When you're roaming the aisles of your local chain supermarket, it's not always easy to find exactly what you're looking for -- especially if that something happens to be purple yams, Asian stink fruit, Russian black bread, or Turkish coffee beans.
Unless you consider 45 feet of chips and soda interesting, American supermarkets are B-O-R-I-N-G.
When we're in dire need of a little grocery adventure (or we need to find that one special ingredient), we like to get our foreign fix from these 10 Valley markets.
10. Yasha from Russia -- Park around the back of this shop just off 32nd Street and prepare to enter into the world of Russian eats. Yasha imports just about anything your little Russian heart desires, including a huge selection of smoked fish, Russian sausage, dry goods, pickles, chocolates, and beer. The shop even bakes Russian black bread, which is perfect for slathering with butter and caviar. The owner, Yasha himself, is an interesting character with a huge personality. He's probably going to talk to you. He's super-helpful and can be charming at times. And if he offers to show you around, take him up on the offer.
9. Lee Lee's Oriental Supermarket -- Southwest Mesa has its fair share of Asian markets, but most of them can't hold a candle to the mega-giant Lee Lee's Asian Superstore. We've spent hours wandering the aisles looking at everything the store stocks on its expansive shelves. Each aisle is marked by nationality, and Lee Lee's has even thrown a few tastes of the Caribbean and South America into the mix. Be on the lookout for authentic Colombian cream soda and Jamaican ginger beer, traditional kimchee, African fufu flour, and a huge selection of various rices, rice papers, and Japanese candies. If you don't mind the smell, check out the live fish tanks in the back.
8. Pro's Mesa Ranch Market -- It's a fiesta every time we stroll into this eastside mega-market -- Pro's even has mariachis playing on the weekends. If you're looking for a spot to score perfectly marinated carne asada, fresh housemade tortillas, some of the biggest (and cheapest) jalapeños we've seen, and a refreshing cantaloupe agua fresca, this is your spot. The Mesa supermarket stocks its butcher cases with every cut of beef and pork imaginable and its bakery cases are filled to the brim with beautiful cakes and pastries. It even has a full-blown restaurant inside the store in case you need to take a break from the packed aisles -- and it's always packed.
7.Haji Baba Middle Eastern Market -- Most people visit this tiny Tempe store for their super-cheap gyros and filling falafels. We're just as guilty but when we're here, we never pass up an opportunity to browse the tiny store's aisles for exotic spices and fruit preserves. The store stocks all the Mediterranean staples -- frozen lamb kebabs, beautiful canisters of imported olive oil, and jars of fig spreads. It doesn't have a produce department but you will occasionally find a box or two of fresh squash or onions up by the register.
6. Yusef's Middle Eastern Restaurant, Grocery and Deli -- Need a whole lamb? Yusef's has 'em. Need all the awesome spices to transform that lamb into something spectacular? Yusef's can help you out with that, too. If you're not paying attention, you could easily drive right past this strip-mall spot off Cave Creek Road just south of Greenway. The bite-size Mediterranean market stocks its shelves with everything from canned grape leaves to giant vats of olive oil to bulk spices. Its produce selection is sparse, but what is available is bright and fresh. The pita bread selection is excellent, and the folks behind the counter are always super-friendly and helpful.
5. La Tolteca Mexican Market -- More restaurant and bakery than Mexican market, this downtown Phoenix staple is our favorite place for tacos and churros, but we also absolutely love to browse the market side while we're waiting to stuff our faces. It's stocked with the basic necessities for a home-cooked Mexican meal: tortillas made from scratch, spicy salsas, bright peppers, flavorful meats, and queso, as well as giant pots and pans. The meat and cheese selection is far better than what you'll find at Food City, and they have a great selection of hot sauces. Stock up on the good stuff in between burrito visits (and don't forget the churros!).
4. Olive Tree Mediterranean Market -- This family-owned North Phoenix Mediterranean market and grill has a fantastic selection of Middle Eastern canned goods, house-cured olives, sticky sweet baklava, and tasty marinated peppers. The Jordanian owners are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and if you make it out to that side of town be sure to stay and eat. They make a mean lentil soup.
3. DeFalco's Italian Deli & Market -- If you're looking to cook up an authentic Italian meal, you're going to need authentic ingredients. DeFalco's stocks every kind of pasta imaginable and even has a stock of of fresh pasta and mozzarella in its small coolers. Pasta sauces straight from Italy, boxes of chewy almond and nougat candies, fresh loaves of crusty Italian bread, and, of course, a nice selection of salamis and Italian sausages (we love the hots!). Try not to get sidetracked by the amazing sandwiches coming out of the kitchen. You wouldn't want to spoil your dinner.
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2. Baiz Market -- This market is worth a trip off the beaten path for a piece of outstanding baklava and a bag of Turkish coffee beans. The little market has an awesome meat counter stocked with fresh cuts of lamb and goat, a beautiful produce section filled with greens, and its dairy section is full of various yogurts and cheeses. For a real treat, head to the bakery in back of the store for a bag of fresh-baked pita bread. It's some of the best in town. Baiz is also home to a Lebanese restaurant that serves up bowls of thick hummus, fresh baked cheese pies, and spicy chicken shawarma. Eat all these things before you start shopping (you can thank us later).
1. Mekong Supermarket -- If you're on a mission for purple yams to make those amazing looking cupcakes you saw on Foodgawker or you're in dire need of a parrot fish to grill up for an exotic meal, then you need to check out Mekong. The Vietnamese marketplace offers one of the most beautiful fish displays we've seen and has an extensive selection of exotic produce. And it's all very cheap. The aisles are stocked high with various cans of sweet milks, canned coffee drinks, fish sauces, chili oils, and dried snacks. Plus, they have a fantastic frozen food section that has rows of products that we've never seen before. They don't have a bakery but the AA Wholesome Bakery is just right next door.
All our favorites lists also are available on our Best Of app -- see it in action here. And check out our other lists: 10 Favorite Breakfast Places 10 Favorite International Markets 10 Favorite Spots for Crepes in Greater Phoenix 11 Favorite Phoenix Beers 10 Favorite Spots for Seafood in Greater Phoenix 10 Favorite Gelato Spots 10 Favorite Burrito Joints in Metro Phoenix 10 Favorite Spots for Wings in Metro Phoenix 11 Things to Eat and Drink Before You Leave Phoenix Ten Favorite Phoenix Hot Sauces and Salsas Top Ten Spots for Mac 'n' Cheese in the Valley Three Favorite Espresso Shots in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Farmers' Markets Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Eleven Favorite Favorite Places for Sushi in the Valley Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Cupcakes Eleven Favorite Barbecue Joints in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Wine Bars Ten Favorite Phoenix Irish Restaurant & Pubs Six Favorite Specialty Cocktails in Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Craft Beer Bars Ten Favorite Gourmet Pizza Shops in the Valley Five Favorite Japanese Restaurants in Phoenix Ten Favorite Margaritas in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Coffee Shops in Phoenix Five Favorite Thai Restaurants in Metro Phoenix Eleven Favorite Ice Cream Shops in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Phoenix Happy Hours Five Favorite Sonoran Dogs in the Valley Ten Favorite Hot Dogs in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Desserts in Phoenix Ten Favorite First Date Restaurants Ten Favorite Burgers in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Downtown Phoenix Restaurants for Late Night Dining Ten Favorite Vegetarian Entrees in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in Greater Phoenix