its unbelievable selection of multicultural products from Jamaica, El Salvador, Honduras, Ecuador, and Mexico—just to name a few.
“We’re an ethnic supermarket that offers all types of merchandise from different countries to different kinds of people,” explained Mitchel Lopez, general manager of Extra Supermarket. “We try to give the best prices to our customers.”
Virtually every part of the chicken is available for sale at Extra, including necks, gizzards, hearts, feet, and livers. But the offerings don’t stop there. If you’re looking for green coconuts, herring, pork neck bones, turkey tails, quail eggs, or plantain chips, don’t pass go—head straight to Irvington Ave. Extra also sells an impressive array of tortillas (over 15 different kinds), more than 20 types of hot sauce, and over a dozen varieties of rice.
And then there’s the organic mega-store, Whole Foods Market, in Union. The grocer, a massive 60,000 square feet, is priced surprisingly competitively on staples such as milk and cereal (see photo for pricing chart). Everything in the store is organic and natural. (They don’t sell Sweet’N Low or Splenda there, but you’ll find a host of other sweetener options such as agave nectar and cane juice.) Their meats and poultry are raised on vegetarian diets, with no added hormones or antibiotics, and many of their products are locally sourced. Some of the store highlights: a full packaged goods section with soy and rice-based alternatives, a flower center, a fruit juice bar, a coffee stand, a cheesemonger, fresh pasta which is cut to order, a gelato station, and an extensive salad bar featuring the cuisine of the week. There is also an adjoining restaurant on the premises.
“Whole Foods Market wants customers to celebrate the joy of eating and living well,” commented Michael Sinatra, public relations and public affairs manager. “Shoppers rely on us for the freshest, most flavorful, highest quality organic and natural products on the planet.”
Many of Maplewood’s grocers offer their own line of value-priced food products, and all run weekly specials highlighting specific mark-downs and ways to feed families while saving money. Whether it’s a specialty item or a carton of orange juice, or if you’re running in for one item or loading up for the week, choices certainly abound. With all these options, the toughest decision might not be where to shop, but rather, what to cook.
159 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood
Monday through Saturday, 7 am-10 pm
Sunday, 7 am-9 pm
453 Valley Street, Maplewood
Monday through Saturday, 7 am-10 pm
Sunday, 8 am-7 pm
719 Irvington Ave., Maplewood
Monday through Saturday, 8 am-8 pm
Sunday, 8 am-6 pm
Whole Foods Market
2245 Springfield Ave., Union
Monday through Sunday, 8 am-10 pm