Specialty Grocers for the Inspired Cook

When your recipe requires some serious shopping, Philadelphia has you covered

Ey Emily Kovach

If you’re doing a deep dive into an unfamiliar cuisine, sometimes the hardest part is finding the right ingredients. But all over the Philadelphia region, you’ll not only find specialty shops where you can get what you need to create a from-scratch gourmand masterpiece, you can also pick up store-made specialties. 

Here are a few of our favorites.

Shop the ’Burbs

Maido!

Founded in 2003 by Seiko Dailey, Maido! is the only Japanese-owned grocery store in the Philadelphia area. Maido! occupies a storefront on East Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore and offers a wide selection of Japanese groceries, including an amazing array of candy and frozen treats that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else locally. 

Home cooks looking to create authentic Japanese cuisine will be thrilled to find traditional ingredients, including shimeji mushrooms, komatsuna leaves, kabu radishes and mizuna from Suzuki Farm in Delmar, Delaware. The shop also sells Japanese stationery, cosmetics and toys, some that may be recognizable (Hello Kitty and Pokémon characters), and others that are more obscure.

Maido! is also an eat-in lunch counter, serving up okonomiyaki, yakisoba, oyakodon (rice bowls), curries and more traditional bites. 

Maido translates to “every time,” but is used regionally as a friendly greeting similar to “nice to see you again!” This benevolent spirit is apparent from the friendly, open customer service in the shop—they even offer a shuttle service to those without access to cars! The market’s Saturday shuttle runs between the Japanese Language School of Philadelphia (1101 City Line Ave.) starting at 9:30 a.m., returning about every 30 minutes until 2 p.m. Groups of six or more shoppers in Center City or University City can call to request the shuttle on Saturday or Sunday afternoons.

5 E. Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore
484.417.6745 

Armenian Delight

Tucked into an unassuming shopping center on West Chester Pike in Broomall is Armenian Delight, a family owned market selling Armenian, Greek, Lebanese and other Mediterranean products. For immigrant families in the western ’burbs, this store is a mainstay for all kinds of ingredients, from jarred goods (imported honey, walnut preserves, tahini, pomegranate juice) to cheeses (feta and halloumi), as well as spices, nuts, dried fruits and olives with authentic origins that provide a taste of home. 

An in-store, carry-out café also offers a bevy of traditional foods. Containers of hummus, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves, labneh and other Middle Eastern salads and dips are available, perfect to pair with rounds of lavash. Lahmajoun, a thin piece of dough topped with veggies and herbs and your choice of beef, chicken or tofu, is a customer favorite, as are the boreg, savory pastries filled with spinach, beef and cheese. Don’t leave without a sampling of sweet pastries, such as baklava, cashew fingers and khoorabia (Armenian butter cookies).

2591 West Chester Pike in Broomall

610.353.7711

Shop the City

Tortilleria San Roman

Before you visit Tortilleria San Roman, you must heed this very real disclaimer: Once you try the handmade corn tortillas and impossibly crunchy tortilla chips, you may never be able to go back to the prepackaged stuff from the grocery store. 

Situated in the heart of the 9th Street Italian Market in a small corner spot, this walk-up counter has a limited and unbelievably inexpensive menu. Blue and white corn tortillas, which are made every day (you can see the process right behind the counter), come in a pack of 30 for just $2.25 (half-packs are available upon request). Those life-changing tortilla chips are available in small, medium and large bags, priced at $1.50, $3.50 and $6, respectively. There is simply no reason to buy tortillas or chips anywhere else.

Tortilleria San Roman also makes its own salsa, cactus salad, tlacoyos (tortillas filled with fried beans) and sopes to complete a Mexican feast. Brave the market crowds on the weekends to be handsomely rewarded with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo, which are only available on Saturdays and Sundays.

951 S. 9th St.; 267.507.9161

Bitar’s

This Lebanese market and café at 9th and Federal streets is a South Philly institution that you can’t miss if there’s a Middle Eastern recipe you want to try. On one side of the space, find a well-stocked shop with dried beans, breads, olives, a refrigerator full of hummus, tzatziki and other assorted dips, sauces, drinks, cheeses and olives; don’t miss the pastry case with heaps of honey-kissed phyllo dough treats (oh, those pistachio rings). 

