8 Best And 6 Worst Grocery Store Deli Counters

As any frequent grocery shopper knows, no two supermarket deli counters are created equal. Sure, a typical grocery store in the U.S. will slice up basics like cold cuts and cheese while also serving pre-made sides and salads. Yet, while the goal of every grocery store deli counter is relatively the same, each national chain approaches this area of the store a bit differently. Some focus on in-house branded items, while others opt for the allure of name brands like Boar's Head deli meat to take up the most counter space. 

We did some digging to get the general feeling that grocery store shoppers have about various deli counters. A few chains came out on top, while a few people avoid certain supermarket delis at all costs. To help you plan your next shopping trip, we've rounded up some of the best and worst grocery store deli counters you might encounter. It will hopefully help you to avoid overspending on lackluster deli items, and end up with all of the ingredients for the sandwich picnic lunch of your dreams. 

Best: Publix

It's no surprise that Publix, a grocery store chain that's popular across the Southeastern U.S., has rave reviews for its deli counter and offerings. The supermarket has developed a cult following for its sub sandwiches, often dubbed "Pub Subs" by fans who claim that these are the best grocery deli treats out there. Publix sells both Boar's Head and its own in-house brand of deli meat at the deli counter, but the Pub Subs are often made with Boar's Head. 

Another popular pick-up from the deli counter is the store's fried chicken and chicken tenders, the latter of which goes just as well on a loaded sub sandwich as it makes for a filling meal all on its own. The chain is also often lauded for its selection of cheeses and pre-made drinks, including southern-style sweet tea. Whether you're getting the ingredients to make a sub at home or picking up a premade sandwich, most shoppers can agree that the deli counter is a must-stop during a Publix run.

Worst: Walmart

There are a lot of great reasons to shop at Walmart, the main perks being its low price tags on a wide variety of household items. However, the deli counter at the superstore is not one of them. The meat and cheese sold at the Walmart deli counter are probably fine, at least from a general health perspective, but they also likely won't be the best in taste or quality. The offerings are typically limited and it seems to customers that the deli case isn't often refreshed with new items to make ordering there more appealing. 

In a 2021 Mashed survey, 30% of respondents named Walmart as the store with the worst deli counter of all, so it's safe to say that widely held opinion maintains that cold cuts and picnic salads are better bought at another store. For other party supplies like paper plates and sandwich bags, however, you may find that Walmart's prices are hard to beat. 

Best: Wegmans

Wegmans is a relatively small grocery company with a scattering of East Coast stores that have earned the chain a seriously loyal customer fanbase, especially for the treasures that are sold in the deli section. Many praise the store for carrying a wide variety of deli meat and other items, making the Wegmans deli counter ripe for exploration. Outside of hard salami and oven-roasted turkey, you can often find more unique cuts of meat like authentic Jamon Iberico from Spain or 18-hour smoked pastrami brisket. 

The extensive array of other deli treats like cheese and sausages at a standard Wegmans deli counter also helps a home cook to get creative. Just get your wallet ready. Some customers have pointed out that it's easy to rack up a hefty bill at the Wegmans deli, but if you're smart about shopping, its price tags are comparable to other mainstream grocery chains but with higher-quality products. 

Worst: Kroger

Kroger is another popular grocery store chain that is mostly found in the eastern half of the U.S.  though its parent company owns many other chains across the nation. But just because this is an easily-recognized brand doesn't mean all of the store's offerings are the best of the best. Many dissatisfied customers have complained about the Kroger deli counter, saying that its food is basic and overpriced for its quality. Aside from some mildly interesting offerings like New York's Murray's Cheese, the meat and cheese options are boring. The chain's pre-made meals, many of which come from the Home Chef brand, also are very limited. While the rotisserie chicken won't be bad, it's far from the best-premade chicken you can buy at the grocery store by a long shot, especially considering its price.

Likewise, the cold sides do little to draw interest, with standard dishes like potato and macaroni salad. These simple offerings aren't even very flavorful, according to customers who have tried them. "Why not switch it up a bit and get rid of some of these lackluster-looking options they have at the deli in favor of new dishes and if the sales explode they know they're onto something?" u/chaos_battery wrote on Reddit. "Like year after year is the same stuff and I'm tired of going to different stores to get the best items."

