Saar's Market Place

A carnival for foodies and bargain hunters

By Kris Blondin on January 13, 2010

What do you get when you cross Top Foods with the Dollar Store, Big Lots, Cash and Carry, Metropolitan Market and that weird little convenience store with bars on the windows? I bet you are wondering what I’m smoking as I write, but really there is such a store and it’s called Saar’s Market Place.

I haven’t been in Saar’s for close to two years now. About once a month I would cautiously visit the store in order to bulk-buy window cleaner for my glass tables at Vin Grotto. For some strange reason, their brand called Glass and Surface Cleaner worked better than Windex and it was an astonishing $1 a can (there was a spray bottle version, but it didn’t work as well). We used to cover the “GL” and the “SUR” so it said, “ASS and FACE CLEANER”. Remember this was a fairly popular wine bar. We had fun. …

Sadly, on this trip I discovered that they no longer carry the “Ass and Face Cleaner”, however, I did discover much more. For example, they opened up the front area so you immediately walk through the produce section. The section itself is quite vast but I noticed there were duplicate sections of several different products. As if they are trying to fill extra space. It seemed slightly confusing to me, but maybe there’s something I don’t know.

I have to be honest. The one thing I would avoid in the past about this store was the produce. Back then, anything fresh was anything but. Taking a new look changed my mind. Prices are very competitive on fruits where you will find apple prices from 68 to 88 cents a pound and they looked good. Lettuce appeared fresh, as did onions, broccoli and other vegetables. Most prices were competitive with other grocery stores, with the exception of a few price leaders like the apples.

Need a 25-pound bag of carrots? Cut and cleaned collard or mustard greens? They have these too. Speaking of large quantities, rice seems to be quite popular at Saar’s. I discovered several styles of rice in 50-pound bags. Nearby, you will find every type of dried spice lining an entire wall and all priced at .99 cents for a three-ounce container.

While the wine selection here is insanely affordable with most wines between $3 and $6 a bottle, the selection was pretty weak. But then what do you expect for $3 a bottle? Dig deep for a few good values. I did see a few varietals of Joel Gott that were reasonable. Beer? Nothing interesting, with the exception of some Eastern European imports.

With that said, you can’t talk about this particular Saar’s without mentioning the heavily influenced Eastern European products. This is where I truly became fascinated. Bologna, sausage, salami and a crazy Greek cheese spread with fish roe. Horseradish with beets and some malt beverage in a two-liter bottle I couldn’t even begin to pronounce.

Stay away from the hot deli.

The meat section looked competent and clean, but don’t expect to find any organic or free range. The turkey backs looked a little suspect. But then again, these are turkey backs. What am I hoping for? And wow, frozen seafood for miles that looked a little TOO frozen. Need a 10-pound bag of frozen cod? You guessed it. They got it.

One-pound blocks of Western Family Butter for $1.99 and Tillamook Cheddar for $5.96 are great deals in my opinion, and the entire cheese selection wasn’t half bad. Keep a look out for crazy cookies, jars and jars of roasted red peppers, and perhaps every type of Bob’s Red Mill baking product available.

OK, this was the point where I started to get this bizarre glaze over my eyes while my mouth uncontrollably propped open: socks, gloves, toilet plungers, food storage containers and so many more items for a dollar. I’ve been looking years for a sandbag ashtray and I found one — for a dollar. The further I dug, the more enraptured I became. Finally, I just had to walk away, or disappear forever.

There is so much more I could tell you, but I am limited for space. Saar’s Market Place is a carnival for us foodies and bargain hunters. There are good deals to be had and hard to find gourmet products to be found. But give yourself some time to soak-up the unique nature of this store. It will be worth it.

[Saar’s Market Place, 1015 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, 253.752.7745]