My Fresh Basket Grand Opening
My First Impression
My Fresh Basket, a new locally owned grocery store in the Kendall Yards neighborhood had its grand opening today (June 30). I decided to stop in and check it out for myself. I had been seeing lots of promotions on social media as well as the Night Market and watched as the store went up at the corner of Monroe and W Summit Pkwy. It looked as if we were getting a cute little market full of locally grown and crafted produce and grocery items. Did it meet my expectations?
First impression- it looks really snazzy! It feels a lot like a Whole Foods, Huckleberry's or the Main Market. The whole front of the store is produce (more on that later) and there's a coffee bar, a small self-serve hot food bar, salad bar and a bakery with goods from local bake shops. It's fun and homey and fits right into the neighborhood.
Produce- While the name My Fresh Basket might conjure up images of Farmer's Markets and locally run co-ops with organic and sustainably grown produce the selection is on par with pretty much every other grocery store in the area (save Huckleberry's whose produce is all organic). That's to say, there isn't a huge selection of organic produce. The placards next to each item only listed country of origin so whether or not the apples, asparagus or potatoes in the bins were grown locally is anybody's guess.
Butcher’s Block- I found some interesting selections here. They carry frog legs for any of you who want to make some southern comfort food or traditional French cuisine. They also carry octo mari—which I’m guessing is just octopus used for frying instead of squid? (Full disclosure, I don’t really like seafood but I’m starting to expand my palate a bit.) They’ve got quite a bit of fish and even had fillets of Copper River salmon but, as far as sourcing their seafood I suspect most of it is farmed. Admittedly, I didn’t ask. The place was packed and I was trying to stay out of the way of the patrons actually buying fish. This would definitely be something I would ask about in the future before I made any purchases.
As far as land dwelling creatures go, it looks like Painted Hills provides MFB with their beef. Painted Hills is local and does raise pastured beef. I have no problems supporting them when I buy beef at the grocery store. Though, I still prefer to buy from Emtman’s Bros.; I know they are 100% grass-fed cows and we can buy anywhere from a ¼ to a whole cow from them at a more budget friendly price. As for lunch meats and pre-cooked sausages, I was thoroughly disappointed to see that most of what they offer is Johnsonville or Hormel products. They did have some of the more preferred brands like Aidelle’s, Niman Ranch, and Applegate Farms and the store made ground pork sausage didn’t have any alarming ingredients. I didn’t ask about the sourcing of their pork but it would likely be good in a pinch.
Dairy- The dairy section was mostly full of common, highly processed yogurts, conventionally raised/processed milk and highly processed cheeses. They do have a selection of artisan cheese but it’s mostly big name brands and not the smaller family operations I’ve come to recognize from places like Main Market, Huckleberry’s or even Yoke’s. They did have some good options like Siggi’s yogurt (one of my favorites for its tart taste, high protein and low sugar) and some organic milk but, I didn’t see and of the local dairies like Pure Éire, Schoonover Farms, or Spokane Family Farms on the shelf.
Beer / Wine- I have to say…I was pretty impressed with the selections of craft beer and wine in stock. While I’m pretty much limited to drinking gluten free or “crafted to remove gluten” beers like Omission and Daura Damm, but my husband is very much a craft beer guy. He makes home brews inspired by other craft beers and uses the same techniques Widmer and other breweries used to remove the gluten for me! I sent him a picture of one of the Stone Brewing Co. IPAs and asked “Have you had this one?” His response was, “Nope. Please?!” I obliged but suffered a bit from sticker shock.
Stone’s brews typically go for about $1.50-2.00 per 12oz bottle. The 6 pack I bought was $18! In that same vein, I found a bottle of red wine know to average about $12 also selling for $18! This price gouge wasn’t isolated to just the beer and wine aisles. I noticed many of the items I’m very familiar with had prices $1-3 higher than average. I guess that’s what happens when you pay for prime real estate in the newest and hippest neighborhood in town, the lease money has to come from somewhere. For those of you who are like me and can’t do much beer I will say that I was very impressed by their hard cider selection. Again, with the high prices though.
Groceries- The center of the store (much like the outskirts) looked very much like a typical grocery store. Lots of Nabisco, Kraft and General Mills highly processed and refined foods. I saw some better options scattered among the junk foods, but many of them are also stocked at every other store in town and you’re likely to get better prices elsewhere.
One thing I was hoping to see and didn’t was a soy/canola free dressing (like Tessemae’s or Primal Kitchen) for those of us who don’t eat industrial oils however, I didn’t find a single dressing there that wasn’t made with soy and or canola. Though, they did carry Sir Kensington’s mayo which uses sunflower oil and would be a better choice for those of you who want to dabble with making your own dressings.
Good finds- I did find some pretty cool stuff. In the frozen food section I found a brand of stock bases called Stock Options. The ones I looked at didn’t have any funky additives and they had quite a selection, from vegetable, beef and pork stock, as well as a fish stock! If you don’t want to make your own these seem like a suitable substitute. For those of you familiar with Frannie the ice pop lady who passes out her handmade ice pops to patrons at the farmer’s market you’ll be happy to know that you can buy her ice pops at My Fresh Basket. If I’d have had a way to transport a couple of them across town and back to the Valley without them turning into Frannie’s Fruit Soup, I would have bought a couple. Next time I’ll bring a small cooler, or go later at night when it’s not 90° outside.
Hot Food / Salad Bar- The salad bar had quite a bit of variety though the only organic items were baby spinach or kale leaves. At least, those were the only items listed as being organic. Perhaps they still have placards to put out. After all, it’s opening day and they were definitely still working out some kinks. The hot bar was mostly carbs and meats slathered in sauces so likely wouldn’t be of interest to anyone with food allergies/restrictions. There was lasagna and what looked like maybe shepherd’s pie. Honestly, at this point I’d been in the store for over an hour and there were are lot of people there.
Final thought- My impression is that it’s just another grocery store located in a spunky little up and coming part of town that offers a couple of fun/interesting items but isn’t necessarily worth going out of your way for. If you're on a tight budget be extra cautious, while there are some pretty decently priced items and even some good sale prices, I did find some stuff, like the examples I mentioned, that had been significantly marked up. If you’re looking for specialty items for cooking or baking with dietary restrictions (like cassava flour, soy/canola free dressings, alternative nut butters, etc.) your best bet is still going to be Natural Grocers, Huckleberry’s or even Trader Joe’s. That being said, if I find myself in that part of town and need to stop in and pick up a few things I’d gladly run in and get what I need.
I think like my disappointment stems from feeling like this was made to seem like a specialty store that was going to offer lots of locally grown produce and hand crafted food items created by the many awesome local purveyor’s in our region and it ended up being just another grocery store. If you want to support local farmers and craftsmen your best bet is still the farmer's markets. I figure I’ll give it a few weeks and head back when it’s not so busy and I have time (and space) to do a more thorough look through the aisles.
If you were curious about stopping in to check things out, don’t let my opinion discourage you. There’s plenty to see there and I know I didn’t see it all. It’s very likely that you’ll find some pretty awesome stuff there to take home with you and as much as I talked about price gouging there were some pretty stellar sales, too! Perhaps, next time you’re up in the Kendall Yards neighborhood (say, for next week’s farmer’s market ::wink wink::) stop in a check it out. Let me know what you think!