Dining and Drink

30 local grocery stores to shake up your grocery routine

Go on culinary adventure in your home

Madison is home to myriad specialty grocery stores that will encourage your taste buds to go on a culinary adventure. Walk aisles lined with products you may have never tasted before, but might soon want to include in your daily diet. Use japchae noodles in a meal, spice up your dish with garam masala, find a new favorite hot sauce, sip a Ramune soda, slice up an African eggplant or open a sweet rambutan fruit. Try out new recipes while introducing your palate to interesting and delicious flavors. These 30 stores will shake you out of your grocery shopping routine and take you on a cultural adventure.

Asian

A-Mart Asian Grocery

Bright colors, bold flavors and diverse ingredients are the foundation of Pan-Asian dishes, but it can be difficult to find the fresh bamboo shoots and enoki mushrooms you need in some recipes. A-Mart Asian Grocery imports goods from as close as Chicago and as far away as Japan — and everywhere in between. Try green tea Kit Kat bars from Japan, or the juicy lychee fruit. The store is owned and operated by the Tran family, who immigrated to America from refugee camps in Cambodia and Thailand more than 30 years ago and opened A-Mart in December 2013. A-Mart offers fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, bakery goods, rice and noodles suitable for Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Thai, Japanese, Korean, African and Middle Eastern cuisines. 680 S. Whitney Way, 709-1329 — CV

Asian Midway Foods 
The first time you walk into Asian Midway Foods, it's likely no one will talk to you, but don't let that intimidate you. This grocery store is a gold mine of Asian products. Find a wide variety of vinegars and sauces, plus a ton of Asian candy and snack foods. A large produce section features exotic fruits, including durians, Korean pears and Barhi dates. "[The owner] does a really good job of picking good, fresh produce," says chef Tory Miller, who often stops here on his South Park Street specialty grocery store run for his restaurants. Note: If your nose isn't prepared to handle a strong fish smell from Midway's fresh seafood counter, steer clear of the back left corner of the store. But to be honest, that's part of the experience. This store is the ideal place to get out of your culinary comfort zone. Just keep your cellphone handy while browsing in case you have to look up a product name. 301 S. Park St., 255-5864 — AB

Hmong Legacy Market

This store offers all the ingredients needed to create a traditional Hmong dish, plus dine-in or takeout food and a selection of clothing. Lining the shelves are neat rows of sauces and cans filled with curry and soup bases. There are also vegetables grown by the store owners and local farmers, including bitter melons. Don't miss the deli tucked in the back of the market, where you can order a variety of Hmong meals that will be prepared in minutes, from stuffed chicken wings to pho. The popular papaya salad is $6 and features freshly shredded papayas with peppers that pack a spicy punch. The deli also offers a selection of drinks, such as Thai iced tea. Accompanying the deli is a small dining area with tables where you can sit and enjoy your meal. A selection of colorful Hmong clothing is in the store's front left corner. 2119 Fish Hatchery Road, 416-5400 — JL

Oriental Food Mart
Find all the basics for a Korean meal at this small specialty store that sources a majority of its products from Chicago — one of the best places to find quality imported goods in the Midwest. Pick up rice cakes, bonito flakes, gochujang, dried anchovies and other Korean items here — the majority of this shop's inventory is frozen or dried, but you'll also find a small selection of fresh items. Shelves and a few coolers are neatly stocked with products like dried mountain fern, Korean and Japanese teas, fresh ginseng and japchae noodles. Insider's tip: Don't be afraid to dig into the chest freezers here — you might find some tasty marinated meat if you spend enough time looking around. Oriental Food Mart also offers a variety of kimchi brands and flavors. Owner Simon Lee and his family are friendly and keep the shop clean and organized. 1206 S. Park St., 255-0326 — AB

