22 Grocery Stores To Check Out When You’re Sick Of Ralphs
You’ll find banchan, moussaka, stockfish, and a whole lot more at these excellent LA grocery stores.
No offense to Ralphs, but between the long lines, harsh fluorescent lighting, and cashiers who refuse to sell you Allegra-D if you don’t have your license (we know it’s the law, but what the hell?), let’s just say that shopping in LA isn’t always a particularly joyous experience. And while their selection is by no means small, if you’re looking for a very specific ingredient, or just want grocery store sushi that won’t make you sad, things start to get tricky. So we made this: A guide to 22 of our favorite Los Angeles grocery stores and markets, from Indian spice shops to the “Costco of Thai food.” And again, no offense to Ralphs - we proudly carry our Rewards card everywhere we go.
Unlike the final Hunger Games movie, Simply Wholesome is a two-parter we actually really like. Half-restaurant, half-health food market (and full-time Jhené Aiko muse), this popular View Park-Windsor Hills spot carries a comprehensive selection of wellness products like teas, herbs, and vitamins/dietary supplements, as well as hard-to-find natural beauty products, healthy snack foods, and tasty tonics - many of which are made by black-owned independent manufacturers.
California Market in Koreatown is the kind of grocery store you walk into with only a few things on your list, then end up spending two hours inside just exploring. Aside from excellent produce and an extensive seafood counter, there’s also a banchan bar, a stall selling Korean fried chicken, and a Tous Les Jours bakery inside. Oh, and an entire food court on the roof, too. Parking can be downright hellacious in this part of town, but luckily, California Market also has a five-story parking structure attached, with ample spots available.
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African Obichi may be tiny on the inside, but what this Mid-City market lacks in square-footage, it more than makes up for in selection. The small aisles and shelves are jam-packed with all sorts of African and Afro-Caribbean goods - from produce, pounded yams, and stockfish to custard powder, palm oil, and beauty supplies - plus several freezers stocked with goat meat, fish, and moi moi. There’s also bags of flour, spices, banku, and garri, cans of ackee, dried beans, and sacks of shredded cassava. Basically, if you need it, they’ve probably got it... if not here, then at their second store in Hawthorne.
There aren’t many better places to pick up meat than Villalobos, the East Hollywood market specializing in carnes preparadas. Their butcher is a wonderland of incredible meats like costillas, ranchera, or codorniz, each marinated and ready to be thrown directly onto your grill. If you’re looking to do your own prep, you’ll find all kinds of freshly butchered t-bones, ribeyes, and pork chops, too.
Fish King Seafood
Fish King is a Hawaiian market with a massive selection of fish and speciality goods that any home cook should know about. This Glendale spot specializes in sushi-grade and line-caught fish, like hamachi, ahi, albacore, and Scottish salmon, and also has nori and sushi rice for anyone looking to make some at-home rolls. Their poke is also great - be sure to get some as an appetizer for whatever sea feast you’re creating.
Right Choice is a Caribbean and West African market right outside downtown Leimert Park. It might be small compared to other spots on this list (there are only two aisles), but those shelves are packed with everything you’re going to need for tonight’s dinner. You’ll find tropical seasonings and marinades like Trinidad scorpion pepper sauce, Jamaican ginger beer, pounded garri, and produce ranging from tamarind to plantains. If you’re looking to make a day of it, our recommendation would be to spend the afternoon browsing Leimert Park’s other excellent shops and restaurants first, then hitting Right Choice for all the week’s essentials.
Bangluck might be small, but this family-run Thai market in East Hollywood is packed with everything you could want for your at-home feast. There’s an extensive selection of curry pastes, fresh produce ranging from Makrut lime leaves to eggplants, and an entire aisle dedicated to cane sugar. If you’re struggling to find a certain ingredient, there’s also large staff who will all happily point you in the right direction.
Papa Cristo’s is a 72-year-old Greek market/deli at Pico and Normandie and a flat-out LA institution. While we certainly endorse ordering food to-go from their counter (the loukaniko, saganaki, and moussaka are all standouts), Papa C. has everything you need for your Mamma Mia! Zoom party, too. Canned sardines, Greek honey, pistachios in syrup, and every kind of olive oil you could want - it’s a Mediterranean paradise here, and a great holdover until we’re allowed to, you know, actually travel to the Mediterranean.
In any other town, the phrase “massive grocery store on the ground floor of a shopping mall” might have been a turn off, but that’s just a testament to Galleria Market’s success. One of LA’s largest Korean markets, their Olympic Blvd. outpost carries an exceptional variety of fresh seafood, marinated meats, and pre-made banchan, such as gamja bokkeum (sweet, soy-glazed potatoes) and sigeumchi namul (marinated spinach). The produce section here is always stocked with traditional Korean vegetables and seasonal fruits, and their hot foods bar is among the best in town. The lines do tend to get long, but who cares? Parking’s free for up to three hours.
If there’s a better selection of hard-to-find produce in LA than the one at Sasoun, we haven’t found it yet. Walking down their aisles is like a Lorax fever dream, with options like longan, rambutan, burdock root, and four (!) varieties of persimmons (plus all the fruits and vegetables you’d see at your local Ralphs). It’s also a great place to go for Middle Eastern goods, stocking a wide selection of halloumi, tons of spices, and absolutely tremendous house-made muhammara, hummus, and pita chips.
Located just east of Pico and La Cienega, India Spices & Groceries is one of our favorite Indian markets in town. Street parking is abundant, its compact interior guarantees you’ll be out in under ten minutes (even if your shopping list is longer than Infinite Jest), and no matter what’s on your list, ISG is probably going to have it. From essentials like ghee and basmati rice, to hard-to-find spices and produce, this tiny market has you covered.
