The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's Volume 1

Russ Shelly of the review site What's Good At Trader Joe's weighs in on 25 products

The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's
Wikimedia Commons/Francinegirvan
The team reviewed 75 products on their site, What's Good at Trader Joe's?. They then rated them for The Daily Meal in five categories.

What's good at Trader Joe's? What's not? These are questions that fans and detractors of the store are very passionate about. Last August, Nathan Rodgers, his wife Sonia, and their friend Russ Shelly and his wife Sandy decided to systematically review every product to find out.

Click for The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's Slideshow.

The team reviewed 75 products on their site, What's Good at Trader Joe's?. They then rated them for The Daily Meal in five categories (drinks, desserts, sauces and soups, international entrées, and snacks), setting off a firestorm of comments from both "TJ's" fans and "Traitor Joe's" haters. "The frozen chocolate croissants from TJ's are amazing," noted one. "I hate TJ's produce," said another. "It tastes like science."

The last laugh is on haters. Several confused readers wrote requesting stores be built in Wilkes-Barre, Penn.; Memphis; Kansas City; Dallas-Fort Worth; and the Pacific Northwest. And some of these wishes may be fulfilled. According to Trader Joe's, stores are planned for Kansas City; Chicago (South Loop); Leawood, Kan. Louisville; Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; Pittsburgh; Spokane, Wash.; State College, Penn.; and Staten Island.

With 2011's midpoint nearing, it's time to check in again with the trio to get an update on the best and worst products. You have to wonder, given the time they've spent in the store and all the products they've considered, is there anything the What's Good at Trader Joe's folks are scared to try? "We don’t really have a top five list for what Nathan and I are scared to try, but I can tell you our top scary items," Russ confided.

"The Blueberry Vanilla Chèvre kinda scares me a little," Nathan admitted. "I'm down with goat cheese on salads and sandwiches, but I've never thought of it as a dessert food.”

"We’ve had fans swear by it, though," said Russ. "For me, the thought of trying any Trader Joe-brand sushi is a kneeknocker. I’ve heard horror stories from sushi aficionados, and the one time I’ve had sushi in my life, at a pretty respectable restaurant, I wasn’t much of a fan. I can’t imagine the Trader Joe’s sushi being worthwhile or remotely enjoyable."

And with that, it's time for some best-ofs. Below are Russ Shelly's picks in five new categories with his brief reviews and ratings on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best), including a category likely to stir things up: "Worst. Stuff. Ever." 

 

Top 5 Vegetarian
1. Veggie Sausage Patties (9 points)
I’m a meatatarian by nature and nurture, and sausage is by far one of my favorites. These veggie patties come extremely close to matching the real thing. If meat grew on a tree this is how it would taste. (Photo courtesy convertedcarnivore.com)

2. Trader Jose’s Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burritos (8.5 points)
I was amazed at how good these were. I love meat, and I love spicy, but there’s something about these that make them surprisingly and undeniably good. The burritos definitely have more of a kick than expected, too.

3. Paneer Tikka Masala (8 points)
One of my wife’s favorites, and it’s up there for me too. The masala sauce is intoxicating, and it ties together a very good, somewhat off the beaten track microwave lunch.

4. Lentil Soup with Ancient Grains (8 points)
This stuff seems straight from another time from another part of the world. It’s thick and chunky and extremely filling. This ain’t no canned soup. We make a beeline for it when shopping.

5. Apocryphal Pita and Roasted Garlic Hummus (8 points)
Pitas and hummus make a classic vegetarian pairing, and this combo should not be missed.



Be a Part of the Conversation

Have something to say?
Add a comment (or see what others think).

Comments 483
4.0428
Ratings514


Like this story? Get updates by email, facebook and twitter
Get daily food and wine coverage


Latest from The Daily Meal

The Daily Meal Video Network
Strawberry Brie Grilled Cheese

483 Comments

tdm-35-icon.png

Thanks to all for telling me what I should eat! I was afraid I might have to decide for myself.

