Friday, April 6, 2012

Alfie's No Frills - Pine and 4th Ave

I finally made it into Alfie's No Frills at Pine and 4th Avenue yesterday.

Alfie's No Frills - 5 April 2012

I have to admit - I was mostly satisfied! True, it's Loblaws (who Greenpeace detests, and which doesn't seem to care one whit about sustainable seafood), the same company as Superstore and Joe Fresh, but it also has some cheap options to help out anyone on a tight income living in Kitsilano.

At the risk of sounding like a total snob, this store attracts a wholly different 'element' of society than the other Kits stores. I suppose that if Burrard Street is the eastern boundary of Kitsilano, then Alfie's No Frills is technically in Fairview. Perhaps that explains it. It's a totally different crowd than what you'd find up the hill at Vine and 4th.

Well, the differences between Pine and Vine aside, another large grocer in the area suits me just fine. The produce section was much nicer and better maintained than Joti's No Frills on Broadway - they even carried chayote, plantain, taro, Japanese eggplant and baby bok choy. I also saw whole coconuts there, and the ginger they sold was plump and moist, very generously sized.

Interior of Alfie's No Frills - 5 April 2012

So I'll have to put the key phrase here once again, for search engines to find and for poor lost foodies to find the ingredients they need:

Where can you buy plantains in Vancouver?

You can find plantains for sale at Alfie's No Frills (Pine and 4th Avenue) and at the A&L Grocer next to the City Hall CanadaLine station.

Taro and chayote I've seen at both Joti's and Alfie's No Frills.

Apart from the produce section being fairly nice (it's still a new store - it'll be dingy in no time, so take advantage!), the rest of the aisles are pretty much exactly as they look at Joti's and Paul's No Frills. I find that the selection is quite limited in many respects; No Frills has never worked as a 'one-stop shop' for me.

But given the considerable distance between Kitsilano and the nearest Superstore or Sabzi Mundi (Fraser and SE Marine), No Frills offers a place to buy those large bags of basmati rice and a fair selection of some of the more common Indian spices (the Suraj brand by Loblaws).

Where is the cheapest place in Kitsilano to buy spices?

Depending on which spices you need, The Parthenon on Broadway at Balaclava for Mediterranean spices (they sell small, generic packages at a very reasonable price) or Alfie's No Frills on 4th Avenue at Pine (which sells large bags of Suraj spices for Indian and Pakistani cuisine).

No Frills also has a limited selection of Thai and Asian condiments and canned fruits and vegetables. It seems to have a "basic staples" mandate as opposed to a "make it easy for a white person to try an exotic recipe" approach, but hey - if you can't find rambutan in a can elsewhere, you can get it here. (Don't forget to patronize New Apple Market - support the little guys whenever you can! They have rambutan, too).

They have large bags of rice of most varieties here - Sweet (Glutinous) Rice from Thailand, various brown and white basmati rices, short-grain sticky rice, small bags of short-grain 'sushi' rice, and even the nasty parboiled stuff (aka 'converted' rice), if that's your thing (or you're following an archaic recipe!).

Alfie's No Frills at 4th and Pine - 5 April 2012

No Frills also carries "Ziggy's" Mediterranean foods - jars of kalamata and fancy olives, buckets of feta (a great deal, even compared to the President's Choice store label), which are very well priced. A good place to come for olives if you're having a party.

One of the other nice perks about having a No Frills nearby is the vinegar selection. President's Choice and other labels round out a very reasonably priced selection of wine vinegars, balsamic vinegar (including a fig balsamic vinegar I almost bought on a whim), seasoned and plain rice vinegar (for sushi!), and even an apple cider vinegar, though it wasn't like Bragg's "with the Mother". If you like to cook, swing by here for some weekday-quality vinegars and oils. Save the expensive stuff for the weekends!

Cheeses are cheaper and quite plentiful here - there is a great selection of cheese next to the produce section. Strangely, as is the case with Safeway, the more typical bricks of cheddar and mozzarella are located in a distant section near the milk. If you want feta or chevre, head towards the produce section. This is also where the tofu is kept.

One thing to always keep in mind if you're headed to a Loblaws grocery store (Superstore, No Frills) - they charge for plastic bags.

Now personally, I'm quite thrilled about this. It certainly discourages the use of disposable bags! But, it can be quite irritating if for some reason you neglected to bring along your reusable bags.

No Frills, particularly Alfie's, has a stock-pile of cardboard boxes used to ship in their food that you can use to transport your purchases with. At Alfie's, the bin is positively over-flowing; you can see it through the window as you pass by along 4th Ave.

This isn't the most convenient option for the pedestrian, but if you have driven here (and there is free underground parking for customers off of Pine street), it's not such a bad option. Like Costco, you can carry boxes of food back to your car underground.

So there's my review of Alfie's No Frills! It's closer (for me) than Paul's No Frills at 4th and Alma (funny - does Kitsilano have a "No Loblaws" rule? Because both No Frills flank the limits of Kits!), and it happily rounds out the limited selection of a few ethnic foods that are next to impossible to find in Kits.

Now if only a Sabzi Mundi, T&T and an H-Mart would move in, too!

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