The Sea Ranch Reader’s Guide to Mendonoma Grocery Stores

It was a very long week.

You ran out of time and didn’t pick up produce at either Berkeley Bowl or Rainbow Grocery before driving to The Sea Ranch for the long weekend.

Or maybe traffic was really bad in Hayes Valley and you skipped the quick stop at the Fatted Calf for charcuterie. Or maybe you didn’t balance the burdens of remote office work and family life and forgot to place that order of ostrich tenderloin from Polarica Meats.

Or, heck, maybe you live in Marin County and know your grocery stores aren’t that special. So might as well “wing it” up on the Mendonoma coast.

More likely, you were finally able to pass that RV with Arizona plates just before Bodega Bay and decided not to stop for Dungeness crab. That stop would mean you’d fall behind the RV until the next, very far-off passing opportunity right before Jenner. It’s a complex calculus we all know well.

The editorial staff at The Sea Ranch Reader don’t know why you didn’t bring groceries to The Sea Ranch this weekend. We can only offer conjecture. But it’s a choice you made and now you’re living with it.

We have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that you have options. At least 10 of them, based on our latest count.

The bad news is that our editors and the RCMS Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics ranked all 10 stores, based on the 8 most important factors for a healthy and delicious time at The Sea Ranch:

  • Parking
  • Trinks soup selection
  • Basil availability
  • The Sea Ranch swag
  • Model train presence
  • Dry vermouth selection
  • Proximity of cigarettes to cash register

The final rankings are discussed at the end of this guide.

So let’s get to it, in no particular order.

Gualala Chevron Food Mart

Gualala Chevron Food Mart

The Chevron Food Mart is located directly off highway 1, near the center of Gualala. It boasts a variety of domestic sodas and beers, distilled water, beverages containing fruit juices, and chilled coffee decoctions. The store also has two small aisles of sundries, which feature nationally-recognized chocolatiers and confectioners. Pre-packed bags of salted nuts, chips, dried fruits and animal jerkies are also available to-go.

AttributeGrade
ParkingA+
Trinks Soup SelectionF
Basil AvailabilityF
The Sea Ranch SwagF
Model Train PresenceF
Dry Vermouth SelectionF
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash RegisterA+
Gualala Chevron Food Mart Ratings

Two Fish Baking Company

Two Fish Baking Company in Stewart’s Point

Two Fish Bakery is known for making big city-quality baked goods in a small town setting. But that’s not why it’s on this list. It’s here because it has a small, highly curated selection of groceries for the vacationing snacker and casual alcoholic. This includes everything you need to make s’mores, popcorn, a proper cheese plate, and any practical cocktail you might concoct at a vacation rental or campsite.

AttributeGrade
ParkingB
Trinks Soup SelectionF
Basil AvailabilityF
The Sea Ranch SwagF
Model Train PresenceF
Dry Vermouth Selection?
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash RegisterF
Two Fish Baking Company Ratings

Surf Market

Surf Market’s facade features delicious items that aren’t actually available at the store

Every time the editors walk out of Surf Market in Gualala, they say, “I can’t believe they didn’t have [insert any type of produce, protein, cheese, or bread here]”. But that’s only because Surf Market is a gem and has raised our expectations beyond what’s reasonable in a remote coastal town. It’s not their fault that the supply chain to Gualala is long and complicated. Nor is it their fault that, on one day, a single tourist might buy a dozen clamshell packages of tarragon to make poulet à l’estragon for 30 guests. But, for the next four days, Surf Market might not sell a single package of tarragon. Hungry out-of-towners are often disoriented and are never dependable.

So, the next time you find yourself in the Surf Market parking lot, shaking your fist at the sky, upset you didn’t find [insert fresh herb, type of fresh fish, serviceable vermouth for a martini, or any drinkable old-world wine here], just remember how dire things would be without Surf Market. We shiver at the thought.

Plus, mad props for Surf Market’s 100% dedication to Sea Ranch hats, books, tote bags, buttons, etc. They know you’re only shopping there because you live at The Sea Ranch, are visiting The Sea Ranch, or accidentally passed The Sea Ranch Lodge General Store.

Additional props to the very friendly and professional staff at Surf Market, save the one checker who always asks us if we brought a bag when it’s obvious that we didn’t. We avoid their aisle whenever possible.

AttributeGrade
ParkingB
Trinks Soup SelectionC+
Basil AvailabilityB-
The Sea Ranch SwagA
Model Train PresenceF
Dry Vermouth SelectionD-
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash RegisterC
Surf Market Ratings

The Sea Ranch Lodge General Store

We don’t even know where to start with this one. So, here’s the deal. We are 100% sure they have a modest selection of chilled, screw-top white wines for easy drinking on the property.

We are, like, 25% sure we’ve seen snacks there too. But, ever since someone notified the Lodge about the fact that their point-of-sale inventory and prices were online and public, and were consequently made non-public by Lodge staff, we can’t look that fact up. We just have to guess. And our guess is that they don’t have any snacks. Just the cold (probably Sonoma valley or coast) sauvignon blanc.

AttributeGrade
ParkingC+
Trinks Soup SelectionF
Basil AvailabilityF
The Sea Ranch SwagA+
Model Train PresenceF
Dry Vermouth SelectionF
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash RegisterF
The Sea Ranch General Store Ratings

The Wine Shop

This is what we think the inside of The Wine Shop looks like. We don’t know, because it’s only open during hours when we’re doing other things.

