Sahara Mart - downtown

  • Health-food-store Health Store
    ( 4 reviews )

106 E 2nd St (at downtown), Bloomington, Indiana, USA, 47401

Natural food and international grocery store with a deli counter. Open Mon-Sat 9:00am-9:00pm, Sun 9:00am-7:00pm.

4 Reviews

First Review by kitchenwitch

Good for certain items, skip others - Edit

First, this is for the Sahara Mart on 3rd St. I've never been to the one on 2nd, but it's owned by the same people.

The wine selection is huge, along with the beer selection. Just remember Indiana is stupid, and you can't buy alcohol on Sundays (plan accordingly!). Also lots of local Indiana wines to pick from.

The bulk section is also huge, with a ton of coffee selections, too. Now, here's where to be cautious. Some of the bulk stuff is just fine, they move a lot of it, and it's a great deal. Beans, for instance, and dal, and the more dried, shelf stable stuff. However, there have been some freshness issues with some of the bulk items. The fresher stuff, such as granola, can be a bit of an issue, or the flours. Just look carefully.

Produce: I personally proceed with caution at the produce. Some of it is really fresh and awesome, and sometimes it looks sort of old and flaccid. The apples are typically great, actually most of the fruit is good and at a good price. However, I don't tend to buy veggies here. I do recommend Bloomingfoods for veggies, although it's a bit more expensive. I personally love the olive bar, and I've never seen mold myself. I have always had great experiences with their olives.

There is a humongous selection of vinegars and oils, and I tend to spend a long time pouring over these and picking out just the perfect one. I love this part!

When I used to eat dairy, we found that their dairy wasn't the freshest in the world. Also, I had a molded soy yogurt from there. I guess I'm leaning towards the fact that stuff can be not so fresh there, and you just have to tread carefully. If you hit it just right, you can get great deals on things that are just over their date, but still good. I also have no problem getting packaged things here, as well.

Oh, the spices are amazing, and I don't buy my spices anywhere else. They're fresh and at a great price.

Skip: vegetables, dairy, some bulk
Don't miss: spices, some bulk, bulk coffee, wine and beer selection, cheese (if you eat it), great selection of ethnic food, vinegars and oils

Pros: spices, bulk coffee, wine, beer, vingegars, oils

Cons: some bulk bad, dairy , vegetables aren't freshest

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Friendly and helpful - Edit

I disagree with the post calling Sahara Mart sketchy and dirty. So far I have yet to find any grocery stores, natural or otherwise, that I would call truly "clean." All establishments that carry food have these problems.

The advantage at Sahara Mart is that the owners really care about their customers. I do find out-of-date products but they are always happy to replace them. And as for food quality, I don't buy the bulk items (all open containers scare me), but I've never had anything rancid from the deli - something I can't say for Bloomingfoods. (I'm a regular customer at both stores.) Their deli has a wide rotation of increasingly inventive and flavorful items (though few dairy-free choices).

Sahara Mart also has a much better array of gluten-free/casein-free items, and a nice 10% discount on Tuesdays. They have a wide variety of international items and an extensive beer and wine section. A second store is in the works for the East side of town, a testament to their popularity.

Pros: good GFCF options, many vegetarian deli items, good value

Cons: no special orders, few vegan deli items

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sketchy grocery store - Edit

Every time I have bought something in bulk at Sahara Mart, it has been different in appearance and quality. I suspect that I am not buying the exact same item each time, even though it's labeled the same. The bulk olives have mold in the bottom of the jars, and I've purchased several grocery items that were out of date according to the packages. It's disappointing that this store is proud that it keeps prices low, but at what cost to the customers? I shop at Bloomingfoods instead... better customer service and I can trust their products.

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Love to shop here - Edit

We've been going here a lot more since being angered at the decision Bloomingfoods made to close the Encore Cafe, our favorite restaurant in town, in leiu of another downtown grocery (with the other one about 6 blocks away. What is this, Starbucks??!). We have found the Sahara Mart to be bigger, offering more variety, a larger selection and more room to move around; less crowded and chaotic; equally friendly staffed; and comparable or perhaps a little less expensive than Bloomingfoods. We do support the co-op ideal so we'll continue to go there too, but if you haven't tried Sahara Mart, you should.

Pros: selection, friendly staff

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