If you love Trader Joe's -- the colorful shirts, the name tags, the friendly atmosphere, all its quirky products -- then you've probably done product recon on What's Good at Trader Joe's?, the four-member team review site that has been rating the store's best and worst products since August of 2010. Nathan Rodgers, his wife Sonia and their friend Russ Shelly and his wife Sandy set out almost two years ago to review the cult grocer's some 4,500 products. They've been going at a pretty good clip, and with this installment of The Best and Worst Products at Trader Joe's are narrowing in on having reviewed 10 percent of its products (more than 275 reviews covering about 325 products). That's no joke.
(Photo Credit: Flickr/cathyse97).
While the reviewers are fans of Trader Joe's, they take reviewing seriously -- their first review was even negative. Here's their process:
• They rate products on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the best.
• For any post, two people rate the product.
• Reviewers give their overall impression and up to five points each.
In previous installments on The Daily Meal, the good folks at What's Good at Trader Joe's reviewed at least four or five products in each category. Best breakfast, best appetizers, best vegetarian, best frozen treats -- there's as wide a range of categories as you'd expect. But Nathan, Sonia, Russ, and Sandy have had some fun with the categories, too, including things like "Spousal Discrepancy," "Biggest Winner Versus Expectation," and "Worst. Stuff. Ever."
Consider the best of the best in the 15 categories as they've ranked them so far for The Daily Meal:
• Vegetarian: Veggie Sausage Patties (9/10)
• Breakfast: Organic Mango Passion Granola (10/10)
• Appetizers: Heat & Eat Falafel: (9.5/10)
• Biggest Winner Versus Expectation: Baker Josef's Chocolate Cake and Frosting Mixes (10/10)
• Worst Stuff Ever: Turkey "Meatloaf Muffins" (0/10)
• Frozen Treats: Lemon and Triple Ginger Snap Ice Cream (10/10)
• Gluten-Free: Gluten & Dairy Free Homestyle Pancakes (8/10)
• Seafood: Oven-Ready Breaded Cod Fillets (8.5/10)
• Fruit Snacks: Pear Sauce (8.5/10)
• Spousal Discrepancy: Non-Fat Plain Frozen Yogurt (6.5/10)
• Healthy Beverages: Organic Low-Fat Probiotic Smoothies (8.5/10)
• Tasty Juice Blends: Strawberry Kiwi Juice (10/10)
• Coffees and Teas: Spicy Chai Latte (8.5/10)
• Miscellaneous Drinks: Vintage Root Beer (9/10)
• Beverages to Avoid: Spiced Cranberry Cider (3/10)
Of course, there's love and hate for Trader Joe's, and readers have also weighed in. For more about the products above and past reviews by Russ, Sandy, Nathan and Sonia, visit their great site, read the full stories, or check out the new page dedicated to their progress:
New products reviewed in this go-round by the team fall into five categories: Unusual Good Finds, Best of the Rest, Easy Dinners, Sugary Impulse Buys and Biggest Disappointments. Without further delay, new reviews from Russ Shelly and company from What's Good at Trader Joe's?:
- Arthur Bovino, The Daily Meal
Breakfast: The most important meal of the day, and should be the hardest to screw up. Somehow, TJ's did. It ought to be impossible for eggs, potatoes and bacon to be so bland and nondescript, but yeah, you're better off with cardboard. Much better option: Trader Joe's Breakfast Scramble. Read more about Trader Joe's Breakfast Burritos Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
You say poblano, I say po-BLAND-o, and yeah, you're better calling the whole thing off. Absolutely void of any redeeming qualities. Blecch. Much better option: Trader Jose's Chicken in Red Mole. Read more about Trader Joe's Chicken Breast in Poblano Sauce Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
A s’mores-inspired ice cream sandwich should be a surefire slam dunk, so when the end product is a melty mess that lacks in both the graham cracker and chocolate department, well, we’ll pass. Much better option: Trader Joe’s Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches. Read more about Trader Joe’s S’mores Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
TJ's popcorn is one of the best incarnations of the stovetop classic we've found yet. Nearly every kernel pops into a big, fluffy piece that's versatile to go with any seasoning while remaining melt-in-mouth soft. Make up a batch with Trader Joe's Coconut Oil for an especially good treat. Read more Trader Joe's Organic Popping Corn Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
The only thing this salsa lacks is just a tad more heat. Other than that, it's impossible to argue with this smooth, smoky, full-flavored salsa offering. It's our favorite Trader Joe's salsa, and it's not all that close. Read more about Trader Joe's Organic Tomatillo and Roasted Yellow Chile Salsa Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
You know those breaded mozzarella sticks all the kiddies like? Imagine those, all grown up and dressed real nice, with a respectable haircut and a sense of responsibility. The arancini bites are exactly that, except even better. Read more about Trader Joe's Arancini Bites Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
Believe in Meatless Mondays? Believe in these, too. Dress them up like a regular burger, or experiment with something a little more exotic. No matter what you do, you can't go wrong. Read more about Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala Burgers Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
Gluten-free folks deserve some darn good pasta, too, right? Cook these up like any other noodle, toss on whatever sauce, veggies, meatballs, whatever and BOOM. Dinner’s served. Trader Joe’s Corn Penne Pasta Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
While certainly not as good as homemade, this is way better than the more famous blue box. For a fun, spicy twist on this American classic, dash in some Trader Joe's Habenero Sauce... if you dare. Read more about Trader Joe's Macaroni and Cheese Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
A unique take on the classic formula, the edamame hummus certainly tastes the part while retaining a smooth, creamy texture. It’s even better when matched with the TJ Quinoa and Black Bean Infused Tortilla Chips, or perhaps our next entry. Read more about Trader Joe’s Edamame Hummus Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
I can hear the cynics from here: “Yeah, batter up anything and deep-fry it on a stick, people will eat it.” Yeah, well, read the product again, slowly: Shrimp. Corn. Dogs. That is not a misprint. Read more about Trader Joe’s Shrimp Corn Dogs Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
Right, lamb and vindaloo aren't all that unusual for those familiar with Indian cuisine... but to have a frozen entree of it that's absolutely delicious, straight out of a microwave, of all things? I mean, it's microwavable lamb. Now that's unusual, and that's before what your coworkers will think of your lunch. Amazing, but it needs more lamby bits. Read more about Trader Joe's Lamb Vindaloo Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
These warm, gooey, choco-swamped fresh-outta-the-oven awesome-with-ice-cream cookies were our constant temptress when we (Russ and Sandy) gave up sweets for Lent. Don't ask us how we made it through. Read more about Trader Joe's Journey to the Center of the Cookie Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
Combine dark chocolate and peanut butter AND wafers and cookies and what’s the result? An empty bag in minutes. Those with low willpower, avert your eyes. Read more about Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Wafer Cookies Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
We tend to think these are a tad overrated, but that doesn’t mean they’re not any good. If these nutty treats were left off the list, our fans would be storming the castle with pitchforks. Read more about Trader Joe's Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds Photo Credit: © What's Good at Trader Joe's?
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