Hispanic Grocery Stores
Shopping for true Hispanic ingredients and foods? Look no farther than into Latin food markets or Hispanic grocery stores that are popping up all around you.
You may think: “I don’t know anything about Hispanic food, I am just starting to use some of the ingredients,” just like many American friends tell me. My reply? Don’t worry about it, just go in the stores and look around to familiarize yourself with the items. Take some time to read the labels and you will be surprised to find that you know many of the products
A typical Latin food market is generally outdoors (as we know it from Latin America) or in specific areas called “mercados” or “plazas de mercado.” These markets carry fresh produce, home made goods like sweets and breads, and in some countries they have a section for sea food.
A “Bodega” is a small store in a neighborhood that carries some Latin food staples depending on the country the bodega owner is from or the sector of the market they are servicing. Pay attention and you will see signs like this: “Mexican Bodega,” “Salvadorian Bodega,” etc.
Bogedas also carry freshly made food from a specific Latin country, therefore you can have lunch after buying some ingredients. These stores are limited in items but very good to find specific foods or ingredients.
A Hispanic grocery store or supermarket is a place that carries many products from several countries from North, Central, and South America. It can be online or a physical store.
A prefect example of an online Latin grocery store is AmigoFoods.com where you can choose a country first to see the products they carry from it. Physical stores of this type are “Compare” and “Ctown.”
Finding Latin Food Markets
The first thing to do is drive with your eyes wide open to spot any new “bodega” or Hispanic grocery store. Many of these small stores are not listed in the phone book, therefore word of mouth and watching where the Hispanics tend to concentrate will lead you to the stores.
If you live in a big city, your Latin grocery stores may be listed in the city guide if the Hispanic concentration is high for a particular area.
If you are looking for a Latin food market that is outdoors, then do an online search. Yes, I know the majority of the results will bring food vendors online that provide you with the products and you have to know what you are looking for. But after combing those results you may find blogs that talk about particular Latin food markets in your area.
If you are just starting to know the products, I recommend you to go in a “bodega” or an outdoor (once a month type) Latino food market that brings Latinos offering excellent produce including goods that you can’t find at regular supermarkets in the ethnic section.
My best tip is to watch the Hispanic concentration in your area including knowing the country they are from. This is why I say so: I can’t find fresh “papas criollas” at a regular supermarket and not even in a Latino supermarket (not specialized in Colombian food) but I can find the ones that come in a jar.
Instead, I prefer to drive to Brentwood (Long island, NY) where we have a large concentration of Colombians, therefore their Hispanic food markets like “Compare” have fresh “papas criollas,” the ones I like to use in my Ajiaco.