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CL's guide to Charlotte's best (and worst) grocers

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I visited a small, 13-aisle beige and blue Food Lion that was "the grocery store that time forgot." One aisle heading said "Spanish Food," but you won't find smoked paprika here, rather New World Latino food items. This store did have labels "Featuring N.C. Food Products." The cheese section is small as is the organic section and the pasta offerings. Canned goods are offered in large quantities, and most of the wines are under $10.

The Johnston Road store is larger with more products and seems to be in a process of reinventing its concept. The current word among retailers is shoppers prefer either the big warehouse food markets like Costco and Wal-Mart or the upscale spots like Harris Teeter. This 20-aisle store is undergoing a metamorphosis. Currently the aisles are curved to accommodate more products. The interior of what had been a Hannaford is painted yellow -- even the ceiling. Yellow is not a color I normally associate with food. I was disappointed in the rotisserie chicken, which was tough and had no time stamp.

FOOD LION QUICK TAKE

Layout: Large but crowded shelves.
Produce: Below average; small organic selection.
Fish Department: Small.
Meat Department: Some of the chicken has water added.
Bakery: Small; primarily celebratory cakes.
Prepared Foods: Rotisserie chicken is not recommended.
Specialty Items: Below average.
International: Small.
Finds: 32-ounce Texas Pete bottle.
Reward Card: MVP Card.
Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Food Lion, 7400 Candlewyck Lane.
Hours: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
Food Lion, 10120 Johnston Road.

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