If you love Trader Joe's — the colorful shirts, the name tags, the friendly atmosphere, all its quirky products — then you've probably done product recon on What's Good at Trader Joe's?, the four-member team review site that has been rating the store's best and worst products since August of 2010. Nathan Rodgers, his wife Sonia, and their friend Russ Shelly and his wife Sandy set out almost two years ago to review the cult grocer's some 4,500 products. They've been going at a pretty good clip, and with this installment of The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's are narrowing in on having reviewed 10 percent of its products (more than 275 reviews covering about 325 products). That's no joke.
While the reviewers are fans of Trader Joe's, they take reviewing seriously — their first review was even negative. Here's their process:
• They rate products on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the best.
• For any post, two people rate the product.
• Reviewers give their overall impression and up to five points each.
In previous installments on The Daily Meal, the good folks at What's Good at Trader Joe's reviewed at least four or five products in each category. Best breakfast, best appetizers, best vegetarian, best frozen treats — there's as wide a range of categories as you'd expect. But Nathan, Sonia, Russ, and Sandy have had some fun with the categories, too, including things like "Spousal Discrepancy," "Biggest Winner Versus Expectation," and "Worst. Stuff. Ever."
Consider the best of the best in the 15 categories as they've ranked them so far for The Daily Meal:
• Vegetarian: Veggie Sausage Patties (9/10)
• Breakfast: Organic Mango Passion Granola (10/10)
• Appetizers: Heat & Eat Falafel: (9.5/10)
• Biggest Winner Versus Expectation: Baker Josef’s Chocolate Cake and Frosting Mixes (10/10)
• Worst Stuff Ever: Turkey "Meatloaf Muffins" (0/10)
• Frozen Treats: Lemon and Triple Ginger Snap Ice Cream (10/10)
• Gluten-Free: Gluten & Dairy Free Homestyle Pancakes (8/10)
• Seafood: Oven-Ready Breaded Cod Fillets (8.5/10)
• Fruit Snacks: Pear Sauce (8.5/10)
• Spousal Discrepancy: Non-Fat Plain Frozen Yogurt (6.5/10)
• Healthy Beverages: Organic Low-Fat Probiotic Smoothies (8.5/10)
• Tasty Juice Blends: Strawberry Kiwi Juice (10/10)
• Coffees and Teas: Spicy Chai Latte (8.5/10)
• Miscellaneous Drinks: Vintage Root Beer (9/10)
• Beverages to Avoid: Spiced Cranberry Cider (3/10)
Of course, there's love and hate for Trader Joe's, and readers have also weighed in. For more about the products above and past reviews by Russ, Sandy, Nathan, and Sonia, visit their great site, read the full stories, or check out the new page dedicated to their progress:
New products reviewed in this go-round by the team fall into five categories: Unusual Good Finds, Best of the Rest, Easy Dinners, Sugary Impulse Buys, and Biggest Disappointments. Without further delay, new reviews from Russ Shelly and company from What's Good at Trader Joe's?:
Unusual Good Finds
There’s a lot you’ll see at Trader Joe’s that you just won’t readily see somewhere else. Needless to say, there are more homeruns than strikeouts, so we’re always on the lookout.
1. Trader Joe’s Edamame Hummus (8.5 points)
A unique take on the classic formula, the edamame hummus certainly tastes the part while retaining a smooth, creamy texture. It’s even better when matched with the TJ Quinoa and Black Bean Infused Tortilla Chips, or perhaps our next entry.
2. Trader Joe’s Falafel Chips (8.5 points)
Things we knew could make good chips: potatoes, corn, rice, beans, heck, even kale... but falafels? Oh yeah. This could be the start of the revolution right here. They’re even better with some spicy hummus or guacamole.
3. Trader Joe’s Shrimp Corn Dogs (8 points)
I can hear the cynics from here: "Yeah, batter up anything and deep-fry it on a stick, people will eat it." Yeah, well, read the product again, slowly: Shrimp. Corn. Dogs. That is not a misprint.
4. Trader Joe’s Edamame Tofu Nuggets (8 points)
Finally, a vegetarian nugget option that, instead of trying to emulate meat, is its own, unique product. Although Asian-inspired, these paired well with any sauce we dunked them in. Fantastic.
5. Trader Joe’s Lamb Vindaloo (7.5 points)
Right, lamb and vindaloo aren’t all that unusual for those familiar with Indian cuisine... but to have a frozen entrée of it that’s absolutely delicious, straight out of a microwave, of all things? I mean, it’s microwavable lamb. Now that’s unusual, and that’s before what your coworkers will think of your lunch. Amazing, but it needs more lamby bits.