Naples’ Trader Joe’s opened last month, and thousands of local patrons couldn’t be happier. After giving it a few days to weed out the monster crowds, we decided to take a peek and see what the fuss is about.
Trader Joe’s (“TJ’s” to the faithful) enjoys a well-deserved, cult-like following for interesting, relatively inexpensive, good food. There’s a casual Caribbean look now at the former Borders bookstore with waterskiing cows, beaches and boats on the walls. The food is generally organic or wild-caught, with funky “shrimp corn dogs” tossed in for good measure. Most patrons I talked to flock to TJ’s for “healthy,” “unique” and “tasty” foods. I’ve had fun buying and tasting my way across the store.
Their $2.99 “Two-Buck Chuck” Charles Shaw wines (originally $1.99) are good for the money. Quite a few people bought cases of it. I prefer their Epicuro Italian wine line. I also recommend the mandarin orange chicken for a snack, grilled chili-lime chicken, roasted seaweed strips with hot wasabi, and the deliciously decadent truffle mousse pate with chicken. Stock up from the very good cheese selection.
Mango passion granola cereal is perfect for a crunchy breakfast or snack. Most of the house brands are said to be made by well-known manufacturers, so the price/quality ratio is happily skewed in your favor. Employees, aka “crew, are hired in large part for upbeat, friendly, helpful personalities—they anticipate customers’ needs for baskets or directions and jump in with assistance. On line, customers eyed each other’s baskets and happily shared their favorites. You don’t see that happen often in other grocery stores. Really the only downside I see is the difficulty finding a parking space.
10600 Tamiami Trail North, 596-5631, www.traderjoes.com, open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m daily