This is Marie, contributing an article about Jungle Jim’s, an international food store near Cincinnati. Our regular readers know that we aren’t just into restaurants, despite the overwhelming appearance of the posts here, but also enjoy cooking and eating interesting and exotic foods. We have watched the increasing availability of international foods with pleasure and excitement, but even so there are still some things hard to get. Whatever it is you want, Jungle Jim’s probably has it. So when Grant was looking for places to visit while I was up there for a business trip, this place just jumped out and shouted “Me! Pick me!” For goodness’ sake, a 6-acre store that offers guided tours? Gotta go there!
The place is set up like a combination grocery store and theme park. There is a cute little monorail track leading to a retired set of monorail cars along one side of the building. On another side is a zoo of plastic wildlife, with life-sized giraffes and elephants seeing guests back to their cars. Inside the store are other sometimes stunningly tacky, yet nevertheless awesome, displays. The Sherwood Forest display was my favorite decoration, though. I have a soft spot in my heart for giant trees, especially ones with hidden faces smiling over a secret hoard of gold and riches. Grant learned, too late, that there are far more sculptures and statuary outside than we saw, and spent a day kicking himself for missing out on a wonderful and enormous sea serpent.
My cousin was kind enough to bring us along, and help to guide us. Knowing my love of cheese, she brought us to that section first. It is immense. The photo below only shows about a third of it. I got several different kinds of imported Dutch cheese, including a lovely raw milk boerenkaas, which is terribly hard to find due to some rather baffling rules about food safety.
Grant, as you may know, is a fan of small-label everything, but it grew out of a love for odd little soda varieties. You should have heard him when we walked past a full aisle of glass bottle sodas, or, as they call it in Ohio, “pop.” That wasn’t even the whole soda selection, just the ones in glass. We bought cans of Irn Bru and Vimto, and bottles of Hank’s Orange Cream, Cock & Bull Ginger Beer, Gale’s Root Beer, Moxie, Jackson Hole Snake River Sarsaparilla, Kutztown Birch Beer, and, for the girlchild, Jack Black Blood Red Cola, a mixture of favorites and new flavors. It is an amazing selection, and while it’s not accurate to say that they stock every soda that you can think of – neither Buffalo Rock nor Double Cola, favorites of ours, were represented – it is still the largest single selection of different brands of “pop” that we have ever seen in one place, with literally dozens of labels we had never seen before.
Sadly, we were hindered partly because I had an incredibly inadequate budget for the trip, and partly because the toddler had recently had a losing battle with a new tooth and was less than totally happy. He enjoyed the car cart with the steering wheel until the lack of a working seat belt resulted in Mommy being totally mean and switching him to the front seat. He was mad at me and wanted to be hugged at the same time. We dropped by the potato chip displays and the unbelievable shelves of hot sauces, the Holland display (candies for me) and the English display (tea for me), and paused to hear an animatronic Lucky Charms leprechaun sing a classic rock tune from the deck of the S.S. Minnow, as silly a popular culture mashup as can be imagined. Eventually, we reluctantly tore ourselves away to give the baby some ibuprofen and time to nap.
This is a store which really needs to be visited without a toddler and with a large surplus of time and money. I am actually quite glad that we don’t live nearby, as my budget would be totally blown every month and we’d go short on laundry soap in order to buy more cheese. A very dangerous place, this. As it was, we also blew our time budget, foolishly thinking that this could be appreciated in under an hour, when it actually took us nearer two. We enjoyed it tremendously. Then we spent even more time rearranging our luggage to make room for all the cheese, tea, and “pop.” That’s another thing that travelers need to consider before going overboard on groceries: how are you going to get all these amazing treasures home?
Other blog posts about Jungle Jim’s (and there are a lot more where these came from):
Neil Zurcher’s One Tank Trips (Feb. 13 2009)
Campbell’s Scoop (Oct. 2 2012)
Fabulous 50s (Oct 10 2012)
My Meals are on Wheels (Oct. 17 2012)
The Chocolate Cult (Dec. 5 2012)
Dives Without Wives (Dec. 19 2012)
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