Today was opening day for the new Whole Foods on 97th Street and Columbus Avenue, and we walked through the doors at 8:30 a.m. First up: a latte from the coffee bar, followed by a long stare at the gelato counter (yes, a gelato counter).Like the Union Square store, this one is two levels, with prepared foods, bakery, and specialty items upstairs and the produce and grocery downstairs. A few highlights:
• Did we mention the gelato? It's all Ciao Bella, which, yes, you can buy by the pint. But it might be a nice thing to walk over for after dinner.
• There's a beer bar. You can buy a Whole Foods growler and have it refilled with the beers on tap. It's not as big as the beer room at the Bowery location, but it's a nice addition.
• We saw goat cheese-stuffed peppadews at the olive bar. Have they been reading the Kitchn?
• There are bulk bins! No spices, unfortunately, but even grains and nuts are an upgrade from the Columbus Circle store, which doesn't have a bulk section.
• Cheap chicken. We bought a (non-organic) vegetarian-fed, antibiotic-free, farm-traceable whole chicken for $3. It was 99 cents a pound, and it wasn't on sale. We've never seen this option at the other stores.
• New compostable packaging. We saw a lot of meat packaged in compostable trays, which we haven't noticed much in other stores yet.
• A large eating area. We occasionally like to grab lunch or a quick dinner at Whole Foods, but last time we were at the Chelsea store (no seating area), we had to take it to go. This store has a nice, airy eating area.
• There's a wine store next door. It's been open a week already, actually. It's not huge, but it's got a good selection and a cooler for instantly chilling a bottle you want to drink right away.
There was no line at the checkout—yet—so it wasn't a big deal that employee ringing us up had a little trouble. We'll be interested to see how they handle traffic flow when it's packed.
In our haste to get out the door this morning, we forgot our camera. Fortunately, someone else hit the store early: photographer Jamie Beck. We found her photos on Flickr, but you can see more of her work on her blog: From Me to You.
Anyone else in the neighborhood checked out the new store? What do you think?
(Images: Jamie Beck of From Me to You. Used with permission.)