First Look: Giant Eagle Market District

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend the Grand Opening of the Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale – a place that I’ve eagerly been awaiting the opening of ever since I tried their offerings at Taste the Future. As a guest of Giant Eagle, and in the interest of full disclosure, we got access to and/or things your average person didn’t get – in particular, they fed us breakfast and lunch, brought Adam Richman up to us for a personal meet-and-greet/one-on-one time, gave us a soup to nuts tour of the place with their chef in charge of prepared foods, and sent us home with a nifty swag bag. Can I just say it was refreshing how they embraced social media? I think that will really make a difference in the long run…

I arrived early on opening morning to a madhouse of a parking lot – and a near collision as some elderly guy stole a space I had waited patiently for and was in the process of pulling into. One of the upper management people from Pittsburgh (who I later found out was their director of corporate communications) witnessed this and diffused the situation and made sure that I got a space. I thanked him profusely (as there were no other handicapped spaces available, and the nearest empty space would have been about 1/4 mile away), and later on found out that they have shuttles available to the door from the spaces at the edges of the parking lot. Nice!

So, here’s the view of Market District from the outside, all nice and new and shiny. Pretty, isn’t it? A definite improvement over the dying (nay, dead!) shopping center Kingsdale used to be. Personally, I haven’t been to Kingsdale since Firdous closed their restaurant there, probably a good 7 or 8 years ago.

Exterior of the Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

On entering, a greeter handed me a map and other papers about the store, and when she found out I was one of the bloggers, she led me to an upstairs room where the other bloggers already were waiting. I already know Lisa of Restaurant Widow, but finally had the opportunity to meet Andrea of Off Her Cork and Wendy of Celiacs in the House. Here are the four of us later that afternoon on a tour of the store, guided by John Gruver, the Executive Chef of Development of Prepared Foods. Below in the pic, from L-R are Andrea, Wendy, Me, Chef John, and Lisa.

Food Bloggers with Chef John Gruver of Giant Eagle Market District

I’m going to describe my day in detail, along with my initial impressions, with just a few pictures in the entry itself so I don’t give you all picture fatigue (I’ve uploaded almost 100) – be sure to check out the slide show below for all the pics…

Around 10am, we headed downstairs for the press conference – after hearing from many, many executives (who actually seemed genuinely excited and proud and extremely vested in the success of this venture), Governor Strickland spoke for a few moments, taking the time to mention the 400+ new and retained jobs that this store brings to the Columbus metro area.

Governor Ted Strickland at the Grand Opening of the Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

Adam Richman also spoke, and afterwards, he came by our room upstairs, and we got to meet him face to face. I’m hoping I didn’t come off like the drooling fangirl I am. Seriously, though, he is one of the most down to earth and nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Great sense of humor, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and so easy to talk to.

Me with Adam Richman

The best way to describe Market District is HUGE. Someone (I don’t remember who, otherwise I’d credit them directly) said it’s like a Whole Foods swallowed an entire Giant Eagle, and I think that’s a pretty accurate description. It’s like a normal Giant Eagle in the center of the store, with all of the interesting and exotic stuff around the perimeters. And really, I think that’s the appeal of a place like this – Whole Foods, while fun to visit, is fairly limited with its selections – inevitably, if I shop at Whole Foods, I still have to make a trip to a normal grocery store for staple items. This truly is a one stop shop, with all the same sales that a normal Giant Eagle has, so I can get the $140/lb truffles AND the 10/$10 boxes of pasta at the same time.

A good quarter of the store is the “restaurant” area – a food court of sorts each doing a different thing – there’s a sub shop, a pizza stand, a place that makes freshly tossed salads, a smokehouse with different meat items, an Asian street food area with curries, satays and the like, an area that makes crepes, waffles, and rotis (potato cakes), a prepared food stand, a self-serve (by the  pound) hot bar and cold bar with over 150 items, and more. The areas that serve breakfast items open early at 6am, while the other areas don’t open until closer to lunch time. This restaurant area has it’s own checkout area, so no need to wait behind a person with a cart full of groceries. There’s an entire eating area on the second floor to enjoy your purchases (if you’re eating in, they’ll serve it on real dishes with real flatware), or you can get it to go and packaged accordingly. But there’s so much to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one thing. So far, my favorites are the spinach salad (in the tossed salads area), the strawberry-banana-nutella crepes (from the creperie), and the crab cakes (from the prepared foods area).

