Updated Mon, Jul 22, 2013 9:54 am
When I mentioned to a friend that I would be in Cincinnati for the day, they said, “You HAVE to stop by Jungle Jim’s International Market.”
A few months ago a co-worker mentioned stopping at this store. Before that conversation I had never heard of Jungle Jim's.
Everyone describes Jungle Jim’s the same way -- you just won’t believe it.
They describe a huge store with an incredible inventory in Amish and international foods, an amazing selection of beer and wines and a cheese section that would blow your mind.
They were right -- it was truly amazing.
After looking at reviews on Yelp, we knew it had to be added to our list of things to do.
The Yelp reviews are fun to read. One reviewer says ‘This place is a foodie's paradise! Some people may pilgrimage to the Sistine Chapel or Mecca... Foodies pilgrimage to Jungle Jim's.’ Another says ‘Holy Cow this store is amazing.’ One of my favorites: 'This is one gloriously cracked out grocery store.'
Amazing is an understatement. You are greeted in the parking lot with colored numbers on the aisles, just like the ones that help you find your way back to the car at an amusement park. I remarked to my husband that I had never seen something like that at a grocery store before. Little did I know, it wouldn't be the last time I said that during our trip. The caribbean music, large animal structures and waterfall on the outside of the store were just a tip of the iceberg.
When I first walked in, it looked like a normal grocery store - some produce, rows of regular old groceries, etc. But as you begin your journey through, you soon begin to notice the difference.
The store is big -- I mean, seriously large. The map of the store gives you an idea of the layout and what types of items are available. It is estimated that the Fairfield location is more than 300,000 square feet, which is around 6 ½ acres. It is estimated that 82,000 people shop at the store weekly.
There's even a monorail on site. According to information online, the monorail is a reconditioned piece from the former Wild Animal Habitat at nearby Kings Island.
As one Yelp reviewer says, ‘it’s not really the type of place you stop to grab a gallon of milk on your way home.’ Uh, I’d definitely have to agree with that statement.
On their website they recommend planning to spend two to four hours at the store. Two to four hours? I have no doubt you could spend four to six hours comfortably in this store. I was there almost three hours.
What makes this store different is the overwhelming array of products.
While at the store my husband checked in on Facebook and a friend said the last time he was there he spent 45 minutes in the soda aisle. Why? There's just an unbelievable selection of drinks. Some of what you’ll find are Mexican varieties of sodas with cane sugar in the old-fashioned bottles, just like the ones you used to gather and cash in at the store when you were a kid.
We picked up some Jelly Belly soda. Did you know that Jelly Belly made soda? I surely didn’t. I highly recommend the crushed pineapple and sour cherry.
Another great example is their selection of hot sauces. They offer 1,500 different varieties, which they stock in alphabetical order so you can find your favorite easily.
The most impressive part of the store is the international section. You can see from the map that it takes up a decent portion of the store. Walking those aisles makes you feel like you are in another country. Want some British cookies for tea time? You’ll have no problem finding a great selection. How about some special spices for Hispanic cuisine? You’ll find them all here. Or maybe a lamb's head with eyeballs intact, or some kangaroo meat.. I could go on and on.
The international produce section is fascinating. Fresh produce from around the world. You can't help but wonder what would you do with it?
The good news -- if your cooking skills are limited (like mine) they offer a cooking school.
They offer classes – many on international cuisine, but others on ‘how to cook summer squash’ or ‘a lovely menu for a garden party.’
Food isn’t the only thing on the menu at Jungle Jim’s. It really is a destination experience that offers restaurants including a Buffalo Wings & Rings, Chipotle and Boar’s Head Restaurant. There is also a Cigar shop, salon and spa, jewelry store and a center for foot care (I’m guessing all those hours on your feet, this may be pretty popular).
It’s inevitable that at some point during your two, three or four hours at Jungle Jim’s you’ll need a restroom break. There are signs posted in the store that will send you to their ‘award winning restrooms.’
Talk about a sense of humor! The bathrooms were voted #1 in the nation during a 2007 contest hosted by the Cintas Corporation. Owner Jim Bonaminio came up with an idea to make the outside of the bathrooms look like a port-a-potty, but inside are nice luxury restrooms. Here's a video where he shows his excitement about his award.
In all, if you're looking for an interesting way to spend some time, Jungle Jim's is a great way to spend a few hours. It truly is a destination experience and a ‘mecca’ for food-lovers!