I just ate the most delicious steak. Tender, marbled with fat, and with an intoxicatingly deep beefy flavor. And I feel good about it: grass-fed, organic beef from a local rancher. I sampled it (and became obsessed with eating it again) at the opening of the new Farmer Joe's Market on Fruitvale in Oakland.
I first started going to Farmer Joe's when I moved to the Laurel District nearly 10 years ago. Then it was a tiny mom-and-pop market, a gem in an undiscovered neighborhood. Since they opened in 1994, Joe and Diane Tam have grown their business, though hours and hours of loving labor, into a cornerstone of the neighborhood, active in the development and blossoming of the increasingly desirable Laurel.
The new store, located on Fruitvale Avenue in what was previously an Albertson's, was originally a movie theatre back in the 1950s. You can almost envision the black and white movies being played in the cavernous space with the offices, formerly film rooms, overlooking the busy floor.
Walking into the new store on the day it opened, I could feel the excitement of a community. Not only does the new Farmer Joe's promise new jobs and offer a wealth of delicious local and international foods with a conscious, but it is a symbol of an independent, family-owned business that is excelling in our community; a rare thing in our increasingly corporate-ruled society.
This thriving, diverse area now has access to foods we previously had to travel to other well-stocked, high-end markets for, like Berkeley Bowl or even Whole Foods.
Some of the highlights of the new store include:
A blissful array of fresh, organic produce.
A huge, expanded bulk foods section, complete with bulk Delizia olive oils, vinegars, and other specialty oils.
A well-stocked tofu and veggie section complete with fresh Chinese noodles, marinated meals, and more tofu options than you could think possible.
An amazing variety of condiments, including imported olive oils, vinegars, mustards, honey, and more.
An entire end-cap devoted to PG Tips (along with an incredible array of teas and coffee options).
An expanded meat department that includes Rosie chickens, Niman Ranch beef and pork, an impressive array of sausages, and Panorama grass-fed beef.
A well-stocked international selection of Asian, Indian, Latino, English and other international wares that are hard to find in most stores.
Wine. Beer. And Spirits! A big new boon to the store.
A sushi bar that includes not only daily-made sushi rolls and nigiri, but fresh pickled ginger, goma ae (spinach salad), tofu salad that looks really yummy, and fresh edamame.
A hot burrito bar from La Cascada with all-organic meats. Their products, including amazing fresh salsas, tortas, and to-go pre-packaged dinners are actually available in the refrigerated section of the store as well.
A deli stocked with Molinari salamis.
There are a few kinks to work out. It would be nice to have a better selection of fresh-made deli salads, cheeses, and fresh baked goods. But overall, I have nothing to complain about. The nice thing is that Joe and Diane and the employees of the store have always listened to the wishes of their customers, so all you have to do is go in and ask, and they will do whatever it takes to find what their customers want.
I've already been there 3 times in the first week they've been open. Of course, I will continue to go to the "old" store, just down the street. I feel a natural affinity to frequent it, but the new "big Farmer Joe's" is certainly a draw.
So I thank you, Joe and Diane, and all the workers of Farmer Joe's, for your dedication and belief in our community and helping to make it such a delicious beautiful place to live.
Farmer Joe's Marketplace (new)
3426 Fruitvale Ave.
Oakland CA 94602
Farmer Joe's Marketplace (original)
3501 MacArthur Blvd
Oakland, CA 94619
Photos by Wendy Goodfriend