What if I told you that you could see elephants and giraffes and experience foods from every country imaginable? If I threw in the fact that there was also a monorail, property tours, and a cooking school you might think I had directed you to Walt Disney World. And then I mention the sea serpent and the giant can of singing soup. Now you either think I’m crazy or you know that I’m talking about Jungle Jim’s International Market near Cincinnati.
Supermarket or Day Trip?
My brother is a devoted fan of Jungle Jim’s and a few years ago convinced me to make the trip to see for myself. I was skeptical at first, a two hour drive just to go to the grocery store seemed a bit much. But I loaded up the kids and we set out. I figured we’d either have the opportunity to experience something wonderful or I’d have the opportunity to roast my brother for his absurd recommendation.
My brother was right. There, I’ve said it.
Jungle Jim’s is so much more than just a simple grocery store and you realize this from the moment you pull into the lot. First you’re taken with the sheer size of the property, including the market which is over 200,000 square feet. In the surrounding lot, you’ll discover sea monsters, a working monorail (mostly reserved for special events), life size hot dogs, and an African watering hole complete with animals and a waterfall.
Inside you enter a state of near overwhelm. Entering near the garden center, we are drawn past the fresh sushi station to the deli. Each time we visit, we each pick a pickle from the large wooden barrels. It’s tradition now to snack on these on the car ride home.
Did Somebody Say Butter Bar?
There’s an olive bar, a salsa bar, and following along the same path, a butter bar. I am both impressed with and intimidated by the butter bar. On one hand I’m utterly fascinated with the selection. On the other hand, though I’m a decent cook, I still don’t know the ins and outs of using all those different butters.
Heading past the giant wheel of cheese, you’ll find an extensive beer and wine department. According to the Jungle Jim website, this section houses over 17,000 wine labels and 4000 beers from around the world.
A Famous Restroom
Before you leave this section, you’re going to want to use the restroom. There are additional facilities at Jungle Jim’s, but this is the one you’re going to want to use. It’s famous. It actually won the Cintas Best Restroom In America contest in 2007.
Oh and if you’re going with a spouse or your children, don’t let them in on this little secret and watch their surprise. The outside of the restroom looks like a port-a-potty. But after you make it through the doorway, it’s a nicely appointed modern bathroom.
You’ll pass through the candy section and bakery next. Both are extensive. The candy section is highlighted by an animatronic lion Elvis. Take some time to check out the candy selection. In addition to current offerings, you’ll likely find some candies from your childhood.
As you bear right, you’ll head toward the produce section and through there the seafood department and international market. Don’t rush through the produce section as you’ll find some unique items including baby pineapples and giant avocados.
To say the seafood here is fresh is an understatement. It’s actually so fresh that it’s still swimming around.
An International Market
The international section is where I have the most fun. Most foods are separated by region with food from over 70 countries represented.
There’s a European village at the back and a small theater with a video on continuous loop playing the Jungle Jim story. If you have some time, watch it. It’s actually pretty interesting to see how the business was grown from a road side produce stand to the two locations that exist today.
Hot, Hot, Hot
Look for the firetruck in the sky to find aisles of hot sauces. Though I’ve purchased a bottle here or there as gifts, I mostly spend time in this section reading the bottles. The names and labels are pretty inventive and there’s even an adult section in a case on the top shelf.
You’ll also want to visit the soft drink section. In addition to your colas, root beers, and orange sodas, you’ll find drinks in a multitude of other flavors including butterscotch, chocolate, and grass. Yes, I said grass.
Jungle Jim’s also has an American supermarket section. This is where you’ll find the giant, singing can of Campbell’s soup. They have the groceries you’re used to seeing at your local supermarket and the prices seem fair.
A Trip to the Grocery & a Cheap Day Trip
If you’ll be in the Cincinnati area and have a few hours to kill or you’re looking for a fun and inexpensive day trip, plan to visit Jungle Jim’s. There are two locations, the one I visit in Fairfield and another one in Eastgate.
If you plan to visit, check out the Jungle Jim’s International Market website for hours, directions, events, and a store map. Tours are available as well, though currently on hold due to the COVID crisis.
Have you visited Jungle Jim’s? What’s your favorite purchase? Let us know in the comments.
If you’ve been shopping at Jungle Jim’s and you’re looking for a great recipe, we’ve got you covered! Check out our recipe for super-easy, Ohio recipe Johnny Marzetti or plan a meal around my favorite egg rolls. There’s lots to explore in our recipe section and we’re adding more every week.
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