I’ve heard from Montrealers who move elsewhere in Canada that they really struggle with the food in their new city. Not only are the restaurants in many cities lacking, but this gap left behind is not filled by supermarkets.
For example, I had a co-worker in Calgary who is Jewish. He and his wife struggled for years with finding good quality kosher food in the city. Eventually, they left the city because their quality of life was affected by the lack of acceptable food options… it was impossible to eat out, supermarket trips involved lots of travel, and nobody understood their plight (like retailers).
We face something similar with La Niña’s corn allergy, which we made work in Calgary but it took a very long time and there was constant unspoken frustration.
In Montreal, there is a Provigo by our house. Provigo is known as Superstore in the rest of Canada.
It’s not a bad place to go. They do have some good, healthy, packaged, non-preservative-filled foods… but it is curated. This means that someone in an office somewhere had decided what foods to bring in. This person likely doesn’t have a food allergy or eat from the organic food section because their curated choices are rather… odd.
I contacted the Provigo customer service reps a few times to ask if we could special order certain types of food (from brands they already carry). No can do. It needs to be “on a master list” in the head office for them to order it. And, there’s no incentive to improve their odd collection of foods.
The key takeaway here is that Provigo is not the right supermarket for us.
This prompted me to drive around our community to see what other options are available. This is when I found the Supermarché Akhavan and understood. Food fanatics in Montreal don’t go to Provigo for their food… they go to the ethnic supermarkets, local shops, and weekend markets. This was a very large ah-ha moment for me.
My first wander through Akhavan was amazing. There were so many things that I’ve looked for in other cities but have never been able to find. Like parathas. In Calgary, no one even knew what I was talking about when I inquired about parathas. They would just roll their eyes, give a frustrated exhale, and show me a bag of naan bread because apparently all Indian bread is the same.
And hallelujah, a wall of real hummus without loads of non-hummus ingredients like corn syrup or fructose (same thing)… who in their right mind wants super sweet hummus?
I brought a tub of this hummus home and when I blinked it was gone. Eaten.
The supermarket is Persian but they have loads of international food options (Indian, Eastern European, etc).
The best part of it all, however, is the fact that I spent less than $60 for groceries. This is half of what I would have spent on the same things at Provigo. Unbelievable.
Below is the aisle of rice. Who knew that there were so many different kinds.