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Fresh & Easy: First Look Slideshow

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This week five fresh&easy grocery stores er, "neighborhood markets," opened in metro Los Angeles. We visited the Glassell Park store located in a gutted Albertson's on Eagle Rock Blvd (map) for our first impression of UK-based Tesco's (the world's third-largest grocer) attempt to hook finicky West Coast consumers.

The array of fresh&easy branded products is impressive. The packaging is minimalist, reminiscent of a Safeway or Walgreen's branded generic. But as you'll see in the slideshow below, fresh&easy has a wide selection of freshly made, ready to eat/reheat/defrost goods ranging from shrimp and sushi to tripe to bundt cake.

fresh&easy also sells wine for $1.99, but it's no Two-Buck-Chuck. We sampled the Cab-Shiraz blend and found it as uninteresting as Yellowtail or similarly cheap, mass-exported Australian wine. Big Kahuna -- in white and red -- is distributed exclusively for "f'n easy" by a subsidiary of Australian-based wine distributor Copestick Murray, in case you were wondering. There is also a befuddling overstock of Taurino Cerveza, available in 12 bottle cases for $6.99.

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The staff is incredibly friendly (and non-unionized) but the store lacks any lifestyle vibe that many Whole Foods and Trader Joes or even How's shoppers can relate to. In other words, don't plan on meeting your future spouse in Aisle 3. There is certainly nothing at f'n easy like the tapas and tasting pickup corner at the new Whole Foods in Pasadena (see our photo essay here), although the fast-moving, self-service checkout lines allow for a quick getaway, should a poorly chosen pickup line slip out.

Get ready Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, and Simi Valley, fresh&easy will be opening in your hood (and tripling its LA area presence) in the coming months. Here is a map of current and future locations.

Check out our extensive slideshow:

Click on the large photos to view a caption.