Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best of Fort Worth, 2009. (and a few worst).

The "Best Of Fort Worth" is a once a year post. It is my take on things, along with a few comments from friends that occasionally contribute to the blog (text in red).

It is kind of a random observation, but since returning from our two year stay in Philadelphia, I have noticed that Fort Worth residents seem to be happy with their city, or happy to be here. They aren't trying to be Dallas (perish the thought) or New York. Fort Worth does have its share of super-parochial types who think venturing past its borders is going to a "lesser" place. But most Fort Worthians have lived other places. In Fort Worth one can live in a city that has the gentility of the country. We have some of the nation's best art museums, the world's premier piano competition, one the world's top ten opera halls, in Bass Hall, and we host top horse, dog, and livestock competitions. All in the same city. Not to mention, the NASCAR racetrack, and now the Dallas Cowboys (of Tarrant County). Not too shabby.

Fort Worth is the seventeenth largest city, by population, in the country. The DFW area is the 8th largest metropolitan area in the USA. It's a big place, but it is open and comfortable to live in. Our city's greatest asset is the fact that people try make things work here -- for everyone. It is not a factious city. The amenities we all  share: a model downtown, well-maintained parks, good roads and infrastructure, are all things we take for granted because they are always working. But it is not that way everywhere.

As for food, you won't go hungry here.  The list of top restaurants has tripled since I have been gone, but you can still get three tacos with rice and beans at a corner taco stand for about 4 bucks. And it's as good and fresh as you can get. I find some of the best food is made on the street. In Philly, it's the corner-store cheesesteak, in Fort Worth it's the taco. And I love them both.

I should mention that I have a few "Worst of 2009" here. As I have said before, if I don't like a restaurant I usually don't write anything. But there are exceptions. I have a feeling I will be criticized for one of my "worst of," but I am convinced, so it stays.

Food and Fort Worth's 
"Best of 2009" 
for Fort Worth and area:

Italian: Nonna Tata's and La Piazza. Honestly, I do not frequent the Italian restaurant often because I grew up with home-made Italian food and I am almost always disappointed. This is true not only in Fort Worth, it was also true in Philadelphia, with a few glowing exceptions. Nonna Tata's and La Piazza produce authentic Italian food and are the best in Fort Worth. Sardines isn't bad, either.

"La Piazza is really good but for a good Italian restaurant experience I would say Sardines." BeccaJ

Mexican: Mi Cocina - downtown is still my favorite place to eat. Mi Cocina and its parent company have had well publicized owner/management problems, but by all appearances the restaurants are doing well and serving the same consistently good dishes. I also like Cantina Laredo - downtown, and for just good food, service, and good people, La Familia.

But as I have said before, right now, today, if someone is visiting from out of town and asks for the local fare, and by that I mean not the standard chain restaurant, they will be taken to a Mexican restaurant or a barbecue restaurant, or possibly, a family run Thai or Vietnamese restaurant. But what is selling on the street corners? Tacos and occasionally barbecue. And it's usually good.

Worst Mexican: Yucatan Grill. God-awful. I don't know what part of Mexico these boys think they are representing, but it's none I have ever been to. Yes, the place is cool looking, in a great location, and has a good vibe but the food is second-rate. Sorry. I hear they are building one in Southlake, which proves to me once again, that growth is no proof of success.

Pizza: Rocco's in Fort Worth, but Cavalli's in Irving is the best I have tasted in the area. Also, I think Carrabba's makes a pretty good thin crust pizza. Joe's on Berry is good and has pizza by the slice.

Frozen Yogurt: Yogolait and Menchies.I like the self-serve. I could eat their frozen yogurt every day. 

Bread:
Whole Foods - Arlington. The Dallas-Fort Worth area does not have many old stand-alone bread bakeries. I wish we did. Artisan Bakery is new to the area, or at least to me, but to be honest, I have not been. Forget Corner Bakery. Panera's has some decent breads, especially when they are fresh. Central Market's breads all taste the same to me.

Bagels: Yogi's on Hulen. They are good. The breakfasts are a little expensive for what you get but the bagels are still good.

Donuts: Pauls, off Magnolia. Good people, good donuts. Dale's gets lots of "Best of" awards. I love Dunkin' Donuts but the closest is in Hurst, I believe.

