Food feature: Healthy and cost-conscious shoppers get Lucky’s

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From the November 28, 2013 edition

Although the summer of 2013 is long gone (have you noticed?), its anthem has been rattling around my head during recent grocery outings. But the anthem’s words get changed in my brain a little. So as I peruse crusty loaves of tempting breads (many baked in Central Ohio) and raw milk cheeses stocked near a bunch of other culinary buzz-wordy (sustainable, local, organic) and surprisingly cheaply priced stuff, “I’m up early just to shop Lucky’s” earworms through my noggin. This un-punky but undeniably daft lyric would be more bothersome if I weren’t such a fan of Lucky’s Market.

Founded as a single store in Boulder, Colorado, about a decade ago by Bo Sharon, Lucky’s is a suddenly expanding (especially targeting college towns) and damn smart chain. Part of its intelligence can be explained in this Sharon quote posted on the Boulder Daily Camera website, “The intent is that there is a marketplace for a very community-driven concept that does cross-over and sells a heck of a lot of local and organic [products], but understands why you still need to use Drano.” Translation: Lucky’s is that rare best-of-both-worlds store offering a lot of local, organic and specialty farmers market-type groceries, yet functioning and pricing more like a regular old supermarket.

I also love that Lucky’s emphasizes health in its carefully curated, in-house-cooked and flavor-packed foods. Describing Lucky’s wonderfully stocked aisles is beyond my scope — suffice it to say the new Clintonville branch not only offers many rows of Jeni’s ice creams, but it also sells frozen desserts from Whit’s and Johnson’s; cage-free eggs ($3.19/dozen); five kinds of organic pears ($1.99/pound); wild-caught littleneck clams ($0.39 apiece); ground bison ($9.99/pound); several housemade sausages ($3.99/pound); Crimson Cup coffee beans ($7.99/pound); and tons more.

If, like me, you appreciate many-cuts-above prepared food items (available in the deli section) that make great take-out dishes — or whole meals — here are some favorites. (Notes: The following eat better after short microwave zappings; prices are subject to change; and Lucky’s and its wine shop will be open until 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving.)

Red Curry Chickpeas ($5.99/pound) — Impressive! Their mild chili pop and racy tomato sauce is rounded off and enriched by coconut milk. With perfectly integrated whiffs of ginger, tamari, shrimp and basil, these saucy garbanzos are better tasting than many comparable restaurant dishes.

Turkey Meatloaf ($7.99/pound): Smoky barbecue sauce is ladled atop the textured crust of this oat-flecked loaf, which is tender and moist and studded with herbs plus lots of sauteed onion and garlic.

Sausalito Chicken Salad ($8.99/pound) — Big slices of breast meat are flattered by peppers, onions and a zesty sauce whose mild, salsa-propelled bite is further aromatized by cilantro and orange juice.

“Super Foods” Slaw ($3.99/pound) — I’m counting on this stuff, which I consume often, to keep me alive forever. Sorta like a health nut’s spin on tabouli, it’s a lively texture-fest of big and crinkly kale leaves tossed with red cabbage, quinoa, red onion, bell peppers, almonds, edamame and sunflower seeds. Goji berries and vinegar contribute to its sweet and bitter/acidic yin-and-yang character.

Crackling Cauliflower ($6.99/pound) — Spicy! Cauliflower and sweet peas and sauteed onions are ignited by curry powder, chili flakes and pepper. Licoricey fennel seeds add extra interest.

Rotisserie Chicken ($6.99) — Sorta Latin-spice-rubbed and more juicy, tender and flavorful than many I‘ve paid much more for, even in restaurants.

Photos by Meghan Ralston