Sixteen years ago, the Fermanian family opened a supermarket in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Anaheim, and over the next few years, their low prices, good service and unusual combination of mainstream American supermarket goods and a dazzling array of international foods built them a huge and loyal clientele. In 2006, the Fermanians opened their second market on the edge of Eagle Rock and Glassell Park, and this year they came to an under-served area in west Altadena, in the new Lincoln Crossing development. I have just one thing to say to the Fermanians: Where have you been all my life? I live and work out near the Altadena Super King, and now that I’ve finally discovered it, Trader Joe’s will be getting far fewer of my dollars. And I’ll be spending fewer dollars, too — the prices are astonishingly low.
A weekend trip to either Super King is not for the faint of cart. They’re mobbed with the most wonderful mix of people: An Indian woman in a gorgeous sari, a Central American family with kids in soccer uniforms, little old Lebanese women walking so slow you want to scream…. It’s not easy to negotiate around the women filling huge bags with green sour plums, and the families deciding which of about 100 feta cheeses to buy, and the young men perusing the tequila collection, but it’s worth the trouble. I haven’t been to the Anaheim original, but the Eagle Rock and Altadena branches are huge, spotless, well lit and abundantly staffed, with meticulous displays.
Just a few of the offerings: Beautiful cactus leaves; red basil at two bunchs for 99 cents; head-on shrimp for $3.99 a pound; marinated pork al pastor with fresh pineapple for $2.29 a pound; Harris Ranch beef; beautiful pork loin on special for $1.89 a pound; every kind of yogurt imaginable (Greek, Armenian, Lebanese, Yoplait); a huge bakery with Mexican sweet breads, baklavas, Middle Eastern pastries, even wedding cakes; fresh Oaxacan, Salvadoran and Armenian cheeses; aged French and Greek cheeses; the famed nut bar; an incredible range of grains, couscous mixes, falafel mixes and beans; bottled and packaged horchatas, pepper sauces, and spices; juicy Sevan roasted chickens; a deli with everything from American turkey to an amazing array of international salamis; and great deals on beer and liquor (the wine selection is pretty weak). The produce is sometimes on the farther end of its lifespan, but the variety and prices can’t be beat.
This is a full-fledged American supermarket, too, so you can also get your Honey Nut Cheerios, milk, Orowheat bread, toilet paper, aluminum foil and Fudgsicles. That’s not to say the international array is comprehensive — there’s no packaged Asian food to speak of, and the Italian selection is limited — but you won’t find a better range of Middle Eastern and Latin cheeses, meats, dairy products, baked goods and produce anywhere, and the overall selection is good enough to make it the default supermarket for most shoppers.
Super King Markets:
Los Angeles: 2716 N. San Fernando Rd., Eagle Rock/Glassell Park, 323.225.0044; Altadena: 2260 N. Lincoln Ave., 626.296.9311; all stores open daily 8 a.m.-9 p.m.