Chinese: I have no idea. Really. PF Chang's is good but expensive and the "I'm hip so I can charge triple retail" vibe drives me batty these days. My family generally goes the Pei Wei way. It is relatively inexpensive, the portions are good, and it is served hot. The appetizers aren't bad either.
 "I Love Pei Wei." BeccaJ.

Sandwich: Carshon's makes a good sandwich. Whichwich sandwich is a pleasant surprise sometimes. When Central Market opened they had as good of a roast beef sandwich as you could ever get. Not so today. More on them later.

Burgers: Kinkaid's, Tommy's, Fred's. Love's. All good. Pappa's. I didn't care for. Dutch's. I don't get them. My burgers there have been dry and way overcooked. Jake's gets a lot of good reviews, and I agree, it's a good burger. I visit Kinkaid's more than any of the others. Is it still the best? Probably not. My favorite burger in the area is Five Guys in Southlake -- but we don't have an In-N-Out Burger. A good blog on hamburgers and the like is Regular Joe's Guide, who says "perhaps our favorite burger joint in DFW: Clown Burger." He also thinks a lot of Mooyah's in Southlake. A new blog from Raul and Rachel suggests the #1 burger in DFW is Mooyah's, but also includes Jake's and Five Guys.

Coffee: Starbucks on University. They are busy enough to have to make it fresh all the time. And nice folks as well. But their Pike's Place blend is terribly weak for my palate. Sumatra is good. The Via instant is as bad as I expected. They say you can't tell. I can tell -- and it's bad. We need more locally owned coffee shops. Since Eurotazza closed there are no real independents that I am aware of. I still think a coffee shop/bakery could make it on Magnolia. In the morning, when the coffee is fresh, I like McDonald's coffee. Seriously.

Steak and "Finer" Dining:  I hate to punt on this one but I am just not qualified to judge it anymore. A few years ago I had an opinion on the best steak in Fort Worth and Dallas but I just don't do it much anymore. Del Frisco's, Lonesome Dove, Grace, Bob's, Eddie V's., Bonnell's, Lanny's. Tillman's is new, off  7th Street and getting a lot of buzz. You can't say we don't have a lot of choices. My favorite place in Fort Worth for steak is the Chop House, downtown. It may not be the best -- I just like the place. 

Best Destination Restaurant: Reata. Good food, good atmosphere, meandering bars, and a great downtown to walk in when you finish your dinner. 

Best Traditional Fine Dining: Since 1985, Saint Emilion has been serving Fort Worth traditional French cuisine. Same owner, same location. Great food, honestly priced. If you like a quieter atmosphere, good food, and personal treatment, this is the place.

Barbecue: Angelo's on White Settlement is my favorite. I like Railhead, too, on Montgomery. My apologies to Jennifer who loves Cousins.

Dining Restaurant Downtown: The Chop House on Main Street. I still like going there. The food is good, the tables are spaciously placed, unlike Del Frisco's, and they aren't up-selling the whole time.

Beer Downtown: The Flying Saucer. Good selection, great location, nice outdoor patio for smoking. (Hey, who wants to drink if you can't smoke).

Beer elsewhere: "I like The Ginger Man for a pint." Jake. BeccaJ voted for Ginger Man, as well.

Ice Cream: Braum's, $1.50 for a single dip of pretty good ice cream.

Biggest rip-off ice cream: Marble Slab. Way over-priced and the novelty of M&M's in my ice cream has worn-off. 

Margarita: Mi Cocina.

Fajitas: Papasitto's on I30. Good beef, fresh flour tortillas. Cantina Laredo is a close second. Two for one Wednesday fajitas at Pappasito's is the best deal in town.

Sushi: Hui Chuan Sushi, on Camp Bowie.
"Sushi Yoko is hands down my favorite, great prices, fast service, and fresh sushi." Jake

Thai: Suk a Thai, in Arlington. Thai Tina gets some good reviews but BeccaJ says she prefers Suk a Thai.

Nicest Small Restaurant Atmosphere: Zambrano's downtown. Lili's on Magnolia. Both places: good people and good food.

Worst Chain Restaurant Meal of the Year: Gator's at Northeast Mall. So bad it's not worth going into. 

Best New-for-Me Chain Restaurant: Carrabba's at Northeast Mall. 

Best Wine by the Glass: Zambrano's. 

