Biz Beat

Does shopping make you want to eat and drink? Modesto’s new Save Mart lets you do both

Everyone knows you go to a grocery store to buy food and drinks, but going to a grocery store to eat food and drink? Well, unless you’re illicitly grazing through the produce section, that’s a little different.

While supermarkets have long had small cafe areas where customers can grab a sandwich or a cup of coffee before or after shopping, the new flagship Save Mart store that opens Wednesday on Oakdale Road takes it up a notch. The grocery chain has opened its first fast-casual restaurant, called The Tipping Point, which serves food, beer and wine throughout the day.

The name comes from its menu, which is all tri-tip all the time. The Central Valley’s signature grilling cut is featured five ways in the restaurant: as wet or dry sandwiches, tortas, tacos or on a salad. The beef is fire-grilled in-house over almond wood.

And to wash all that beef down, The Tipping Point offers a large selection of beer and wine on tap. Expect 20 taps of mostly local craft beer as well as three taps exclusively for wine (and additional varieties offered from the bottle).

Offering craft brews and wine on tap is new for valley supermarkets. For the past year, the downtown Modesto specialty grocer The Market at La Comisaria has operated its own in-store restaurant and brewery with Persuasion Brewing. And other regional chains — including Raley’s and O’Brien’s — have wine tasting nights and other special events at certain locations.

But with The Tipping Point, Save Mart becomes the first major grocery chain in the area to allow regular wine and beer sales and consumption within its store.

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The new Tipping Point eatery at Save Mart in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Andy Alfaro

Now, sorry to burst your bubble, you can’t just stroll through the store with your pint. You’ll have to finish your beer and wine inside the 20-person indoor seating area or 40-person outdoor patio. But the idea is for the restaurant to become its own destination, or at least a welcome pit-stop, for shoppers.

Like many of the other amenities inside the Modesto-based grocery company’s new flagship store on Oakdale Road, the restaurant is meant to draw people in for something they can’t get somewhere else. It joins the complementary meat grilling station, the fresh produce/fruit cutting stand and the nut butter grinding stall as things the company hopes you won’t be able to live without.

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“There’s a theater to it, being able to watch someone do it, whether it’s our produce specialists or our chefs,” said The Save Mart Companies CEO Nicole Pesco. “It’s something you can only find in the store.”

But, if you really can’t make it out of the house, you can order the food from The Tipping Point online and have it delivered to your home. Save Mart has partnered with DoorDash across its locations to offer home delivery of its service deli and hot food selection, including its rotisserie chicken, deli sandwiches and side salads.

The Tipping Point menu should be added to the app-based delivery service in the near future, shortly after the store opens.

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Tri-tip sandwich on ciabatta roll at the new Tipping Point eatery at Save Mart in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Andy Alfaro

So, what can you expect if you sit down in The Tipping Point? The restaurant is designed to look like a shipping container in another nod to the valley’s agricultural and manufacturing roots.

All of the menu’s tri-tip options run $9. You can choose between wet or dry tri-tip sandwich (though definitely get it wet, because life is better au jus), a tri-tip torta with refried beans and guacamole, a tri-tip salad or two tri-tip tacos with in-house made tortillas all served with a generous side of tortilla chips.

Not into tri-tip? The menu options are admittedly more limited, but you can certainly try the grilled Mexican street corn (also known as elote) and in-house fried churros (drizzled in chocolate, because life is also better with chocolate) for $3. Craft beers run $5 a pint, and wine is $6 a glass. Or for the indecisive or curious, there are flights of beer or wine for $6.

Tri-tip salad, Mexican street corn, and churros at the new Tipping Point eatery at Save Mart in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Andy Alfaro

The outdoor patio, with its raised produce beds planted by local 4-H clubs, also is an entirely dog-friendly space. So bring Fido and have a beer. Now, if you can just train Fido to do the rest of the grocery shopping for you, then maybe they’d really be onto something.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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