The highly touted downtown revitalization means many things to many people, but what does it mean to food lovers? It means that if you live downtown you don't have to drive to Silverlake anymore to get Epoisses cheese. Or to the Westside to get Copper River salmon. Or to Monterey Park to get frogs legs or rambutans or atauflo mangos or baby pineapples. You just have to drive to the new Ralphs at 9th and Flower. The grocery chain, after years of planning that stretched on so long the store became kind of an urban legend, opened last Friday. Not only are there rows of organic produce, but also a pharmacy, dry cleaner, coffee shop and sushi bar. The produce section rivals what you'll find at Whole Foods, with a big organic selection, unusual fruits and high-end vegetables like white asparagus and donut peaches. The cheese selection is also very strong (Basque cheeses, Maytag blue, huge rounds of Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold), though you'll have to be pretty expert at spotting what you want, as the staff isn't quite up to speed on what it has yet. The fish department -- which carries things like Hawaiian opah, sashimi-grade ahi, and monkfish -- and the bakery are also worth the trip. The meat selection, however, is a bit disappointing, with a small case displaying only cuts of Angus beef -- the rest of the meat and poultry comes prepackaged. But overall, it's a pretty great place.
-- Amy Scattergood
Ralphs Fresh Fare, 645 W. 9th St., Los Angeles; (213) 452-0840; open 5 a.m. to midnight every day.
Photo by Amy Scattergood