It’s Just Lunch / Lexington Co-op on Hertel
Lexington Co-op on Hertel offers an array of hot and cold prepared foods including salad fixings, soups, sushi, sandwiches, and entrees.
Photos by JP Thimot
1678 Hertel Avenue
The Lexington Co-op moved from Lexington years ago into a larger space on Elmwood Avenue, where it has continued to thrive and grow. Fresh and local fruits and vegetables abound in every season, the bulk section is comprehensive and harbors some fun surprises, and the proteins, whether plant-based or flesh, are carefully selected for optimum taste and minimum environmental impact. But perhaps the Co-op is especially respected and appreciated for its prepared foods.
From soup, salad, and baked goods to meat and veggie entrees and sides, the Lexington Co-op has answered the prayers of many a weary adult too beat to create their own healthy, fresh, and delicious meals from scratch. Simply choose what strikes your fancy, wrap it up, and take it home for an easy meal. Oh, you lucky Elmwood villagers.
As of July 12 of this year, however, a second Lexington Co-op location opened on Hertel Avenue. Now, Nortel folks have easy access to all the great stuff that’s always been available from the Elmwood Co-op location—with an ever-expanding selection of both cold and hot prepared foods. And here, with a large seating area in store, plus several tables out front, customers no longer have to take their meals to go.
A couple of us Spree staffers decided to walk to the new Lexington Co-op on Hertel from our office on Elmwood one warm, sunny fall day, while our coworker with all the camera equipment drove to meet us there. Sure, about two-thirds of the two and a half miles there, he beeped and pulled over, and we sweatily hopped into his car, but it was a noble and invigorating pursuit, nonetheless.
Once there, a veritable smorgasbord awaits. The store is visually stunning: bright, super clean, rainbowed with fresh produce and flowers, with rows of packaged and prepared items, plus a couple of huge food bars, one for hot and one for cold food. There are always pots of soup available, too, as well as hot rice and quinoa.
The online menu reflects the items that are available at both the Elmwood and Hertel locations. It includes the soup(s) of the day, vegetarian or vegan entrée, meaty entrée, and side dish. Additional items are usually available at each store, and it’s worth a trip to find out what those are. Store hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Lexi’s Kitchen Hot Bar hours are 7 a.m.–10 p.m.; breakfast sandwiches and wraps are served from 7 to 10 a.m.; and entrees and soups are available starting at 10 a.m.
We picked out a mishmash of treats to try. Favorites included the Thai peanut tofu bowl ($8.99 per pound); spicy avocado inari ($5.99); a huge turkey sandwich with cranberry mayonnaise ($6.99), and various fresh baked goods. From the hot and cold bars (both are $7.99 per pound) we chose baked cod, lentil soup, addictive roasted brussels sprouts with bacon (so much bacon!), and bits and bites of tasty items too numerous to list. It was all truly delicious. But don’t take (only) our word for it. Here are some enthusiastic reviews from the Lexington Co-op Facebook page that we thought captured the impression perfectly:
“Oh my. Lexi’s kitchen prepared food is phenomenal. Whoever is the head chef there does an incomparable job of presenting wholesome delicious dishes made with prime ingredients at a reasonable price. I wouldn’t hesitate to try anything that they put out. Italian sausage soup is worth the trip alone. Bravo!”
“They have a really good hot & cold salad bar! I had Lamb on Quinoa, Stuffed Grape Leaves, and a Cold Salad with all the fixin’s and Green Goddess Dressing. Very Fresh!”
“This is the most wonderful place to spend some time in. All of the people who work there believe in what they’re doing. And it shows. Each department is knowledgeable and eager to help. Have a question? Oh, you’ll get an answer and then some. The quality of their produce is unmatched by any other supermarket in town. Lex is getting better at adjusting what they offer in terms of meats, offering smaller portions and cuts that are at a lower price point. For this Hertel store, they’re becoming completely in sync with the neighborhood. It’s a lovely place. There’s something for everyone.”
It’s true. The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable. I don’t know how they memorize where every last thing in the store is located, but they do. Some small details worth noting: the cutlery is compostable and there is a three-holed compost/recycling/landfill bin; bathrooms are both available and clean; there is a drinking fountain and you can fill your own water bottle at the filtered water dispenser, Buffalo Cooperative Federal Credit Union has an ATM on site, a variety of cupcakes are sold individually, great for one person, and in packs of four, also great for one person, and each has about six pounds of delicious frosting on top.
What distinguishes the Hertel location most is the ability to stay and eat in. Available seating includes several tables with umbrellas on the wide sidewalk in front of the store for fine weather dining, a bar along the front windows with stools, perfect for people-watching on Hertel, plenty of two tops, several larger tables for group lunches and family dining, and one enormous wooden table for big groups or projects.
You don’t have to rely on prepared foods here, if that’s not your gig. You can buy any edible thing off the shelf and consume it in the store. Even compose your own creation. Why not? There’s plenty to choose from.
Wendy Guild Swearingen is senior editor of Spree.