A High Guide to Corner Store Eats
You may know them as convenience stores, bodegas, or mini marts. But regardless of what you call them, you immediately recognize the overpriced stores that exist solely to provide Cheetos and soda. The corner store — in all its dim light and bulletproof glass glory — is my favorite place to eat while stoned.
The high brain is singular in its pursuit of food. Post-smoking munchies can drive anyone to eat a cold hotdog or lick the Cheerio dust left behind in the box. The stereotype of stoners mindlessly eating is both well-deserved and celebrated. But if you’ve run out of food at home, the resulting search can drag you through a gauntlet of yelp reviews and take-out menus. In place of the restaurant dash, let me suggest my favorite place to dine: the corner store.
Objectively, corner stores are small, filthy, poorly-stocked grocery stores. They tend to be ugly and seedy. Most have the connotation of selling drugs or other illicit activities. And if you go into one, the chances are high that you will get robbed or witness a robbery. But despite all their failings, corner stores are beautiful when you are high. Each one is like a puzzle.
Unless your block has a 7-Eleven or other chain, your local store is likely independently owned. That means that money for a new sign or prominent advertising is lacking, and you will have no idea what the place actually sells by just looking at the storefront. It could be a liquor store or smoke shop. Even locales with aisles of food could lack essentials like bread or milk. Corner stores are also highly variable based on the socio-economic status of the location. Bougie places will have IPAs and dark chocolate. More blue collar haunts will sell beef jerky and 40s. So high shopping for sustenance becomes a game of chance.
Other than the puzzle element, corner stores are my personal favorite for high dining because they are welcoming. Not welcoming in a warm or inviting way, but rather due to a lack of judgement. The motto of “convenience” trumps all other social norms. You could purchase condoms, bananas, motor oil, generic boner pills, diapers, and Fruit Loops and not get a second look. Corner stores are beloved institutions of degenerates and insomniacs. Even if you enter while high, you can be sure that: 1) There is someone more inebriated than you shopping and 2) You will not crack the top-10 strangest things the owner sees that night. As long as you don’t try to steal anything, you can enjoy a safe environment to sample the delicacies of non-perishable food stocks.
Vital to enjoying a corner store experience is understanding the layout. This is difficult because they are not structured for easy access or visibility. They are based on the whims of shopkeeper who has to maximize his/her dirty, small space. Goods will be stacked in corners and placed on high shelves. Ask for something and you will be directed to a general area where it is impossible to find said item. But even amongst the chaos there is still order. Use the following as a high guide:
- Drinks: Located in refrigerators along the walls of the store. One look at the number of fridges will tell you your beverage options. A high number means the place has everything from tall boys to fruit juice. A low number means the limited space is reserved for sodas. The staple of every corner store — and every high excursion — is the Arizona Iced Tea. Twenty-four ounces of high-sugar tea for 99 cents. If your chosen spot does not have this, move onto the next one.
- Entrees: The entrees of corner stores tend to be sandwiches. If your place has a deli counter, then you have hit the jackpot. Even a simple bread-meat-cheese combination will make your night. While New York City corner stores crush the deli game, hidden gems can be found anywhere. Don’t underestimate the power of a tub of potato salad or some meatballs. If your locale doesn’t have an operating deli counter, they likely have some pre-packaged sandwiches and burritos tucked away in a refrigerated case. Do not eat these, even under the highest of circumstances. The low turnover of most stores means that the sandwiches could be sitting for months. And I have never witnessed anyone — even red-eyed friends — enjoy a microwave burrito. The entree is necessary to satisfy the savory/starchy part of the high palette, but do not stoop that low.
- Nuts: Trail mixes are an underutilized part of snacking. Nuts combined with dried fruits can satisfy both fatty and sweet desires. Depending on the size of the corner store, there will be either an entire aisle dedicated to nuts/trail mixes or a small rack near other snack food. Do not mistake the nuts available at a corner store as a healthy option. Most things will be filled with added sugars and tons of salt. Enjoy them regardless. You are not here to search for health food. That is for the morning when you wake up feeling like shit. My go-to in this section is honey-roasted peanuts. They combine the rare sweet-salty-fatty taste profile.
- Chips: These should be easily spotted, as they are big item for corner stores. Often times, an entire aisle will be dedicated to chips. The guiding principle is: cheaper is not better. Every store will have the usual rotation of Lays, Cheetos, and Doritos. Some will even have off-brand versions. But do not be tempted by cheap prices for big bags. In this case, quality is more important than size. Upgrade to the kettle variety. We are in the golden age of artisanal chips. Try something new and interesting. And if you feel that your high stomach needs to be filled to the brim, then load up on popcorn.
- Frozen Food: Often times, a corner store will stock a freezer with an assortment of pizzas, Hot Pockets, and frozen dinners. Ignore the tempting pictures on the packaging and do not splurge for a DiGiorno. Given your high state, this will lead to a situation in which you munch through a half-cold pizza. Unless you have pre-heated your oven before venturing to the store, avoid a frozen food purchase.
- Overpriced Staples: On the rare occasion that you need a crucial ingredient for a recipe, popping into a corner store can be key. But if you’ve read this far, chances are slim that this situation has ever occurred. Instead, you have probably wandered through barren aisles and wondered why a can of soup and a package of Ramen cost $5. Unless you are in dire need of a bowl of cereal and milk — which is a situation I find myself in a surprising amount — move onto the next section.
- Misc. Cultural Goods: Depending on where you do your shopping, you may encounter an entire display of food that is foreign to you. Mexican snack cakes, South American fried corn, and Asian candy all fit into this category. If you’re feeling up to it, choose something at random. If will either be the best thing you have ever eaten or you will need to spit it out after one bite.
- Ice Cream: Typically located in a case near the check-out. Given their non-perishable nature, owners are particularly generous in their stockings. You will be able to find most flavors from Ben & Jerry’s, Haagen-Dazs, and the likes. There is no wrong choice. Every high night that ends in an entire pint of ice cream is a success.
- Candy: Positioned near the entrance/exit for impulse buys. Depending on your tastes, you could either go chocolate or sweet. Chocolate will range from a Hershey’s bar to dark stuff. Go for the Snickers and save the “healthy” stuff for a day when you don’t have a bag of chips and a sandwich in tow. On the sweet side, your options are endless. Combine with sour for an added taste bump. Or go for the gummy snacks and have an onslaught of gummy bears/worms/sharks/spiders. The texture will be particularly appealing, as will the process of biting off the animals’ legs.
Use this guide to support your local spot, however dingy it is. Part of the experience is becoming familiar with the shopkeeper and clientele. Get in on some corner store eats and we won’t have to live in a world where the blazed go to Whole Foods to buy $6 asparagus water.