You go to Bay Cities for The Godmother - their signature deli sub and one of LA’s best sandwiches. But this Santa Monica staple should also be your go-to for Italian ingredients, produce, meats, cheeses, pastas, and just about anything else you need. Most of the action centers around Bay Cities’ deli counter, where The Godmothers (and a full roster of other fantastic sandwiches) are made, but it’s a mistake to skip any of the other aisles and freezers, which are stocked with fresh-made pastas, salamis, conservas, and candies - plus there’s a whole wine room, too. In short, there’s something for every meal… even though, yes, one Godmother is technically big enough for lunch and dinner.
Founded in 1998, Mitsuwa Marketplace is an excellent Japanese supermarket with 11 locations across the country - six of which are here in Southern California. That said, to call Mitsuwa merely a supermarket is underselling it. Along with an astounding array of Japanese dried goods, sauces, meats, and pre-packaged sushi boxes, you’ll also find book stores, cosmetic counters, and an entirely separate food court with stalls selling everything from Japanese donuts to some of the best ramen in LA.
Northgate proves that you can be a chain and still be an excellent grocery store. Originally founded in Anaheim in 1980, Northgate has since expanded to more than 42 locations across Southern California, and become the region’s preeminent Mexican supermarket. While each location has different amenities (guacamole bars, burrito stations, ceviche stalls), one thing you can count on is quality in every aisle you wander down. Whether you’re looking for fresh-baked bolillo or costillas adobadas by the pound, Northgate sets the bar extremely high, and few supermarkets can touch it.
Located in an unassuming storefront on Western Ave., HK Market isn’t much of a looker (we’ll leave that to H Mart - Koreatown Plaza), but if we’ve learned anything from our time in therapy, it’s to never judge a book by its cover. Or whatever. Because in addition to the long rows of fresh produce, pre-made banchan, and excellent kimchi, this Ktown grocery store also serves some of our favorite kimbap around - tightly wrapped balls of rice filled with pickled vegetables, and OK, yes, sometimes American cheese (just trust us), this is the ideal snack for the car ride home.
Located in a nearly six-acre space at the edge of Chinatown, many refer to LAX-C as the “Thai Costco” - but maybe it should be the other way around? A grocery store, wholesale market, and restaurant supply destination, you could name almost anything in the world and LAX-C probably has it. Need fresh produce? LAX-C’s got it. Regional Thai herbs? Check. What about Asian beauty products, coconut milk by the gallon, or an $8,000 religious statue? Yes, yes, and, if you can believe it, yes. There aren’t many grocery stores we’d break our lease for, but if we could move into LAX-C tomorrow, we would.
photo credit: Krystal Thompson
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Roma Market is a lot more than just a sandwich. This little Pasadena grocery store stocks an incredible range of Italian oils, vinegars, conservas, pastas, and cured meats - all of which the owner imports himself from Sicily. In addition to those speciality goods, Roma also stocks house-made sauces, frozen ravioli, and, yes, the best $5.50 sandwich in the world. Just make sure you buy more than a single sandwich.
Open since 1987, Santa Monica’s Tehran Market has long been one of LA’s premier Persian grocers, a reliable source of spices, produce, and sweets for the city’s sizable Iranian population. As such, they’ve also been expanding almost since the day they first opened - their famed Sunday-only kebab grill, run out of the back parking lot, is now open all weekend long, and they’re currently in the final stages of a renovation that will see the addition of hot bar and deli called Filet Run. What hasn’t changed is the sheer scope of everything they sell here; aisles filled with flatbreads, saffron sugar candies, pickled vegetables, teas, and rices, and freezers stocked with cheeses, halal meats, pre-packaged meals, and (of course) pints of Mashti Malone’s ice cream. There’s also rows of spices, a small section of fresh produce, and one of the genuinely nicest staffs in all of LA.
From dazzling sushi to floor-to-ceiling walls of rice crackers, Marukai is a true one-stop-shop. The Japanese grocer carries everything from fresh sashimi to the best waterproof mascara in the world (and has an extensive sake collection to boot), and for just around $10, you can also snag a solid lunch. Their pre-made food section is almost second-to-none, stocked with chicken karaage bentos, expertly packed inari sushi, and sweet, fluffy clouds of tamago. As far as supermarkets go, this could very well be heaven.
A tiny grocery store in Thai Town, Silom has a wide range of Thai goods and cooking utensils, meat, and produce. Despite its size, you’re still going to find something new every time you go in. They’ve got everything you need to cook Thai staples, including many varieties of coconut milk, fresh-made rice noodles, palm sugar, chilies, soy sauces, curries, and fish sauces.
Super King is a grocery store with eight locations across LA and Orange County. Each one is an absolute behemoth, and they carry a huge selection of goods you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere else. They’ve got staples of a wide range of cuisines, from Middle Eastern, to Eastern European, to Latin specialities. We especially like the weekly sales at their butcher counter, where you’ll regularly see lamb shank for $4/lb., filet mignon for $5/lb, and pork chops for $1/lb.
Temple Seafood Market
As the name suggests, you’ll find a wide variety of seafood at this Historic Filipinotown shop, ranging from red snapper and salmon to golden pompano, bangus, and dalagang bukid, all of which you can ask their fishmonger to clean, fry, or grill for you in-store. While you wait, stroll through the rest of the cozy shop and grab a snack (or seven) from their endless supply of glistening pork rinds, BBQ corn chips, and Filipino candies. They also have an entire shelf dedicated to Cheez Whiz (just saying).