BEST ASIAN GROCERY (1999)
This Asian market is reminiscent of a small-town grocery store: No one pays much attention to what's in the cluttered front window, because it's the inside that matters. Truong Thanh's long aisles hold oodles of noodles, fish sauces, and containers of dried, preserved plums, prunes, mangos, and olives. The little bakery section in the front holds, among other things, that insanely sweet rice cake that looks and acts like Knox Blocks--it comes in a bazillion nonfood colors and jiggles at the slightest touch. In the other front corner is a comprehensive medical section with pills and herbs and salves, including some kick-ass licorice menthol cough drops that come in a parrot-green metal case (like the old Sucrets box) with a red inscription. Just as with an old-fashioned grocery store, the far back (past the fresh produce, meat, and the live catfish in a tank) holds housewares: floor mats, pots, pans, dishes, Goliath-sized mortars and pestles. And on the north side, the crowning glory of Truong Thanh is its selection of herbs, filling an entire refrigerated case. A bunch of amazingly fresh basil, which prepackaged at Lund's would have gone for two dollars, set us back a mere 32 cents.