Green Grocer: Finding fresh food in greater downtown

The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation's Green Grocer program exists to strengthen the over 80 independently-owned full-service grocery stores in the city of Detroit. This is the last in a series of stories that we began in October.

University Foods
Located on Warren Avenue in Midtown in close proximity to Wayne State University, the aptly-named University Foods is a sizable store stuffed full of products that strives to be competitive with the recently-opened Whole Foods by catering to healthy lifestyles and restrictive diets. The large produce section overflows with fresh produce in attractive displays and includes a diversity of items, including organic greens and herbs, multiple varieties of chili peppers and exotic mushrooms, squash, okra, and sprouts. There are stacks of packaged chopped, sliced, roasted and salted, and raw nuts as well as trail mixes and other bulk food items like yogurt pretzels, sunflower seeds, and wasabi peas. A large cooler in the produce section stocks organic and raw juices like Lakewood organic juice, all-natural juices and fruit smoothies from Bolthouse Farms, organic raw kombucha, POM Wonderful, Purity.Organic, RAAW, Sambazon energy juice, ALO Drink, and Detroit-based Nikki's Ginger Tea. Their dairy selection includes the best selection of gourmet cheeses outside of Whole Foods and Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe; vegan cheese slices; multiple varieties of soy, almond, coconut, and lactose-free, and organic milks; plus delicious whole fat milk from Michigan's Calder Dairy.
There is a huge emphasis on Michigan products in this store. You can find homemade baklava from SajOuna Bakery in Dearborn Heights; Sanders cakes; bulk and bagged coffees from Michigan roasters including Great Lakes Coffee, Leelanau Coffee Roasting Company, and organic and fair trade coffees from Righteous Bean in Center Line. An impressive selection of craft beer includes many Michigan beers from places like Bell's, Short's, Atwater, Founders, and New Holland, as well as more from New Belgium, Great Lakes Brewing Company, and Dogfish Head.
The store is very health-conscious, stocking items like quinoa, whole wheat and brown rice pastas, whole grain and organic cereals, and organic tofu. They also strive for a multicultural appeal, with items used in Chinese, Thai, Indian, Latin, and Arabic cuisines. In addition to all of this, they've also got a pharmacy; a customer service counter for bill payment and check cashing; household, party, school, pet, and baby supplies; a prepared foods section with hot and cold items including subs, salads, pizza, and fried chicken; fresh meats; cakes and pies; beer and wine; and tons more.

Further west down Warren is Food Pride, a smaller neighborhood store located in a shopping plaza that has recently undergone extensive interior renovations with new equipment. Inside the store there are bottle return, Coinstar, and lottery ticket machines, as well as a Metro PCS, a pharmacy, and a customer service counter for bill payment and check cashing. They have large aisles with a nice variety of items for a diverse clientele base. The spacious produce section has a variety of fresh greens, bulk candies, cakes, cookies, and pies. They carry several Glory Foods Southern food products. Their fresh meat section is stocked with a wide variety of items including smoked turkey drums and wings, pork cracklings, beef tripe and liver, corned beef, fresh pork spareribs, pork skin and fat back, pork butt, pig feet, turkey gizzards, whole hens and chickens, as well as several different kinds of sausages made in-house in their "sausage kitchen." They also sell whole headless fish and fresh fish fillets. They carry organic, soy, almond, coconut, and lactose-free milks, plus a wide range of general household items including tablecloths, winter hats, shovels, pet and baby supplies, socks, cooking pans and utensils, wrapping paper and gift bags, plastic food storage containers, and automotive supplies.

A medium-sized market with an understated exterior on the outskirts of – you guessed it – Indian Village, Indian Village Market on Jefferson is located just two blocks down from the recently renovated Alden Towers along the redeveloping East Riverfront. The store has a pharmacy and customer service counter, plus bottle return and lotto machines. They carry beer and wine as well as hard liquor (a rarity for independent grocers in the city). They have a small produce section with all the basics as well as whole nuts, bean sprouts, and organic tofu. There is a definite mindfulness of healthy eating and local products here: they stock items from Teta Foods in Clinton Township and Garden Fresh Salsa in Ferndale as well as all the organic, soy, almond, coconut, and lactose-free milks, Greek and Activa yogurts, Stacy's Pita Chips, Ensure nutritional shakes, Kashi cereals, and natural juices from Bolthouse Farms and POM Wonderful. Quality fresh meats include Black Canyon Angus beef, fresh whole headless fish and fillets, pig ears and feet, pork loin roast, smoked pork jowls and skins, ham hocks, spiral sliced hams, fat back, pork chitterlings, sausages and brats, and turkey necks. They also have a selection of attractive cakes whole and by the slice in flavors like red velvet, 7-UP pound cake, cinnamon bundt cake, and more. The store also stocks general household supplies.

