The Poor Foodie’s Guide to Grocery Shopping in Madison

The guidance is pretty simple. Just get your poor foodie ass over to Asian Midway Foods, 301 Park Street @ Washington.

As much as I love the Willy Street Co-op, nearly every time I go I come out (a) disgruntled, because, say, they didn’t have urad dal and tried to sell me green lentils as a substitute, nor did they have fresh hor fun noodles, Thai rice flour, Chinese eggplant or six other things I wanted, and (b) disturbed that I can’t seem to get out of there for under $30 for a single bag of food. I want to love it. I do. But only the elite granola-eating Californian organofoodista in me really loves it, and there is so much more to me.

There is the impoverished me, and the me who wants to explore new frontiers of food … pardon. I’ve been watching Star Trek.

The other night I stopped at Asian Midway for some fresh pho noodles, which are about $1.60. As usual I had no cash. The place has a $5 minimum for cards. I went back for some vegetables … a little Chinese broccoli, a couple pounds of bananas. A can of coconut milk. Staples. It came to all of $4.50. The cashier would brook no exceptions. I went back into the breach. I picked up a Korean melon out of whimsy. The total came to just over $6. I was more exhilarated than exasperated: Look at me—bargain shopper! The cashier was not impressed. But that is how they roll every day at Asian Midway Foods.

The other great thing about the place is that its shelves are full of products that honky I have never even thought of putting in my mouth, if I can even identify them. So it poses a challenge. I have my eye on the preshucked periwinkles, the mackerel and the crocodile in the frozen aisle. Also, several vegetables I wish I had names for.

A special shout-out also goes to the Jenifer Street Market for the walk-in beer fridge that always has something tasty on sale.


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