I'm a Midwesterner living in NYC who shopped at Publix for the first time, and I see why Southerners are obsessed

  • I went grocery shopping at Publix for the first time on a recent trip to Tennessee.

  • I'm from the Midwest and live in New York City, so I've never visited the Southern grocery chain.

  • I found Publix to be a one-stop shop that I wish I lived near enough to make my go-to grocery store.

On a recent trip to Knoxville, Tennessee, I visited the Southern grocery chain Publix for the first time.

The exterior of a Publix grocery store
I visited Publix for the first time.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Publix has 1,297 store locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

I grew up in Wisconsin, where I grocery shopped at local chains like Sendik's and the Roundy's brand Metro Market. I now live in New York City, where I've tried out grocery giants like Wegman's.

Upon walking into the store, I was greeted with a floral section at the entrance.

The floral section at Publix in Tennessee.
The floral section at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Like Trader Joe's and Wegman's, the flower section featured bouquets as well as potted orchids.

Venturing further in, I was struck by how many prepared food options Publix offered.

The deli counter at Publix in Tennessee
The deli counter at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Publix's deli counter served an array of meats, cheeses, and sandwich fixings.

The fish counter offered grab-and-go sushi that looked delicious.

Sushi at Publix in Tennessee
Sushi at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Prices per roll ranged from $7 to $10.

The bakery section contained tons of cakes, cupcakes, and even macarons.

The bakery section at Publix in Tennessee
The bakery section at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

There was also a freezer that stocked ice cream cakes.

A seating area near the deli allowed Publix patrons to sit and eat their purchases.

A seating area at Publix in Tennessee
A seating area at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

It was decorated with artwork in various shades of Publix green.

The giant cheese display made my Wisconsinite heart very happy.

The cheese section at Publix in Tennessee
The cheese section at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

The large refrigerated cheese section was on par with displays I've seen in Midwestern stores.

The produce section included pre-cut fruits and vegetables in addition to raw ones, all looking fresh and juicy.

The produce section at Publix in Tennessee
The produce section at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Against the back wall of the produce section, a sign advertised that the fresh fruit was hand-cut daily.

I loved the packaging design of Publix's store-brand ice cream.

Publix brand ice cream for sale at Publix in Tennessee
Publix brand ice cream.Talia Lakritz/Insider

In addition to classic flavors like chocolate and chocolate chip cookie dough, Publix also offered flavors like moose tracks, cherry nut, and chocolate almond.

I was thrilled to find Dunkaroos, a favorite childhood snack.

Dunkaroos at Publix in Tennessee
Dunkaroos for sale at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

A classic '90s snack that was discontinued in 2012, Dunkaroos are back and taste just as good as I remembered.

Publix had a well-stocked kosher section, something that I always look out for.

The kosher section at Publix in Tennessee.
The kosher section at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

"Kosher" is a word derived from the Hebrew term meaning "fit for consumption." A kosher diet is made up of foods that observant Jewish people are allowed to eat, according to a set of religious dietary laws as detailed in the Torah and codes of Jewish law.

As someone who observes this practice, I was surprised and grateful to find a large kosher section at Publix in Knoxville, where the Jewish community is relatively small. According to the local Jewish communal organization Chabad of Knoxville, all three Publix locations in the area have kosher sections.

Even the Publix store-brand boxed macaroni and cheese was certified kosher, which is rare in my experience.

A box of Publix macaroni and cheese
Publix macaroni and cheese.Talia Lakritz/Insider

I brought a few boxes of Publix's mac and cheese back home with me. It was that good.

With a broad selection of kitchenware, Publix seemed to have everything covered.

Pots and pans for sale at Publix in Tennessee.
Pots and pans for sale at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

The kitchenware section had enough pots, pans, utensils, and gadgets to fully stock a kitchen.

Publix highlighted local Tennessee food items in a special display.

A display of local Tennessee food items at Publix in Tennessee
A display of local Tennessee food items at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

The display consisted mostly of sauces and spice rubs for some classic Southern barbeque.

Another Southern item that I wasn't used to seeing in grocery stores was grits.

Grits for sale at Publix in Tennessee
Grits at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

A Southern breakfast staple, grits were shelved alongside oatmeal and granola.

The selection of firearm magazines also reminded me that I was indeed in the South.

A magazine section at Publix in Tennessee
A magazine section at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

Tennessee passed a permitless carry law last year, allowing people over the age of 21 to carry firearms without a permit as long as they have no criminal history and follow posted signage.

It's not a predominantly Southern policy — other states with permitless carry are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. But as a Wisconsinite who now lives in New York, I've never lived in a state with these gun laws, so I was surprised by the wide selection of firearm magazines at the Publix I visited.

In addition to a full grocery store, the Publix I visited also had a pharmacy section.

A pharmacy section at Publix in Tennessee
A pharmacy section at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

There was a counter with pharmacists on staff as well as shelves of items you'd find in a drugstore, like allergy medicine and cosmetics.

I've only ever seen this many travel-size toiletries at places like Target and Walgreens.

A section of travel-size toiletries at Publix in Tennessee
A section of travel-size toiletries at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

If I had forgotten any toiletries on my trip, I would have been able to find them here.

There was even an aisle for electronics, which I haven't seen in grocery stores in the Midwest or New York City.

Lightbulbs for sale at Publix in Tennessee
Light bulbs for sale at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

I was able to buy a replacement dongle for my headphones after mine stopped working on the flight to Tennessee. Aside from Targets and Walmarts with grocery sections, that's not something I've seen in grocery stores before.

Publix had both cashiers and self checkout, which kept lines short.

Self check-out at Publix in Tennessee
Self check-out at Publix.Talia Lakritz/Insider

While the Midwesterner in me loves chatting with grocery store cashiers, the New Yorker in me wants to get in and out as quickly as possible, so I opted for self check out.

As a one-stop shop for groceries, pharmacy items, and gadgets, I can see why Southerners love Publix so much.

A woman in sunglasses standing outside a Publix supermarket
I visited Publix for the first time.Talia Lakritz/Insider

If I lived near a Publix, I probably wouldn't need to shop anywhere else.

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