Inside the Impressive New Bristol Farms Supermarket

The Bristol Farms supermarket at La Cumbre Plaza opened today, and it’s a winner—bigger and less cramped than Whole Foods and Lazy Acres, and way nicer than Gelson’s. (Would that it could take the place of the sad Vons in Montecito!) The store is right in the middle of the La Cumbre clusterfudge, which means it can be hard to find the first time. Trust me when I suggest you locate it and then park, or you might have to traverse a lot of hot blacktop.

As you enter, the bakery—with its delicious hot chocolate chip cookies—is to the left and the produce section is dead ahead. I was happy to see that (a) the produce isn’t all pre-sliced and encased in plastic, as at Trader Joe’s; and (b) the store has one of those orange-juice machines, which make much better juice than anything you can buy pre-bottled.

In the far left corner is a food court offering made-to-order dishes and prepared items. I have a feeling I’ll be avoiding the store at lunchtime and after work, because if patrons have to stand in line six feet apart, that corner is going to get congested.

The cheese section has a wide variety, but it’s all pre-cut and wrapped in plastic. And there are a lot of olives, but I didn’t see any of the king of olives, castelvetranos.

Continuing around the perimeter, we get to meat and dairy. Bonus points for Straus yogurt.

And then beer and wine. The wine corner was a surprise, with a stronger Italian selection than you generally see in a state that prefers its own wine. And there are some fancy bottles under lock and key.

Facing the checkout area is a café/juice bar and flower kiosk. The service throughout the store was proactively helpful and friendly; seeing me take the below photo, a staffer came over with a printed menu, just in case I wanted it.

In the middle of the store are the obligatory beauty and wellness aisles. I suspect stores love that stuff because it doesn’t go bad and it has to be high-margin.

As for the other grocery items in the central aisles, I hardly did a thorough inventory, but I did see many of the brands I love and have a hard time tracking down, having to go from store to store to get them all. And while the offerings skew toward the gourmet/healthy, you’ll also find a bit of the mainstream stuff you have to get at Vons or Ralphs: the popular cereals, Coke products, etc.

Fregola sarda! It’s far better than Israeli couscous, but it’s virtually impossible to find, and if you do find it, you’ll pay way more than $11. (That’s even cheaper than online.) Two weak spots, however, are olive oil—they can do better than this—and household stuff. My bet is that they don’t have the space for the latter, and they figure you’re going to buy it at Costco or Target.

The excellent service continued at checkout. They made a lifelong fan of my husband by carding him for the wine he was buying. That hasn’t happened in decades.

And because we spent more than $50, we got a free bag of swag. I don’t think this will be going on for long, but it’s probably worth a try….


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One Comment

Jimmy Searcy

The new Bristol Farms is beautiful and fortunate to have Denis Lacey as store director.
Good luck Denis