For better or worse, I’ve never lived in an urban area. From stories and observations, it involves a “fun” struggle of circling the block to find a parking spot, carrying bags of groceries up flights of stairs, and don’t even say the word “moving.” But aside from the struggles, I fantasize about walking to a workout studio, meeting up with friends at the neighborhood bar down the block, and encountering a variety of interesting people. This hyperlocal living simplifies life since it narrows your habits to the places you can walk to. And if you’re a foodie, bodegas are gold mines for finding something new to try.
As I walked into Royal Blue Grocery on East 6th, I felt like I was walking into Kim’s Convenience, a show I breezed through the past few months. This store has multiple locations in Austin, all set up to be a corner store or bodega. It’s part grocery store, part convenience store, and part coffee shop. It has a little bit of everything, from grocery items like bananas to prepared foods. As I browsed, the cashiers were talking to customers, catching up as if the conversation was a regular thing.
I know this makes me sound like a kid in a candy shop or a rookie who has never been into a convenience store before. As someone who loads up a shopping cart for nearly an hour at HEB, a huge grocery store, every week, the concept of a bodega is a bit foreign to me. Perhaps the experience is a little different than what I imagine in New York City since in Texas, it’s hard to get by without a car. (Remember my experience at Pop Up Grocer?)
But here are my questions for regular bodega shoppers:
- How often do you shop at a bodega?
- Do bodega shoppers tend to eat out more often, so “full” grocery trips are unnecessary?
- Are things more expensive at a bodega?
- Do you frequently buy the same things, i.e. are your favorites always in stock?
- Do you frequently buy different things just for the fun of it?
As I sit and ponder these questions, I know I’m probably glorifying the experience a little too much, but have you been in a Royal Blue Grocery?
What I Bought at Royal Blue Grocery
What brought me to Royal Blue Grocery was a local chai brand I found on Instagram. Kimbala bottles chai and coffee and offers chai concentrate to make your own beverages. The chai assamica was great straight from the bottle.
I also tried a few new-to-me products: carnitas seasoning from Siete Foods, Parm Crisps, and a mini Nutella Tahini babka by Babka ATX. This is a good example of the mix of local and national brands you can find at Royal Blue Grocery.
The Siete Foods carnitas seasoning was easy and tasty (slow cook your meat and then add the seasoning). The mini-size babka is great as a snack and I loved the flavor.
Do I recommend you do your weekly grocery trip here instead of HEB? Probably not. But if you need something on the go or if you simply need some inspiration, pop into one of the six Royal Blue Grocery locations downtown or one of the convenience stores in your neighborhood. Chances are, there’s a unique one not too far from you.
If you want to learn more about bodegas, check out this NPR article.
What’s your regular grocery store? Have you ever fallen in love with a grocery store while traveling?