I'm finding myself shopping at Food Basics more and more. Food Basics is sort of a budget store, owned by the nice folks at the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (who own A&P, and others) that seems to cater to a lower-income audience than does say a Whole Foods or Stop & Shop. You'll also often find Food Basics in ethnically diverse neighbors. When a store caters to an ethinically diverse community, you're not only going to find great values, but you're going to find great products that you won't normally find:
Pigs feet? Check. Ox tail? Check. Pork shoulder? Not a problem. Tripe. Got it. Offal of all sorts? Yippers.
Gone are the days of calling Stop & Shop the day before a BBQ and pleading them to save a pork butt before turning them all into sausage. Food Basics always has a bunch of butts right there in the case. Carnitas is only some onions, OJ, and fennel seed away.
Perhaps my favorite recent find at Food Basics is the Salchichon sausage. Salchichon sausage is a hard Spanish sausage generally resembling salami or chorizo. This stuff in particular, though, is like Spanish bologny; the Spanish culture's answer to mortadella. $3.49 for 2 lbs.
We tried to figure out what the hell we were going to do with this thing the first time we brought it home, and Jim said "fry it like bologny." And fry it we did. In cubes. Served it with toothpicks and mustard to dip, all fancy-like. I can think of no better way to serve mechanically separated chicken and cow hearts.
Speaking of mustard, other great finds at Food Basics (and now at A&P and some of their other stores) can be found in the generic America's Choice brand. The mustard in particular. This stuff is fantastic. I like it better than Thumann's. It's got nothing but good stuff in it. See for yourself:
But with all the values come some trade-offs. The place isn't exactly over-staffed or high-tech, so your check-out experience might drive you mad. There might be a guy standing in front of you, buying a Bud tall boy, who smells of urine. Some of the produce has seen better days, so you have to pick through at times. You can buy yesterday's ground beef, labeled "Manager's Special," at deep discounts if you're so inclined. I've never been that inclined.
But damnit if they don't have all of those funky meats and bones and innards.