Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trade routes.

A fraction of the Trader Joe's cheese aisle. San Antonio, Texas. © Ryan Schierling

When we used to live in Seattle, I'd see commercials on television for Sonic, and yet, there wasn't a Sonic within 500 miles of us. It was infuriating when that 30-second spot would set a wicked craving for a cherry limeade and a SuperSonic double cheeseburger with jalapeños, and I knew I'd be left sadly unfulfilled. Now, after we've moved away, there are three Sonic drive-ins a quick jaunt from the old zip code.

When we relocated to Austin, we had a bit of grocery nostalgia for our local Trader Joe's store at the top of Queen Anne hill, which was a short walk from our place in the LQA. We certainly didn't do the bulk of our shopping there, but the inexpensive prices on normally-spendy items like Italian and Spanish olive oil, cheese, wine and artisan breads made it destination shopping on a regular basis.

Thankfully, the cost of living here in Austin was a pleasant surprise. Housing, food and fuel were all considerably cheaper than the Pacific Northwest. We didn't necessarily need "expensive" grocery items to be less expensive, because they were already a steal compared to what we were paying prior. Here, our neighborhood grocer had a handful of similar items at similar prices, but we still missed the ol' TJ's aesthetic.

And, there are a few things that just weren't available. We recently visited Seattle for a wedding, and the last place we stopped before heading back to the airport to fly home to Austin was… Trader Joe's. A half-dozen Essential Baking Company rosemary diamante boules were procured and smuggled onto the flight. We had to. We've found there is no equal in Austin and Julie's egg salad sandwiches cannot be reproduced properly without this bread.

There are also certain things we've done without since we're no longer living walking distance from a TJ's. Those insanely-delicious house-brand dark chocolate-covered caramels, that $1.69 salsa autentica that works so brilliantly with patacones, the pesto-filled tortellini used in J's chicken-noodle soup, the reasonably-priced rustic crackers, the crazy-cheap cheeeeeeeses, and the surreptitiously-splendid blue-collar two-buck Chuck. Today, at the brand-new TJ's in San Antonio, we stocked up.

There is a Trader Joe's planned for Austin in 2014, and I can't wait to add it to the grocery store rounds we make on a regular basis, probably right between Fiesta in south Austin and MT Market up north. But if Julie asks me to check for that disgusting, foul Australian black "liquorice" she used to get at TJ's in Seattle, I'm just going to have to tell her that, sadly, it's unavailable in this market

350 East Basse Road. Be warned, parking is... difficult. © Ryan Schierling


  1. When we were there a week and a half ago, one of the cashiers told us he's based in Austin, and that there will be another Austin Trader Joe's location open before the Seaholm one. He said first quarter 2013 was the aim, but he didn't know exactly where it would be yet.

    1. Based upon the length of the lines in San Antonio, earliest 2013 would be a smart move on their part.


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