Green Grocer: Fresh food shopping on Detroit's Lower East Side

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. Each week for the next several weeks, Model D will profile a selection of these stores in neighborhoods throughout the city.
This week we're focusing on the Lower East Side.  

Food Town Super Market

Food Town Super Market on Gratiot is an impressive supermarket. Open since 2007, it recently underwent an extensive renovation both inside and out to freshen up the look – outside you'll find a handsome brick exterior and a new fence around the parking lot, and inside a beautifully remodeled interior with attractive signage, shelving, and displays throughout the spacious, brightly-lit, immaculately clean store. The remodel also included the addition of energy efficient lighting. At the front is a lovely pharmacy and next to that, a special counter that handles all liquor and health and beauty supplies sales. There is also a full customer service counter offering the standard services of check cashing and bill payments, bottle return and lotto machines, and a stretch of coolers stocked with a sizable selection of beer and wine. Motown music plays over the speakers, making for an enjoyable shopping experience.
The large store is stocked full of a variety of items. You'll find a large produce section with attractive displays and very fresh produce, including bags of hearty of greens. In this section they also packages of whole, unshelled nuts and live tropical plants. They also plan on soon redoing the produce section and adding more items with a new layout. Inside the store you'll find party and barbecue supplies, charcoal, kitchen utensils, small kitchen appliances, and baby food and diapers.
While the store isn't lacking for any kind of variety, it is in the exceptional fresh meat and fish department that it really shines – it is a particular passion of the owners' to have as much variety in meat and fish as possible. Here's just a sample of items you can find:
• Fish: Salmon fillets, swai fillets, catfish steaks, whole headless and dressed catfish, lemon pepper catfish steaks, white bass fillets, headless and dressed white bass, whiting fish.
• Poultry: All varieties of skinless and boneless chicken cuts, value and family packs of chicken pieces, chicken livers, banjos wings, Cajun wings, Montreal seasoning wings, chicken gatzaros, chicken backs, chicken feet, turkey drums, turkey necks, turkey wings, turkey tails, turkey breast chops, smoked turkey tails, smoked turkey drums, smoked turkey necks.
• Lamb: Ground lamb, lamb loin chops, lamb shoulder chops.
• Pork: Center and rib end pork chops, thin sliced pork steak, rosemary and olive oil marinated pork sirloin, garlic and herb sirloin, family and value packs of various pork center cuts and chops, pork sausage, pig tails, hog maws, pig ears, pork neck bones, pigs' feet, Boston pork butt roast, ¼ pork loin roast, rib end, spare ribs, sliced fat back, cured fat back, large and small packages of smoked ham hocks, sliced quartered ham, hot and mild head cheese, hot and mild souse, smoked ham shank, smoked pork jowls whole and sliced, smoked bacon ends, salt pork, smoked bacon skins, smoked ham chunks, pork cracklings, whole and half spiral cut hams (including Dearborn Sausage Company).
• USDA Choice Beef: Ground sirloin patties (also pre-packed with American cheese slices), London broil and pre-made top round London broil, English roast, sirloin tip roast, breakfast steak, oxtails, sliced liver, tripe, center cut corned beef.
Mazen Foods

Mazen Foods on Gratiot is a well-stocked store in a nice brick building with funky neon sides adorning the front of the building inside and out (think less Vegas neon and more twinkling Christmas lights neon). They have a large hot food section in the entrance of the store where people can stop to grab a quick lunch or dinner. They serve items like pizza, ribs, collard greens, lasagna, mac and cheese, and subs, and if you spend $100 in groceries you'll even get a free pizza. This Spartan affiliate store has a variety of prepared foods, including whole deli trays, cold salads, and puddings. They have a bakery in-store where they make lovely specialty cakes.
The large produce section is stocked full of fresh items, including a variety of greens like kale and turnip greens, and bunches of beautiful fresh flowers. Their fresh meat section stocks a variety of meats and fish. In the frozen fish section you'll find swai fillets, lobster tails, smelt, crawfish, frog legs, scallops, catfish nuggets, mussels, and snow crab legs and claws. Under meats you'll find whole and half hams; smoked turkey drums and wings; turkey necks, tails, and gizzards; pork neck bones and spare ribs; whole and sliced ham hocks; bacon ends; salt pork and fat back; smoked ham shank; pork jowls; pig skins; large packages of beef tripe; baby back ribs; beef livers, chuck blade roast, standing rib roast and soup bones; lamb loin chops and shoulder blade chops; family packs of porterhouse steaks; whole turkeys; and whole pork loin (sliced). You'll also find pre-cut stir fry meat with packages of pre-cut vegetables, assorted pork chops, whole and split pigs' feet, fresh pork picnic, chicken wings, boneless chicken breast, lemon pepper chicken stir fry, split and whole chickens, chicken gizzards, chicken fajitas, a variety of breaded parts, buffalo chicken wings, and whole headless catfish.
Mazen also has all your necessary household items, including cleaning supplies, party supplies, health and beauty products, a large section of infant care items including purified water, pet food and supplies, kitchen utensils, and odds and ends like socks and school supplies. They also sell beer and wine and have a customer service counter, a pharmacy, and Coinstar and bottle return machines.
Aldi Food Market

Located in the attractive Mack-Alter Square shopping plaza built in 2005 – also home to a credit union, mini Detroit Police station, Metro PCS, Secretary of State, Family Dollar, and more – the Aldi Food Market is a small market that stocks the essentials as well as a large selection of items more typically found in large stores like Meijer and Costco. They stock a variety of children's toys, luggage, fleece throws, roll-away beds, folding tables, and acoustic guitars. They also have small kitchen appliances and accessories like pizza ovens, pizza stones, gravy warmers, electric water kettles, rice cookers, juicers, and plastic food storage containers. Many places can claim to have a little of everything, but this Aldi just might beat them all.
Del Point Food Center

Located just on the edge of the charming residential neighborhood of Chandler Park, Del Point Food Center has made numerous upgrades to the interior of the store and is working with the Green Grocer program on some exterior improvements. At the front of the store you'll find a pharmacy, a counter selling health and beauty products, and even a small section of clothing with jackets and purses. There is a prepared foods counter with hot items like pizza, fried chicken, ribs, and meatloaf, as well as cold salads, cold ribs and wings to take home and cook, and deli meats. They have fresh cakes and pies made from scratch in their bakery.
The store stocks a variety of household items like cleaning and party/outdoor barbecue supplies, kitchen and grill utensils, plastic storage containers, socks, pet supplies, and baby formula. They have a well-stocked dairy section with a large selection of alternative dairy items like Lactaid products, soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, as well as organic milk and buttermilk. They also have Greek yogurts. The fresh meat section is filled with an extensive selection of fresh and packaged brats, sausages, and kielbasas. They also have hot and mild head cheese and souse, smoked pork tails, salt pork, bacon ends, turkey wings and necks, spiral sliced ham, Grobbel's corned beef brisket (flat and point cuts), split chicken breast with ribs, whole Amish country chickens, tubs of chicken livers, beef bottom round and rump roasts, oxtails, beef short ribs, BBQ pork spareribs, and more. They also have a bulk section with giant cans of green beans and tubs of fish fry. The staff is very friendly and the vibe is pleasant and fun, with classic funk music playing over the sound system. 

Nicole Rupersburg is development news writer for Model D.

Photos by Marvin Shaouni

Read more articles by Nicole Rupersburg.

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.