You, Too, Can Shop for Groceries by Light Rail!
Bring your own carrying things.
Photos by Christina Uticone
When I tell people that my husband and I share a car, and have for the entire three years we have lived in Houston, we get a lot of funny looks. It's true that the logistics don't always work out, but we almost always make it work. Note the "almost" -- that's the little word that forced me to get out and explore my grocery shopping options via light rail.
On more than one occasion, I've found myself with both an empty kitchen and an empty stomach, but no car to hop into to get to the grocery store. On a cool enough day, and with enough ambition, I can walk the 1.5 miles (each way) to Kroger on Montrose, but most of the time I opt for an afternoon of playing hooky from work and riding the train to do some people watching/grocery shopping. It's an easy way to have a little urban adventure, and feel productive at the same time.
I'm not going to claim this is any way to do a week's worth of grocery shopping, but it sure is fun to pick up enough for a meal or two.
The number of grocery-shopping options along the rail has grown in the last year or two, with the additions of Georgia's Farm-to-Market and Phoenicia's downtown locations. But a little work with Google maps, plus the METRORail Web site -- which is full of information, if not organized in a totally intuitive way -- can help you find the best options for grocery shopping while you ride the rails here in the city. My favorite shopping stops:
• Fiesta Mart on San Jacinto, via the Wheeler Station • Phoenicia via Main Street Square or Georgia's via Preston Station (ambitious folk can walk both; it's only a couple of blocks) • Urban Harvest Farmers Market at City Hall (Wednesdays) via Main Street Square Here are some of my top tips for making the most of an afternoon of grocery shopping sans automobile.
Never, ever forget your own bags. This is no big deal when you go to the regular grocery store, but when you are traipsing all over the city--presumably with blocks to walk on either end of your train ride--you definitely want a canvas bag you can throw over your shoulder. Even better, go urban hiker and bring a backpack. This is especially great if you pick up canned goods and bottled drinks. (I always end up with more Kickin' Kombuchas than I can handle.)
And then I ran for blocks and blocks!
You wouldn't drive your car around all day without filling up, so think of yourself the way you do your car. Go out to lunch! There are lots of delicious options for dining along the rail, and more are popping up every day. I love Natachee's, Bombay Pizza Co. or just cutting to the chase and filling up at Phoenicia before I shop.
This ended up being kind of a fun date afternoon. (We know we're old -- we own it.)
Use the Buddy System
Okay, I know this whole thing started because I don't always have a car to drive, but bringing my husband makes this a lot more fun. He carries most of the stuff, and sometimes he pays for it, too. I do find this to be a fun way to pass an afternoon, especially if you:
There is that advice about never going to the grocery store hungry, and going shopping drunk is probably an even worse idea. That said, it's also a great idea because it's hilarious and you end up with a lot of weird stuff you might not otherwise try. Weird cheese! Discount canned fish! The sky is the limit.
Sure, you've already had a few drinks and maybe a meal, but why not stick around at City Hall, or take the train to Hermann Park, and have a lil' picnic? Make sure you stash a book -- or some other old-fashioned technology, like a Walkman! -- before you leave the house, and then enjoy a snack before you head home to put away your goodies. Skip this last step if you bought, say, seafood.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.