Trader Joe's is a California based chain of eclectic grocery stores that offer great food and beverages at great values. I picked Trader Joe's to review first because it was really the first store of it's kind that I was exposed to that offered neat food items that you just can't get any where else.
We were turned on to Trader Joe's by my sister from Phoenix who brought back some Trader Joe's salsa to Iowa when she was visiting in the mid-90's. When we went on our trip up into the Sonoma wine region in 1999, we stopped at the Trader Joe's in Santa Rosa and got some munchie foods for the road. We were amazed at the amount of sauces, salsas, juices, wines, soups, prepared foods, organic foods, kosher foods, meats, breads - a WHOLE ton of neat stuff to look at. Things that we never saw at HyVee back in Iowa.
As we became more aware of Trader Joe's after that, we found that they had a number of stores in the Chicagoland area. Each time that we'd go into Chicago we'd have to stop and get things. Cindy likes the Trader Joe's tuna and I have to agree. It's better than a lot of other tuna's in a can that you can get. They also have an extensive selection of low sodium soups that I really enjoy (except they recently discontinued their vegetable beef soup that I liked so well). Their chicken noodle soup is the best of any I've had out of a can.
Their salsas are great, the frozen products are great. In fact, we get their frozen green beans, frozen artichoke hearts and frozen asparagus all the time. They're wonderful when they're cooked up - they taste just as good as if we went to the produce store and picked 'em up fresh that morning. And they have a frozen stuffed salmon that is very good, as well. However, do stay away from the frozen stuffed flounder (too fishy) and the frozen brocolli (too mushy when cooked up). Also, stay away from the lobster bisque soup. Eeyew...
They have great cookies and desserts - a very good frozen cheesecake and key lime pie. I really like their Sugar Lemon cookies when they're available in the winter time, and their Key Lime cookies are so frigging sinful, they're so good.
Cindy's really likes their coffee selection. They have a ton of different ones to choose from. I don't drink coffee, but they certainly do smell good.
They have a number of wonderful appetizers and snacks that work great with any party. We're particular to their chile lime tortilla chips and their party salsa.
And, of course, Trader Joe's is famous for having "Two Buck Chuck" - Charles Shaw wines that sell for $1.99 west of the Rockies and from $2.99 to $3.39 east of the Rockies. For a table wine, it's OK. Can't say that I'd buy cases of it at a time like I see people do when I go into Trader Joe's, but I suppose at either $24 or $36 bucks a case, it's a pretty good deal. I like to call it the Meisterbrau of wine.
Trader Joe's has a monthly flyer - the Fearless Flyer - that has a lot of information on new products, specials and what's happened at Trader Joe's. The flyer is available either on line or at Trader Joe's stores.
I'm glad to see that Trader Joe's has opened in St. Louis and in Indianapolis. I wish they'd open here in the Quad Cities, but I know this area is not ready for a Trader Joe's. And that's kinda sad...