Best New Restaurant or Bar: Ellerbe's & Eddie V's. are both getting great reviews.

"My new favorite is The Usual -- up scale prohibition era bar, non-smoking, top shelf liquor, and a fantastic atmosphere." Jake. BeccaK considers Buttons, on Hulen, her favorite. 

Best Developing Street: Magnolia is number 1 and 7th Street is number 2.

Best Place for coffee, cookie, and wifi: Panera Bread on University. Okay, the coffee is a little weak, but the pastries and the wifi are good. 

Best View of Fort Worth: From the hilltop at Channel 5. 

Best Bicycling: the bicycle/walking path on the north side of downtown. 

Best Bicycle Shop: Colonel's, on University and Panther City on Magnolia. Both locally owned and well run. 

Best Bookstore in North Texas: The used Bookstore in Denton. For theology and philosophy: Theological Pursuits, on McCart. Run by a Southwest Seminary guy who tolerates us Catholics browsing around (as long as we don't talk to anyone). The days of the quirky, independent bookstore are all but over. The bookstore in Denton is an exception.

Favorite Place to buy vegetables: Fiesta Market on 8th Street.

Best Addition to Downtown Transportation: Molly the Trolley.

Best Radio Sports Talk: The Ticket, 1310 am. 

Best Pool Tables: Fox and Hound, Downtown.

Only Great Pool Tables in DFW: Dave & Busters / Dallas (also, real snookers table) 

Best Movie theater: Rave at North East Mall and Ridgmar. Movie theaters have reached a kind of perfection at Rave. Big seats, leg room, great views. I don't know how it can get much better, unless they figure a way of seat-ejecting the loud-talker.

Most Under Appreciated Great Amenity: Trinity River Park, Botanical Gardens, Trinity River Trail. About 30 miles of paved walking and bicycling along the river and improving every year. Parks along the way. Tough to beat and not used much except along University.

Most Impressive New Development: Uptown. Take a drive through. Now let's pray that it works.

Favorite Architecture: Modern Art Museum 

Architecture We're All Hoping For the Best: TCC Downtown. Jury is still out. But it is looking better than I thought it would. 

Most Dependable Good Meal: Charleston's on Hulen. Okay, it seems no one under 40 is allowed in, but the food is still good.

Best New Building: Omni Hotel. Not exactly the nouveau Texas brick style, but I like it.  

Biggest Disappointment since the Last "Best of": Central Market. The gourmet is gone. It is looking run down, and it is being run like an Albertson's. Sorry. I was one of the first and biggest supporters of the concept, the company, and the management, but something is rotten in HEB land.

Notes to management:
1. Fire the guy who painted the men's bathroom. Have you been in there lately?
2. The wood patio tables have been a bust. They look terrible and there are too many of them.
3. Salad bar. Looks like something from a run down Steak & Ale
4. Sandwiches. When your accountant decided that the meat portions had to be weighed I knew we were in trouble.
5. Who decided that the side of the building was a good place to store things? 

What I wish we had.
A Whole Foods like the one they have in Austin. Great concept and execution. 

What I am glad we don't have:
Austin. Just kidding. Really, I love Austin. (weirdos) 

Most Enjoyable "I thought I would never see the day" Dallas Cowboys Stadium coming to Tarrant County. No offense to our cousins to the east, but you guys really blew it. The Cowboys are always ranked as the first, second, or third most valuable sports franchise in the world -- and you let them leave Dallas. Unbelievably stupid. 

Places that deserve more support:
1. Fort Worth Opera Festival 2010 -- Don Giovanni. Go see it. It'll make you laugh and cry. Trust me, you'll love it.
2. Cowtown Farmer's Market.

Final comment: A vibrant downtown needs business, residents, and conventions. People driving in from the suburbs on weekends is not the stuff of a thriving downtown. We are getting closer every year. The building of Tarrant County College and of the Omni Hotel convention hotel is another step forward towards that vibrancy -- if they are successful. Nothing is certain but, even given this economy, the signs are good. 

PLEASE -- comment at will.

27 comments:

Jennifer said...

Great list! I've been meaning to try Nona Tata's. Perhaps I'll take my husband over the holidays.
I do think we have a great ballet despite the recent controversy. We saw The Nutcracker over the weekend and it was amazing.

Francis Shivone said...

Thanks, but I was hoping you would give me a hard time over the barbecue.

