If you're looking for any of the three, it's worth a visit. Sysco is the giant food company that supplies so many restaurants. I don't know if the store is a service for small restaurants or some kind of outlet. But's it's well-stocked, well-organized, and it really offers some entertaining finds.
First, the food looks like a small Costco. Frozen, canned and packaged food in huge containers -- five pounds of chicken nuggests, 10 pounds of pasta, six pounds of apple sauce. You can buy name brands or the Sysco version. I don't know these prices, but the name brands lookedgood quality like Heinz ketchup, Real Lemon lemon juice, etc. This is great if you needed huge quantities of frozen shrimp, shredded cheese, olives, tomatoes, etc. Some unique options that caught my eye:
- Ketchup, mustard, mayo packets that you buy by the pound. I didn't buy them because I couldn't figure out exactly what I would do with them, but they'd be great if you pack your lunch.
- Frozen soup bases that you mix with water to create stock. Beyond the pedestrian chicken and beef stocks, Sysco offered lobster, clam, ham and crab. At less than $10 to make five gallons of soup, they might be a nice option if you were cooking soup for a party.
- A two-pound brie for $11.15. It's President brand so that is no risk, and the large wheel would make a striking centerpiece on a party buffet. Cover that with one of those jam and nut toppings, and it would be spectacular.
Second, work the back room and the front corner for party supplies. The back room is basics with foam cups, paper plates in huge quantities. You could buy 250 plates for $11, which is a bargain compared to what I have paid on the morning of a barbeque. The front corner is higher end. Plastic rolls of tablecloth ($11 for 100 feet would be great to dress up picnic tables.
The colorful napkins and paper plates coordinate with $2.19 tableclothes for an indoor soiree, and there were 89-cent serving spoons that looked like metal until I picked them up. Classy plastic!
But the real unique option is the catering trays. These are the disposable plastic trays for carrying an array of sandwiches or setting up a picnic. They're invaluable to cart your creations to a picnic or a pot luck, and I have never seen this selection or these sizes at a supermarket.
Last, check out the restaurant supplies against the far right wall -- baking sheets, bowls, saute pans, coffee urns. These are clearly products for the professional. They're not heirlooms like Le Cruset. They're working products at prices that looked good to me, especially because the other option I know for items like candy thermometers or knives is William Sonoma, which sells high-end and charges that way too. Some of the products are huge. Like 40-quart stock pot huge. How do I justify storing that in the basement? Others are just things that looked cool on Top Chef like an array of stainless steel bowls.
If I were outfitting a kitchen, I'd do it from Sysco. They sell all kinds of basics like measuring cups, knives, bowls, etc. Mark Bittman -- who is brilliant and practical -- has a great article and video on the NYT Web site about equipping an entire kitchen for $200 with another $100 of extras. He says you need to go a restaurant supply store. Check out Bittman's video and his article and then go to Sysco.
The Sysco Discount Food Center opens at 9 am Monday to Saturday. It's open until 6 pm on Monday-Wednesday, 7 pm on Thursday and Friday, and 2 pm on Saturday.
Thanks to HowICook and ho.co.po. for the tip about Sysco in other comments. The stretch of U.S. 1 in Elkridge is a great place to explore if you're looking for interesting food. Check out an earlier post about touring down from the Ceazar International Market near Rte 100 past tacos, organic groceries, empanadas, fish and more to Rte 32.
Sysco Discount Food Center
7540 Washington Boulevard (U.S. 1)
Elkridge, MD 21075
NEAR: The Sysco store is on the west side of U.S. 1 between Rte 100 and Rte 175. It's the same complex as the U.S. 1 flea market. The Sysco store is in the shopping center to the north of the flea market.