Thursday, February 26, 2009

Native Sun

A little while ago I got e-shouted at; not for something I said, but rather for an inexcusable omission. Admittedly, I deserved being reprimanded for making such an oversight, particularly considering the goal of this little weblog to aid in introducing Northeast Florida residents to the unique and interesting things their region has to offer.

In early January I posted an entry on the newly opened Whole Foods. Prior to that time I hadn't intended to include supermarkets in our online menagerie of local attractions, eateries, and other local-ish places of interest but this was a new breed of supermarket; a species of which Jacksonville had not yet seen.

So I was criticized by a friend for having covered Whole Foods while completely ignoring Jacksonville's very own, homegrown Native Sun. Ironically, I received the email upon returning from one of my regular shopping trips to their Baymeadows location and immediately begged for forgiveness, promising to rectify my error and give Native Sun the shout-out it deserves.

native sun entrance

Aaron and Erica Gottlieb opened Native Sun in 1997 at their Mandarin location and have been one of the only providers of fresh organic produce and other healthy foods in the area. In mid-2006 they opened up a new store at the intersection of Baymeadows and 9A.

Fresh produce, packaged goods, coffee, grains, bread, frozen items, nutritional supplements, household supplies, beer, and more; there's precious little on your grocery list that you won't find here and anything missing will surely have a healthier substitute. There's also coffee/juice/smoothie bar and a deli providing healthy, fresh-made meals, snacks, and sides.

The extensive bulk food section is something I haven't really seen at other grocery stores and don't remember encountering at Whole Foods. You can buy grains, nuts, coffee, beans, dried fruits, mixes, etc., all by the pound. The prices are typically significantly lower than what you would pay for the same pre-packaged items and there's the added benefit of being able to purchase the exact quantity you need.

My most regular purchase, and I may give myself away to some of the employees who no doubt already think I'm strange enough, is the Ezekiel Bread (bread made from freshly sprouted organically grown grains). Being delicious, nutritious, and having a low glycemic index makes this my exclusive bread of choice. It's regularly rather expensive but Native Sun always has either the original or sesame seed variety on sale, thereby making themselves a crucial part of my grocery expeditions.

native sun brunch

Recently the Baymeadows store has been serving brunch on Saturdays. For $6.99 you get a pound of food and there's plenty of variety to choose from. If that sounds a bit dear, please note that we left there completely stuffed and only packed away 1.1 lbs between us so it really is a great deal. I highly recommend the Tofu Scramble.

They offer the same setup for weekdays with a different cuisine being represented each day. The price during the week is $8.99 per pound except for Wednesdays when it drops down to $6.99. Check out the Hot Bar section of their website for more info. Looking over the menu and reminiscing about my Saturday brunch, I'm definitely making plans to sample some more of what they're dishing out.

native sun brunch

So with all this praise and adulation, I think I can afford to step back and moan about one slight detail. There is one thing that has caused me to occasionally shake my fist in the general direction of Native Sun over the years and that, dear reader, is the puzzling fact that they are not open on Sundays. Sure, I should be able to work around this but when do I find myself wanting to go to Native Sun most often? Sunday. When is my "I can't believe I forgot to buy x" where x is a grocery available only at y and y, in this case, is Native Sun? Sunday. And I'm sure Sunday is grocery freak out day for many of you out there as well. And I'm sure that, if you don't already frequent Native Sun, you will on some future Sunday need to go there or perhaps even drive all the way to the store only to realize that they are closed for business on this one day of the week. C'est la vie. At least they don't close for two hours during lunch like the supermarkets in many parts of Europe.

And was I right to say that Whole Foods is unlike any supermarket in the area? Yes, and I still stand by that statement. Whole Foods is a glitzy, glamourous, new spectacle; a novelty in a way, playing up its deviation from the supermarket norm. Native Sun, on the other hand, is an unpretentious adherent to quality that values customer satisfaction over wow-factor.

Regardless, it's a great place with great food and they do their best to help their customers and work with the community. Support your local scene, maintain a healthy lifestyle, be all that you can be, and can you please pass me one more loaf of Ezekiel Bread? Thanks.

Native Sun
Native Sun Blog
@nativesunjax on Twitter

11030 Baymeadows Rd.
Jacksonville, FL 32256

10000 San Jose Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL 32257


Regina said...

I really dig this blog, both as a relative newcomer to Jax and someone who is facing the possibility of entertaining friends from Back Home (and not really knowing what to do). Keep up the good work!

birdilicious said...

I didn't realize that Native Sun was a local business. I love shopping there on occasion, I ussually pick up a handful of things, but every time I go there I feel like I've treated myself to something wonderful

Nancy White said...

Thanks for this informative post on a prime Jacksonville foodie hang. Native Sun is worth the trip, and (I agree with birdilicious) its a treat! I love poking around in their specialty cheese section. I'll definitely check out brunch.