Ever needed to buy a 50 pound bag of peanuts? Wish you could get your feta in a three-pound bucket? Or maybe every time you go down the grocery store cheese aisle, the two kinds of cheese in their boring rectangular packages make you just a little bit sad.
If so, then you should be doing your shopping at Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield. Driving past the self-proclaimed "theme park for foodies," you certainly won't miss it, but you might not guess that it's a grocery store. The parking lot is adorned with an elevated train and full size animal statues in a fountain. Enter by the outdoor gardening section; walk past the sushi, olive, salsa, and ice cream bars; and find yourself in the cheese section. Here you'll find at least two entire cases devoted exclusively to cheddar, including a basket of cheese shaped into parrots, clowns, and ice cream cones. French goat cheeses get four shelves to themselves, and the total case count for cheese is around eight.
Over 16 rows are filled with wines and beers from around the world - a total of 12,000 wine labels and 1,200 beer labels – making this one of the largest wine collections in the United States. To celebrate this selection, Jungle Jim's holds beer and wine festivals every year. Other special events include cigar tastings and the "Weekend of Fire," a spicy foods show with hundreds of hot sauces and other fiery options. There is a cooking school as well, with classes every month.
Exhausted yet? Take a quick pit stop at the bathrooms (voted "Hometown Favorite") and pose for a photo in the velvet-lined port-a-potty. Refuel at the Starbuck's, and wade back in to the aisles.
If you're here looking for serious ingredients, you can select directly from the extensive deli and live seafood tanks. You can find an enormous selection of Hispanic spices for only 99 cents each, and all kinds of rice and dried beans in bags of every size. If you're here as more of a food tourist, amaze yourself with the collection of dispensers in every shape and character in the Pez museum, then head for the produce area. Here you will find more exotic and scary-looking fruits than you ever knew existed - lichis, ugli fruit, papaya, dragon fruit, sugar cane, four kinds of coconuts, at least eight kinds of bananas and plantains.
The store holds more than just foods from the farthest corners of the world. Local favorites like Bonbonerie and Servati's have a strong presence in the bakery, and you can find Buckeye candies as well as a Cincinnati Chili spice mix. There is a better selection of classic American candy than in a five-and-dime store. And don't worry about making multiple trips, all the standard grocery store products are here.
The list of things you didn't even know you wanted (like chocolate fortune cookies or adult-oriented hot sauces) could go on and on, but you'll just have to discover these six and a half acres for yourself.
- Monday through Sunday: 8am to 10pm
- A large free parking lot is available just behind the building
- Location: 5440 Dixie Highway Fairfield, OH
- Phone: 513-674-6000
- Website: www.junglejims.com