Lots of food stores and restaurants focus their offerings to cater to specific ethnic palates. Nothing wrong with that!
There’s a certain rush to shopping for noodles and sauces at an Asian market in North Miami Beach, noshing on a knish at a kosher deli in Hollywood or biting into a burrito at a taquería in Homestead. But some of the best places supplement their old-country favorites with the kind of modern-day choice and convenience that consumers demand.
Here’s a closer look at two South Florida grocers that started as Italian- and Hispanic-food specialists but have broadened their appeal to the area’s increasingly diverse and varied population.
Doris Italian Market & Bakery
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Where: Four Broward County locations: Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Sunrise and Coral Springs; one in West Boca Raton.
Founded: 1947 in Hollywood.
Atmosphere: Family food market.
Essentials: Pasta, sauces, cheese, wine, cold cuts, meat, poultry, seafood, pastries, bread.
More info: dorismarket.com.
Yes, there really was a Doris. According to the Italian market’s president, John Alfano, Doris was the wife of owner Nicholas “Babe” Garitano. The couple ran the Hollywood deli and meat market (still open) until Alfano’s family purchased it in 1982 and kept the original business name.
In its current incarnation, with three more locations in Broward and one in West Boca, Doris Italian Market & Bakery offers a focused but surprisingly diverse array of fresh meats, seafood, baked goods, pasta, produce, prepared foods, wine, beer, sausages, cold cuts and other delicatessen favorites. Yes, it’s an Italian-American market but it’s also a fine place for, well, just about everything.
“We know we’re not a supermarket like Publix but for food, we can’t be beat,” Alfano said.
The stores feature a pretty diverse choice of food items, even some non-Italian ethnic favorites. Though “Italian” is an irrevocable part of their name, they sell matzo ball soup, Hebrew National Franks and hamentashen (the fruit-stuffed pastries tied to the Jewish holiday of Purim).
But the Italian focus is strong, with plenty of imported products, plus cheeses, cuts of meat and canned goods that you won’t see in your local supermarket. Though if you don’t like Italian pasta, cheeses, sausages and the rest, there are plenty of other choices, including non-ethnic, vegan and vegetarian-friendly items.
Alfano says they buy their produce and fish locally. Three of the five locations bake their own cakes, cookies, pies and bread, and supply the two smaller shops that lack room for baking facilities. All the stores except Hollywood sell fresh seafood. A distribution center adjacent to their luxuriously large Sunrise market serves all locations.
Doris caters, of course, and their trays of pasta, sausages, chicken and salads are ideal for parties and other celebrations. Vino has also been a growing part of their business.
“We feature Italian wines, naturally, but have a good selection for every taste. Our wine tastings have been really popular,” Alfano said.
Not a cook? Doris stocks numerous “heat-and-eat” dishes; meats, sauces, soups, salads and more, including an array of Italian specialties. Prepared foods “are all store-made and cooked from scratch — 100 percent,” Alfano said.
The Doris Market website was recently revamped and now boasts an online store. Who orders? “Mostly out-of-towners and snowbirds who miss us,” said Alfano.
Though Doris is based in Broward, Alfano said the company is not averse to expanding south. Or north: It’s opening a North Palm Beach location next year.
“We get approached by developers in Miami-Dade County from time to time, but have no immediate plans to open there,” he said.
Where: 34 locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties as well as Orlando and Kissimmee.
Founded: 1962 in Hialeah.
Atmosphere: Family supermarket with Hispanic specialties.
Essentials: Groceries, meat, seafood, poultry, household goods, Hispanic and Caribbean foods.
More info: sedanos.com.
Sedano’s northernmost South Florida outpost, in a working-class North Lauderdale neighborhood near Margate, anchors a strip shopping center with a dollar store. It’s laid out like an old Winn-Dixie, which it once was. Many Sedano’s stores are, in fact, located in former Winn-Dixies and Albertsons, according to Javier Herran, Sedano’s director of marketing and IT.
Upon entering Sedano’s, it looks like any modern American supermarket, and anyone could easily buy their family’s groceries here. There’s a deli, a bakery, a long row of packaged meats with various cuts of beef, pork, lamb and poultry, and a seafood department with glistening local catch. There are cases of frozen desserts, vegetables, dinners and the rest. The aisles are also full of canned goods, soups, stews, cereals, dairy, household supplies, cleaners, pet food and more. Nationality aside, if this is your local family food market, great.
Pay attention, and you’ll notice: The in-house music is Latin pop. Spanish is the predominant language of customers and employees. The shelves hold all kinds of beans as well as Latin-favorite fruits, juices, vegetables, canned goods, beer, wine and other fare. There’s also a prominent Fabuloso cleaner display and a sign proclaiming the availability of whole pigs to order.
The North Lauderdale location has a cafeteria, which does a steady business, with customers enjoying a variety of cooked meats, vegetables and accompaniments. Herran said that the chain’s larger stores feature similar in-store dining, and as they expand and refresh each market, all will offer eateries.
The company — now the largest Hispanic-owned grocery chain in the United States — began in 1962 with a single store in Hialeah, founded by Cuban expatriate Armando Guerra. Sedano’s remains anchored there, with nine markets in that city. It also operated pharmacies under the Sedano’s name, which were sold to Navarro Drugs in 2007. (Navarro was recently acquired by CVS.)
Luz Garcia of Hialeah has been a Sedano’s customer for 39 years, according to her daughter, Miami food blogger Cari Garcia.
“My mom is a bargain-hunter,” Garcia said. “If [competitor] Presidente Supermarket has yuca on sale, she’ll head over there. If Walmart has toilet paper cheaper than Sedano’s, she’ll go there. But she tends to buy most of her produce and pork at Sedano’s.”
Does she purchase any Sedano’s-branded products? “If it’s on sale, yes.”
Herran said the company’s Sedano’s-branded products are doing “very well,” with plans to increase the offerings in coming months.
Each Sedano’s store manager can tailor their goods to the local populace, Herran said. The North Lauderdale store, for example, carries Caribbean favorites.
“As our market becomes more diverse, we want to reflect that,” he said, referencing both the company and many of its customers’ immigrant roots. “We’re still here for the first generation, but we’re also here for the second and third — and beyond.”
South Florida Food Chain is an occasional series profiling local chains. Follow Richard Pachter, a Boca Raton-based writer, on Twitter: @rpachter.