Yue Wah Oriental Foods 
Though the name implies that Yue Wah Oriental Foods is a great location for all your Asian cuisine needs (which it definitely is), this store has even more to offer. In addition to the varied selection of Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai and Indian ingredients, you'll have luck shopping for Middle Eastern and Hispanic products, too. With so many ingredients to choose from, it might be a bit of a challenge to find exactly what you're looking for. That's where owner Kien Ma comes in. "When we have new customers, they come in, they ask questions and then we try to help them as much as we can," he says. Whether you're searching for an elusive ingredient for the recipe you've been dying to make or just looking to try something new, you'll likely be able to find it at Yue Wah. 2328 S. Park St., 257-9338 — LR

Indian

Bombay Bazaar
This Indian grocery store is a great one-stop shop for the specialty items on your shopping list. The shelves are tightly packed with an extensive variety of spices and spice blends like saffron, dry curry leaves and mango powder to make your own masala. You'll also find uncommon produce like ash gourd, gooseberries and winter melon. If you're new to Indian cooking, Bombay Bazaar has a selection of cooking tools that can help with coconut scraping and spice blending, among other things. 753 S. Gammon Road, 237-1377 — LR

India House

Presenting a variety of food items from halal meat options and spices to snacks and pastries, India House is a must-stop for Indian ingredients. The store is also known for its helpful and friendly customer service. Ask at the counter for the fresh samosas — trust us, you won't regret it. For just $1, you'll get a warm, flaky samosa the size of your palm. Grab a couple samosas and find a bottle of chutney to accompany it (we recommend tamarind chutney) and you'll be set for a great meal. 709 S. Gammon Road, 268-0240 — KB

Maharaja Grocery and Liquor
The rich smells of cumin, ajwain, cardamom and coriander welcome you into Maharaja Grocery and Liquor. Stroll through the back aisle for a wide selection of vegetables that are delivered on Mondays and Fridays. Be sure to grab some fresh okra for your next curry before heading to the far back corner, where you'll find two aisles stacked high with every kind of flour imaginable. Chapati flour made from durum wheat will produce a strong yet elastic dough great for homemade naan or roti. Or pick up some pre-made naan bread from the freezer when in a pinch. 1701 Thierer Road, 246-2656 — CV

Namaste India Grocery Store
International Plaza features five specialty grocery stores, including Namaste India Grocery Store. If you're cooking on a Friday, stop by for fresh vegetables delivered at the end of each work week. Pick up some aloo (potatoes), gobi (cauliflower), turmeric, kalonji (nigella seeds) and curry to make aloo gobi, a popular dish served in many Indian restaurants. Pick up any of your Indian cuisine basics and try frying up samosas, simmering some vindaloo or stewing lamb for a hefty bowl of rogan josh. If you're hoping to try a new snack, consider picking up Parle-G biscuits — one of the oldest brand names in India and one of the most popular cookies in the world — to accompany your tea or coffee. 805 S. Gammon Road, Suite A, 422-5263 — CV

Italian

Alimentari

At Alimentari, you can take home some of the flavors of Williamson Street's A Pig in A Fur Coat restaurant. Opened by brothers Daniel and Enrico Bonanno along with A Pig in a Fur Coat co-owners Bonnie Arent and sous chef Jonathan Huttsell, Alimentari is a deli and market serving fresh pasta, cured meats, cheese, homemade sauces, wine and other speciality Italian products, including octopus in olive oil with garlic. Stop in to get all of the ingredients you'll need for an Italian meal. Plus, staff members are more than happy to suggest good recipes to try out. 306 S. Brearly St., 665-3650 — CV

Fraboni's Italian Specialties & Delicatessen
This deli has been in the Madison area since Angelo and Gloria Fraboni opened their (now-closed) Regent Street location 1971. To this day, Fraboni's remains a family affair as Angelo's son Garry, his wife, children and sister run the third-generation business in Monona with their siblings and children. Drop by to stock up on Italian necessities like gourmet olives, homemade sauces, fresh sausages and cheeses. If you're looking for a grab-and-go meal, stop at the deli counter for a signature submarine sandwich. Fraboni's also has daily lunch and dinner specials, so you'll find something new if you come back day after day. 108 Owen Road, Monona, 222-6632 — CV