Best: Sprouts Farmers Market

Sprouts Farmers Market is a grocery store with locations across the U.S., boasting a major presence in states like California, Texas, and Florida. It's a self-touted "healthy" grocery store with many alternatives to what's available at other run-of-the-mill supermarkets. That uniqueness extends to the store's deli counter, which features a wide variety of meat, cheese, and premade food for all of your picnic needs. 

Sprouts sells both its own in-house brand of meat and cheese and the ever-popular Boar's Head for fans of the name brand. Customers reserve special praise for the sausage selection at the Sprouts deli, as well as pre-sliced grab-and-go options that make it easier to grab some sandwich supplies when you can't wait for the deli workers to slice your order. Speaking of sandwiches, many Sprouts locations also earn extra points for offering a build-your-own sandwich station for a fresh, yet budget-friendly lunch after a day full of shopping. 

Worst: Stop & Shop

Shoppers who live in New England, and more specifically in the state of Massachusetts, understand the woes of finding groceries at Stop & Shop. The grocery store chain is seemingly everywhere, but it often doesn't deliver high-quality items despite the often high price tags on grocery staples. Overall, only 27% of participants in a Boston.com poll rated the overall price and quality of what's for sale at the store to be "superior," a feeling that extends to the deli department. 

A few customers have claimed that they've even seen expired deli meat on sale in the store, despite paying what they believe was an above-market price for the rather unimpressive package. "Other markets, like Dave's, tend to have a reputation for being expensive, but on average I've spent more at S&S for less (and poorer quality) food like meats and produce, per shopping trip," one Reddit user wrote.

Best: Meijer

Meijer is a Midwestern grocery retail giant with a reputation for a deli counter that is filled with fresh items at a reasonable price. Anyone who has been to a Meijer knows it's a store with a little bit of everything, including not just groceries, but clothes and home goods, too. Its deli takes a bit of maneuvering, but it's worth searching for gems when you have the extra time. 

Meijer's deli counter has just about everything you could ever want, from fresh-sliced meats to an olive bar to homemade soups. The deli serves Deitz & Watson meat and cheese, which some customers say is comparable to Boar's Head but priced lower, as well as an in-house brand. Additionally, people say the pre-shredded rotisserie chicken sold at the deli is some of the best such chicken from any grocery store chain. "Meijer has way better store brand meat and produce and I prefer the store layout," u/tytymctylerson wrote on Reddit. 

Worst: Food Lion

Those from the East Coast are likely familiar with Food Lion, a budget grocery store. They also likely know not smart to let the discounts fool them, as Food Lion is hit or miss. Many customers have pointed out that the selection across the store is minimal, making it hard to complete a full shopping trip there. 

When it comes to the deli at Food Lion, those customers argue that it's worth skipping altogether. The meat isn't always the freshest and the options are slim. Even the deli's premade fried chicken is notorious for being bad with some claiming that the breading is soft or that it even tastes like the plastic container it's bought in. To many, this is one deli counter staple that should at least be decent at every grocery store. One Reddit user even declared Food Lion to be the worst grocery store of all time, claiming that the competition isn't even close and that store's overall poor quality can be especially obvious in the deli department. 

Best: Costco

Costco doesn't have a traditional deli counter, but its deli selections and premade items rival most of the other stores on the list. Whether it's heat-and-eat mac and cheese or fresh shrimp cocktail, the deli refrigerator in your local Costco warehouse has it all. Rotisserie chicken is also a favorite among shoppers for its versatility, while traditional deli items like meat and cheese have a great reputation as well. 

As with most items sold under the Kirkland Signature label, house-branded deli meats and cheeses are a favorite among shoppers for making sandwiches, charcuterie boards, and more. These include seasoned roast beef and black forest ham. "I had the Kirkland sliced turkey breast sold by the pound. It was so good. Best deli meat I've had, perfect thickness," u/adventurous_lime1049 wrote on Reddit. 

The one downside to Costco's deli counter is that, like everything else for sale at the store, it generally sells items in bulk. For some, it's simply not always practical to buy huge quantities of deli meat and cheese unless you have an event or a large household that can eat it all before it gets old. However, when the occasion for massive amounts of meat and cheese strikes, going to Costco is a no-brainer. 

