If you put stock in any of the numerous lists of food trends for 2009 that place "at-home cooking" as the most important trend of the new year, you'll be happy to know that Houston is continually offering plenty of places for you to do your shopping. Grocery stores, like oil, are still big business in Houston and new chains are popping up throughout the city.
Two of the most recent chains, Super H Mart and 99 Ranch, are located in a corridor along Katy Freeway that may well be reaching critical mass for all types of grocery stores, large and small, whitebread and ethnic, cheap and expensive.
Along I-10 between Beltway 8 and Bingle/Voss lays a thick blanket of grocery stores, some obvious and some hidden. 99 Ranch, a California-based grocery store chain, will be the latest addition to the dense growth, opening in the old Fiesta location at I-10 and Blalock next year. But it's far from the only speciality -- or even the only Asian -- market in this area.
Super H Mart on Bingle opened to much fanfare last year, while the stalwart Komart on Gessner has served the area's large Korean population since 2005. Both Super H Mart and Komart offer cheap, delicious dishes in their food courts, to sustain you as you work you way through the many aisles of exotic foodstuffs.
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Not in the mood for Asian food? No matter. Try A Moveable Feast, which moved from its original inner loop location on West Alabama in 2001. This grocery store cum cafe offers a small but potent variety of health foods, vegetarian and vegan foods and fair-trade coffees and teas, a bastion of crunchy hippydom in the swank Memorial Villages.
If you like your grocery stores a bit larger and fancier, you can simply dart across the freeway to the city's largest grocery store, the 127,900 square foot H-E-B. This brand-spanking-new store combines the traditional H-E-B store concept with Central Market amenities and selection, which has got to smart for the dingy and outdated Kroger that squats miserably across the way on Echo Lane.
Looking for some tires or computer peripherals with your produce? Costco is directly across the road from H-E-B, also located at Bunker Hill and I-10. It may not be as pretty as the new H-E-B (or even as pretty as its new sister store on Richmond), but you can't beat Costco for bulk produce, gourmet foods, pantry staples and even wine on the cheap.
This overview only takes into account the more exciting grocery stores in the area, not your run-of-the-mill Randall's and Kroger's and H-E-B Pantries, and certainly doesn't cover all of the smaller, more specialized grocers and markets. But one thing is for sure: even if we're all concentrating on "recession-proof" eating, cooking and shopping, at least we'll have no shortage of great stores in which to do it.