Gino's Italian Deli
Grab Italian essentials and a quick meal all in one stop at one of two Gino's Italian Deli locations. While its selection of pre-packaged products may not be as large as that of other Italian grocers, the store more than makes up for it with a huge selection of fresh deli sandwiches, pastas and salads. With cold pastas, olive salads and fruit medleys filling the case, the real challenge is deciding which tasty side to bring to your cookout or potluck. And with 14 different sandwiches to choose from, there's a lunch option for everyone. 4606 Verona Road, 273-1981; 6509 Century Ave., Middleton, 827-0999 — LR

Hispanic

La Rosita Mexican Grocery Store
Have you ever taken a date to a grocery store? You just might want to when you find out La Rosita Mexican Grocery Store is an above-average spot for a taco date night. Step up to the counter in the back and order a generously sized $3 taco before picking up bistec adobado de puerco (marinated pork steak) from the substantial selection of meats. Your significant other will thank you after chowing down on a traditional chorizo taco. You'll also find Mexican cuisine staples like authentic tortillas, specialty salsas and tomatillos in the grocery section. So if your date is OK with it, you could do a bit of grocery shopping after dinner to knock an errand off your to-do list. (Although that's not recommended for first dates.) 6005 Monona Drive, Monona, 221-2203 — CV

Mercado Marimar
Hidden inside this strip mall store on South Park Street is one of the best Mexican kitchens in town. At a small counter in the back of the shop, you can order tacos, quesadillas, tortas, burritos, enchiladas and daily specials Monday through Friday. The best time to stop by is on the weekends when Mercado Marimar puts barbacoa tacos, tamales and fresh tortillas on the menu. The grocery store also has a full meat counter and a wide variety of soft Mexican cheeses to choose from. A small produce section provides fruits and vegetables, including ripe avocados, cacti and tomatillos. Also, don't miss a small fridge near the taqueria counter stocked with fresh salsas and guacamole. 2102 S. Park St., 260-8928 — AB

Los Gemelos
Los Gemelos is one of Madison's hidden gems. Once you step through the doors of the unassuming storefront, you're transported into a small store that packs a big punch. Of course, you can pick up all the Hispanic goodies you need, including conchas — Mexican sweet bread rolls with crunchy, shell-like toppings. What really makes Los Gemelos stand out from the crowd is a dynamite restaurant located in the back of the store. Swing by for tacos, quesadillas and a slew of other authentic Mexican dishes that will leave your mouth watering with each bite. 6713 Odana Road, Suite 8, 441-0061 — LR

Santa Maria Grocery

Santa Maria becomes a powerhouse of a specialty store by coupling low-priced fresh produce with freshly made, authentic Mexican food. With fresh papayas, limes, plantains and more, Santa Maria likely has the fruits you're looking for. If you stop by on the weekend you'll find a fresh selection of tamales, carnitas, barbacoa and salsas. If a pit stop makes it on your weekend to-do list, go earlier rather than later to make sure you get the first pick of the day on the goodies you're looking for. 1326 S. Midvale Blvd., 270-9566 — LR

Miscellaneous Markets

African Market
The "market" part of this small west side store's name might seem a little misleading at first. When you walk in, it doesn't look like a market at all — it seems like a hair and beauty supply store. But venture past the wigs to the back of the space to discover goods and produce from Ghana, Nigeria and Ethiopia among other African countries. Catering to Madison's growing African community, the market sells African eggplants, yams and plantains along with smoked catfish and goat meat. Beverages including Jamaican ginger beer, nonalcoholic malts and a variety of sodas are also available. According to store owners Benjamin and Agartha Morris, most of the food is sourced from countries in West Africa. 805 S. Gammon Road, 441-0276 — KB

