I just ate the most delicious steak. Tender, marbled with fat, and with an intoxicatingly deep beefy flavor. And I feel good about it: grass-fed, organic beef from a local rancher. I sampled it (and became obsessed with eating it again) at the opening of the new Farmer Joe’s Market on Fruitvale in Oakland.

I first started going to Farmer Joe’s when I moved to the Laurel District nearly 10 years ago. Then it was a tiny mom-and-pop market, a gem in an undiscovered neighborhood. Since they opened in 1994, Joe and Diane Tam have grown their business, though hours and hours of loving labor, into a cornerstone of the neighborhood, active in the development and blossoming of the increasingly desirable Laurel.

The new store, located on Fruitvale Avenue in what was previously an Albertson’s, was originally a movie theatre back in the 1950s. You can almost envision the black and white movies being played in the cavernous space with the offices, formerly film rooms, overlooking the busy floor.

Walking into the new store on the day it opened, I could feel the excitement of a community. Not only does the new Farmer Joe’s promise new jobs and offer a wealth of delicious local and international foods with a conscious, but it is a symbol of an independent, family-owned business that is excelling in our community; a rare thing in our increasingly corporate-ruled society.

This thriving, diverse area now has access to foods we previously had to travel to other well-stocked, high-end markets for, like Berkeley Bowl or even Whole Foods.

Some of the highlights of the new store include:

A blissful array of fresh, organic produce.

A huge, expanded bulk foods section, complete with bulk Delizia olive oils, vinegars, and other specialty oils.

A well-stocked tofu and veggie section complete with fresh Chinese noodles, marinated meals, and more tofu options than you could think possible.

An amazing variety of condiments, including imported olive oils, vinegars, mustards, honey, and more.

An entire end-cap devoted to PG Tips (along with an incredible array of teas and coffee options).

An expanded meat department that includes Rosie chickens, Niman Ranch beef and pork, an impressive array of sausages, and Panorama grass-fed beef.

A well-stocked international selection of Asian, Indian, Latino, English and other international wares that are hard to find in most stores.

Wine. Beer. And Spirits! A big new boon to the store.

A sushi bar that includes not only daily-made sushi rolls and nigiri, but fresh pickled ginger, goma ae (spinach salad), tofu salad that looks really yummy, and fresh edamame.

A hot burrito bar from La Cascada with all-organic meats. Their products, including amazing fresh salsas, tortas, and to-go pre-packaged dinners are actually available in the refrigerated section of the store as well.

A deli stocked with Molinari salamis.

There are a few kinks to work out. It would be nice to have a better selection of fresh-made deli salads, cheeses, and fresh baked goods. But overall, I have nothing to complain about. The nice thing is that Joe and Diane and the employees of the store have always listened to the wishes of their customers, so all you have to do is go in and ask, and they will do whatever it takes to find what their customers want.

I’ve already been there 3 times in the first week they’ve been open. Of course, I will continue to go to the “old” store, just down the street. I feel a natural affinity to frequent it, but the new “big Farmer Joe’s” is certainly a draw.

So I thank you, Joe and Diane, and all the workers of Farmer Joe’s, for your dedication and belief in our community and helping to make it such a delicious beautiful place to live.

Farmer Joe’s Marketplace (new)
3426 Fruitvale Ave.
Oakland CA 94602

Farmer Joe’s Marketplace (original)
3501 MacArthur Blvd
Oakland, CA 94619
(510) 482-8178

Photos by Wendy Goodfriend

The New Farmer Joe’s Market 30 June,2006Kim Laidlaw

  • Anonymous

    I so appreciate you acknowledging independent grocers on your site. They, along with other small business owners, are a dying breed that can only survive with the loyal support that the unique Bay Area provides.

  • Scott

    I live in Noe Valley and couldn’t be more disappointed about how our neighborhood has been lacking a decent grocery in years. Since the demise of Real Foods, it is practically impossible to get a fresh piece of locally grown fruit (except Saturdays) without having to DRIVE 10 minutes to Rainbow. I mean, come on! If only we could get a place like Farmer Joe’s in the Noe Valley.

    Also, does anyone know the status on Real Foods?


  • shuna fish lydon

    This is incredibly important and exciting for Oakland. What I love most is that these stores exist in East Oakland. They are businesses for the people of Oakland, all of hem, not just the wealthy ones!

    Thank you for covering the opening, and as well I hope we all continue to hear about them as they do make those changes which come about rom customer suggestions.

    Real Foods abandoned that store on 24th street. Something Noe Valley could do would be to invite businesses they love from other neighborhoods, like Bi Rite, or that great supermarket in Bernal Heights.

    Although I must say that, after working for a short time at Stonehouse Olive Oil, Noe Valley residents do not appear to shop on 24th street. All the businesses on 24th street said their traffic and sales have only gone down over the years. When a neighborhood has a great thing it is important to know that voting with one’s dollar is extremely important!

  • Joyce Guan

    We’ve visited and it is indeed a very cool place. They carry gourmet treats like Charles Chocolates there too.

  • Anonymous

    My name is Nicole. I shop Farmer Joe’s in the weekends. You have lots of good selections of organic foods. I really like the new store and I would like to thank the young girl that help me with my groceries to my car. This young girl that help me has a good manner and a friendly smile. Thanks again!

  • Anonymous

    I LOOOVE Both Farmer Joe’s locations!

    I have been in the neighborhood about 3 1/2 and I have been an absolute loyal customer since. I even drove here on several occasions before I was officially in the neighborhood. The store ROCKS!
    Their grill is opening up tomorrow 12/3/06.
    I did a search and came across this site for their number, and I have since returned from their store and thought I’d put my two cents in since this was still on my screen!

  • Anonymous

    shopping at fruitvale: i thoroughly appreciate the organic produce, the excellent meats and the availability of products that usually only appear in expensive boutique type groceries, (although the fish is no longer what it was on opening.) Unfortunately i’ve found the service personnel quite surly. several times different employees have been irritated and impatient at straightforward questions. one of the check out cashiers was downright rude in response to a conversational observation about kale. i mean, reallyl! life is short. no more farmer joe’s for me.


Kim Laidlaw

Kim Laidlaw is a cookbook author, editor, food writer, producer, project manager, and baker who has been in the kitchen covered in flour since she was big enough to stir the biscuit dough. She has over 16 years of experience in book and online publishing, and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen.

Her first cookbook, Home Baked Comfort, was published in 2011; her second cookbook, Baby & Toddler On the Go, was published in April 2013; and her third cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day, was published in October 2013.

She was the first blogger on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog, which launched in 2005, and previously worked as a professional baker at La Farine French Bakery in Oakland, CA. She lives in Petaluma with her husband and their child, whom she cooks for everyday. Find out more at http://www.kimlaidlaw.com.

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