dip racily stocks vegetables at bombay bazar in chesterfield photos by carmen troesser

9 international supermarkets to explore in St. Louis

Next time you’ve got the urge to take a trip by way of your kitchen, skip the conventional grocery stores and opt for one of St. Louis’ dozens of international markets. Each one is like a mini adventure, and whether you’re in search of exotic fruits, rare cuts of meat or house-made treats, these stores have you covered. 

1. All-Purpose International // Global Foods Market
Global Foods Market in Kirkwood is a wonderland for culinary explorers. It’s rich in options rarely seen at the average grocery store, like whole frozen octopus, pigs’ feet, red bean ice cream, curry-flavored snacks and whole frozen durian fruit. Country flags help shoppers navigate the aisles stocked with thousands of ingredients from all over the world. Large tubs of nuts, flours, dried fruits and seeds are available for a good price, and the freezer aisles put Trader Joe’s to shame. The bread selection, which includes everything from pita to black bread, is a carb-lover’s dream. 

431 N. Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood, 314.835.1112, globalfoodsmarket.com

2. Asian // Olive Supermarket
Red Chinese lanterns adorn the ceiling of Olive Supermarket in University City, Chinese-language newspapers are piled on the news racks, and the aisles are stuffed with Asian noodles, spices, sauces, snacks and herbal, floral and black teas. The seafood section includes live frogs and crabs. The meat counter sells spiced roasted duck and chickens, available in half or whole portions. Open-minded eaters will delight in the take-away options, including spicy chicken feet and beef lungs in chili sauce. The supermarket is a favorite of Lona’s Lil’ Eats chef-owner Lona Luo, who said she shops there often for fresh produce and ready-to-eat goodies. 

8041 Olive Blvd., University City, 314.997.5168, stlouissupermarket.com

3. Asian // Pan-Asia Supermarket
Pan-Asia Supermarket in Manchester is like the Sam’s Club of Asian cuisine. Open since summer 2017, the large space is stocked with ingredients sourced from all over the continent. Make sure you’re hungry – you’ll want to sample something from the to-go section, which includes Korean egg pancakes, Drunken Chicken, five-spice beef shank, roasted duck, barbecue pork and peanuts roasted in soy sauce. 

The bakery churns out fresh bread each morning and prepares seasonal specialties like house-made moon cakes. If you’re just starting to experiment with Asian cooking, Pan-Asia also sells ramen bowls, sauce ramekins and sushi-making supplies. Later this year, store manager Ethan Lin said the store will add extra space to accommodate a food court offering noodle and fried rice dishes.

14246 Manchester Road, Manchester, 636.220.9999, panasiasupermarket.com

4. Bosnian // Europa Market
If you want to try your hand at traditional Bosnian dishes, a stop at Europa Market is a must. The small store bakes fresh Bosnian-style breads and carries a variety of imported cheeses and sausages, as well as frozen pita and burek, a spiraled phyllo dough filled with cheese and other savory ingredients. The tea aisle is impressive, containing many varieties of herbal teas, as well as traditional Turkish black. Don’t miss the selection of jarred ajvar, a smoky dip of red peppers and eggplant ideal in any happy-hour spread.

Europa worked with Brother and Sister Foods, a Pennsylvania-based Bosnian food producer, to make their own argeta, a chicken pate typically eaten for breakfast or lunch and nearly impossible to find in the States. “Whenever you go to Bosnia or your family goes to visit, nobody comes back without bringing many cans back,” said Lemmons Restaurant chef-owner Senada Grbic. “They started carrying it about two months ago, and everyone I know was freaking out about it.”

8100 Water St., St. Louis, 314.631.7288, europa-market.com

pieces of jackfruit, a trendy meat substitute, rest on newspaper at bombay bazar // photo by carmen troesser

5. Indian // Bombay Bazar
The unmistakable aroma of Indian cuisine is noticeable the second you step inside Bombay Bazar. The small but tidy space is well stocked with a wealth of affordable spices, lentils and other standard Indian ingredients, including a small selection of fresh produce, yogurt, milk and eggs. The freezer case entices less industrious cooks with frozen naan, samosas and Indian entrees, and nearly an entire aisle is dedicated to Indian snacks like spicy banana chips and spiced fried peanuts. Bollywood music adds a touch of fun to shopping. Don’t miss the freshly prepared samosas, rotis, pakoras and bondas stocked behind the checkout. 

