Recently we were lucky enough to find ourselves in Cincinnati, a wonderful city, built in the hills right beside the Ohio River in southwestern Ohio. It is a bustling, beautiful place with many great attractions, including the Reds and the Bengals, right across the river is the Newport Aquarium, a wonderful zoological park, and not to be missed. But, when you are in Cincinnati you have to visit Jungle Jim’s Food Supermarket.
In a world of mass marketers, warehouse clubs, and huge homogeneous chains of identical buildings filled with shelves that were all pulled from the same marketing formulas, (reducing shoppers to an integer in an equation with a predictable outcome) Jungle Jim’s market is a breath of fresh, wild, untamed, well-stocked air. Complete with a State Liquor Store, ah what could be better?
This is clearly a place with some serious grocery MOJO. It has a pair of gorillas holding a sign that says it all “FOODIE ENTRANCE.” And inside there is a dizzying variety of ethnic foods. You can buy 50-pound bags of rice, and gallon jugs of Tabasco sauce, rubs, marinades cooking supplies, and enough soft drinks and not so soft drinks wash it all down, whatever your taste.
You get an idea that the shopping experience is going to be a little unusual when you first walk in (if you are at the “new” location, if you end up at the original you need to walk a little) and see the restroom. They have the appearance of a Porta-Potty. No matter how you potty, that is kind of cool. And, if you don’t believe that check out the sign (one of two) detailing where the bathrooms have been discussed on TV. They have actually won “America’s Best Restroom,” and most people didn’t even know that anybody rated those things. Having been to Wall Drug, another famous store, let me tell you, these bathrooms are better.
Of course, the coolness does not end when you exit the restroom. There is a travel camper on a platform above a display of snack crackers. Which, in itself is kind of cool, but, that is only the beginning, the camper is adorned with flowery 60’s style artwork, and looking out the windows on one side are pictures of Bob Dylan, and, Joan Baez, looking out the lonely window on the other side is the image of John Lennon.
Looking out the back window are Richard and Pat Nixon. Sadly, I did not get a picture of that, probably to placate my deceased, beloved Mother, who watched the Watergate Hearings with the fierce intensity of the truly, politically agitated. This one’s (more accurately, the lack of this one is) for you Mom!
Of course, there is a fire truck at the entrance to the Hot Sauce department, which is huge, and well stocked. And a boat at the entrance to the seafood department. Which is large and smells a lot like fish. So, we got out of there pretty quickly.
And there is a variety of beer and wine, so large it would be almost impossible to choose. As we were looking at a display of something, the product escapes me, several burly, rough looking young men walked past, they were wearing shirts with football and baseball related insignia, and were talking, in loud, unabashed voices, cursing, and acting very macho, as young men might. They seemed naturals for the liquor store or beer display but they headed right for the imported wines and began speaking in hushed tones about the differences between French, German, and Italian wines. It was so tempting to wait and see if they decided on the Pinot Noir from the Rhein Valley, the Chablis from Bourgogne or the Cabernet Sauvignon from Bardolino. But, when they started into what fruit and cheese would go best with each I knew they were in for a long, trying debate, and I am too old for something so heated.
But, our trip was over and we had to return home, with some beer, a few pastries, a can of tomatoes (my wife has an addiction) and some fond memories. Thank you, Jungle Jim’s, it was a gas, and we will be back.
Originally published on Life, Explained
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