A melting pot of cultures: How Connecticut’s wealth of ethnic grocery stores offer more than just delicious food (2022)

To truly get a feel for the Hartford region’s various ethnic and religious communities, a good place to go is its small grocery stores.

Traditional foods from a variety of cultures can be found at these stores. But for the communities the stores are made for, the shops are more than just places to buy food.

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“It’s a point of reference. If people need jobs, if they need an apartment, if they want to meet friends, they come here,” said Jessica Cazassa, whose mother owns Casa Brasil Grocery in Hartford. “It’s not just things that appeal to them. It’s the familiar grounds.”

At these stores, community members can read newspapers in their native languages. They can hear about community gatherings. They can find out where the houses of worship are. They bring people closer to their native culture and help them introduce that culture to others.

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The Matayoshi family, shopping at a recent lunchtime at Maruichi in West Hartford, bought traditional Japanese foods. The father, Ricardo, was born in Peru, a member of that country’s Japanese community. His kids, Diego and Mia, were born in the United States.

They like Maruichi because, as Mai says, “the food is really well-prepared by people who know how to make it.”

But you don’t have to be of a particular ethnicity to appreciate the wonderful foods and rich atmosphere of the stores. Wherever you go, you’ll find something you will later crave, which will have you going back.

At some grocery stores, labels are in native languages only. The staff, if they speak English, can help translate. Here is a partial list of shops in the Hartford area.

El Mercado, 704 Park St. in Hartford, is in the state’s epicenter of Latinx culture. Its offerings encompass a cross section of Latin America: Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and other lands. Walking down the aisles, salsa music playing joyfully loud, shoppers can find groceries beloved by those cultures mixed with stuff you might find at Stop and Shop. (Which means you don’t really need to shop anywhere else.) You could go home with your purchases and try to make Latin foods. Or you can hit the row of multicultural restaurants inside the market. There’s also a Puerto Rican clothing shop. facebook.com/pages/El-Mercado/180356721992798.

Patel Foods Farmers Market, 171 Spencer St. in Manchester, is a weekly shopping magnet for the booming community East of the River of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. Groceries from that region of the world include ghee, rose syrup, chana dal, cake rusk, roohafza, gram flour, spice blends, papadum, boxed prepared foods such as palak paneer, paneer makhani, biryani and frozen foods such as naan, paratha, samosas, tikka masala, vindaloo. Patel also sells fresh produce, sweets, dairy goods, health and beauty products, religious ceremonial decor and Indian-American newspapers. patelfoodsct.com.

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Europe Grocery, 200 Park Road in West Hartford, has a continental name, but the countries whose foods are represented here are primarily former Eastern Bloc nations: Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Armenia, Ukraine. Almost all labels are in Russian, and staff and most customers speak Russian. Groceries include kvass, borscht, a variety of canned seafoods, rose hip and buckthorn syrups, many pickles and horseradishes, fruit syrups, Dobryninsky cake, sulguni cheese, eggplant concoctions. These are very modern Russians: A sign on the door reads “Pray for Peace in Ukraine.” No website.

A Spoonful of Britain, 2 Railroad St. in Simsbury, arose out of love for real English Cadbury chocolates, that taste different from the American version. Founders Natalie Brown and Carly Kyd have expanded from there, and sell a variety of British groceries such as Barley Water, Eccles Cakes, Skip’s Prawn Cocktail Crisps, Hayward’s Piccalilli, Jaffa Cakes, Jammie Dodgers, Chip Shop Style Mushy Peas, wine gummies, Golden Shred Marmalade, Irn Bru soda and love-it-or-hate-it Marmite. Other items include tea sets and jerseys for Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal football clubs. facebook.com/spoonfulofbritain.

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A melting pot of cultures: How Connecticut’s wealth of ethnic grocery stores offer more than just delicious food (2)

Maruichi Japanese Food and Deli, 37 Raymond Road in West Hartford, is an explosion of color, the shelves stuffed full of bright, cheerful and intriguing packaged foods from Japan and prepared meals by the staff. In that distinctive Japanese style, product packaging, and often product design, strive for ultimate cuteness. Hello Kitty pens, erasers that look like bento boxes, jewelry of anime characters and brightly colored sushi-rolling mats are on shelves alongside groceries such as shredded squid, roasted seaweed, boiled lotus root, cod roe sauce, lychee sherbet and green tea ice cream. facebook.com/maruichiwesthartford.

EasiSpice Supermarket, 1150 Burnside Ave. in East Hartford, sells foods beloved by West Indian, Spanish and African communities. The produce and meat selection makes this clear: What mainstream store offers batata, breadfruit, eddoes, garden eggs, callaloo, guava, tamarind, oxtail, burnt goat foot? Sauces and spices include pickapeppa, scotch bonnet, guinea hen weed, fever grass, dawadawa, prekese. Several varieties of protein-rich Jamaican Irish Moss beverages and Jamaican breads by Golden Krust are offered. The store also sells fruit juices and other soft drinks, snacks and canned vegetables. No website.