1761 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield, 636.778.2391, bbazarstl.com

6. Italian // DiGregorio's Italian Market
Don’t plan a pasta night in without a trip to DiGregorio’s Italian Market. First, head to the freezers in the back for house-made ravioli or tortellini. You’ll have a lot of filling choices to peruse, ranging from traditional (beef, cheese) to high-class (lobster) and vegetarian (eggplant, caprese). Gluten-free options are also available. Carnivores will want to take a peek at the house-made sausages and meatballs. Next, choose your sauce. (DiGregorio’s makes all of theirs in-house.) Then, move along to the refrigerator case filled with freshly grated Reggiano, pecorino and Parmesan. Finally, check out the wine selections from Sicily, Tuscany and Campania.

“The majority of our recipes have roots going back to the old country and have been handed down generation to generation,” said marketing associate Giovanni DiGregorio. If you need cooking tips or even a recipe, DiGregorio’s is happy to share its secrets.

5200 Daggett Ave., 314.776.1062, St. Louis, digregoriofoods.com

7. Middle Eastern // Mideast Market
Mideast Market is tucked away in a nondescript Ballwin strip mall. Hidden beyond the aisles of canned chickpeas and fragrant spices and past the meat section is a small cafe counter serving killer gyros and other Middle Eastern dishes like samosas, falafel, pakora, and chicken and goat biryani. “Everything is made in-house with family recipes,” said owner Rashed Kazmi. Mideast also offers catering services.

The grocer comes highly recommended by Sameem Afghan Restaurant co-owner Fahime Mohammad. “The local meat they get is grass-fed with no antibiotics,” he said. “The hardworking staff is mostly immigrants – I like to support our immigrant community as much as I can, particularly as I’m a first-generation immigrant myself.”

Mideast Market, 14345 Manchester Road, Ballwin, 636.230.7018, mideastmarket.net

8. Middle Eastern // Worldwide International Food Market
Another prize tucked into a humdrum strip mall, Worldwide International Food Market includes a small, no-frills restaurant serving up traditional Middle Eastern and Palestinian favorites like hummus, falafel, shawarma and shish kebab. The dishes come from family recipes. Ayah Sumren manages the store and her mother, Ruqaiah Sumren, prepares everything by hand, including the pita bread and sweets baked in the store each morning. “On Fridays, we have chef’s choice specials – my mom chooses a dish, which is usually something traditional,” Ayah said. “Many of our customers are immigrants, and it takes them back home.” 

7238 N. Lindbergh Blvd., Hazelwood, 314.731.3500, Facebook: World Wide International Food Market

9. Mexican // El Morelia Supermercado
Visit El Morelia Supermercado in Bridgeton on a weekend when the entryway becomes a mini brunch cantina serving authentic tacos. Corn tortillas are topped with generous helpings of carne asada, al pastor, carnitas or lengua. Card tables groan under the weight of an impressive selection of toppings, including fresh salsa, radishes, onions and cilantro. “The tacos are a fifth-generation recipe from my dad’s side,” said co-owner Karen Rico. Her dad once owned a shop in Morelia, Mexico, and now the Rico family also owns The Taco & Ice Cream Joint on Cherokee Street.

Along with brunch, El Morelia has everything you could possibly want to create a Mexican fiesta at home. Besides staples like dried chilies and spices, the store sells carnitas and other taco meats by the pound, house-made salsa and freshly baked bread and empanadas. 

El Morelia Super Mercado, 12005 St. Charles Rock Road, Bridgeton, 314.209.0014, Facebook: El Morelia Supermercado

Stephanie Zeilenga is a critic and contributing writer for Sauce Magazine.