The Wal-Mart in Vera Cruz has the record for being the most impressive … the free booze samples didn’t hurt its ranking.
The seafood department had stellar fresh shrimp on ice in various sizes from tiny to jumbo. Next to them was beautiful whole octopus … if an octopus can be called pretty.
Tortillas are made on site in addition to a full bakery making cakes and bread. Sausages hung in loops in the salchineria.
A large cafeteria in back had various sections, some steam tables, some staions manned by cooks, like the counter selling some sort of dish with Virginia ham. The produce section was ok, but I passed it because there are so many sidewalk fresh fruit stands in Mexico selling fresher and less expensive fruit. There was some green, romeritos
Literally every aisle has one or two people offering samples. I bought some aged plantano vinegar from one sample stand.
There was a tasty chocolate cream cake sample as well as a good flan. There were yogurt samples, energy drink samples and even Laughing Cow cheese samples (amusing to hear the Spanish name … like queso panela the sample lady said)
There were some killer good chili potato chips, but most of the samples had offers attached. If you bought a bag of chips you got a lot of … stuff. I remember it came with cups and a shopping bag full of … stuff. We didn’t have room in the over-stuffed truck for the chips with giveaways. As it was I was feeling very “Grapes of Wrath”. All we were missing in that truck was ma and pa the back.
However, the most astounding was the free booze samples. At the end of each liquor aisle were ladies offering sample of tequila, wine and other liquors. There were free samples of beer at the door of Wal-Mart, but I think it had something to do with spring break.
These were not small or careless samples. The tequila came with fresh limes. The Jack Daniels was on the rocks. Both would be regular pours at a bar. I didn’t need a bottle of Jack Daniels, but I bought a can of Jack Daniels and ginger ale which was quite good.
Part of it is that everything has sugar rather than HFCS. The taste is more mellow and not cloying and oversweet. The Yoplait was so much better and the way I remember it tasted when it was first introduced in the US. Even the brightly colored Lala yogurt was good with nice peach flavor.
At the cafeteria I bought some marinated chicken legs, blackened chicken wings, noodles in sour cream with ham and pretty green, pink and white gelatin cubes. There were better selections but I needed to please my friend who I dragged to a zillion places out of his food comfort zone. “Applebee’s” he’d say wistfully in Texas as I took him elsewhere. He was lusting after chicken wings once when we ate elsewhere.
One of the best panaderia items was some sort of small snack that looked like a rugulah but was wrapped around ham and cheese. The green mint concha was interesting.
However … in the end … Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart
While the Vera Cruz Wal-Mart was better than any of the many small panaderias I’ve tried in the US, compared to the local Vera Cruz chain, Panaderia La Especial, it wasn’t as good.
The chicken couldn’t compare to the many nameless pollo asada street vendors serving chicken hot off the grill.
I also bought a few items that were different flavors or brands such as pina colada Tang which was packaged like Kool-Aid. Similarly, there was Zuko in guava and other tropical flavors.
The little packets of Twistos were tasty crouton-like snacks. The chili was especially good.
Reminders of swine flu were still evident. All food handlers … bakers, cafeteria workers, sample people, wore face masks.
I am sure I missed a lot. My original intent was to zip in and out to pick up more bottled water for the rest of the trip … and we were already much delayed due to crossing the border problems … seriously … problems getting IN to Mexico.
However, the store blew me away and I stayed longer and bought more than I planned.
There were the usual food service vendors at the front of the store, such as McDonalds … but there where close to a dozen more … one a creperia, another selling ice cream, another good coffee and paninis and others that I had time to even glance at.
Oh … Wal-Mart Vera Cruz had the greatest checkout system … a single line like US banks (btw, Mexican banks have you take a number and sit while you wait). I like that I didn’t have to guess which cashier might be the fastest.
I’m hoping there is a Wal-Mart in Guatemala so I can check out that version … and I need a coffee maker.
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