UPDATED 11/19/13, 8:47pm
We get a lot of phone calls about where to buy shochu in the Bay Area. I love talking to people about this -- as you know, we are here to spread the shochu gospel here at Umami Mart. So here's a definitive list of where to go for your shochu needs. The list is based on places that sell at least five different bottles of shochu, so sadly, you'll find that the list is quite short. I've mapped all the locations on Google Maps, as the inaugural Umami Map! The map will be updated as I find more places that sell lots of shochu.
Nijiya in Japantown is the only place to find a wide array of shochus in San Francisco. This market has been around for ages (remember when it was Maruwa?), and is really the city's only Japanese grocery store. The shop is pretty cramped overall, and although their shochu selection pales in comparison to their sake offerings, they are doing what they can to fit in many shochus.
You'll also usually find sales on many shochus which always helps the ever-shrinking wallet. There are Nijiyas all over the Bay Area, and Southern California too, so you can find many varieties of shochu at any of their stores.
I only discovered Yaoya-san in the past year, as it's all the way in El Cerrito and I live in Oakland. I usually go to Koreana Plaza or Tokyo Fish Market to do my Asian market shopping, but their shochu selections are dim. Shame on Tokyo Fish, they only carry THREE shochus! So they didn't make this list. But I was pleasantly surprised with Yaoya-san's shochu selection, crammed on a couple shelves in their tiny little mom-and-pop style Japanese grocery store.
Not bad, right? Thanks, Yaoya-san, for keeping shochu alive in the East Bay. We need you!
After a tip from a reader, I dashed over to Ranch 99 in Richmond to check out their shochu selection. Again, it's a little further north of Berkeley, but they did indeed have an okay selection of shochus, mixed right in with the sakes.
Thanks Martin, for bringing Ranch 99 to my attention!
Ah, the South Bay. Yoko and I are both from this suburban enclave known as the Silicon Valley, often generalized as San Jose (cringe). We make fun of our hometown a lot, but really, this is where to go for some of the best Japanese restaurants and markets in the Bay Area, since there are so many Japanese people who live here.
A chain of Japanese markets sprinkled around over LA, Marukai opened a shop in Cupertino about 10 years ago. This location is really nostalgic for me, as it used to be a Longs Drug Store, my high school hangout. But they were bought out by CVS (sigh), and this location turned into Marukai, which was a good move.
Marukai's shochu selection is great -- I've consulted with Washi, certified Shochu Advisor and Umami Mart columnist, who confirmed that Marukai has the best selection of shochu in the Bay Area (this line was corrected per the comment below).
About a ten minute drive from Marukai is Mitsuwa, a long-standing Japanese market -- it is a South Bay institution (I've also written about the one in New Jersey). Mitsuwa is a mecca for all your Japanese grocery shopping needs, with Kinokuniya book store and Santouka ramen, all under one roof.
Take a look at Mitsuwa's shochu selection!
Such an extensive selection is mind-blowing for a shochu-lover living in the States.
Here's the map I've put together of all these places. Check it out!
View Where to Buy Shochu in a larger map
I feel really fortunate to be living in an area where all of these shochus are readily available to take home. For all of you that are not so lucky, Astor Wine in NYC sells excellent shochus for online purchase.
1737 Post Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
10566 San Pablo Avenue
El Cerrito, CA 94530
99 RANCH MARKET
3288 Pierce St #99
Richmond, CA 94804
19750 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Cupertino, CA 95014
675 Saratoga Ave
San Jose, CA 95129