Green Grocer: Fresh food aplenty in Southwest Detroit

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 Southwest Detroit. 

Honey Bee Market

Honey Bee is a favorite among Detroit's independent grocery stores, drawing not just shoppers from the nearby neighborhoods but shoppers from all over metro Detroit. As much a destination market as it is a neighborhood one, one visit to Honey Bee and it's obvious why: they have easily the most extensive selection of Mexican and Latin American produce in the city and beyond. Chayote squash (with and without needles), Mexijicana, cactus, yuca root, tomatillo milpero, coconuts, a rainbow of peppers including scorpion and ghost pepper, mango, papaya, even aloe leaves. The beautiful, bountiful produce inhabits a large section in the front of the store, while the rest of the store is filled with a huge selection of other Mexican and Latin American products as well as Michigan-made products from La Michoacana, Hacienda de Guitierrez, Chilango's Bakery, Slow Jams Jam, Miggy's Salsa, McClure's Pickles, Street Eatzz, Irene's Dressings, Teta Foods, Calder Dairy, and Guernsey Farms. They also sell beer and wine and have a nice selection of Michigan craft beers and meads from Bell's, Short's, Founders, B. Nektar, and more.

The meat counter is full of ready-to-make items like hand-pattied burgers in flavors like portabella & gouda and jalapeno & mozzarella, marinated chicken fajita and steak fajita meat with veggies, marinated pork, chili lime chicken, and bulk and link chorizo. They also offer a wide variety of specialty meat items like oxtails, honeycomb tripe, pigs' feet, beef tongue, and more. Bags of rice and beans are stacked, there are nearly whole walls of spices and seasonings used in traditional Mexican cooking and the widest assortment of hot sauces quite possibly in all of metro Detroit. Every item you could possibly want or need to make a Mexican feast is available here, even down to Mexican products like Jumex canned juices, the full line of Goya products (an international company that specializes in authentic Hispanic food items), snacks like Takis corn chips, and cookware items like a stone mortar and pestle for making guacamole. Loyal customers also love Honey Bee for its house-made family recipe salsas and guacamole. The impeccably organized store has been family-owned since 1956. An expansion in 2006 allowed them to expand the product offerings.
Gigante Prince Valley

Prince Valley is a huge store that is a supermaercado, tortilleria, and panaderia – a supermarket, tortilla factory, and bakery all in one. It doesn't stop there either – they offer a host of services to customers at the handsome customer service counter, including utility bill payments, check cashing, Western Union, and Metro PCS services. It also has an actual dine-in cafeteria with plenty of seating where customers can enjoy hot foods fresh off their grill – you can smell the ribs constantly cooking as soon as you walk into the store (and they're sold fresh off the grill for $10 a slab). Hot foods include barbacoa, carnitas, burrito and enchilada dinners, and rotisserie chicken, and there's also a salad bar. A separate prepared foods section includes deli sandwiches and salads to go, a variety of cold salads (pasta, chicken, tuna), spinach dip, guacamole, salsa, tzatziki sauce, banana pudding, homemade Jello, and more.

Prince Valley also has a beautiful bakery section with wooden cabinets filled with fresh-baked bolillos, empanadas, doughnuts, sweet breads, muffins, cookies, and more. Grab a tray and load it up, then take it to the bakery counter for them to package everything. They also have beautiful specialty cakes available in-store and by special order. You can also grab slices of their cheesecake and tres leches cake in coolers in the front of the store. The store is packed with Latino food items, and the butcher section is stocked with a variety of ribs, chicken, Black Canyon Angus beef, and specialty items like rolled pork skin, pigs' feet, pork neck bones, Grobbel's corned beef, beef liver, veal liver, beef tongue, two kinds of tripe, lamb blade chops, smoked turkey wings, ham hocks, pork salt pork, salted fatback, pork cracklings, intestines, oxtail, and various butcher scraps. There is also a fresh fish section with whole tilapia, whole catfish, swai fish, octopus, and oysters. The store is also stocked with house products, party supplies, and beer and wine.
Ryan's Foods

Ryan's Foods is a smaller neighborhood store in the West Vernor commercial district that has been serving the neighborhood since 1989. They are a bilingual store that takes pride in catering to everyone, from the Latinos to the African Americans to the European Americans in the area. They also work closely with churches and nonprofits to help serve the community. Ryan's Foods is a very clean, very nice store that stocks a little of everything. They sell fresh flowers, fresh produce, and have a small but well-priced fresh meat section with marinated buffalo wings, fajita meats, pork al pastor, pork rib tips and spare ribs, tripe, and prepared cold salads. They also have plenty of frozen meats and seafood. They have a good stock of household items like cookware, pet food, cleaning supplies, and health and beauty supplies. They have all the staple Hispanic food products including tortillas and chips from Michigan companies like Hacienda de Guitierrez, La Michoacana, and El Milagtro. They also sell party supplies, beer and wine, and religious candles.
E&L Supermercado

The E&L Supermercado is not a huge store but it certainly feels that way, packed wall-to-wall with a wide variety of fresh products. The smells of fresh baking bread are a delight when you first enter their doors and are surrounded by all of the bakery products made in-house, including bolillos, empanadas, conchas, doughnuts, and pies. The store is a bit confusing to walk through but is clearly labeled with very attractive signage.

The butcher counter here is a highlight among highlights, with an endless array of house-butchered meats and prepared foods. Behind the expansive counter hang racks of ribs and there are even visual butcher guides for the various cuts of meat. They have three different kinds of bulk chorizo – regular, lean, and spicy; marinated chicken wings in flavors like hot buffalo, mesquite, Mexican fiesta, herb and garlic, lemon pepper, and BBQ seasoned; whole roasted chickens; seasoned pork and beef taco meat; deli meats and cheeses; and large mounds of creamy fresh Mexican cheeses. They have a number of prepared foods they make in house including fresh cold salads, pico de gallo, guacamole, sandwich spread, menudo and hominy soups, salsa, crema de la casa, rice and banana puddings, and more. They've got a hot foods section with ribs, tortas, botanas, fresh hot tamales, and hot churros. They make their own corn chips, cinnamon chips, fried chicharrones, and packaged spices. You can buy bags of rice, beans, buckets of masa, corn husks, whole cinnamon sticks, whole dried chiles, tamarind, sugar cane, and jicama.

In the extensive produce section you'll find fresh chile peppers, cactus, whole coconut, yuca, breadfruit, yautia blanca, mango, varieties of squash, papaya, lychee, guava, batata, quince, fresh flowers, and lots of leafy greens. You can also buy small kitchen appliances, decorative home items, religious candles, piñatas, and a number of other Hispanic odds and ends items. It's easy to get lost in this store.
Azteca Supermercado

Azteca Supermercado is a visually attractive store made to look like a Mexican adobe on the outside. The design is mirrored on the inside with faux Spanish roof tiles framing "windows" on the walls. There is a small customer service counter at the front where they sell small personal care items like deodorant and other toiletries and aspirin. The large store is filled with everything a family could need in one stop, even including laundry bags and socks. They have a bakery where they make their own doughnuts, bolillos, conchas, and empanadas.

They carry Michigan-made products from El Milagro, La Hacienda, and Hudsonville Ice Cream. They have a large, attractive fresh meat and seafood counter with items like snowcrab clusters, whole catfish, frozen crawfish and shrimp, salmon filets, beef tongue, pigs' feet, oxtails, barbacoa de res beef chunks, pork stew, carnitas, beef and pork chorizo, Milanesa chicken, hot and spicy chicken filet, marinated taco meat (beef, pork, al pastor), and mounds of marinated beef and chicken fajita meat overflowing with vegetables. They have a large cooler full of specialty Mexican cheeses, plus their own prepared foods offerings of cold salads, pico de gallo, guacamole, and banana pudding. There is also a small hot foods section, a large section of dried peppers and spices, big bins of Latin American produce, and fresh potted plants. Additionally, Azteca Supermercado sells beer and wine, including Day of the Dead Mexican craft beers brewed by Mexico's third largest brewery, Cerveceria Mexicana.

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.