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Grocery List: Dragon Fruit, Eels and Hot Sauces?

San Leandro's 88 Super Market sells a remarkable array of fresh seafood and international food items.

Picture 30,000 pounds of crab — a mountain of live, fresh-caught, all-male Dungeness crab. Add another 150 varieties of seafood, from oysters to octopus to eel.

Fisherman’s Wharf? The Monterey Bay Aquarium? Try 88 Super Market at at the corner of E. 14th Street and 144th Avenue, right here in San Leandro.

The 88 Super Market, which began life as a specialty Asian grocery in 2006, has evolved into a seafood emporium and a principal source for fresh fish in the area. 

Live crab dominates the market during crab season—mid-November to the end of June—here in the Bay Area. The 88 Super has sold 30,000 pounds of crab so far this season. The store offers free crab cleaning, and free fish cleaning and frying as well. It is this extra care and the often exotic fish it stocks that make the 88 unique.

Among the store’s unusual seafood finds are large whole octopus, parrotfish and eel. Shrimp and oysters come in many sizes and varieties. Fish range from salmon to carp. Lobster was a customer favorite for Valentine’s Day dinners.

Other parts of the market bring to mind a small-town general store of the 1800s: folding chairs elbow cleaning supplies and rice cookers for shelf space. But this small town encompasses the world. The produce section displays papaya and spiny dragon fruit, yucca and Ghana yams as well as potatoes. A cooler in the back houses celery, bean sprouts and fresh greens.

The wide variety of sauces, produce, sweets, savories, spices and canned goods reflects what a co-owner, who identified himself only as John, sees as a growing diversity of customers in San Leandro. John says the store has changed with customer demand; he pays attention to what people want and gets it in stock.

There seem to be a hundred different cooking sauces—teriyaki; BBQ; A-1; one of my favorites, Sriracha; and something called banana sauce that I have no idea how to use. There is also a generous display of hot sauces from Mexico. The culinary adventurer would have a field day here, probably finding something new on every visit.

There are also mainstream classics like Nutella chocolate spread, Snickers bars, milk, cream cheese, Coca Cola, bread and domestic beer.

When I marvel at the variety, John casually agrees that they “pack it in.”

John says he’s always learning, and he’s glad he left his job at Verizon to do something new. He seems to be a natural-born entrepreneur who’s created a store where you won’t get bored and you won’t break your budget.

One word of caution for those who are selective about their ingredients: some packaged items contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) and several preservatives, so be sure to read the label if you want to avoid these things.

The 88 Super Market accepts credit and debit cards. There is a small parking lot in the back, with a rear entrance in addition to the storefront on E. 14th Street. The store is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Marga Lacabe February 22, 2011 at 03:50 AM
Cool! I never think about this place when I'm thinking seafood, but clearly I should. How are the prices?
Jenna Humphreys February 22, 2011 at 06:40 AM
Hi Marga, thanks for reading, and for your comment! The few things I took notes on in the fresh fish area were priced per pound as follows: salmon, $3.99; shrimp, $2.99 - 10.99, depending on size; live crab, $4.99; lobster, $9.99; carp, $3.99; oysters, 14.99. I actually don't buy that much seafood, so I don't know how it compares to other places. Maybe you could let readers/shoppers know how these prices rank in your experience?
Marga Lacabe February 22, 2011 at 03:36 PM
Those are very reasonable prices. I'll definitely give the place a try and report back. Thank you so much for this article!
Marga Lacabe March 23, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Well, I finally tried it (full story at http://sanleandrotalk.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/buyig-a-catfish-88-super-market/ ). I sent Mike over for catfish fillets. They took the catfish from the tank, killed it and sort of filleted it. I got a bag full of fish parts and a couple of semi-fillet pieces. Not what I wanted, but it was definitely fresh :)

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