Grocery Guide

Nicknaming the Inner Loop Kroger Stores

Kroger grocery stores have a long and storied history in the city of Houston. I worked at one myself when I was in high school. Over the years, they have grown and changed and these changes have led people to give them nicknames.

After a frustrating series of shopping excursions to several Kroger locations, I posted nickname suggestions for these stores on my personal blog. The response was overwhelmingly positive and, as a result, I became the Kroger nickname guy - a very odd distinction, indeed.

Recently, I got to thinking that I should just clear up all the inner loop Kroger nicknames to make it easier on all of us. So, here you go.

Disco Kroger - 3300 Montrose Boulevard

The undisputed most well recognized nickname in Houston grocery store history is Disco Kroger. The venerable Montrose institution gets its nickname from the diverse and often bizarre late-night crowds you can find there most nights of the week, but especially on the weekend. I often wondered why they just didn't get it over with, hang a disco ball in the middle of the store and pump in some dance tunes after 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

Ghetto Kroger - 1035 North Shepherd Drive

This was the first nickname I had the pleasure to award and it arose out of nearly 15 years of patronage to this location on Shepherd and 11th Street. Since I first gave it the name, the store has grown to the size of an airport hanger and donned itself a "Signature" store, but it still has that ghetto vibe. Despite the gentrification of the Heights, this bad boy shows its true colors after 9 p.m. every night of the week.

Zombie Kroger - 239 West 20th Street

The Kroger on 20th and Yale is surrounded by health care facilities and nursing homes. The end result is a steady stream of incredibly slow drivers, walkers and nurses marching gingerly through the store and parking lot with little regard for other shoppers. If you have never used a check, you can get a sighting of the mythical currency here anytime you like. Fortunately, they have not installed self-checkout lanes, because God knows what would happen if they did.

Posh Kroger - 1938 West Gray

There is no doubt that different Kroger stores do their best to accommodate their neighborhoods. In the case of River Oaks, the Kroger on West Gray falls just short of caviar on cracker samples in the deli. Given the seriously affluent crowd, it's not uncommon to see an overly Botoxed woman in a fur coat and leggings picking up packages of chicken breasts and foie gras for her dog's dinner. If Robin Leach were to profile a Kroger store on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, this would be the one.

WASP Kroger - 5150 Buffalo Speedway

Not to be outdone by Posh Kroger, the parking lot at the store on Buffalo Speedway and Westpark is nearly always filled to capacity with BMWs and Mercedes. I recently saw a woman shopping there dressed entirely in Burberry, a feat I didn't know was possible. West University is River Oaks lite, which is on full display here at this the whitest and most proper of all Krogers. It seems as if it is also home to the most conservative of the wealthy hood rats, as the hippie granola moms are relegated to the new HEB across the street.

Slow Jam Kroger - 1900 Old Spanish Trail

No one is in a hurry and everyone is cooler than you are. Welcome to Slow Jam Kroger. If you've ever been to the Fiesta at the corner of Richmond and San Jacinto, you know exactly what I mean. The sign outside may say "Signature," but this retro-looking store is all street. It's actually a very nice store with an art deco-ish exterior that screams, "Damn, I'm fine!" The vibe is laid back, and the music is a quiet storm of R&B favorites. After visiting a couple times, it became my favorite Kroger store ever. If I lived near Slow Jam Kroger, I would shop there every day.

Time Machine Kroger - 4000 Polk Street

When I was in high school in the 1980s, I took a job at the Kroger on Greens Road because it was close to my house. I worked there through all four years of high school doing everything from sacking to working the courtesy booth. When I walked into Time Machine Kroger, it was as if I had stepped into my old store. The exterior had the slated glass with the dark tint familiar to the Greens Road store that had been remodeled just before I started working there, and the layout inside was identical. I considered a worm hole, but no one sported a fade or Vans, so it appears it is only the store that is frozen in time. It's like an endangered species, except you wouldn't mind if this one was extinct.

Generic Kroger - 7747 Kirby Drive

Imagine a standard modern Kroger. It has a pharmacy, a bank, a big deli and a gas station. Nothing about it is unique, and the customers are of an indeterminate socio-economic background. You've just entered Generic Kroger. Like the old white label cans that just said "cola" on them, this store is perfectly average and completely unremarkable. It's the Stepford Wife of Kroger stores.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke