Evanston’s Best Grocery Stores

January 27, 2023

The first ever grocery store as we know it today was created in 1916. It was a Piggly Wiggly in Memphis, Tennessee. The store was an instant hit and spawned countless others like it all across the world. If a school is the soul of a community, then it could be said that the grocery store is the kitchen. Here then, are the top three “kitchens” in Evanston as voted by the students at ETHS.

Winner: Trader Joe’s

Photo courtesy of Emma Thomas

Winner: Trader Joe’s

From caesar salads to delicious desserts, Trader Joe’s has everything you need to satisfy your nutritional (and less-nutritional) needs. Their wide range of vegetables, meals, snacks and drinks satisfy nearly everyone’s dietary preferences and cravings. 

I’ve gone to Trader Joe’s since it opened in 2013, and it’s barely changed over the years. Although COVID-19 has closed down countless good businesses that will be missed, Trader Joe’s has managed to remain open and stay relatively the same. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people’s favorite part of Trader Joe’s was the purple stuffed animal named “Ozzy the Octopus.” Every day it would be hidden in a different place around the store, and little kids would walk up and down every aisle searching for the purple octopus so they could get a prize from the cashier at checkout. 

“My earliest memory of Trader Joe’s is trying to find Ozzy the Octopus so I could get a lollipop, my favorite were the pomegranate-flavored ones,” says Grace Puricelli, a sophomore at ETHS. 

Trader Joe’s is a very popular and well-loved source of food. Some people have shopped at Trader Joe’s their whole lives and created wholesome childhood memories there that separate it from other grocery stores. 

“I think the difference between Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores in Evanston is the community, I really like the home-like vibe,” says Puricelli.

Numerous people agree that Trader Joe’s is popular due to its friendly and community-oriented atmosphere. Something that highly contributes to Trader Joe’s atmosphere is its employees, who are very friendly and helpful. 

“Trader Joe’s is a lot cheaper, workers are a lot friendlier, and in my opinion they’re more unique. They’ve got a lot of in-brand stuff, so we get a lot more unique stuff you can’t find anywhere else,” says senior Marco Conde, an employee at Trader Joe’s.

Not only is it enjoyable to be a customer there, but according to Conde, it’s also a good place to work. 

“It’s a very flexible place to work, we get to choose our own hours, we have a lot of freedom with that. It’s just a really nice place to work, everyone’s really friendly and it’s a really open environment.” 

Even though Trader Joe’s has a lot of upsides and tends to receive positive feedback, like any business, it also has downsides and things it could improve on. 

“I think Trader Joe’s could improve by having foods that connect to others’ individual cultures,” Puricelli expressed, “it would be nice to have everyone go there for whatever holiday they are celebrating and for them to be able to get their cultural foods.” 

Trader Joe’s is popular for their wide variety of different foods, but their variety of different cultures could be a lot wider. Most of the foods are overall very American-based and a fair amount of people think Trader Joe’s could use some more cultural diversity. 

“I think that Trader Joe’s could be more open to training the workers because in the past they didn’t really train me,” Conde revealed, “they just kind of threw me in and expected me to learn. Which I have, but it was kind of stressful to start off with.” 

Even though Trader Joe’s has a few things to improve on, a great number of people are huge fans and see themselves shopping at Trader Joe’s for as long as they’re alive. As Puricelli declared; “I will always go to Trader Joe’s as much as I can, when I move out I will still go. My hope is that there will be a Trader Joe’s close to where I go for college.”

When the ups and downs of Trader Joe’s are observed, overall it seems like a very nice grocery store that people have more good things to say about than bad, and I think that its popularity will only continue to grow.

Runner-Up: Valli Produce

Runner-Up: Valli Produce

Alfredo Presta, an Italian immigrant, opened Valli intending to bring the nostalgic cuisine from his childhood in Valli, Italy, to his new home in America. The first Valli Produce store was opened in Arlington Heights, and has since been spreading slowly but surely across Illinois cities throughout the next thirty years.

Evanston’s Valli Produce lies in Evanston Plaza, in an outcrop of local stores, restaurants, and community spaces. Nestled in between the local Goodwill and several small businesses, the Valli sign is visible from blocks away. The 2015 opening of Valli marked an appreciation of the diverse communities and cultures in and around Evanston. 

“I was at the grand opening of Valli Produce,” senior Ayla Conn recalls. “Me and my friend went with Dance Center Evanston to see the ribbon cutting ceremony. They have an astounding variety of pasta, I remember laying on the floor of the pasta aisle.”

Valli Produce was not only one of the first grocery stores in the area with international and ethnic cuisines, but also fulfilled a need for produce and groceries in the second ward. Prior to the opening of Valli, the nearest grocery store was the Jewel Osco on Chicago Avenue, a trip that would require a car to comfortably make.

“I think it’s better than Jewel Osco, it’s more efficient. The workers are always restocking the shelves and they’re interested in helping you,” says sophomore Andy Mertz. “At Jewel Osco, you don’t really see them around the store. There’s not much help you can get.”

Many Evanston residents consider Valli Produce to be their go-to grocery store. One such Evanstonian is senior Delilah Salzinski, whose parents are both professional chefs.

“They have a lot of good quality products and ingredients, and it’s nice that you can walk in and get a quick meal. My family does the majority of our shopping at Valli.”

Now, almost ten years after its opening in Evanston Plaza, Valli continues to be a go-to for Evanstonians to find international food selections for an inexpensive price. It specializes in Italian and Greek foods, but also has a wide selection of foods from India, Spain, Asia, Poland, the Middle East, and Latin America.

“People who live around here who don’t like American food or are from somewhere else can go there to find foods from their hometown,” says Mertz. “I think it’s important to celebrate that.”

Third Place: Whole Foods

Sadie Dowhan

Third Place: Whole Foods

Evanston is home to many popular grocery stores, but none of them compare to the unique experience you have at Whole Foods. Rows full of high-quality fruits and vegetables, fresh ingredients, and hot or cold bars of food available for takeout are just the beginning of what awaits you in Whole Foods. 

Out of all the Evanston grocery stores, residents agree that Whole Foods is one of the best. Whole Foods’ proximity to the Northwestern campus is beneficial since students can easily get groceries along with Evanston locals.

“The location of Whole Foods on Chicago and Church is convenient because there are parking options, it has large sidewalks with good pedestrian safety, and it is in the heart of downtown Evanston, [giving] it a sense of purpose,” says Senior Nasir Sims. 

 Whole Foods is an exclusive store. Something that makes it so is Amazon’s ownership of the chain.

“Being able to make returns in seconds with no box is super helpful. It’s something that no other store has. We often utilized many grocery deliveries from Whole Foods, which were quick and easy,” says Sims, whose experience with grocery stores has been unique because of his vegan diet.

Whole Foods is my favorite grocery store in Evanston because of all of the availability of vegan options like Soul Vegan Lasagna, Salted Carmel Cluster Cashew Milk Ice Cream, [and the] Daiya Vegan Mac and Cheese,” he says.

The Evanston Whole Foods is a place where everyone can shop to have a positive experience. It provides a multi-faceted and low-stress environment, from walking through the aisles to killing time to enjoying food in the sitting area. With its bright and fresh ambiance, Whole Foods doesn’t disappoint.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Evanstonian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of the Evanstonian. We are planning a big trip to the Journalism Educators Association conference in Philadelphia in November 2023, and any support will go towards making that trip a reality. Contributions will appear as a charge from SNOSite. Donations are NOT tax-deductible.

The Evanstonian • Copyright 2024 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in

Donate to The Evanstonian
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Evanstonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *