Via Flickr by: ShashiBellamkonda

Trader Joe’s is a grocery store, yes. But I don’t think I’m stretching the truth by saying it’s also a SoCal cultural obsession, a sort of social club (as anyone who has been to the TJ’s on Hyperion in Silver Lake can attest) and a journalistic muse. In the latter category, The Atlantic’s Alessandra Ram is the latest to weigh in, praising the store for heeding customers’ demands for “socially responsible” food:

In 2010, after taking heat from Greenpeace, Trader Joe’s pledged to sell only seafood products that had been harvested using sustainable practices by December 2012. Since then, it has been on a steady mission to eradicate all non-sustainable products from its shelves, including genetically modified items. This, combined with its boutique-like items and Hawaiian shirt-clad staff, make it one of the most innovative grocery stores around …

Factoring in that Trader Joe’s is wildly more affordable when compared to luxury grocery stores such as Whole Foods or Andronico’s, the balance strikes a chord with a new generation of shoppers that expects a lot out of their grocers. But what, exactly — besides environmental activism — contributed to this shift in message? And what do Trader Joe’s recent efforts reveal about the future of food access and consumption in this country?

You can read the rest of Ram’s piece for answers to those questions. In the meantime, we asked our Facebook friends a simpler one: What are your most and least favorite TJ’s food items?

I would’ve pegged Anthony Lasam’s answer of “two buck Chuck wine” as a least favorite if not for the smiley face he added to it…  Anthony, if you’re under 25 all is forgiven.

Greg Torres swears the TJ’s frozen orange chicken is “better than many restaurants,” but when it comes to TJ’s toothpaste he’s “not a fan.”

Vanessa Lee likes the whole wheat naan, frozen meatballs, cheeses and dark chocolate bars, while Jeanine Holguin praises the dried mangoes, olive oil popcorn, chocolate pretzel thins, cat cookies and goat cheese pizza.

Some lamented onetime favorite products that have disappeared from shelves, including pesto lasagna, chicken tacos and dairy-free blintzes.

Alix Stayton was unfailingly diplomatic about the brown rice tortillas,  of which she said, “weren’t least favorite, I guess, we just didn’t really like them.”

The parking lot was also a least favorite.

Because it’s Friday, I’ll wrap this up with a hilarious bit about TJ’s by Los Angeles-based comedian Kyle Kinane.  I saw him do this at Largo more than a year ago and I still think about it when I shop at Trader Joe’s. Have a great weekend!

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