There's home cooking and dining out. What about that middle ground where you simply want to grab ready to eat fare from a grocer/market? Any faves? It might be a place, or simply a dish worth trying.
This might be a tough thread to avoid chains, as so many markets are indeed chains. But even then, it can be said there's a huge difference between a 40 year old store and its modern cousin. I've got an ancient Bashas and Frys near me and the deli fare is reflective of days gone by... corn dogs, beef-a-rooni, fried everything. They don't even offer roast chicken or fresh bread. But the occasional corn dog aint that bad (try making it at home). Meanwhile the nearest AJs has a sushi bar and a deli that rivals most restaurants in selection and price. In N.Y. And in many a new market we have olive bars, bakers, etc. What's good?
I like hitting AJ's for the salad bar. It's one of those dishes that can and should be dead cheap, but at the same time would be crazy to make if you wanted 50+ choices of things to add. Then I discovered Wild Oats had a better salad bar, with 15% more the selction and at the same cost (I made that up - but they do have more stuff)
A few years back, Sunflower was on my rotation for Deli fare. They seem to have declined in offerings. Sprouts stepped in, but I've not stumbled upon anything I crave. Phoenix Ranch I'd like to figure out, but that will require some serious study. On the flip side, I have popped by the Food City from time to time, and actually scored a nice carnitas dish.
Do you have any fave places or simply certain dishes? Costco Pizza? Lee Lee's duck?
What about those specialty grocers.. Italian, German, etc? Just wondering what might be worth an extended trip.