In 2001 Sophia Skopetos, a native of Kalamata, Greece, took over a small corner shop in Belmont and renamed it Sophia’s Greek Pantry. The store features a selection of fresh feta cheese (Greek, French and Bulgarian), a Greek olive bar, a homemade yogurt station and a large selection of freshly made pastries, both sweet and savory.
“I wanted to introduce Greek culture and food to this country,” Skopetos said. Among the wide selection of Greek olive oils is her own family-produced oil imported from Greece.
“Ninety percent of my clients are non-Greeks,” she said.
The Greeks come mostly for the holidays to pick up traditional foods like vasilopita, a sweet egg and milk bread baked with a coin inside used to welcome the New Year. A second Sophia’s in Lowell is run by her daughter.
Numerous ethnic markets have sprung up around the area representing the city’s long history of welcoming immigrants and refugees, from the waves of Irish and Italians escaping poverty and famine in the 19th century, to the Southeast Asians who sought refuge from the Vietnam War and more recently, Middle Easterners from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Along with them, they brought to Boston their cuisine and traditions.
Have a hankering for real Ethiopian coffee? Need sushi supplies? Indian Spices? Authentic Lebanese baklava? Boston has you covered with its wide variety of ethnic markets.
585 Mt Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02472
Arax Market is one of several shops in the Armenian neighborhood of Watertown offering specialties from the region, including Armenian coffee, a wide variety of products including (when seasonally available) fresh almonds, dino plums, cherries and vine leaves.
Elma Food Market (traditional foods from the region of former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria)
44B Ferry St. Everett
Run by Edin and Elma Cutovic, who are from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzogovina and frequented by Balkan immigrants from Albanian to Serbia and Bulgaria, Elma Food Market offers regional speciality foods from the ex-Yugoslav region, with a focus on Bosnian specialties from Elma’s homeland, where her family owned a shop before fleeing the conflict in the 90s. The shop is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. most other days. Here you can find Bosnian specialties like the Bosnian filo pastry burek, Smoki, a much-beloved peanut and corn-puff snack, avjar, a red pepper spread popular throughout the Balkans, Jamnica mineral water from Croatia and Vegeta, a spiced salt from Croatia used in many recipes.
67 Chelsea St, Everett, MA 02149
Brazilian immigrants were originally drawn to Massachusetts because of the significant Portuguese population sharing the same language. Nowadays, Massachusetts is the state that has the second greatest Brazilian population (approximately 65,000) in the U.S. after Florida. Many came to the country beginning the 1990s in seek of work while escaping hyperinflation and political instability in their home country. Dozens of shops catering to Brazilians and Latinos can be found around the Boston area. One large and popular shop is Super JC Market in Everett which offers not only Brazilian products, but also products from Central America, smoothies, salgados (deep fried savory pastries), fresh butchered meats and breads.
Chinese and Asian
Super 88 Market and Food Connection food court
1 Brighton Ave., Allston
Giant Chinese and Asian grocery store that includes a delightful food court offering foods from different regions in Asia, including Vietnamese, Chinese, Hawaiian poke bowls, mochi donuts at Pon de Joy and Kung Fu bubble tea.
Ethiopian and Eritrean
Merkato (injera, teff, raw Yirgacheffe coffee)
1127 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA
Located in Roxbury, a diverse urban neighborhood popular with many new immigrants, Merkato offers traditional Habesha foods in its shop (also online at merkatousa.net) as well as prepared foods in their restaurant called Dahlak Paradise, owned by husband and wife from Eritrea. The shop offers all you need to make homemade injera, the slightly sour flatbread critical to East African cuisine. In addition to cooking ingredients and spices, Merkato also carries fresh coffee beans and coffee roasting pans, hand-woven cooling mats and incense burners. “No need to go back home or tell your family to ship what you need to you,” is the store’s motto.
Sophia’s Greek Pantry
A Greek specialty store with outlets in Belmont and Lowell, Sophia’s offers homemade yogurt, pastries and prepared foods in addition to all the ingredients needed to cook a proper Greek meal.
265 Belmont St., Belmont, MA 02478
425 Moody Street, Waltham, MA 02453
Patel Brothers Indian market is a chain of South Asian markets across the U.S. and is one of several Indian shops to choose from in the “Little India” district in Waltham, just outside Boston.
425 Moody Street, Waltham. The shop stocks everything you need for Indian cooking including hard-to-find vegetables and fruits, big bags of nuts, beans, a huge variety of spices, grains, dried fruits and frozen prepared foods including batters for idli and dosa.
Iranian and Afghan products (including naan and halal meat)
444 Main St., Woburn
Opened in 2020 by Saeed Rajabi, an immigrant from Iran, Iryana specializes in Halal meat and Halal cold cuts and offers regional specialities such as Persian pickles, sweets, Afghan naan bread, spices and other Middle Eastern products.
Historic Italian grocery store founded fifty years ago by the Martignetti family in Boston’s Italian North End neighborhood, Salumeria naturally offers prosciutto and other cured meats, plus all the other Italian staples like cheeses, sauces, pasta, olives oils, antipasti and Illy coffee.
151 Richmond St, Boston, MA 02109
Ebisuya Japanese Market
65 Riverside Ave., Medford, MA 02155
Fresh from the pier prepared sushi plus all the ingredients to make sushi and other traditional Japanese dishes at home, Ebisuyu is tucked in a strip mall behind Medford’s main street. In addition to stocking all manner of snacks and ingredients including sushi-grade fish, Ebisuyu also offers cosmetics and household goods. Open six days a week; closed Mondays.
428 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 02446
Since 1972 The Butcherie in Brookline offers Kosher meats and foods in this Orthodox Jewish enclave in Brookline. Here you can find your homemade challah bread, Kosher chicken, beef, veal, duck and lamb, 15 types of herring, bagels, lox, wine and beer.
808 Dorchester Ave., Boston, MA 02125
Euromart offers a wide selection of Polish products. Shoppers rave about their pierogies and kielbasa. They also have lots of cheeses, sausages, cold-cuts, baked goods, candies and pickles.
16 Brighton Ave., Boston, MA 02134
Turkuaz Market, which in Turkish means ‘turquoise’ like the waters of the Aegean and Mediterrean seas, this Allston shop offers a selection of Turkish and Middle Eastern products, including such Turkish staples as ayran, a salty yogurt drink, dried fruit and nuts, legumes, fresh vegetables, homemade baklava and a selection of Turkish black and herbal teas and Turkey’s most famous coffee Mehmet Efendi.
424 Cambridge St., Allston, MA 02134
A chain of Russian groceries stores with four outlets in the Boston area, in Brookline, Allston, Newton and Framingham, the Baza stores stock smoked fish, several types of pickled vegetables, wines from Georgia, Moldova and thirty types of caviar.
Vietnamese/ Southeast Asian
Phu Cuong Market
1188 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, MA 02125
Located in Boston’s “Little Saigon Cultural District,” Phu Cuong Market offers a wide variety of regional foods, including fresh fish, a wide variety of vegetables including bok choi (in three sizes) and purple yams, an entire isle of rice noodles and Bahn Trang Hoa Hong (rice paper spring roll wrappers).