Baaaa, Baaaaaa, Baaaa.....

tdm-35-icon.png

Baaaa Baaaaa

tdm-35-icon.png

Blasphemy! The spicy black bean dip is one of my favorite things at Trader Joe's. I buy it almost every time I go.

DK1957's picture

I love Trader Joe's and shop there every week. Their prices are good and I like the selection of reduced salt and fat items. One of my favorite items to buy is their ice cream. I buy the half gallon vanilla. It is well worth the price compared to Edy's or Breyer's that I used to buy. For one, its so heavy you have to be careful picking it up, so you're actually getting more ice cream, and the flavor is phenomenal. Once you have it, there's no going back to those other brands.

There are a few things that I have tried and will never buy again, the worst being their cranberry stuffed turkey roast. The stuffing was a wet pastey glob, so unappetizing and not much flavor. The other thing is the sushi. It's a good thing the author didn't try it. The rice tends to be gummy too. Best to get sushi from some place that makes it fresh.

tdm-35-icon.png

How come you never even tried or listed listed a real winner --- Two Buck Chuck --
a good line of wines at a good price. The only thing I miss is a dry, white Chablis or a dry Grave.

tdm-35-icon.png

I only buy staple ingredients, tuna, and condiments there. Very happy with quality and prices.

tdm-35-icon.png

uh...What's Trader Joes? That that place next to Cold Stone???
I went there once to go get some strings at that guitar shop, and they didn't even have my size. It's not like I'm one of those DR douches either. I like my strings to be like my literature: Long and from an Island. I'm looking at you D'Addario...Don't even pretend like you didn't see me. Wound G indeed. Holy crap! I'm wearing the shirt of the band I'm gonna go see!

tdm-35-icon.png

The worst product we have tried is their Gazpacho and we're Trader Joe fans.

tdm-35-icon.png

How can they forget the Mac n' Cheese?!? Rated #1 in America by Bon Apetit Magazine for a good reason!

tdm-35-icon.png

I'd have to say the frozen Spinach Lasagne is my ultimate favorite! Always delicious!

tdm-35-icon.png

Their food is way to salty. Sometimes inedibly so.

tdm-35-icon.png

We would love to have a Trader Joe's anywhere within a reasonable driving distance of Binghamton, NY, like in Ithaca, NY or Scranton, PA. I always stock up when I am in Philadelphia or NYC area but both are 200 miles away.
Fortunately we do have Wegman's, a marvelous local chain, which I suppose is the reason we have no Trader Joe's, but their prices are high and I miss all of Trader Joe's unique offerings. We also have three Aldi Markets which gives us great prices on staples. Audi's German owners bought Trader Joe's several years ago in what I consider a brilliant move. Both chains are the tops in what they do.

tdm-35-icon.png

These people have no credibility. If someone says he has had sushi once in his life and then proceeds to voice an opinion on sushi from Trader Joe's without ever having eaten it, what does that tell you? This entire article is as useless as these people's website must be. Oops. I've never been to it.

tdm-35-icon.png

Amen to that. If you don't have any clue what something is supposed to taste like, how the hell are you rating it accurately? Not bothering to check the site either.

tdm-35-icon.png

EXACTLY! Don't critique something you haven't tried! And don't be a food critic if you are averse to trying new foods or if you have a limited palate. I could go on and on...

tdm-35-icon.png

Exactly.

tdm-35-icon.png

I have been shopping at Trader Joe's for over three years in East Bay, Ca, and loved it back East In NJ too. We have made the veggie sausage patties a brunch staple each weekend morning - used to buy those little links but these are far superior tasting. I am a picky vegetarian and my husband is not a veggie, but he likes them a lot too. We also are in love with the pop chips in the blue bag, and are into the lentil chips ( a tad spicy but addictive), onion rings munchies, and blueberry waffles. We also are fans of the green curry sauce, peanut sauce, and gyoza dipping sauce. I also like the bake your own chocolate chips cookies, which are now in the fridge case, instead of the former frozen kind, which I was upset about when they told me they stopped making them. The new ones are very good too. Other than that, we also like the soft juicy dried mango. The produce does vary and sometimes I feel frustrated when they don't have any organic blueberries, and today I turned down the organic strawberries due to too much "whiteness". I've also returned several produce items recently that went mushy too fast, so shop carefully and inspect those packages closely!

