A (super)market: Whole Foods

After months of construction, St. Paul’s new Whole Foods store has finally opened. The Vintage on Selby — the mixed-use development at the corner of Selby and Snelling which contains this store — is finally complete. Whole Foods celebrated their grand opening in mid-March, over spring break. Now that the novelty has worn off, the crowds have died down and it’s worth popping in there to check the store out.

The first thing you’ll notice about this store: it’s absolutely huge. The old Whole Foods (at Grand and Fairview) was incredibly cramped, with low ceilings, narrow aisles and not much selection. It did the job, but trying to navigate through that store with a cart of groceries (or a hand full of free samples) was always stressful. This new store, on the other hand, is downright luxurious to be in. It’s over 45,000 square feet — almost double the size of their old store. There’s no shortage of room inside here, and the aisles are plenty wide for multiple shopping carts to maneuver through. This new store has tall ceilings and a lot of natural light, making it feel almost relaxing to be in.

In terms of their grocery selection, there’s not much to say; the selection is pretty much the same (although I wouldn’t be surprised if they had more in stock compared to the last store.) The real draw however, for this store, is their dine-in features. Every Whole Foods has a small dining area and a pay-per-weight salad bar, but this one has an entire restaurant in it.

The Selby Bar & Grill, as it’s known, is right in the southwest corner of the store, so you’ll see it right when you walk in. They’ve got a full tap and wine list (when I went earlier in the week, they had twelve beers on tap) — with surprisingly good selection, and really generous deals to celebrate their opening. Their menu is surprisingly affordable (my portobello mushroom sandwich and fries was only $8), and leans more toward burgers and bar food. They have made-to-order-breakfast, available all day, which may be worth checking out. My portobello mushroom sandwich was very good — it wasn’t outstanding, but it was filling, satisfactory and arrived very quickly. You place your order on a kiosk right outside the grill, which makes ordering go pretty efficiently.

There’s also plenty of other frills inside the store like coffee and gelato bars (I didn’t try the gelato, but the coffee was very good and affordable — $2 for a medium, I believe), made-to-order sushi or sandwiches and a juice bar. I ordered a “Green Monster” smoothie from the juice bar which had kale, a bunch of fruits, orange juice and ginger. The ginger gave it a really strong kick, and I’d say it was worth the $6.

My take on the new Whole Foods: if you’re a regular Whole Foods shopper, keep shopping here. Full disclosure to Whole Foods — I’m more likely to patronize them for free samples than for groceries. But this store is beautiful on the inside, and is really pleasant to walk around in. If you’re curious, the restaurant and other features — gelato, juice, sushi and so on — are worth trying out. They’re really good in their own right, and it’s nice to have more dining options in the neighborhood. But that being said, this Whole Foods is right across from the Neighborhood Café and Cahoots Coffee. Instead of getting a beer at Whole Foods, why not go to a locally-owned, well-established restaurant that Macalester students love? Whole Foods has done nothing wrong here — they’ve rebuilt a tired-looking street corner and upgraded their own store. They’ve done a really good job of it, too. But the Neighborhood Café and Cahoots have done nothing at all to make me take my business elsewhere. All due respect to Whole Foods, but I’ll probably keep getting my Surly Furious at the Neighborhood — for it’s only $3 during happy hour, and they know me by name there.