Al Basha, 397 Broad St. in Manchester, has a tiny Palestinian-Yemeni restaurant (with a huge menu) in the back but it mostly is a grocery store with a vibrant Muslim vibe, where murals show famous mosques and shopkeppers take breaks for afternoon prayers. Groceries include maftoul, freekeh, lupini beans, shankleesh cheese, basbousa, mohalabia, sesame fudge and molokhia leaves, medjool dates and household goods such as teapots, teacups, prayer rugs, Ramadan decorations, hookahs, incense, flags of Middle Eastern nations, copies of the Quran and Quran holders. facebook.com/al-basha-market-and-restaurant-107737165197302.

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A melting pot of cultures: How Connecticut’s wealth of ethnic grocery stores offer more than just delicious food (3)

A melting pot of cultures: How Connecticut’s wealth of ethnic grocery stores offer more than just delicious food (4)

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Crown Market, 2471 Albany Ave. in West Hartford, is closed on Saturdays for Shabbat, but every other day is the place to go for the best food — kosher-for-Passover year-round — and other items beloved by the town’s Jewish community. The small store is a big player in town, selling homemade kugel and knishes, rugalah, Israeli canned goods, supplies for High Holy Days and more mainstream goods. Kosher Supervisor Miriam Silverman said the community has been drawn to Crown since 1940 because “they know they’ll find what they are looking for here. They might not find it in other stores.” thecrownmarket.com.

Zieleniak, A Green Grocer, 109 Broad St. in New Britain, is in the heart of the mile-long stretch of Broad Street called Little Poland, home of dozens of Polish-language businesses. The aisles are packed with groceries, meat, dairy, candy, Polish magazines and newspapers, greeting cards, health and beauty aids. facebook.com/pages/Zieleniak-A-Green-Grocer/111530458886506. A few steps down the street, at 123 Broad St., is Polmart, which has a lot of the same inventory, as well as shirts with Polish-language slogans on them, and a branch of the post office specializing in shipping to Poland. polmartusa.com.

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Tangiers, 550 Farmington Ave. in Hartford, has a name that evokes the Moroccan city. It sells food from Morocco, Lebanon, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Macedonia, Egypt, Bulgaria and others in the Mediterranean region. Zach Latif, a member of the Lebanese-American family that has owned Tangiers since 1995, said “Good food always brings good people together.” The shop has a dining counter and a few tables, as well as a huge selection of ethnic groceries — a lovely selection of Greek and other cheeses — and a prepared-foods counter that sells stuffed grape leaves, baklava and other temptations. tangiersmarket.com

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A melting pot of cultures: How Connecticut’s wealth of ethnic grocery stores offer more than just delicious food (5)

A Dong Supermarket, 160 Shield St., in West Hartford, has served the Asian food-loving community for 33 years. The enormous store offers a wide variety of Chinese and Vietnamese packaged goods, seafood and meat counters and a fresh bakery. In these cultures, all parts of an animal are used; shoppers can find pork ear, beef tendon, beef stomach, pork heart and other parts. Groceries include endless varieties of tofu, steamed buns and noodles; fresh and canned Asian produce like the spiky rambutan, kitchenware and home decor such as Buddhas, altar shrines and figures from Chinese history. adongsupermarket.webs.com.

Bosna Market, 547 Franklin Ave. in Hartford, is a food shop and social hub for the area’s 5,000 Bosniak immigrants, who fled anti-Muslim repression in their native land. Community leader Dzenana Delic said Bosniaks “can find traditional food and spices there and establish communication.” The shop sells food from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and other Balkan nations. Fresh-baked breads include fluffy pita and a rich cheesy bread. Groceries include sausages like sudzuk and cevapi, Balkan soups, Bosanski lokum (tea biscuits), coffees, teas, sweets and hundreds of other items. bosnamarketct.com.

Casa Brasil Grocery, 1863 Park St. in Hartford, opened in 2011. “A lot of Brazilians here were missing a part of their culture,” Cazassa said. The store’s clientele are members of the area’s Brazilian and Portuguese communities, along with other Hispanic residents of the bustling Park Street area. The dairy case is packed with Brazilian and Portuguese cheeses and meats like canastra, minas, casteloes and chourico caseiro; and frozen chicken and cheese croquettes. On the shelves are a variety of fruit juices, crackers, cookies and spices. It also has a fresh meat and fresh bread. facebook.com/CasaBrasilHartford.

Susan Dunne can be reached at sdunne@courant.com.

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FAQs

Why do grocery stores have ethnic aisles? ›

Supermarkets first added ethnic aisles (sometimes called “international,” “Asian” or “Hispanic”) in the U.S. to cater to returning World War II soldiers who had discovered foods from Italy, Germany and Japan.

Why does New York not have grocery stores? ›

The produce stand outside of the construction zone. In the years leading up to the pandemic, supermarkets throughout New York City were already closing due to rent increases, narrow profit margins, increased competition with drugstores and online grocers and larger developments moving in and pushing smaller stores out.

What people buy at the grocery store? ›

Contents
  • Soda.
  • Cereal.
  • Frozen Dinners.
  • Salty Snacks.
  • Milk.
  • Laundry Detergent.
  • Eggs.
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly.

