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Whole Foods' Landmark Store

Yesterday my brother Eric and sister-in-law Karin took me to visit Whole Foods Market's new landmark store in downtown Austin. It didn't disappoint. According to Whole Foods' Website, the landmark store is their largest at 80,000 square feet, compared to an average store size of 32,000 square feet. The ready-to-eat section is staggering -- made-to-order sandwiches, made-fresh noodle and rice bowls, pizza, hot dishes, smoothies, gelato, desserts -- and that's not counting a separate seafood bar where customers can dine on freshly grilled salmon and halibut burgers. Walk-through refrigerated beer section? Check. There are two levels of below-ground parking, with grocery cart-capable moving walkways. Suddenly my Whole Foods Market at home feels horribly inadequate.

Whole Foods 1

The front of the store.

Whole Foods 2

One of two outdoor dining areas -- the other is on the roof.

Whole Foods 3

Eric: "Did you see the Doom-slash-Half-Life 2 scene back there?"

Whole Foods 4

The amazing candy counter -- complete with selections from Fran's Chocolates of Seattle.

Whole Foods 5

The most tantalizing display of gelato I've ever seen, including while in Italy. Top-center-right, with chile peppers stuck in it, is chocolate chipotle -- wow.

If you're ever in Austin, I highly recommend a visit. If shopping is increasingly entertainment, this is the cutting edge of the trend when it comes to groceries.

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Comments

My wife and I were in Austin at the end of March (a week or two after SxSW), staying at a hotel downtown about six blocks from the new Whole Foods.

We visited the store every single day we were there, usually multiple times, and it was the last place we went before heading out of town. The quality of the prepared foods there was amazing, and made for the best meal we've had on United Airlines in a decade.

We even sat at the seafood bar you mentioned, and had a couple of plates of food and a bottle of champagne. (And that would be my biggest complaint; they served the wine in standard glasses, instead of flutes.)

All in all, it was a stunning store, Food Heaven in all senses of the phrase. The experience of shopping there is not to be missed if you're in Austin.

Hi Michael!

Sadly, we missed the seafood bar when we walked in the store, or we would have had lunch there -- freshly grilled seafood burgers and wine would have been perfect. That said, my unagi bowl was good (they have a grill for finishing off the unagi right before serving it) and of course the chocolate chipotle gelato I had for dessert was wonderful. So I guess one can't go wrong there.

I'm not enthralled with the idea of living in Texas (to each their own), but I have to admit, if I could live within walking distance of that landmark store, it would be tempting. Thankfully, they're building more supersized Whole Foods -- according to this page, stores between 70,000 and 80,000 square feet in Pasadena, CA; Chicago, IL; Annapolis, MD; Minneapolis, MN; Paramus, NJ; and Dallas, TX. Presumably more will follow...

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