Restaurant Area of Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

After the press conference and our time with Adam, they let us loose in the restaurant to get anything we wanted for lunch – primarily, I got a pizza (solid, but cooled down too quickly), a crab cake, and these crepes with nutella/banana/strawberries. A steal at only $6 for 2 whole crepes.

Nutella Crepes with Strawberries and Bananas from Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

To give you an idea of the selection on the salad bar, here you’re looking at maybe 1/10 of it.

Another View of the Salad Bar from Above at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

What impressed me about the restaurant area is the attention to detail. When is the last time you saw a sour cream/chive/cheese station near the soups?

Garnishes for Soup at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

They have decent sushi, but believe it or not, I’ve found that supermarket sushi can be really good as long as they’re using Southern Tsunami as their supplier. It was rolled a bit tighter than I like, but they had a great selection of items, and were more than willing to roll it fresh if what you were looking for wasn’t there.

Sushi at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

Beautiful bakery items, of a higher quality than you usually see at a supermarket. I would say that selection and flavor of bakery items were similar to Whole Foods.

More Cakes from the Bakery at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

Ditto with the gelato – I still haven’t tried all the flavors, but I really enjoyed the strawberry with balsamic reduction that I tried.

Gelato at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

I was impressed with their selection of mushrooms – you could get a full range from white button or crimini mushrooms for $2.99/lb. all the way to black truffles for $139.99/lb. You’re only seeing about half their selection here – they also had oyster and yellow oyster, pom poms, and a few others.

Fresh Mushrooms at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

I’ve never seen sugar cane in a supermarket before, but they had it, along with a decent selection of other ethnic produce.

Sugar Cane at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

As part of opening day festivities, they had someone there doing fruit and vegetable carving, and he did some amazing work!

Rose Carved from Watermelon at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

Was glad to see that they put some importance to sourcing local products, as they had both a special dairy and dry goods local products area – they had brands like Jeni’s and Snowville Creamery, and when I queried about their commitment to sourcing locally at the press conference, afterward one of their executives handed me his business card and told me to contact him directly with any local products/producers I may know of – so those of you who are reading who manufacture a local product – give me a holler at columbusfoodieATgmailDOTcom and I’ll pass your info along.

Ohio Dairy Products at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

The most impressive part for me was their meat section – in addition to your normal grocery meats (ground beef, chicken, pork, etc) they had dry aged steaks – one of these days, I’ll make the splurge.

Dry Aged Beef at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

And they also had a full selection of exotic meats, such as venison, elk, rabbit, bison and even such oddities as rattlesnake and python.

Exotic Meats at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

And just in case you don’t know how to cook elk, or bison, or rattlesnake, they have a fully staffed demo kitchen that is always making recipes, but will still take the time to answer any of your questions, demonstrate techniques, give you recipes or whatever assistance you need to gain the confidence needed to try something new. Once in a while, they also have celebrity chefs in there doing demos.

Demo Kitchen at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

Also quite impressive is their olive bar – I’m not an olive fan myself, but my olive-loving husband was drooling at the prospect. These two pictures just about cover the size of this behemoth.

Olive Bar at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

Olive Bar at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

They also have over 400 varieties of cheese, although they were missing a few of my favorites (Blue Jacket Dairy anything, Rogue River Blue, etc). Still, a really good selection and they’re willing to let you taste anything they have, all you need to do is ask.

Blue Cheeses at Giant Eagle Market District at Kingsdale

The only other place I’ve ever seen Ohio City Pasta was at the West Side Market in Cleveland, so it was nice to see that they’re selling it down here.

Ohio City Pasta from Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

One of my favorite things about Market District so far is their bulk olive oil and vinegar section – it’s $6.99 a bottle. We bought some white balsamic peach to make some vinaigrette.

Bulk Olive Oils and Vinegars at Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale

That’s the short version of the tour, but there are many more pictures in the slideshow.

Still, the pictures don’t quite do the place justice – this is a place you need to see for yourself to believe. For us, it’ll be a regular stop. A huge thank you to Giant Eagle for your hospitality and giving us bloggers an up front and personal tour.

If you’d like to go: Giant Eagle Market District Kingsdale, 3061 Kingsdale Center (Northwest Blvd, just past Zollinger), Columbus, OH 43221, 614-538-0762

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