The other side of the space is a casual café, where plentiful vegetarian and meaty options are on offer. While the standard falafel, gyro and kabob sandwiches are well-crafted and tasty, veer a bit off road and try some kitchen specialties. The “Bittzas” are clever fusions of Middle Eastern cuisine and pizza: za’atar-flecked flatbreads with a variety of toppings such as grilled chicken, tomatoes, feta, olives and roasted peppers.

947 Federal St.; 215.666.7340

Bacchus Market & Catering

This is the kind of gourmet market that every neighborhood deserves: quality without pretension, everyday staples alongside specialty splurges, and a large case of prepared comfort foods for those evenings when a home-cooked dinner just isn’t going to happen. Oh, and a coffee bar, too!

Bacchus was founded in Fitler Square in 1999, when the city’s food landscape hardly resembled what it looks like today. For nearly 20 years, it’s been serving neighborhood residents, tourists and those just passing through on the way to work or a walk the park with easy breakfast and lunch options, to-go salads and sides, ice cream, fresh produce and pantry items. The prepared food is made with local ingredients when possible, with bountiful vegetarian and gluten-free items. The market’s fun snacks, gourmet chocolates, artisan beef jerky and hot sauces also make stellar gifts for foodie friends.

A robust catering menu rounds out Bacchus’ offerings, providing extensive choices for Philly residents celebrating occasions large and small. (Word has it that Judy Wicks ordered food from Bacchus for her holiday party last year!) Stop by for a snack or to peruse the shelves of groceries; just take note: Bacchus is closed on Mondays.

2300 Spruce St., 215.545.6656

International Foods & Spices

Looking to build up your pantry with Indian ingredients? Head over to 42nd and Walnut streets to International Foods & Spices, one of the most extensive Indian markets in the city. Rows upon rows of lentils, beans, breads, sauces, chutneys, snack mixes, infusions such as rose water and tamarind water—and so much more—await. Whether you’re an accomplished cook or just want to see what all the recent fuss over ghee butter is about, this store has you covered. 

Sacks of rice in many sizes and varieties offer some of the best prices around (you’ll never buy overpriced coconut milk again from a conventional grocery store once you see how much you can get for so little). When it comes to spices, there is a veritable rainbow of both ground and whole seeds and spices, mostly sold in bulk (in plastic bags, not from self-serve containers). This is by far the most economic (and green!) way to buy spices, so start rinsing and saving your empty spice jars in preparation.

The market also has a small produce section. While this might not be the most practical place to buy some ingredients, like tomatoes or cucumbers, you can sometimes find galangal, kaffir limes, curry leaves and other traditional ingredients that you rarely ever see at a supermarket. Staple aromatics, such as onions, garlic and ginger are also super cheap and worth stocking up on. 

Behind the front counter, there is a small selection of hot, prepared Indian dishes. While you’ll have better luck with hot meals at some of the nearby Indian buffets and restaurants, we recommend making it a tradition to grab a crispy samosa or two for the walk home.

4203 Walnut St., 215.222.4480

Market Watch: Now Open/ Coming Soon

Philadelphia is in the midst of a natural-food market boom, with a slew of openings and two neighborhood co-ops coming soon. South Philly Food Co-op has been striving toward the goal of opening a member-owned market for years now. While the core group of organizers is still fundraising toward their $1 million goal to open, a major milestone has been achieved: A lease has been signed at 2301 S. Juniper St. (on Wolf Street between 13th and Broad). Across town, a similar endeavor is underway: Kensington Community Food Co-op has secured a space on Coral Street, which will be home to a market and a café (with a liquor license!). The members are still raising funds, but they hope to begin construction soon.

Fishtown recently welcomed Riverwards Produce, a community-centric food market featuring many local products, in Fishtown at 2200 E. Norris St. Owner and founder Vincent Finazzo says he is committed to affordability and accessibility for the market’s shoppers.

Rowhouse Grocery, in the Newbold neighborhood of South Philly, is pursuing a similar model. Occupying a two-story row home at 17th and McKean streets. Prepared foods and coffee round out produce, meat, dairy and pantry items. Check out fall market hours on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For a bigger market experience, the new Market East location of MOM’s Organic Market is finally open and offers a wide selection for grocery shopping and prepared foods to serve the Center City lunch crowd.

Outside of the city, keep an eye out for the new Weavers Way location in Ambler, and another outpost of Kimberton Whole Foods in Collegeville (its largest location yet). Both are coming soon.