South Florida has a love affair with food shopping. We wait in line during season at Whole Foods, not-so-patiently await the opening of each new Trader Joe's, and have enough upscale Fresh Markets to keep our pantries routinely stocked with specialty grocery items.
Which makes it easy to forget about Florida's favorite, longtime chain grocer: Publix.
Of the 753 Florida locations, Publix currently operates 73 grocery stores in Palm Beach County, including one very special store on the Island of Palm Beach that sells sushi-grade tuna and gourmet cheese and offers free delivery from its pharmacy -- there's even valet parking.
The shopping experience at Palm Beach Publix is more like Whole Foods than the average neighborhood grocer you grew up with. The island store has dozens of specialty items you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere -- and a few more perks.
That includes a custom gourmet cheese counter with imported picks like Rouzair Pierre Robert triple-creme and Cathidreal de Meaux Triple Creme Brie; a deli that serves specialty Asian wok entrées like bourbon chicken and vegetable lo mein; and a prepared food case with "chef's selection" dinners that include cedar plank salmon, almond green beans, and ten types of salad -- including quinoa.
According to Publix Media and Community Relations Manager Nicole Krauss, while the Publix in Palm Beach offers many unique services and products, Publix prides itself on providing premier customer service at all of its stores.
"We invite, and encourage, our customers to ask the department managers and store managers if there are particular products they are looking for, as we are always happy to place special orders for our customers," said Krauss.
The Palm Beach store also has a dedicated staff -- with several store employees who have been around since the island Publix first opened in 1973. As one of South Florida's oldest stores, that includes a deli manager, Earl, who has been serving customers for 33 years; a meat manager, Lynn, who has been sourcing specialty meats for 35 years; and the wine steward, Rudy, who has been overseeing the state's largest Publix wine selection for close to three decades.
And when it comes to special orders, no other store has more specialty items coming through its doors, according to staff. Take the meat department, which sells a wide array of USDA prime meats like Kobe rib eye, grass-fed ground beef, and dry-aged steaks -- as well as the island favorite, prime tenderloin. You can even find ground buffalo and free-range American veal.
The seafood department is equally classy, offering sushi-grade tuna, Chilean sea bass, and Florida-caught grouper. There's also an impressive smoked salmon selection that features more than 18 cold- and hot-smoked varieties, gravlax, and Nova.
Perhaps the most obvious sign you're not in your neighborhood Publix anymore? You'll know as soon as you pull up and see a sign for complimentary valet parking, available Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.