Hey, remember when Yelp was a thing? The website and app that your roommate still uses to tell people about the good 7-11 still exists, and it's still collecting reviews on everything from restaurants and convenience stores to florists and ... oceans. ("Love it," one seemingly sincere appraisal of the Pacific Ocean reads. "It's full of cute dolphins, otters, etc. The water smells nice and is very relaxing.")
But if you're a data nerd, Yelp can also provide some interesting info about what the "best" representatives of any given category look like. We decided to see what the best — and most popular — grocery stores in America were, and the top five are surprising, mostly because they're all small, independent stores. (That's a good kind of surprise. I mean, we like Trader Joe's and Publix too, but it's hard to beat a true local grocery.)
All of the businesses on this list are in Yelp's "grocery store" category, and the site ranked the "best" ones using an algorithm that looked at the number of reviews and the overall star rating (from one to five) for each listing. Despite your roomie's best efforts, the good 7-11 didn't make the cut — but a beloved corner store and a bakery-grocery combo did. Here are the stores that Yelp says are tops.
1. Crystal Springs Produce, San Mateo, California
This family-owned indie store specializes in locally sourced and organic (and both, when possible) produce and also offers a wide range of cheeses, fresh dairy and eggs, and daily deliveries of fresh baked bread.
What do Yelpers say? "So great to have this little place around! But don't be fooled by the size! It has so many great treasures from all over the world — and locally! Love the small-town feel and shop and service! I try to get all my fruits and veggies here — prices are BETTER and produce FRESHER than the market across the street by far!"
2. To The World Farm, Brooklyn, New York
This Williamsburg, Brooklyn, joint is adored for its large selection of reasonably priced produce, its in-store juice bar, and its homemade tofu and kimchi. (Frequent shoppers also love the shop's cat, which, as one reviewer put it, "basically runs the place.")
What do Yelpers say? "I have experienced the best from this local grocery store. The kindness and knowledge from the owner truly made me feel welcome and felt like a human as opposed to many places in NYC [...] The food is treated with respect which makes my heart so happy! I highly recommend if you love your healthy produce, vegan, or major produce lover. Will be back again and again."
3. Nick's Super Market, San Francisco, California
Nick's is more of a corner store or a bodega than a true "grocery store," but San Francisco locals still love it, and brag about the store's lower-than-the-big-guys prices, wine selection, and, of course, the produce. (The majority of the reviews also talk about what super people the owners are too.)
What do Yelpers say? "I can't even begin to say how great this local market is. They have such a variety of items that pretty much makes needing to go to a larger grocery store unnecessary. Not to mention the prices are fair and the service is amazing. My partner and I love them! We moved away from [the neighborhood] but very much still shop here whenever possible. Such a gem!"
4. Middle East Bakery & Grocery, West Palm Beach, Florida
True to its name, this is a restaurant, bakery, and small grocery store — one that specializes in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. That means you can get fresh brick-oven baked pita bread, homemade tabouli, falafel and hummus, and must-have ingredients like olives, cheeses, and dried fruits. Yes, please!
What do Yelpers say? "One of my favorite spots! I've tried a lot of different items here from the falafel to the lamb shawarma and they are all extremely delicious. I also love to shop their various selection of imported olives and salads. Their pita bread is delicious and I love having food in my fridge all week from them. It's nice to have such an authentic spot near by."
5. Jungle Jim's International Market, Fairfield, Ohio
This is the only entry on the list that has its own Wikipedia page, or that qualifies as a legit tourist attraction. The store — which has been described as the "theme park of food" has more than 300,000 square feet of floor space, so you're pretty much guaranteed to get lost. This isn't the place that you'd go for your everyday grocery needs, but when you need to stock up on ostrich eggs or imported specialty sodas, it's the only place to go.
What do Yelpers say? "Jungle Jim's has everything. And it's all at a surprisingly decent price. That was the biggest shock of all. Largest cheese selection I've ever seen. Largest olive selection I've ever seen. Largest wine selection I've ever seen. Largest international food section I've ever seen. They have whatever type meat you want [...] camel meat, python meat, I mean...my god."