Harbortown Market is located on Jefferson in the Harbortown shopping plaza where there is also a Rite Aid, Sprint, Jet's Pizza, Peking Express, and Unity Tax. The store is exceptional, with upscale shelving and fixtures to rival any gourmet market. While many stores sell beer and wine, the wine selection at Harbortown is unparalleled among the indie supermarkets in the city. Clustered in island displays throughout the store (that also include gift items like wine decanters and aerators), Harbortown features a large selection of fine wines, including bottles of champagne from Moet & Chandon, Perrier Jolet, and Michigan's own Lawrence Mawby, even a Coach Insignia cabernet (a high-end Napa cab). The craft beer selection is also solid, with many Michigan breweries as well as favorites from Ommegang, Rogue, Abita, and more.
In addition to the beer and wine, the spacious, attractive store also offers fresh flowers, candles, and greeting cards. The produce section is large and full of fresh items, including organic greens like kale and baby spinach, sliced exotic mushrooms, varieties of whole nuts, organic tofu, organic herbs, raw and organic juices from companies like Bolthouse Farms, Purity Organic, POM Wonderful, ALO Drink, and raw organic kombucha. They have a section of gourmet cheeses and Boar's Head salamis and sausages, packaged lunch meats that include prosciutto and pancetta, and all varieties of organic and alternative milks. There are also many Michigan-made products to be found in the store, like whole milk from Guernsey Farms. Nikki's Ginger Tea, Miggy's and Garden Fresh salsas, whole bean Great Lakes Coffee that you can grind in-store, and Hudsonville Ice Cream. Ice cream lovers will find almost every kind of premium ice cream you could want here, including the non-dairy Tofutti brand. There is also a large selection of fresh butchered and deli meats and seafood, including lobster tails.
Harbortown also really shines in their prepared foods section, which features a vast selection of hot and cold prepared foods. Find salads, wraps, grilled pita sandwiches, burgers, wing dings, whole and half rotisserie chickens, sushi, spaghetti, meatloaf, mac and cheese, shawarma,falafel rolls, crab cakes, chicken and vegetarian egg rolls, fresh hummus in different flavors, breaded eggplant, stuffed grape leaves, steamed lentils, cold pasta salads, potato salads, chicken salads, and more.
Lafayette Foods

Lafayette Foods is located in the Lafayette Park shopping plaza on Lafayette and Orleans in front of the Mies van der Rohe-designed Lafayette Towers. An excellent neighborhood grocery store, Lafayette Foods stocks all of the staple household items with a pharmacy and a customer service counter for bill payment and check cashing while also carrying a wide array of more specialty food items, which really distinguishes them from other grocers.
They have a nice craft beer and fine wine selection which includes many local labels like L. Mawby, Chateau Grand Traverse, Chateau Chantal, Leelanau Cellars, Atwater, Short's Greenbush, and OddSide Ales. Their prepared foods section is also a highlight, with fresh hot soups made in-house daily; take and bake pizzas; pre-made salads and sandwiches; homemade pies, cakes, and quiche; cold dips and salads like turkey dressing, taco dip, spinach dip, egg salad, potato salad, Greek feta pasta salad, crab and swai salad, tabbouleh, and dill chicken salad; and hot foods like whole rotisserie chicken for $4.99 each, fried chicken, mac and cheese, and a variety of prepared dinners (pork chops, shrimp, wing dings, liver, ham hocks, fried fish, chicken, and more) with two sides for $8-12 each.
Lafayette Foods stocks many different kinds of Michigan-made products as well as products geared towards a healthy lifestyle. While the store is relatively small compared to many others, they definitely try to carry a diversity of products to appeal to a large clientele. Some of the more specialty items you can find here include McClure's pickles and Bloody Mary mix and Jessica's Gluten-Free Granola (both made in Michigan), hummus chips, quinoa chips, veggie chips, popped whole grain chips, Xochitl tortilla chips, a full section of Asian food items, Sleeping Bear Farms raw honey (Michigan), sugar-free preserves with fiber, Bolthouse Farms juices and smoothies, Sambazon organic juices, ALO Drink, Boar's Head deli and cured meats, packaged prosciutto, imported cheeses, Garden Fresh Salsa (Michigan), Cedar's Mediterranean Foods hummus, Earthbound Farm organic greens, Silk and Lactaid alternative milks, organic milks, Calder Dairy and Guernsey Farms milks (Michigan), and whole bean coffee you can grind in-store from Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company here in Detroit. There are also fresh flowers and potted plants that will brighten up any home.

Nicole Rupersburg is Model D's development news editor.  

Photos by Marvin Shaouni
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Nicole Rupersburg is a former Detroiter now in Las Vegas who regularly writes about food, drink, and urban innovators. You can follow her on Instagram @eatsdrinksandleaves and Twitter @ruperstarski.