9 International Grocers Thriving In Nation's Most Competitive Grocery Market
During his visit to the US, Houston's grocery stores left former USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium Chairman Boris Yeltsin speechless. Since then Houston's grocery market has gained a nationwide reputation. Major players often get the headlines, but these smaller grocers thriving in their own submarkets show just how cutthroat the competition is.
3800 Little York Road, Houston, TX 77093
Located at Little York and 59, don’t expect to find all the basics of a supermarket, but do expect to find some of the finest Mexican items in the Houston area. The homemade guacamole will make any Texan's heart sing. The store is like stepping into a little Mexico, complete with street food like corn-in-a-cup, which is worth the wait. Mi Tienda is a cultural experience every Houstonian should stop and experience at least once. The full chicken with rice and tortillas is not to be missed for $6.
Rani's World Foods
16711 Hollister Road, Houston, TX 77066
Houston has a few Indian grocery stores, but Rani’s World Foods in North Houston is the best. The owners (seen here rolling ladoos) know what they’re doing, and their hospitality is wonderful. All the Indian food classics are in fine form in the establishment's restaurants. You’ll want to come back just for the samosas. The grocery is extremely clean and stocked with all the high-quality Indian ingredients you can imagine. With owners as lovely as the food, you’ll find yourself wanting to come back again and again.
99 Ranch Market
2366 Rice Blvd, Houston, TX 77005
It doesn’t get much better than 99 Ranch. Texans will understand when I say it is the H-E-B of Asian supermarkets. There are six restaurants serving up delicious authentic cuisine. The aisles aren’t cramped like other Asian markets. The bakery is full of fresh, fluffy, tasty treats made daily. Be careful, you can easily wind up spending hours here and not even know it. As 99 Ranch will tell you, if they don’t have it, you don’t need it.
Russian General Store
9629 Hillcroft St, Houston, TX 77096
As you might expect, you’ll find some of the best caviar in the city here along with any other type of Russian food. The fish is fresh, just smoked and salted, as is Russian tradition. Much of the food (and service) is an acquired taste. Don’t expect store clerks to be follow you around explaining things. All of the food is organized by country so you can taste your way through each particular region. There are also some fantastically Russian non-food items like Putin T-shirts and Russian military hats.
Phoenicia Foods Downtown
1001 Austin St, Houston, TX 77010
A haven for foodies dwelling Downtown, Phoenicia is a one-stop shop for gourmet foods and household basics. From the gelato bar to the out-of-this-world shawarmas, you are bound to find something to love at Phoenicia. The grocer has a focus on Mediterranean foods, but carries fine foods from all over the world. Phoenicia is home to MKT Bar, offering award-winning American cuisines with an international twist alongside a worldly wine list and local craft beers. With live music on the weekends, MKT bar is the perfect place to be both urban and bohemian.
1302 Blalock Road, Houston, TX 77055
This Asian grocery superstore chain has two locations, one in Chinatown in Bellaire, the other off I-10. At H-Mart you can find cheap exoctic produce you’ve never seen at stores like H-E-B. The noodle selection covers all the bases. If you love seafood, you will love H-Mart. Everything is fresh and cheaper than you think. You’ll find a wide variety of foods from nearly every Asian culture. Make sure to stock up on dumplings (if you can decide which ones).
2366 Rice Blvd, Houston, TX 77005
Nestled in Rice Village, this unique store is heaven for Anglophiles. Food, books and decor imported from across the pond abound. Black pudding, Cadbury and proper bacon will have you questioning why we ever left the empire. If you’re a tea drinker, this may be your new favorite place. The candy and sweets also are worth trying. The store isn’t very large but somehow it manages to capture the essence of the British Isles.
Viet Hoa International Foods
8300 W Sam Houston Pkwy, Houston, TX 77072
Houston has a sizable Vietnamese population after relocating so many refugees during the Vietnam War. Viet Hoa International Foods has been a go-to in the Houston community for years. The store layout is easy to follow for the uninitiated. The best part is all the yummies ready to take home. They have Chinese BBQ, entree style takeaways, dim sum and TONS of baked Vietnamese goodies—shrimp wraps, sticky rice, rice cake desserts.
2520 Airline Drive, Houston, TX 77009
Canino Produce produce is somewhere between grocery store and farmers market. It feels more like you’re in a bazaar with a beautiful selection of produce and other goods. You won’t find much organic produce from other, more hip, farmers markets. This is not a fancy place, maneuvering through areas can be a challenge and most vendors only speak Spanish. Get ready to haggle and bargain for the true market experience. If you're smart you may be able to walk away with 20 mangos for less than $5. The only meat is served up by taco trucks in the back, which are definitely worth it.