Worst: Whole Foods

Whole Foods is a grocery chain that's earned a reputation for selling a number of high-end products, as anyone who has shopped there has seen when they take a look at their receipt. The store is especially well known for selling organic and fresh food options as well as a bar that offers plenty of different salads and prepared meals. Despite the allure of the store, however, there's no reason to shop at the Whole Foods deli unless you're looking for a specialty item no one else carries. 

Consider the truth that deli meat isn't necessarily great for your health. It doesn't matter if Whole Foods is selling the most organic and natural version of salami, for instance — it's still a highly processed meat that can contain preservatives and high levels of sodium and fat that you may wish to avoid. Shoppers are better off saving the extra money they'd be spending on deli meat at Whole Foods to get far more meat for far less at another grocery store. Additionally, considering the deli's proximity to the hot food bar, you can skip the added temptation of paying per weight for a box of takeout food.

Best: Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter is another East Coast chain with a loyal following, especially when it comes to this store's deli counter. Despite being a massive chain, your local Harris Teeter can feel more like a local neighborhood market with fresh options. The deli counter is no exception, offering different meat and cheese options from its own brand, Boar's Head, Private Selection, and iGourmet. What's more, many customers praise Harris Teeter for having consistently well-kept locations with rotating sales to help keep the shopper's final receipt down. 

Outside of the massive selection of meat and cheeses, the premade food sold at the Harris Teeter deli counter is just as well-favored. Customers are largely happy with Harris Teeter's take on affordable premade items like sushi, pizza, and sandwiches. The deli also sells a large section of care packages and gift baskets featuring items from the store, making it a great destination for gifts as well as everyday shopping. 

Worst: H-E-B

H-E-B is a beloved Texas grocery store, but the items sold at the state's regional chain can be hit or miss. For example, H-E-B stores sell tortillas that are made in-house and which are a must-try for any customers who stop in. However, the deli counter is less than spectacular. Firstly, in some locations, this spot could be a contentious area of the store, with some workers reporting ill treatment by customers and a stressful environment (though others seemed to enjoy the sometimes fast-paced work).

Then, there are the foods for sale. Aside from Boar's Head and a few Texas Heritage cured meat products, the deli counter at H-E-B is nothing special. The prices aren't particularly low and the items are generally fine, but nothing worth raving about. Even the store's basic rotisserie chicken isn't a cult favorite, which is not the case with some other grocery store chains. In short, while H-E-B is a fine option for regular grocery shopping, don't expect anything spectacular from the deli department. 

Best: Market Basket

Market Basket is another New England grocery chain, but one with a way better reputation than Stop & Shop. Many customers are big fans of the store not only for its wide selection but its reasonable prices. In a Boston.com poll, Market Basket was the third-highest-rated store for its quality. It was only beaten out by Roche Bros. and Wegmans, both of which customers tend to leave with a higher bill than at a Market Basket store. 

The deli is one fan-favorite section, and not just for the famous hot dogs. "I do make the trip to Market Basket for deli meats way bigger selection much better prices and sales," u/jeo3b wrote on Reddit. Other fans praise its deli for the wildly low prices on specialty items, like Parmesan Reggiano and other cheeses. People also remain loyal to the store for its business practices, including the way the company treats its employees and its dedication to giving customers an optimal price-to-quality ratio. 

Best: Super King

One major appeal of shopping at Super King is the reasonable price tags that can be found on a variety of international groceries, including the items behind its deli counter. The family-owned chain, which has locations around Southern California, sells seemingly everything at its deli counter, from caviar to olives. Whether you're looking to snag some authentic Spanish ham or ordering a deli platter for a party, it's hard to go wrong when you're stocking up at the Super King deli. 

Super King might not have the most locations across the U.S., but it's more than worth stopping at for your meat and cheese needs if you're lucky enough to live nearby. It's the kind of store that's worth taking the time to wander through, especially when you make your way to the deli to discover a new favorite that probably isn't on your list. "Huge range of produce/bulk goods, a great deli, and an ok butcher with awesome middle eastern goods as well," u/kitkatbar wrote on Reddit.