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Specialty Produce really is special

Lion’s mane mushrooms, purple sugar apples, ice cream beans

“Not only an unmatched selection, but also an inclusiveness that welcomes you to explore a world of culinary possibilities.”
“Not only an unmatched selection, but also an inclusiveness that welcomes you to explore a world of culinary possibilities.”

There’s no doubt you’ve seen their logo on delivery trucks. They might supply one of your favorite local restaurants. And if your drink is garnished with edible flowers, it probably came fresh from their fridge. That last one is how I was introduced to Specialty Produce — drinking craft cocktails at an upscale restaurant. “You’ve never been? Oh, you gotta get on Specialty Produce,” said the bartender, leaving me with a lingering case of curiosity.

When I learned that their nearby warehouse isn’t just for restaurateurs, but is also open to the public for walk-ins every day from 8 am-5 pm, I decided it was time to go check it out. That’s when I discovered first-hand that Specialty Produce is one of San Diego's best-kept culinary secrets. Not that it’s especially hard to find: it’s a green building tucked in a downtown neighborhood, just off the PCH. Parking is no problem. Signs point toward the customer entrance, where a photo-clad hallway leads to the main floor.

Sponsored
Sponsored
Place

Specialty Produce Warehouse

1929 Hancock Street, San Diego

Before proceeding, I put on a pair of rubber gloves and checked in at an iPad stand. After that, it was time to have fun! First impressions: along the left wall, bins of bulk spices and beans. Hang a right at a display of jams, and you find shelves of canned goods and pantry items like oil, rice, and flour. From there, you arrive at the fridges full of dairy, meat and even frozen products. But it’s all prologue for what you find a little further on, in a couple of large cold rooms (bring a jacket): the most diverse array of produce I’ve ever encountered. All of it sustainably-sourced from California farms — that is the “Specialty” in “Specialty Produce.”

It was immediately clear that those who are in-the-know have been shopping at Specialty Produce for some time. Regulars moseyed around with their lists, while industry workers zoomed past in pursuit of the day’s haul. I, however, simply stood and stared, wide-eyed, at some of the more exotic produce: lion’s mane mushrooms, purple sugar apples, ice cream beans. But despite the exoticism, the place still felt accessible. Most of the signage contained a small descriptive blurb or a QR code I could scan for more information about the items. Some prices were intimidating at first glance, but customers had the freedom to buy as much or as little as they wanted on most items. A price checker helped me feel more comfortable and I picked things out amongst the pros. And figuring out what to cook was made easier by the online archive of recipes, curated for the shop’s uncommon fruits and vegetables.

I’d had a wonderful visit, but temptation didn’t really find me until I was ready to check out and passed by the aisle containing gourmet chocolate, craft coffee, and fresh baked bread. A stronger person might have clutched her ice cream beans close and soldiered past, but I quickly grabbed a bag of the most delicious looking tortilla chips before hitting the register. A friendly cashier rang up my items then turned the screen toward me, asking me to review the bill before paying. With that, I headed home, eager to dig into my loot and excited by the prospect of another visit in the near future. That first trip provided a totally unique shopping experience filled with foods I had never heard of before. With every visit since, I’ve found something new to try. What makes Specialty Produce the best of its kind is not only an unmatched selection, but an inclusiveness that welcomes you to explore a world of culinary possibilities.

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“Not only an unmatched selection, but also an inclusiveness that welcomes you to explore a world of culinary possibilities.”
“Not only an unmatched selection, but also an inclusiveness that welcomes you to explore a world of culinary possibilities.”

There’s no doubt you’ve seen their logo on delivery trucks. They might supply one of your favorite local restaurants. And if your drink is garnished with edible flowers, it probably came fresh from their fridge. That last one is how I was introduced to Specialty Produce — drinking craft cocktails at an upscale restaurant. “You’ve never been? Oh, you gotta get on Specialty Produce,” said the bartender, leaving me with a lingering case of curiosity.

When I learned that their nearby warehouse isn’t just for restaurateurs, but is also open to the public for walk-ins every day from 8 am-5 pm, I decided it was time to go check it out. That’s when I discovered first-hand that Specialty Produce is one of San Diego's best-kept culinary secrets. Not that it’s especially hard to find: it’s a green building tucked in a downtown neighborhood, just off the PCH. Parking is no problem. Signs point toward the customer entrance, where a photo-clad hallway leads to the main floor.

Sponsored
Sponsored
Place

Specialty Produce Warehouse

1929 Hancock Street, San Diego

Before proceeding, I put on a pair of rubber gloves and checked in at an iPad stand. After that, it was time to have fun! First impressions: along the left wall, bins of bulk spices and beans. Hang a right at a display of jams, and you find shelves of canned goods and pantry items like oil, rice, and flour. From there, you arrive at the fridges full of dairy, meat and even frozen products. But it’s all prologue for what you find a little further on, in a couple of large cold rooms (bring a jacket): the most diverse array of produce I’ve ever encountered. All of it sustainably-sourced from California farms — that is the “Specialty” in “Specialty Produce.”

It was immediately clear that those who are in-the-know have been shopping at Specialty Produce for some time. Regulars moseyed around with their lists, while industry workers zoomed past in pursuit of the day’s haul. I, however, simply stood and stared, wide-eyed, at some of the more exotic produce: lion’s mane mushrooms, purple sugar apples, ice cream beans. But despite the exoticism, the place still felt accessible. Most of the signage contained a small descriptive blurb or a QR code I could scan for more information about the items. Some prices were intimidating at first glance, but customers had the freedom to buy as much or as little as they wanted on most items. A price checker helped me feel more comfortable and I picked things out amongst the pros. And figuring out what to cook was made easier by the online archive of recipes, curated for the shop’s uncommon fruits and vegetables.

I’d had a wonderful visit, but temptation didn’t really find me until I was ready to check out and passed by the aisle containing gourmet chocolate, craft coffee, and fresh baked bread. A stronger person might have clutched her ice cream beans close and soldiered past, but I quickly grabbed a bag of the most delicious looking tortilla chips before hitting the register. A friendly cashier rang up my items then turned the screen toward me, asking me to review the bill before paying. With that, I headed home, eager to dig into my loot and excited by the prospect of another visit in the near future. That first trip provided a totally unique shopping experience filled with foods I had never heard of before. With every visit since, I’ve found something new to try. What makes Specialty Produce the best of its kind is not only an unmatched selection, but an inclusiveness that welcomes you to explore a world of culinary possibilities.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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