Occupying the city block enclosed by 1st Ave, 2nd Ave, G St, and Market St in Downtown San Diego (just south of Horton Plaza, and 2 blocks removed from Historic Gaslamp Quarters), this Ralph’s Grocery Store is the go-to place to shop for food in Downtown area. If you live in the Marina District or in Gaslamp Quarters areas or if you’re visiting and staying in Downtown proper, it is practically the only real grocery store within easy walking distance (the nearest competition, Albertson’s-Savon, is far removed into East Village area on 14th and Market). The location being a few blocks removed from the main streets of Gaslamp Quarters (4th and 5th Avenues) is merciful.
Ralph’s is a chain store, of course, the parent company being Kroger’s based in Oregon. So, if you’ve been to one, then you have been to most of them. It’s well organized and well stocked. This store’s pedestrian entrances are on G St side. The entrances to the underground garage are on 2nd Ave & Market St sides. It’s a goofy thing with cramped space and requires some careful driving in order to not ram one of the many supporting columns. On the whole, though, it is very easy to get in and out of this place, and the store itself is handicap-friendly.
Given its location, you can expect everything to be expensive here. A liter bottle of soda is going for $1.99 (it’s practically the same price you get at Albertson’s, but there you can get the Albertson’s brand of soda for 79 cents. Ralph’s doesn’t have its own soda… and it likes to force you to buy at least 5 bottles to get a discount price). The good thing is that there is a Ralph’s/Kroger brand for most items in the store that work just as well as the more expensive brands’ item do for much cheaper. Their cereal sucks, but the cold cut and deli meat are pretty good.
You should definitely get their Ralph’s Rewards card; it doesn’t cost you anything, and it offers discount price on lots of items that really adds up over time. I’ve been shopping here for 4 years now and have earned enough points to get 2 free movie tickets at the UA Horton Plaza and occasional $5 off coupon for a shopping trip.
The produce section here is on the 1st Avenue end… and it is the sorriest section in the store when it comes to quality. You’d be extremely lucky to find a really fresh head of lettuce that doesn’t look like it hasn’t been thrown around a lot for the past month or so. They used to offer pretty good price for ready made salad greens, but the price really jumped when gas price started to skyrocket last year…. And though you can now find unleaded gasoline for less than $2/gallon in Downtown, the price of produce at Ralph’s hadn’t yielded a cent. The deli section here (adjacent to the produce section) is quite good, though. Lots of variety of bread to choose from. The sandwiches are very good and reasonably priced. Aside from the meat counter with hot food (not as many variety as at Albertson’s but the quality is good), there’s a salad bar and a sushi station.
The service there is mostly good, though the area isn’t well organized and when things get busy they have to rely a lot on the customers knowing who has been waiting the longest since there’s no obvious place where a line can form. There’s a Coffee shop there, too (between the produce and the deli sections), with limited selection of drinks. There are tables on the patios lining 1st Ave and G St sides of the store where you can sit around and people watch… though the 1st Ave tables are often occupied by a few homeless folks, and the G st tables house a lot of begging pigeons.
I like the way the store aisles are organized. Most of the food items (except for the seafood, packaged frozen meat, and liquors which are on the 2nd Avenue end and at the back of the store) are in consecutive aisles from the produce section. The household items, cleaning products, stationary, etc, are on the 2nd Ave side, practically separated from the food stuff by the Frozen food & dessert aisles in the middle of the store. The pharmacy is on the corner of 2nd Ave and G St. I’ve never used it, but the staff seem quite friendly.
This store can be extremely busy prior to a holiday (think about it, everybody in Downtown shops here!), and check out lines can be obnoxiously long. There are 4 self-checkout terminals that helps a bit, though. And if you get stuck there, there’s always a store manager hanging in that area to help out. The staff are mostly very friendly…. some may chat a bit too much at times (they’re much better about being mindful not to hold up the line nowadays, though). The paper bag here is awesome; sturdy and with good handles. A league better than that flimsy handle-free thing you get at Albertson’s.
This store also has a Western Union station… and of course, you can buy first class stamps at check out.
Ralph’s Grocery Company: 101 G St (between 1st and 2nd Avenues), San Diego, CA 92101. Tel (619) 595-1581 OPENS 24 HRS/DAY (Except on holidays)
Pharmacy Tel (619) 237-7660 Opens: Weekdays 8AM – 9PM, Weekends 10AM – 5:30PM