Anonymous said...

Great comments. Agree about Central Market.

Ginny said...

When Central Market first opened, they were very Customer Service oriented. Now, you get the same blank stare found at every other retail establishment.
And the bread has never been good. Target is better.

Julie said...

I know it's east of 360, but as for an amazing stand alone bakery, you need to try La Spiga in Addison.

http://www.laspigabakery.com/

Francis Shivone said...

La Spiga was a frequent lunch spot for us, many years ago. I liked it.

Anonymous said...

We still go to the CM here in San Antonio. They still have great meats, cheeses, and vegetables in a variety and quality that Whole Foods doesn't match.

We have, however, stopped eating at the restaurant. The food is mediocre and expensive.

I think you predicted many years ago by saying that it would be hard to maintain an expert staff at minimum wage.

Francis Shivone said...

I will agree on the cheeses and meats. Thanks, that is true.
Well, I think you could keep up the quality if you keep paying for good management in each department. But they haven't. Which is the decision of the top, ie, HEB management, not the store managers. My guess is that HEB lost interest because the margins were too small when compared to the time/energy/focus. Just a hunch.

Steven said...

Good post, Francis. I would like to put in a nomination for Thai Tina for Best Thai, Pho Hung for Best Vietnamese and China Jade for Best Chinese. However, Asian cuisine isn't Greater Fort Worth's strong suit by a mile.

Also, I do like Dutch's and Yucatan, but I get what you are saying.

Melinda said...

Fantastic!

For Thai, I like this little restaurant on Cherry Lane in White Settlement. I can't remember the name of it, but all the food is made by the nicest Thai lady that came to America about 40 years ago. The last time I was in there, she said that she did all the cooking because she didn't trust her children with her recipes. Great food and friendly service.

Unfortunately, what you've said about Central Market is correct. I used to love it so much, but it's just not as great. I sooo wish we had a Whole Foods!

Mindy M said...

I'm surprised. I go to the Central Market off Hulen about every two weeks and recognize the same people working all the time. They've come to recognize me, too, and are always friendly (no blank stares.)The bald guy in wine is brilliant and really knows his stuff. I rely on them for great suggestions and cooking tips. The meat and seafood are much better than WF, IMHO. I just tried a few breads from the free samples and they were all delicious, especially the new monkey bread cinnamon rolls. The Sandwich Station is the BEST. Where else in FW are you going to shop. IJS

soypan said...

I couldn't agree more regarding the Central Market situation. To be honest about the only thing I still buy there are dairy products and some bulk items from the bins. The quality of the produce has almost gotten as bad as Kroger. If you're not shopping organic, you can find much fresher (and cheaper) stuff at Carnival on 28th and Main. I will say the staff at the Southlake CM are still great, and I feel badly for them as I think they are somewhat embarrassed by the pickings that make there way up to the Metroplex from greener Central Market pastures.

Francis Shivone said...

I put a couple of my "worst of" in the post because, let's face it, we all like a little controversy.

Central Market: First, I know the wine dept. manager. Good guy, who knows his stuff.

But CM needs buzz and continual re-evaluation to maintain its vitality. It is a restaurant that sells groceries. Their first managers were mostly restaurant guys, chefs and managers. They are losing those guys and they are letting the place look run down.

So, whereas I may agree that some of the parts are still good, the whole is hurting.

CM was a test for HEB, it's barely a line item in their spreadsheet. They do not need it. I think they don't care -- and I think that shows.

Go to a Whole Foods. The founder/ CEO lives and breathes that company (without a paycheck mind you) and IT shows.

I still go to Central Market, by the way.

Stephanie said...

I disagree about the Mexican food... I went to Mi Cocina about a month ago and was totally disappointed. Bad service, mediocre food, and bad atmosphere...I felt like I was at a Mexican food version of a Chili's.

I didn't see Piola on your list - I really enjoyed the few times I have been. Great service, great food, and a really good value.

And I really like the sushi at Tokyo Cafe... and I love their lemonade (random, I know)

I read your blog all the time - I love your posts! Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Love your list! I'm also over Central Market. My only disagreement with you is the Cowboy Stadium - I wish it had stayed in Dallas! The traffic and construction interferes with my trips to Whole Foods in Arlington.

Rachel and Raul said...

