Nobody ever even slows down. Nobody buys the sushi. I’ve asked other people and they’ve seen nothing different. At one of the H-E-B markets closest to home there have been two recent innovations. One was the installation of the tortilla-making machine. The results are nothing special (made from a commercial mix, and mostly wheat), but they are thin and hot. People buy them. The other experiment is the installation of a little counter past the deli department and on the way to the meat and fish case. When everything’s up and running, three people stand there, elbow to elbow, making little fishy dainties. It’s as though they’re invisible. Maybe the H-E-B people were hoping to capture some business from all those newcomers to be seen south of the river, the ones with pricey vehicles to which are attached bicycle-holders for expensive bicycles. These peope don’t shop at H-E-B. When they put their recycling bins out at the curb, the paper sacks holding their newspapers are from Whole Foods or Central Market, not H-E-B. This is the H-E-B that, when it first ventured to stock a couple of dozen bottles of wine as an end-cap, had a little blackboard over the small display of bottles, on which were chalked suggestions for serving and pairings. The one never forgotten had an arrow pointing to I forget which bottles, saying “great with catfish and tamales.” And there are always customers at the truck in the parking lot selling elotes and also esquites. H-E-B is very ruthless about what goes and what stays. If that little sushi stand is still there in a couple of months, we’ll know that somebody’s buying the sushi; if it disappears, that will mean something as well. Maybe the elotero will get to come in out of the weather and take those precious square feet.

2 Comments so far

  1. wixlet (unregistered) on December 19th, 2004 @ 8:57 pm

    we’ve seen the sushi case all but sell out on several occasions. i think the sushi counter has been in place for 2-3 months now? and it’s possible that this move was a nod to the underrepresented-on-grocery-store-shelves asian population in austin, since the space on either side of the cold case holds what the average whitefella would see as a specialty item. it’s nice to not need to drive to north austin to buy a few basic ingredients.

  2. Rantor (unregistered) on December 20th, 2004 @ 6:08 am

    It must be that my visits to the store are always before sushi-buying hours. Certainly H-E-B keeps nothing around that people don’t want and doesn’t even keep items that people do want unless they complain all the time. Examples of the latter are the unfavorable shelf positions given to El Galindo tortillas at our local (very bottom), even though the corn tortillas are classic (nothing but corn, water, and lime, which is very unusual these days) and to E.G. tortilla chips, which must be scooped up early in the day if they’re to be had at all. As to sushi, the Hancock H-E-B has become too busy to endure with any great frequency, but sushi has been in and out and back in there. It’s not all that long ago that, for fresh fish, Quality Seafood was it, although of course there was catfish to be had when dining out. Marc Katz had a steak, chops, and seafood place (called Boston something) over on the east end downtown) that was excellent and Maceo’s from Galveston, also excellent, was here before the warehouse district became the Warehouse District. There wasn’t enough custom to support either. People knew to hit the shrimp trucks that used to set up over where the Taco C. in front of Paggi’s is. How buying and dining habits have changed!

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