Bill's Imported Foods
If you don’t know about Bill’s Imported Foods, but if you live in the Twin Cities, cook and like food, you should. It’s on the corner of Aldridge and Lake. It’s been there since the 1980s and at the time reminded me of the old ethnic groceries in my neighborhood in Toronto in the 1970s. In the early 1980s the Tirokomos family started the business with a truck and a garage, trekking weekly to Chicago to stock up on nice Greek food and then supplying local Delis and Restaurants across the State. By the time I found them they had a small shop named Bill’s. Kiki ran the shop and Bill, a tall, lanky well-dressed linen clad fellow looking much like an extra in any eastern Mediterranean film I can remember, drove the truck and played cards in the back with his mates. A pair of little dark haired, black eyed Greek boys would peek out from the back and occasionally scamper through the store.
From its inception, a case like you would find in an old fashioned butcher shop lined the east wall. A row of clear plastic tubs line the bottom of the case filled with Feta from France, Bulgaria, Hungary, Egypt and several places in Greece. Since the late 80s their cheese selection has expanded to include some 90 domestic and imported cheeses. Tubs of olives floating in brine sit next to the feta come from all around the Mediterranean. Today they stock some 30 varieties.
The shelves run east to west filled with exotic ingredients. If you have stumbled on an exotic recipe you have to make and are in dire need for adreih, biber, jerk spice, sumac or za’atar, Bill’s has it.
I have always gone there for the olive oil. Kiki sells olive oil by the gallon – or its metric equivalent – is well stocked with Italian, Greek and Spanish varieties. Her oils are not the super expensive cult oils found at some of the higher end stores but they are better and far less expensive than the chain store super market oils. I can always find some exotic looking can of Italian or Spanish oils and then Kiki will steer me to something Greek, explaining “all the best.”
Behind the counter Kiki keeps boxes filled with fresh baked treats from Chicago’s Greek town. When the grandkids were small enough to carry in a pack, a common adventure included a stop at Bill’s for a baklava, galaktoboureko, koulourakia, or kourabiethes, then a stop at the nearby Bryant Square Park and then a brief hydration stop at Bryant Lake Bowl, before the long march home.
Kiki has slowed down lately. She is not there as often and she spends more time sitting in a chair by the window. The little boys peeking from behind the cheese case are now full grown and spend more time running the shop. It is still the place to go for olive oil, fresh feta, olives, pita, exotic spices and cheese and the prices are good.