How are grocery stores organized? ›

Almost all grocery stores start with the Produce department and then line the walls with Meat, Seafood, Deli & Bakery. Then the center of the store encompasses the Grocery department, along with Beer & Wine, and Health & Beauty. The Front End is where the cashiers and baggers finalize the shopping experience.

What is an ethnic grocery store? ›

Ethnic grocery stores are markets that carry foods from a particular country or region.

What are some ethnic foods? ›

Here's a guide to 10 ethnic foods you probably haven't tried but should– immediately.
  • Injera. This traditional Ethiopian bread is flat, spongey, and made of teff flour, which is a popular flour used in Ethiopia. ...
  • Shakshuka. ...
  • Chicken Tikka Masala. ...
  • Gatsby. ...
  • Tempeh. ...
  • Bao Buns. ...
  • Elote. ...
  • Guinness Cake.
Nov 3, 2017

Is New York City a food desert? ›

As CBS2's Lisa Rozner investigates, the inequitable access to healthy and affordable food is something that more than two dozen neighborhoods in New York City experience every day. In some parts of the Bronx, there are more than 35 bodegas for every supermarket, according to the city's Food Policy Center.

Why is the Bronx a food desert? ›

They're low-income areas — usually Black and Hispanic neighborhoods — without large supermarkets and lacking many options for healthy, affordable food. Areas long-considered food deserts include Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville, Brooklyn, the South Bronx and parts of Harlem.

What is the largest grocery chain in New York? ›

Best Biggest Supermarket in New York, New York
  • Trader Joe's. 2.6 mi. 716 reviews. ...
  • Wegmans. 1.0 mi. 184 reviews. ...
  • Food Bazaar Supermarket. 5.1 mi. 233 reviews. ...
  • Food Bazaar Supermarket. 2.7 mi. 97 reviews. ...
  • Hong Kong Supermarket. 0.9 mi. 398 reviews. ...
  • Fairway Market. 2.8 mi. 313 reviews. ...
  • Grand Central Market. 3.4 mi. ...
  • Trader Joe's. 0.9 mi.

What is the most purchased food in America? ›

The Number 1 Most Popular Foods in America are Hamburgers!

Oh yes, oh yes, Hamburgers are the number 1 most popular foods in America.

What is the most bought item in America? ›

These products include beverages, food, household items, and tobacco.
...
Consumer Staples
  • Food at home: $4,464.
  • Food away from home: $3,459.
  • Apparel and services: $1,866.
  • Vehicle purchases: $3,975.
  • Gasoline, other fuels: $2,109.
  • Personal care products and services: $768.
  • Entertainment: $3,226.

What is the most bought food item in the world? ›

What Is the Most Popular Food in the World?
  1. Salad. Yep, good ol' salad. ...
  2. Chicken. Related recipe: Cilantro Lime Chicken.
  3. Cheese. Related recipe: Macaroni and Cheese With Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes.
  4. Rice. Related recipe: Classic Rice Pilaf.
  5. Tea. Related recipe: Hot Spiced Tea.
  6. Coffee. Related recipe: Espresso Popcorn.
  7. Milk. ...
  8. Eggs.
Apr 19, 2012

Why do grocery stores rearrange everything? ›

Grocery stores rearrange things to increase sales by making it easier for customers to find what they want. They may also want to attract new customers by offering special promotions or discounts.

What is the best job in a grocery store? ›

High Paying Grocery Jobs
  • Grocery Store Manager. Salary range: $43,500-$65,000 per year. ...
  • Wine Manager. Salary range: $39,500-$59,000 per year. ...
  • Fresh Food Manager. Salary range: $33,000-$55,500 per year. ...
  • Bakery Technician. Salary range: $35,000-$55,000 per year. ...
  • Meat Manager. ...
  • Head Baker. ...
  • Bakery Manager. ...
  • Meat Department Manager.

Why grocery store is a good business? ›

Grocery stores sell food, which is something that we all need, every day, to survive. As a result, there is, and will always be, a constant demand for the items that grocery stores sell. Because the demand is evergreen, the grocery business is historically stable.

What is the largest grocery chain in the world? ›

The world's largest supermarket chain is U.S.-based Kroger Co., with $119.0 billion in retail revenue in fiscal year (FY) 2017. Kroger is also the third-largest retail company in the world based on revenue, behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Where does grocery store produce come from? ›

Grocery stores get their produce in two ways. They either purchase fresh fruit and vegetables directly from farmers or buy them through grocery distribution companies. There are grocery distribution companies specializing in just produce and distribution companies specializing in specific grocery items.

What is food aisle? ›

An aisle is a long narrow gap that people can walk along between rows of seats in a public building such as a church or between rows of shelves in a supermarket. [...]

Why are stores out of products? ›

As the highly contagious variant of the Covid-19 virus continues to sicken workers, it's creating staffing shortages for critical functions like transportation and logistics, which in turn are affecting delivery of products and restocking of store shelves across the country.

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