The United States has been called "the great melting pot," due to the influx of immigrants from all over the world that now call the country home. But that's not always represented in the nation's grocery stores. Most supermarkets offer a wide assortment of American staples, but are oftentimes more limited when it comes to international foods.
That's where specialty retailers come in handy. While you might not be able to find specific spices from India, or produce from Latin America at any grocery chain, there are plenty of specialty grocers with a wide abundance of international foods to shop for.
Whether you need gochujang to whip up some Korean dishes, or real Italian-style biscotti straight to serve for dessert, it's important to visit a grocery store that has a great international selection, and here are some of the best options.
With 78 locations nationwide, H Mart is hands-down the most popular Asian grocery store in the country. The chain, which originated in New York City, is popular along both coasts and also operates stores in Texas, Hawaii, Illinois, and Michigan.
Upon opening in the 1980s, the grocery chain initially specialized in Korean foods, and it continues to have a great selection, selling shrimp-flavored crackers, red bean ice cream, and of course, lots of kimchi. But since then, it has expanded to offer up foods from other Asian culinary traditions like Japanese pickles and Chinese bao. H Mart also sells kitchenware like rice cookers, sushi rollers, and kimchi mats.
It's not hard to come across international food in New York City. It's made even easier by Food Bazaar, a supermarket chain that specializes in Latin American and Caribbean items. The grocery chain, which also has locations in Connecticut and New Jersey, has 24 stores in the city and Long Island. Food Bazaar caters almost exclusively to the city's immigrant community. According to its website, the retailer takes pride in bringing its customers food that they'd find "back home," like Peruvian papa seca, or plantains from Guatemala. Food Bazaar doesn't just limit itself to Latino items, either. The store also offers a variety of Asian foods.
If you live in, or have vacationed on any of the Hawaiian islands, there's a good chance you've come across Times Supermarket. Based in Honolulu, the grocery store chain has dozens of locations throughout the islands, providing food and, of course, postcards and Hawaiian souvenirs. The groceries include not only Hawaiian staples like fresh poke and POG juice but also a large selection of imported Japanese items, including Miko Instant Miso soup and Yaki Sushi Nori. The chain is owned by Japanese supermarket company Don Quijote and its expanded Japanese section takes up several rows in the stores.
With a name like Eataly it doesn't take a culinary expert to guess what kind of food this marketplace chain sells. The increasingly popular chain is headquartered in Italy, but has locations in major cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas, Dallas, Boston and San Jose. Each location has a wide variety of Italian foods to purchase, including more than 100 different types of pasta to choose from, and boxes of cannolis imported straight from Italy. More than just a grocery chain, Eataly is instead a collection of several Italian marketplaces within one building. While being able to buy fresh, Italian ingredients is great, they're useless if you don't know how to use them. Conveniently, Eataly also offers cooking classes guided by the store's chefs, who share their wisdom on how to make the best regional Italian dishes.
Patel Brothers has everything that shoppers need to prepare Indian cuisine, with shelves packed with various curries, spices, and teas. It also sells produce that's rarely found in other supermarkets, like dosakai, a popular melon, and tindora, a tropical vine. For shoppers who love Indian cuisine but don't know where to start, the brothers also founded Raja Foods, a subsidiary of the Patel brand, that makes pre-packaged Indian meals which can be quickly heated up. Founded in 1974 by two Chicago brothers, Patel Brothers has grown to become the country's largest Indian grocery store with 54 locations across the country. Several Patel Brothers stores are found in Indian enclaves throughout the country, along Chicago's Devon Avenue and in Houston's Mahatma Gandhi District.
Because of its proximity to Caribbean and Latin American countries, Florida is a hub for delicious Cuban, Puerto Rican and Jamaican food. You can find all the ingredients for these great flavors at Sedano's Supermarkets, the country's largest Latin food retailer. The chain has more than 33 stores in the Sunshine State, and offers an array of Latin American produce that's not found at just any grocery store, like Mexican papaya, malanga and plantains. The store's bakery section isn't lacking either, with fresh-made guava pies and dulce de leche.