tdm-35-icon.png

The frozen spinach dip is really inexpensive and tasty.

tdm-35-icon.png

I LOVE Trader Joes. But honestly. I can't believe a frozen premaid breakfast meal that comes all the way from France...and hey...I was BORN there...made the top 25 products. Wow.

tdm-35-icon.png

You can't forget Trader Joe's AMAZING charcoal!!! All natural, better for you and the environment. Burns hotter, lasts longer!!!!

tdm-35-icon.png

I LOVE the turkey meatloaf muffins! I microwave them upside down, so the juices drain into the potatoes; maybe that makes a difference; anyway, I think they are great fast comfort food.

tdm-35-icon.png

Trader Joe's prepared foods have way too much salt.

tdm-35-icon.png

...and way, WAY too much fat. Forget it.

lily49's picture

Marcona alonds, Frozen all butter puff pastry (seasonal for, the holidays. A 3rd of the price of dufour- Pepperidge Farm is made with margarine) frozen macaroons, roasted red pepper and tomato soup, strawberry smoothies, dark roasted coffee, spiced nuts, Mandarin chicken, double fiber whole grain bread, air popped potato chips, sun dried tomato strips in oil, I could go on and on.
Haybe people who have close access to TJ don't appriciate it-I need to drive an hour and a half which I do every couple of months.
Also they have a great selection of very reasonably priced flowers.

tdm-35-icon.png

I eat a lot of sushi, mostly rolls (really maki), and find the TJ ones sushi soggy and almost inedible. I do like their vietnamese style rolls, I can't remember
what they call them.

tdm-35-icon.png

I tried Trader Joe's tart cherry juice and love it. Unfortunately, it isn't there most of the time. Part of TJ's charm is that you may not see your favorites, but you might find something else you like. So I tried the cranberry/blueberry/pomegranate juice. Also very good. These juices are like the wine of fruit juice. They taste real, not like juices that have been sweetened up for kids.

I did NOT like TJ's Thai Vegetarian Potstickers from the freezer section. Very disappointing. I pan sauteed them but the insides tasted weak and watery, not at all crisp or substantial like they would be if the potstickers were fresh instead of frozen. I couldn't get through more than one of them before I gave up.

I eat TJ's dried calimyrna figs almost every day. My husband loves the Bohemian Beer and the buttery croissants.

tdm-35-icon.png

Brew Dark Roast Joe coffee in your Bialetti pot at home. Makes awesome espresso.

tdm-35-icon.png

Completely disagree on the Turkey Muffins - my son and I love them. To each their own. I wish they'd bring back the bacon wrapped scallops.

tdm-35-icon.png

A sushi review by a guy who has had sushi once and didn't like it? Afraid of orange/carrot juice? I suppose TJs is fine if you don't have the interest or time to cook. I don't shop there, the GF does for some staples, but all in all, Trader Joe's reminds me of Boston Market with shopping carts instead of tables.

tdm-35-icon.png

Living in So Cal, TJ's is the ONLY place to shop for groceries. The best item, in my opinion is the frozen Australian Rack of Lamb. Follow the directions and you can't go wrong. Even people who hate lamb beg for more. The prices on their cheeses beat any other place and their ingredients are always fresh with a fast turnover. Generally, I am unhappy with their selection of bread, but I make my own, so it is not a big deal.

Add a Comment

Upload a picture of yourself no larger than 3MB, please see Terms for details
CAPTCHA
Please answer this Captcha to prove you are human
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
CAPTCHA
Please answer this Captcha to prove you are human