What Is an Ethnic Grocery Store?

When it comes to shopping for international foods, it can be difficult and time-consuming to track down all the ingredients you need to make a family favorite or a whole new recipe. The international aisle of a grocery store may not carry everything you need. Or, you might have to hop between several different stores to find exactly what you need. If you’re sick of searching online for “groceries open near me” to find all the products you want, consider checking out an ethnic grocery store! Ethnic grocery stores, also called cultural grocery stores or international markets, carry a wide variety of products and can connect you with the foods from your favorite cultures.

Keep reading to find out more about ethnic grocery stores, including why you should shop at them and how OjaExpress can connect Chicago residents with a plethora of options.

What Is an Ethnic Grocery Store?

Ethnic grocery stores are markets that carry foods from a particular country or region. For example, you may find an ethnic grocery store that caters to Indian foods, while another might have Caribbean favorites. Many ethnic grocery stores carry specialized foods unique to their region, especially those that cannot be found down an international aisle at a larger supermarket. What are ethnic foods you can purchase at an international grocery? Most foods, really! In most cases, ethnic grocery stores are full-service grocers, carrying produce, meats, beverages, frozen foods, and more. 

So if you’re looking for specialty items from a particular country or region, an ethnic grocery store is definitely your best bet. Whether you’re looking for products that remind you of home, ingredients for a beloved family recipe, or even just the staples you need to explore another culture’s cuisine, an ethnic grocery store will have everything you need.

Why You Should Shop at Ethnic Grocery Stores

As Chicago’s only ethnic grocery delivery program, at OjaExpress we’re a little biased when it comes to shopping at international grocery stores. Our founders, first- and second-generation immigrants, saw a glaring gap in the grocery delivery services available in Chicago and decided to build a platform to help connect more people to the wonderful ethnic grocery stores in our city. 

But we don’t expect you to take our word for it. Here are three reasons to shop at ethnic grocery stores.

1. They Have a Great Selection

No matter what kind of ethnic foods you’re looking for, you’re far more likely to find them at an ethnic grocery store than at a large supermarket with just one international aisle. Let’s face it, that just isn’t enough to provide the breadth of products available. Are you looking for pantry staples like flour, baking soda, or rice? You can find them at international grocery stores. Are you looking for a specific produce item like African eggplant green or malanga coco (also called taro)? They’ll have you covered there, too. Ethnic grocery stores are an excellent way to pick up some of your favorites or discover totally new foods.


2. They’re Locally Owned

Most cultural grocery stores are mom-and-pop businesses that are locally owned by immigrant families. Small local businesses stimulate our economies, are more likely to provide personalized care to their customers, and help build a sense of community—especially for those looking to reconnect with foods from home. At OjaExpress, our motto is “Shop Local. Eat Global.” We believe in shopping locally to support our own communities. 


3. They Can Be More Affordable

Of course, there are outliers, but by and large, ethnic grocery stores are more affordable than the big-name supermarkets that import international foods. From produce to pantry staples to meats, you may be able to save money by shopping at an ethnic grocery store. Several years ago, the Washington Post published an article discussing why foods—and produce in particular—may be cheaper at international markets. There are a lot of reasons why this may be the case, including the fact that chain supermarkets prefer all their produce items to look similar (which drives up the price of the produce). But don’t mistake what we’re saying: just because they may be more affordable doesn’t mean the quality is any less!

Connect with Ethnic Grocery Stores in Chicago with OjaExpress

If you found us by searching “ethnic grocery store near Illinois,” you’re in luck! OjaExpress is Chicago’s only ethnic food grocery delivery service. We’re on a mission to connect you with the wonder, locally-owned international grocers throughout our city.  At OjaExpress, we carry foods for six unique communities: African/Caribbean, Indian, Middle Eastern, Asian, Hispanic, and European. Simply search by community or by food category, select your favorites, and order for pickup or delivery. It couldn’t be easier to find and order high-quality, cultural foods. Start shopping today!

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