The Wine Shop on Annapolis Road is a near-mystery to our editorial staff, due to the fact that it’s only open for something like 4 hours each week. It’s a store for an elite few with a bun ton of temporal flexibility. Between the burdens of domesticity, hosting guests, and the hours wasted behind RVs or shaking our fists at the sky in the Surf Market parking lot, we just can’t seem to swing a visit.

Based on what we know, it is the only local place you can find a properly-stored, ready-to-drink, and serviceable old-world wine. Or, at least that’s the vibe we get from all of the European flags outside of the store during its open hours.

AttributeGrade
ParkingA
Trinks Soup Selection?
Basil Availability?
The Sea Ranch Swag?
Model Train Presence?
Dry Vermouth Selection?
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash Register?
The Wine Shop Rankings

The Gualala Supermarket

Visitors from that outdoor event at the Sea Ranch Lodge everyone is either: a) irritated about or, b) irritated that others are irritated about it

The Gualala Supermarket is notable for several reasons. First, it’s the only place near The Sea Ranch where you can buy a frying pan, juicer, duct tape, a 24-pack of Bud Light, a pack of Uno playing cards, and candy corn, all in the same convenient location.

Second, they don’t have a unitary “chips” section of the store. Instead, they have a chip diaspora and you are encouraged to explore the end of each aisle for whatever brand you’re craving.

Third, and most important, they developed a breakthrough technology in basil storage: the “blowed up” plastic bag. Their tech extends the half-life of grocery store basil by a factor of 4 to 5x.

The Gualala Supermarket is a classic and, unlike its neighbor grocery store on the other side of Highway 1, the stuff they stock is always in stock. No surprises allowed.

AttributeGrade
ParkingB+
Trinks Soup SelectionF
Basil AvailabilityA+
The Sea Ranch SwagF
Model Train PresenceA+
Dry Vermouth SelectionD-
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash RegisterA+
Gualala Supermarket Ratings

Anchor Bay Store

It’s right next door

This is where The Sea Ranch residents go to kill time while waiting for their Anchor Bay Thai Kitchen takeout.

The store has a wide selection of Navarro Vineyards wine and grape juice that may or may not have been sitting on the shelf for a long time. One editor thinks they might have bought a six-pack of Lowenbrau beer their once, but they’re not totally sure. The store is, you know, fine.

Another editor had this to say about it: “Every time I’m in that store, the staff and customers seem to know each other and chat a bit. The community up there seems very friendly and laid back. I think The Sea Ranch Association should form an Anchor Bay Culture Exploration Committee to learn more about what they’re doing so right.”

AttributeGrade
ParkingA
Trinks Soup SelectionF
Basil AvailabilityF
The Sea Ranch SwagF
Model Train PresenceF
Dry Vermouth SelectionF
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash RegisterA+
Gualala Supermarket Ratings

Trinks Cafe

Trinks has two freezers, one with frozen (we think grass-fed?) meats and stocks and a second with expensive soups that are with* every penny. The chili is transcendental and has contributed about 20 pounds of weight gain across our entire editorial staff.

AttributeGrade
ParkingD+
Trinks Soup SelectionA+
Basil AvailabilityD-
The Sea Ranch SwagF
Model Train PresenceF
Dry Vermouth SelectionF
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash RegisterF
Trinks Cafe Freezer Ratings

*If you think that the editors made an error, using “with” instead of “worth”, you are mistaken. That was 100% on purpose.

Links Cafe

Image Courtesy of Lincoln Motor’s Incredible Mendonoma Photo Shoot

The Links Cafe offers a smaller selection of what you can find at the Chevron Food Mart in Gualala.

AttributeGrade
ParkingB
Trinks Soup SelectionF
Basil AvailabilityF
The Sea Ranch SwagB
Model Train PresenceF
Dry Vermouth SelectionF
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash RegisterF
Links Cafe Ratings

Gualala Building Supply

Representative Jared “Sane, Safe, Secular” Huffman, enjoying a nacho at the Gualala Building Supply’s Nacho Average Friday

We bet you want to get into semantics about grocery stores.

Whatever.

We’re not here to debate the ontological structure of “groceries”. If you want to win this argument, you can have it.

We have good evidence that there is sometimes free popcorn there and they (at least once) held an event called, “Nacho Average Friday”.

That’s “grocery store” enough for us.

AttributeGrade
ParkingA+
Trinks Soup SelectionF
Basil AvailabilityF
The Sea Ranch SwagF
Model Train PresenceF
Dry Vermouth SelectionF
Proximity of Cigarettes to Cash RegisterF
Gualala Building Supply Ratings

Rankings and Results

We sent our data over to the RCMS Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics so they could crunch the numbers for us. According to their analysis, the Chevron Food Mart in Gualala came out on top.

Of course we asked them to double check their analysis. An RCMS spokesperson sent this reply:

“We follow a rigorous process to ensure the accuracy of our proprietary ranking algorithms, which consistently demonstrate strong external and predictive validity across a range of urban, suburban, rural, and subrural settings. RCMS stands by the results of our analysis.”

So, there you have it. The Sea Ranch Reader’s guide to local grocery stores.

Until next time,

The Editors at The Sea Ranch Reader

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