WORTHINGTON -- A world of culinary opportunity awaits the savvy shopper in Worthington.
Whether one is hungry for adventure or simply feeling hungry, local grocery stores offer foodstuffs from across the globe or just down the road to satisfy cravings both Midwestern and exotic.
From the extremely large (Wal-Mart Supercenter) to the compact (Ban Lao Market), consumers have a wealth of options for feeding themselves and their families within a short walk or drive of home.
What you do with the baby frog's legs, aloe leaves, lefse or braunschweiger once you get home--well, that's up to you.
Here's a brief summary of several area grocery options:
Hy-Vee Food Stores, 1635 Oxford St., open 24 hours daily.
Now with new manager Mike Haiar at the helm since early March, Hy-Vee has served the Worthington area for more than 25 years and currently employs about 150 full- and part-time employees.
The Worthington Hy-Vee includes a full-service deli that offers made-to-order sandwiches and hand-made pizzas, dips and meat/cheese/veggie platters. The Hy-Vee kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with hot home-style meals such as meatloaf, baked chicken and potatoes available, as well as an assortment of freshly prepared cold salads and rotisserie chicken.
Fresh, blue-ribbon, Amana-quality beef is handcut in the meat department, where meat bundles are available, and the store also has a floral shop and in-store bakery, from which customers may special-order cakes, buns, breads and more.
"We also have one of the largest varieties of seafood in town," volunteered Haiar, a 16-year Hy-Vee employee.
Fareway, 1028 Ryan's Road, open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Newly opened at this location on Oct. 28, 2009, "economical food stores" is Fareway's motto; corporate headquarters are in Boone, Iowa. Fareway boasts a large selection of fresh produce, an in-store bakery that accommodates special orders and a full-service meat counter with perhaps the town's most eclectic range of items -- from seafood salad to ready-to-cook fajita mix, chicken fried steak and other specialty items for ready-in-minutes meals.
Grocery manager Marie Stricker also points out Fareway's organic and glutenfree sections, as well as a number of products appealing to Worthington's diverse ethnic groups.
"We have carry-out-toyour car service, and some customers really appreciate that extra bit of help," commented Stricker. "We are very pleased with the community's response and support of our business. Everybody at Fareway is about customer service, and each employee is able and willing to answer any questions a customer might have."
Stricker notes Fareway matches advertised prices and accepts coupons from any other local grocery store's ad, and that two motorized carts are available for shoppers' convenience.
W-2's Quality Meats, 362 Oxford St., open 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Owners Troy Wietzema and Steven Wieneke are a few months away from celebrating the five-year anniversary of their one-stop shopping specialty meat market.
"We're an all-around, fullservice, high-quality meat shop," explained Wieneke, noting they offer meat bundles and have an informative Web site, www.w2squalitymeats.com. "No special order or event is too big or too small for us to handle."
W-2's has its own smokehouse where they smoke sticks, jerky, hot dogs, turkey and hams, and the expert butchers purchase all their pork from the local JBS. Besides a wide assortment of meat products (roasts, hamburger, bacon, sausage, steaks, etc.), W-2's stocks complementary items such as Mrs. Gerry's chicken salad, Excalibur seasonings, Gold'n Plump chicken, charcoal, marinades and Bongard's cheese.
Baked goods, including garlic toast, donuts and cinnamon bread from the Slayton Bakery, are sold at W-2's, as well.
"For Easter, we have double-smoked hams," shared Wieneke, "and we are involved with the TRIP program benefiting both the Worthington Christian School and St. Mary's."
Video Lupita in two locations: 1305 East Ave. and 1321 Milton Ave. East Avenue location open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; Milton Avenue location, open noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
"People are surprised when they come in," smiled owner Maria Parga, "because it looks smaller outside than it is in here."
An array of brightly colored produce, canned goods, houseware and clothing items -- plus an extensive collection of piñatas -- greets customers upon entering Video Lupita. Parga and several other employees are bilingual, making transactions comfortable for all consumers.
Parga stocks products from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico at the store she has successfully operated for 18 years.
"We have a full range of products for weddings, baptisms, First Communions and Quinceanaras," shared Parga. "The kids just love the piñatas."
Whether you're in the market for aloe leaves, pickled pork ears, shrimp or spices, you'll find it at Video Lupita. Meat and deli counters toward the rear of the store have many selections, including monster-sized burritos made to order. Taquitos, sticky rice, tamales, tortas and pupusas are also available for carry-out.
Parga's on-site bakery prepares burritos and tortillas from scratch, as well as a wide selection of Mexican sweets and pastries.