Inter Market

Only one grocery store in Madison specializes in Eastern European products. Inter Market, located on Madison's west side, carries a plethora of goods from Russia and other European countries. In the shop, find an assortment of Russian cookies and treats that can satisfy any sweet tooth and accompany the teas that are also sold there. Fruit preserves from Poland, Russia and Ukraine, canned goods like pickled tomatoes plus marinated mushrooms also frequent the shelves while smoked fish and caviar are kept in the freezer. Inter Market also sells kvass (a fermented rye bread soda), which is definitely worth a try. 5317 Old Middleton Road, 231-2017 — KB

International Market
Whether you're hoping to make Indian dal or African fufu, the International Market will have products to help you create dishes from around the world. Canned foods, essential spices and sauces fill the shelves, as do many grains and flours such as basmati rice and farina. Many beverages such as guava juice, canned Thai coffee and Rani Float, a Middle Eastern juice brand, are sold here as well. Near the drinks are a wide variety of snacks like coconut cookies, cinnamon crisps and instant noodles with Indian spices. Make sure to venture to the back of the store, where you can find freezers containing seafood and meats. Not only does the store sell groceries, it also offers beauty products like shower gel and African shea butter. On one side of the store, you'll find colorful jewelry and clothing. 4261 Lien Road, Suite Q, 819-8333  — JL

Istanbul market
Teeming with a variety of imported goods, Istanbul Market is a great place to find ingredients to create a Middle Eastern dish. The shelves are stocked with candy, spices, canned goods and grains, and the freezers are filled with sausages, cheeses and pastries. The store also offers a wide selection of European teas and drinks. If you're hoping to find halal meat, this is one of the best places to go. The back of the store contains a small kitchen where you can order freshly cooked chicken shawarma and kefta, a Moroccan ground meat, for less than $5. Exploring the many products that this small market has to offer will undoubtedly broaden your culinary creativity. 745 S. Gammon Road, 515-0278 — JL

Keep It Local 

Locally owned and operated grocery stores supply daily staples.

When Brennan's Market closed in September 2017, a former manager revitalized the business through Brennan's Cellars. The shop has a full-service butcher counter, a huge cheese selection and Chin-Drippin' fresh fruit. 8210 Watts Road, 833-2893

Metcalfe's Market, a fourth-generation family business, has kept its focus on local and quality foods since its founding in 1917. 7455 Mineral Point Road, 829-3500; 726 N. Midvale Blvd., 238-7612

With three locations in the area, Willy Street Co-op serves communities across the city with its cooperative model. 1221 Williamson St., 251-6776; 2817 N. Sherman Ave., 471-4422; 6825 University Ave., 284-7800

Since 1979, the Jenifer Street Market has served the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhood. There is always new beer available if you want to sample something different. 2038 Jenifer St., 244-6646

The Regent Market Co-op has been open almost daily since its founding in the 1920s. When it became a cooperative in 1998, nearly a thousand people came to support the shop. 2136 Regent St., 233-4329

Capitol Centre Market and Fresh Madison Market are fully stocked shops within walking distance of most downtown residences. Capitol Centre Market: 111 N. Broom St., 255-2616; Fresh Madison Market: 703 University Ave., 287-0000

When Luna's Groceries opened in early 2019, Mariam and Joe Maldonado helped bring an end to the Allied Dunn's Marsh neighborhood's food desert. 2010 Red Arrow Trail, 285-5422

While Festival Foods and Woodman's Markets may seem like big-box grocers because of their size and multiple locations, both stores have humble beginnings right here in Wisconsin. Expansive options, giant liquor sections and aisles upon aisles of produce, cheese and more make both of these grocery stores the convenient one-stop shops that they are. Festival Foods: 810 E. Washington Ave., 844-511-3887; Woodman's Markets: 725 S. Gammon Road, 274-8944; 3817 Milwaukee St., 244-6630 1099 S. Grand Ave., Sun Prairie, 825-1511

Kadjata Bah, Andrea Behling, Maija Inveiss, Jessica Liu, Logan Rude and Claire VanValkenburg contributed to this listing.


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