For many people, shopping at an ethnic grocery store is a unique opportunity to learn more about - and support - another culture. For others, it's a chance to take in the culinary comforts of home from far away. These markets often provide a low-cost and tastier alternative to many items we usually buy at the supermarket - and reveal just how diverse Cincinnati has become. This list features six of Cincinnati's most popular ethnic markets.
Marina's Deli is a full-service deli and grocery store specializing in foods from Eastern Europe. Owners Marina and Pavel Davidovich opened the Symmes Township store more than 12 years ago and today it is the Tristate's largest Eastern European market.
The deli features more than a dozen types of sausages and salamis, including authentic Polish and Italian varieties, a large selection of cheeses, rye bread imported weekly from Germany, handmade pelmeni and perogies, and European pastries and ice creams. They also stock Russian language DVDs and newspapers as well as a large selection of Eastern European beer and wine.
11426 Montgomery Road, (513) 469-6100
Olive fans will love Dean's Mediterranean Imports, located at the historic Findlay Market. Dean Zaiden's shop carries 15 types of olives from many a sun-soaked region as well as homemade Mediterranean staples like hummus, tabouli, and baba ganoush.
The store also carries spices (located behind the counter), nuts, and grains like couscous and bulgur wheat in bulk. Dean's has an excellent selection of olive oils to fit every budget, imported staples like canned roasted peppers, as well as teas and whole bean coffees. The refrigerated section in the back of the store is substantial and features a variety of cheeses like halloumi and feta, yogurts, and breads.
Note: Dean's is tiny and popular. Be prepared to shop in a tight, crowded space, especially on Saturday mornings, or visit the store during the weekdays when it is less busy.
108 West Elder Street, (513) 721-8053
From the cardboard boxes on the floor filled with different types of basil, fresh ginger root, and garlic, to the Asian beauty products on the highest shelves, Saigon Market is stocked with products from Asian countries including Vietnam, Thailand, China, and Japan. Also located at Findlay Market, the family-owned business is known for their friendly and personal service and for keeping their prices low. Locals visit Saigon Market, opened in 1976, to buy low-cost Thai curry pastes, organic rice, noodles, spices, and even kitchenware like Asian soup bowls, cutlery, and woks.
119 West Elder Street, (513) 721-8053
4. Jagdeep's Indian Market
Located behind Amol, one of four Indian restaurants on Ludlow Avenue, Jagdeep's (called "Deep's"), has been serving Clifton's large Indian population for decades. The store offers a huge assortment of Indian staples including basmati rice (brown, white, and black varieties) and flatbreads like naan and roti, as well as aisles of spices.
The refrigerated section towards the back of the store carries produce like jackfruit, fresh curry leaves and turmeric root as well as family-sized packages of frozen naan and samosas. If you're feeling less inspired, Deep's also has a good assortment of precooked Indian meals and features rotating selections from Amol on most days. It's also an ideal stop for high-quality English teas and even carries saris, Bollywood DVDs, and good incense.
Note: If you're a novice at cooking Indian food you may want to let the very friendly staff at Deep's help you. I once declined their help and grabbed the special oil I needed for my dinner party, only to discover, as my guests arrived, that the oil I bought was marked "for massage use only." We ended up with carry-out from Amol.
356 Ludlow Avenue, (513) 961-2699
5. El Porvenir Mexican Grocery
El Porvenir is located on the outskirts of Eastgate, which makes it especially ideal for anyone living on the east side (although it's worth the drive regardless of your location). The small and lively store has everything you need for a decent fiesta - from tallboys of Modelo Especial to a wide assortment of Mexican pastries and brightly colored piñatas.
Unlike many other Cincinnati Hispanic grocery stores, El Porvenir has a deli that sells not only a good variety of Mexican cheeses but also a decent selection of meats; many that have been pre-seasoned and cut for fajitas and other Mexican mainstays.
4503 Mount Carmel Tobasco Road, (513) 688-0082
6. La Mexicana Grocery Store and Restaurant
Cincinnati's Mexican food scene is sometimes described as belonging to one of two eras: Pre-La Mexicana and Post-La Mexicana. This Newport grocery store and restaurant is often credited as the Tristate's first real taqueria.
The no-frills restaurant serves up authentic Mexican fare seven days a week, so shoppers have ample opportunities to eat a true Mexican meal before perusing the attached small grocery store for the ingredients needed to recreate the La Mexicana experience in their own home. Centrally located in Newport, in Northern Kentucky, near downtown Cincinnati, it's more accessible than El Porvenir for those living closer to the west side.
642 Monmouth Street, (859) 261-6112