Coolers of beverages make Video Lupita a popular stop for quick refreshments before and after soccer games at Buss Field, and Parga has not only Latin American drinks but also mainstream offerings like Coke, Red Bull and Monster drinks.
"We don't have a certain specialty," expressed Parga. "We have a little bit of everything."
Wal-Mart Supercenter, 1055 Ryan's Road, open 24 hours daily.
Assistant manager Dewey Stuve emphasizes that Wal-Mart adapts to each community in which it operates by offering items that may be unique to an area's demographic makeup.
"We have a whole aisle of Hispanic foods, and many items that are asked for by our African population," said Stuve. "We sell a lot of Tampico juice, a lot of tilapia, and we are generally well attuned to the local population and their needs."
In addition, Wal-Mart has an on-site bakery that cooks up made-to-order cakes, specialty breads and many other bakery items. Stuve mentioned Wal-Mart's extensive frozen food section, full-service deli and one of the largest dairy sections around.
"About two years ago Wal-Mart went to a new meat supplier, so now we have really high quality cuts of meat," explained Stuve. "Our seafood also sells quickly. Wal-Mart has very competitive prices because we're all about wanting to help consumers save more and spend less."
Ban Lao Market, 919 Fourth Ave., open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Have a question about one of Ban Lao Market's Asian products? Husband-wife owners Frank and Samnieng Phomsatry will be happy to help.
Fifty-pound bags of sweet rice are stacked just inside the door, and rows of various noodle soups line one countertop. A cooler offers chilled beverages for on-the-go customers, while juices and teas of all kinds -- coconut, mango and pennywort, Thai tea drink, jasmine and white teas -- await shoppers along another aisle, along with sauces including hoisin, crab, oyster, spring roll, fish, chili garlic and sweet soy.
For seven years the Phomsatrys have run this shop in the heart of downtown Worthington, having first come to the United States as Laotian refugees in 1988. Until 1975, Frank was a Laotian police officer; Samnieng was a soldier. Now, after raising six children, the Phomsatrys happily arrange jars of quail eggs and bamboo shoots and point out the bountiful options in their store's freezer: mussels, baby frogs, squid, pork meatloaf, shrimp, Asian catfish, White Peking duckling, snail meat and Blackfoot chicken.
Besides having fresh rice noodles, bean sprouts and duck eggs, the Phomsatrys sell pots in which to cook them, in all sizes -- even one large enough to cook an entire baby pig.
Schafer's Health Center, 207 10th St., open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
A haven for those seeking a bountiful supply of natural and organic foods, owner Amanda Walljasper picked up where longtime owners Karl and Irma Schafer left off. Besides vitamins and nutritional supplements, Walljasper offers many locally produced products (for instance, The "B" Hive honey from Ellsworth) and in the past year, she began selling locally baked Wheeler Bread products.
Dried fruits, natural sweeteners, flaxseed, gluten- and wheat-free foods, Simply Organic spices, gourmet jams and natural cereals, grain products and snacks are among Schafer's Health Center's many healthful items.
Top Asian Foods, 312 10th St., open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Longtime owners Bill and Mone Souksavong have created a homegrown ethnic superstore, right on Worthington's main street. Daughter Vanessa Souksavong, home on spring break from her sophomore year at the University of Minnesota, shared, "We have predominantly Asian foods, but we really cater to whatever needs the community has expressed to us -- so we have a little of everything.
"There are even things here we're not sure how to use."
From fresh pineapples and avocados to honey bee grass jelly, from rattan shoots to pickled lotus rootlet in brine -- let no Worthington cook ever say he/she couldn't find an obscure ingredient in town. Refrigerated cases hold tortillas, Mexican cheeses and fresh limes, cilantro, bean sprouts and pea pods, among other produce, while variations of bamboo shoots and teas comprise nearly one store aisle each.
A deli at the rear of the store tempts shoppers with cooked whole fish, egg rolls, roasted chicken, sticky rice and more, while bubble tea is available, too -- in more than two dozen flavors.
Tienda Guatemala, 225 Tenth St., open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Tienda Guatemala has more items that are specifically Guatemalan, but a range of things is available here, including laundry and dish detergent, spices, videos, CDs, clothing and refrigerated beverages.
Dried fish, commercially packaged baked items, canned goods, beans and a plentiful supply of Latin American snack favorites are also for sale.
Hindi Market, 1000 block of Fourth Avenue, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
This newly opened store seeks to serve the area's African population. Products for sale include flour, sugar, cereal, canned goods, oranges and blankets.