The Supermarket As Restaurant

Market-prepared foods are giving restaurants a run for their money.


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Umeke Market and Deli Downtown
1001 Bishop St., Suite 110  // 522-7377 // Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.  //

Umeke Market is a smaller operator than all the others, with a store near Kahala Mall imperiled by the opening of Whole Foods, and a new downtown branch.

Downtown, Umeke is a store, I guess. It has shelves of organic chocolate, krill oil and homeopathic headache remedies. But it functions mainly as a takeout place for breakfast and lunch, one of perhaps three dozen in a two-block area.

The downtown Umeke Market is largely devoted to take-out, including the free-range turkey meatloaf.

Photo: Monte Costa

What I like is its ambition. Where else downtown does someone sell ostrich burgers? For $8.75? And get people to buy them? Well, me, at least.

I bought more food than I could eat, just to try it, though my office mates benefited from my largesse.

The free-range turkey meatloaf, stuffed with vegetables, was more than acceptable, nowhere near as dry as it sounds. The small fillet of misoyaki salmon (I’m guessing wild salmon) at $8.95 was even better, surrounded by brown rice and a surprisingly tasty “Asian” slaw.

You can supplement the food with Blue Sky organic sodas and smoothies with names like Melon Bliss. I even ordered a spirulina-infused brown rice musubi because I wanted to experience it in its full horror. To my surprise, it turned out to be not bad, just boring.

Oh, and you want to know about the ostrich burger. Ostrich is lower in fat than beef, which makes it taste drier in the mouth. However, in a burger, piled on a whole wheat bun, with sauce, grilled onions, tomato and provolone, that hardly matters.

How does ostrich taste? Clean—you only get farm-raised ostrich. It’s not gamey, but it does have a quick mineral aftertaste, from iron, instead of zinc, which adds the finishing note to beef.

33 Keahole St.  // 394-3312 // Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  //

I was walking through Costco, trying not to impulse shop and go home with a big-screen TV, when I realized that Costco, while not exactly a supermarket, was seriously in the prepared food business.

It has actual cooks—perhaps prepared food production technicians—risking their fingers taking rotisserie chickens hot off the skewers and selling them to people waiting in line. I had vowed not to write about chickens, but I might mention that Costco’s are a boon to mankind, $5.99 for a cooked 3-pound bird, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside.

Reading the ingredients carefully, I think they’re juicy because they are injected with water-salt-sugar seasoning back at the chicken factory. Hardly a Whole Foods solution, but welcome to America.

I got myself a chicken, but I also took a look at the other offerings, which included lots of dishes made with leftover rotisserie chicken, like chicken alfredo and chicken enchiladas.

I skipped those and picked up a meatloaf, not bad, topped with tomato sauce surrounded by some nicely textured and flavorful mashed potatoes, which, if they were made from mix, were made from a damn good mix.

The meatloaf was only partially cooked. The directions called for you to bake it for 45 minutes (in a plastic container??). That seemed to cut against the whole prepared food thing, but, really, if you slice it, it microwaves in a few minutes.

The big surprise for me: Costco makes a decent Greek salad. The base is unthrilling chopped romaine, but it contains plenty of feta, grape tomatoes, red onion and real kalamata olives, pitted, which is always a help in salad. Can’t say I was blown away by the dressing, but you can always whip up your own with a little decent olive oil and wine vinegar.

The only problem: The chickens are cheap, but the meatloaf cost $3.89 a pound, which sounds fine until you realize that the package weighs nearly 4 pounds. The salad is similarly sold by the pound, and costs $9.92. Admittedly, it serves at least four people, maybe more. But if you don’t have four people …


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