I'm a Midwestern transplant who's used to shopping at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, so I was thrilled to discover the upscale shopping experience known as Central Market.
Central Market features food and beverage imports from around the globe (beer, wine, cheeses, meats, produce, grocery), a large selection of bulk foods, including organic beans, rice, whole grains, dried fruits, spices, and coffee beans, dietary supplements, health and beauty, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and more. Looking for authentic Greek yogurt? Check. Umeboshi? Check. Quince preserves from Spain? Check. You can also pick up European kitchen wares, gorgeous fresh flowers, a stunning assortment of prepared hot and cold entrees and sides to go (CM also caters), and even enroll in cooking classes.
This is the most complete all-in-one shopping destination that I've found, and there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan-friendly options both in packaged grocery and the deli (items are labeled as veg or vegan). If you're on a gluten-free diet, Central Market also has a large assortment of GF baking mixes, crackers, snack foods, and more.
Like other victims of the recession, Central Market has noticably downsized by removing / widening aisles and cutting back on the once-hefty selection of imported and hard-to-find goods. The organic produce section is fairly small, and sometimes I get fresher organic produce at my local HEB Plus. I've had several bad experiences with buying the packaged organic greens; despite being used before the date, there were slimy, wilted greens in several boxes (perhaps this was a storage issue?).
But despite the reduced selection, it's still a fun place to shop and pick up unique eco-friendly gifts and great groceries. If you're looking for more unusual produce, you'll likely find it here (recent examples include white asparagus, chayote squash, strawberry papayas, and fresh lychees).Pros: selection of bulk foods, gifts / cards, prepared foods / bakery
Cons: price, small selection of organic produce