Some months ago, I started a thread on Woodman's the Nation's Largest Grocery Store. It is indeed large, definitely a grocery store, just a much bigger than average grocery store. In the responses, there were various comments, challenges and leads. What also emerged was information about a unique store near Cincinnati named Jungle Jim's. I was rather thrilled because I was planning to go to Cin-City for a conference, this was an added feature!
Jungle Jim's is definitely destination grocery shopping. When I checked into a motel nearby the clerk commented they have had other guests stay over just to go to Jungle Jims. I met a woman on a riverboat dinner cruise whose Father made excuses to come down from Dayton. He would visit her for an hour, then zip off to Jungle Jims for an extended shopping trip. She intimated that visiting his daughter wasn't really a priority. So the power of Jungle Jim's can cause family discord!
Just pulling into the parking lot, you already feel the creative energy pulsing from this place. The parking lot was the size you normally associate with Home Depot or Target, not a grocery store. The reference markers to help assist you locate your car was not the usual alpha-numeric-immediately-forget-it but cute signage of a curvy okra nicknamed Okra Winfrey! The cart collecting stations had clever signage also, like an Uncle Sam reminding, We Want You to Put Your Cart Away. Kitschy though much more delightful than institutional signs.
You enter through the wine and beer section, which was the size of some Binnys in the Chicago area. Then into the cheeses, which were arranged by country of origin. The deli was next. Since I wasnt planning to buy anything requiring refrigeration - unless I could buy an ostrich egg - I really concentrated on the samples. They had a large cheese-ham-rare roast beef chunks next to a half dozen dipping sauces ranging from horseradish sauce, honey mustard, barbeque to hot sauces. I naturally tasted each combination, concentrating on the Boars head rare roast beef. On another station, they had 6 types of cheese balls (sweet through piquant) with 3 different crackers. At the bakery section, they had bread to taste as well.
I had heard from a friend that he had seen Ostrich eggs available for sale on a prior visit. When these are available they are at the meat department. This is a seasonal item available only in the spring or early summer. When available, they are priced at $9.99 each. I recall spending much more for an empty Ostrich egg, so I would have gladly spent the $9.99 for the equivalent of 18-24 chicken eggs.
The fish department had the usual lobsters in handcuffs along with live spring trout as well as crabs. The fish filets displayed didnt look their absolute best. However, I keep reminding myself despite jet transportation, you cannot expect pristinely fresh fish in the Midwest.
The produce department had fruits and vegetables, which included those for Indian, Asian and Hispanic cuisines. The international foods sections were organized by regions or countries: Asian, Mexican/Latino, German, East European, Sherwood Forest (English, Australian, Scottish, Welsh) and Indian. The breadth and depth of the selections, reminded me of multiple ethno-centric food shops all slipped in together. They also had small boutiques featuring specific countries or ethnicities: Kosher, Greece, Scandinavia, Spain, Scandinavia, France, Ireland and Holland.
I found some products in Jungle Jims international sections, I had not found anywhere but their country of origin. I found syrup waffles a friend regularly mails me from Holland. My favorite salad dressing from Germany, I found varieties only my friend from Hamburg obtained. I did buy some pickled mushrooms in a container, which looked like a bolete. Oat crackers from Scotland have been on my list for over 2 years to locate. Because the foods were arranged by country or ethnicity, I sometimes found repeated items. The same type of dried mushroom was found in the German sections as well as Eastern European and Italian. It made sense especially if their clientele was focused on a specific cuisine and wasnt likely to look anywhere else.
In the frozen foods department, they had a number of exotic meats like emus, crocodile, buffalo, ect. Plus dumplings and other ethnic foods.
Food demonstrators were throughout the store. From a schedule of events, they have a number of
cooking classes and food tasting events. Most of these were schedule for weekdays rather than peak weekends.
Jungle Jim's is in the midst of a substantial expansion. I just cannot wait to check out the bigger and better Jungle Jim's!
What a wonderful way to spend a few hours before heading home to the Chicago area. I left with a few food souvenirs and a couple of hours well spent.
All the best,