If you’re like most people, you do most (all) of your day-to-day shopping at any number of chains or big box stores. Right or wrong, people prefer chains because the name on the building is generally a pretty good indication of the quality of the establishment. Of course, there are noticeable exceptions to this rule of thumb …Watervliet Price Chopper, I’m looking at you…
The flip side of this coin is of course that shoppers with options judge stores by their first impression, and generally stay away from anyplace that has any of the indicia of a down market establishment. Nothing says “down market” quite like a Bodega, that urban oasis of cigarettes, snacks, soda, and beer. Because of this reputation, many people stay the hell away from all bodegas. In this occasional series of posts an intrepid blogger (yours truly) will be doing his part to let you know which bodegas to avoid like the plague for fear of…the plague, and which are worth your business.
First, our ground rules. Each bodega is visited several times. I look at some basics like – general selection, ATM surcharge, and general cleanliness. If they serve hot food or sandwiches they are purchased and reviewed. I will probably regret that when we get to some of the grimier locations.
Ok, on with the show.
Olympia Grocery and Deli. 95 Congress Street (between 3rd and 4th, near the intersection with 4th.)
Credit Cards: Yes – Visa, MasterCard & Discover (!)
Produce: Limited – apples, oranges, bananas, lettuce, tomatos, onions
Prepared Foods: Yes – Deli Sandwiches
ATM Fee: $1.75
Milk Expiration Date: +12 days (whole milk only)
Price of a Coke, Chips, and 4 AA Battery: $5.24
Standard selection of snacks, grocies, and quasi-groceries. For those who have never been inside a bodega in their life, that includes such stand-bys as chips, sodas and soft drinks of all kinds, a wide selection of condiments like hot sauce, ketchup, etc. There was bread, some canned goods, cereal, cake mix, pancake mix and syrup. The groceries looked recently purchased (no dusty, dented cans of soup), and were “name brands” more often than not. Worth noting was the surprisingly large selection of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Olympia does *NOT* sell beer.
resh fruits and vegetables are relatively sparse, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. However, Olympia does have apples, oranges and bananas, as well as whole lettuce, tomatos, and onions in the deli case, which aren’t marked for individual resale, but which the proprietor will happily sell you if you ask. Also in the deli case: big sides of meat, and behind the deli case- a meat slicer!
Moving away from the world of the edible, they’’ve got plenty of cleaning supplies, paper towels, diapers, and even some emergency automotive supplies… motor oil and windshield wiper fluid.
Olympia is very well lit and clean. The shelves are organized and free of dust or dirt. None of the merchandise appeared to be seconds, counterfeits or expired goods fished from the dumpsters of more reputable stores. Probably one of the cleanest bodegas I’ve ever been in.
Prepared Food: 8/10
Here’s where I think Olympia sets itself apart. Unlike 90% of bodegas which stylize themselves as a “deli”, Olympia will actually slice you some meat to order. They’re actually a deli! While the selection is fairly limited (and I believe includes no pork products for religious purposes), the stuff I’ve had has been good quality. But it gets better. They’ll sell you a foot long sub PLUS a generic brand soft drink for $5. There’s not the huge selection of veggies like at Subway, but if you’re a lettuce-tomato-onion person, its hard to beat. The proprietor, who is almost always behind the counter himself, will make sure you get exactly the amount of veggies and condiments that you want. While I didn’t ask, if you prefer your meat to be thicker or thinner slices, he’ll probably accommodate you with that too. Where else can you get that!