Viva El Mercado: Food City

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This week we are bringing you reviews of three Valley Mexican grocery store chains, in honor of the opening of Walmart's Supermercado. Wednesday, we brought you Walmart; yesterday was Phoenix Pro's Market. Today, Basha's Food City.

Local grocery icon Eddie Basha was an early adopter in the Mexican grocery game. His Food City store near 19th Avenue and Indian School (1940 W. Indian School Road, www.myfoodcity.com for more Valley locations) is a great example of his business acumen and eye on market share. This Food City tosses out Mexican specialties like it ain't no thing. Instead of feeling gimmicky, corporate, or a trip out of the country, this feels like a neighborhood grocery store. And there might well be one in your neighborhood, with 62 Arizona locations in the chain.

Authenticity and Price - Nothing about Food City feels contrived or forced. The tortillas are made on site. The grilled chickens were the biggest of the bunch we found on our shopping expeditions, and at $6 still feel like a steal. The other stores should take Food City's lead and roast batches of chiles on site. For $1.49 you get a huge bag, filled to capacity, and still warm to the touch. No taco meat, but top sirloin at $1.79 was the deal of the day. Food City also won the lime price wars at 3 pounds for 99 cents. Carne asada is found in the deli, as it should be, along with the usual suspects. Pan nuevo are a mere 40 cents a piece, and bolillo bread was 4 for a $1.

Packed with families, this feels like a neighborhood favorite. The smallest of the three we visited this week, the selection is edited to the most popular Latino market brands. Folks craving things like huitlacoche, for example, will have to look elsewhere.

Atmosphere - Brightly lit, with the requisite ranchero music, this store felt like a Mexican neighborhood store. Pinatas hang from the ceilings and displays are appealing, but Food City is strictly business. All of the signs are in English,the staff is friendly, and everyone we encountered spoke English. Filled with families of all kinds shopping for cookouts, this just feels like grocery shopping in central Phoenix.

General Grocery Store-ness - Yup, it's a grocery store. Selection here seems to be more limited by size than by target market. You'll find Diet Coke, shampoo, and all the gossip mags at the counter, placed next to their Spanish speaking counterparts.

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