Great list!! We enjoyed reading it. Thanks for referencing our site!! You made us hungry so now we have to try some of these places we haven't gone to yet!!

Jennifer said...

I completely missed your barbecue section - the perils of reading blogs with young children in the room. It's very simple, I am right and you are wrong. :) Though I've never eaten at Angelo's and if I remember correctly, you have yet to try Cousin's (am I right?).
I've got mixed feelings about your CM debate going here. The man at the sushi counter always greets me and smiles, though I never buy sushi. The man at the sandwich counter has our order started as soon as he sees us walk by (grilled cheese for my daughter). I do wish the employees in the produce department would be more readily available for questions. And I do find that organic produce is more abundant and far more affordable at Target.
As for Mexican, I do prefer Cantina Laredo to Mi Cocina.

Francis Shivone said...

Jennifer -- now I feel better.

Actually, just recently I went to a Cousins on the south side of Fort Worth and it was very good.

I didn't expect the response on the CM comments. I am going to make my point less flippantly (is that a word) and more constructively in another post.

Again, thanks for your comments.

--------------------

Stephanie - thanks for reading and commenting. I haven't been to Piola but will try it. As far as Mi Cocina's goes, part of what attracts us to restaurants is the memories we have made there. I have enjoyed many good times with my family and friends at the MiCo downtown. So, I can be as misguided as the next guy on how good it still is or isn't.

But I do actually like Chili's, so then again, that may be my problem.

Regardless, thank you for the compliment, it was very kind of you.
------------

Melinda -- thanks for the Thai suggestion.

------------

Steven -- Part of my problem is that I am not sure I have ever been to a real Chinese restaurant. I'll try the China Jade.

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Soypan -- I think the Southlake store is doing better than the FW one.

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Raul & Rachel -- I like your blog. And thanks for stopping by.

Jennifer said...

My ties to Cousin's are emotional in part as well. Cousin's was served at every birthday party and get together for years. They catered our wedding as well so they will always have a very special place in our hearts.

Anonymous said...

thai tina!!!! thai tina!!!!

the water gardens need some love but are still amazing.

Rambler the Opinionated. said...

You should NOT have mentionedd TCC Downtown. In the FIRST place, we didn't need to spend a third of a billion dollars on a campus when we have space for classes downtown and 4 perfectly good campuses around the county. Who is benefitting from that boondoggle I don't know, but it isn't students or the taxpayers. And furthermore, the whole project would have cost a billion dollars if they hadn't gotten the Tandy Center for a song. A BILLION dollars! Any idea what a billion dollar endowment would buy? Or do on the other 4 campuses? As to the architecture, it's an interesting concept, but last I looked the street level visual was of ugly concrete boxes.

And while I am ranting, the last time (double meaning) I went to La Familia, the owner was very rude to a friend who dared to wanted to order something other than the lunch special. Actually, he invited her to leave. None of us will be going back.

Oh, my blood pressure! Be still, Rambler... be still...

In all seriousness, I do love Fort Worth for many things, but the city government has become overbearing and expensive and I am seriously considering moving out of the city limits.

Francis Shivone said...

Rambler -- Sorry for the blood pressure raisers.

But hey, a billion here, a billion there, what's the big deal?

Seriously, you may be right. I am only looking at it from one angle, and that is the angle of building a city center that is growing and self-sustaining. Schools downtown bring young people that need apartments, food, etc. Philadelphia for instance has UPenn, Temple, and dozens of smaller schools.

Many of my friends would argue that the local civil government shouldn't be in the business of higher education and building with taxpayer money.

As far as Fort Worth's heavy hand. I don't see it. Certainly not compared with big cities back East.

Michael Bourgon said...

Couple other suggestions:
Thai: Sweet Basil
Viet: Pho Hung
BBQ : Mom's

Sunni R. said...

Hi Fran, I am a LOSER for not responding to this email. Major internet service and phone change issues, not to mention big Christmas prep for hubby's fam visiting. Here are my .02 for what it's worth: I love Nonna Tata. I am so with you on FW lack of true Italian. You may or may not know that I am an Italian by marriage, so I kinda know from Italian now...probably not to your "pureblood" extent, but anyway. I would like to give the revamped Aventino's a try, maybe someone can give feedback. Husband had a soft spot for the dad that used to run the place. I understand the daughter has taken over. The menu on the net looks promising??? BBQ: I regret to say my fave bbq is between Mexia and Groesbeck TX at Kirby's. If anyone is ever in that area, look it up, you won't regret it. CM: Honestly, it's just a whipping. Brookshire's here in Willow Park will cut me custom steaks for a better price and they are great quality. I like to run in for premade pasta salads, potato salads, etc when I need to for time's sake but other than that I rely on Costco for great produce,great cheese, Belgian beer and the wine selection (posted Wine Advo ratings @ great prices). Mexican: this is a tough deal. I am with you on Mi Cocina and Pappacito fajitas but for pure texmex, I like Dos Molinas, Esperanza's or El Asadero in the Stockyards. Steak: Del Frisco's is great but last visit a couple of weeks ago yielded mediocre unpolished service and me sending my steak back. Since when is cold red center medium rare? I will say the food was good. New Restaurant: Button's is so fun and the chef is a good friend of my dad's. He is the real deal and I haven't had a bad meal there. Pot roast, pork chop, chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits- all great. The greens, well, my FIL's are better IMHO to be completely honest. he makes them with olive oil and garlic- TexItalian soul food. The live music and good service makes Buttons a step above anything else we have in FW in terms of total experience. Destination: Hands down St. Emilion. Other new spots of note: Ellerbe's was great. I love the emphasis on fresh seasonal cooking with local ingredients. Good fish dishes and great service. Very nice atmosphere but not stuffy to boot. I know this is too broad a category but Asian: I am also a Thai Tina fan. May I also respectfully recomend Lieu's in little ol' Lake Worth for great Vietnamese. The locale has been home to a coffeehouse and it retains the cozy vibe. Good prices, fresh food. I don't know anything about Chinese food other than what I've had in San Francisco is nothing like anything available here. Sushi: ditto the Chinese comment. I will say 2 places for good not great and not overly pricey sushi here in FW are Oi Shi in Lake Worth and Japanese Palace in West Fort Worth. Are they fancy. Heck no. but they put out a good product if you are having a craving and they won't break the bank like Piranha will. Oysters: ditto the Chinese comment. Bar: I have to plug Capital Bar for a nice atmosphere and friendly bartenders. We had a JWC function there and it was a fun evening. I want to try the new place everyone has mentioned (the usual?) Wine Bar: I have been to Winslow's several times and found it each time to be great. Nice servers, good apps, great atmosphere. Tried Zambrano once with the girls and it was um, OK. My complaint with both places is the preponderance of pizza. If I want pizza I'll have it on Fri nite with my husband and beer. On GNO, I want fun food, not pizza. Seafood: EDDIE V's OMgoodness. Phenomenal. Compares to great dining experiences I've had in Portland, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Impeccable service, fantastic food, comfy surroundings. Just Yes. Yes Yes Yes. Sorry for the obnoxious long comment. Love to all foodies and love to Fort Worth, my hometown.

Francis Shivone said...

Thanks Sunni -- great comments that I will incorporate into the actual post since I had requested your comments in the email.
If you ever have a hankering for good Italian just go to Pietro's in Philly.
Thanks again for so many good suggestions, many of which I have not tried.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more about St. Emilion and Ellerbe Fine Foods. But Railhead for BBQ? Really? I too am a fan of Cousin's.

Suggestion for Chinese: Empress of China off 121-N at Glade.

Anonymous said...

I diagree with all of you who say that CM has gone down the drain! What other grocery store keeps its customers going with festivals, such as their citrus fest, hatch chili festival, mardi gras, chocolate festival, etc. They even went so far as to have a TCU tailgaiting party! Their salad bar is fantastic.... really you think it is like a Steak and Ale? YOU ARE CRAZY! Steak and ale never had peppadew peppers, dolmas, marinated mushrooms (steak and ale only had sliced raw mushrooms that looked to be 2 days old on their bar) and think about it, if CM doen't have something on their salad bar, it's because they have to MAKE IT, it doesn't come out of a BAG!
But I do agree about having a lack of space, shopping on the weekends is a NIGHTMARE! Love the samples but on weekends it makes it even harder to shop comfortably.
As far as their staff, the ones that have been their a long time are great! Bulk seems to have gone done the tubes since they have changed their employees in that area.
as far prices, does albertson's have have a specialist in any departmnet at 3pm? CM does, that's what you are paying for.