Weekend Plans: Head to Whole Foods Mecca in the Midwest.
The third largest Whole Foods in the world opened in our very own Lincoln Park on Wednesday, May 20. Located on 1550 N. Kingsbury, its relocation from the former North Avenue and Sheffield store comes with 75,000 square feet of improvements, making it an organic food Mecca in the Midwest. The exciting opening kicked off with a speech by Mayor Daley, and loyal customers arriving surprised as they were re-directed from their usual route and store.
Maggie Bahler, the executive marketing coordinator for Whole Foods’ Midwest region explained that while it took just over a year to build, its been in the works for more than eight!
Third in size to Kensington, England and Austin Lamar locations, the site includes 400 free parking spaces, bike racks, and digitally enhanced check-out lines (think flat screens), with not one but two levels of outdoor seating overlooking the Chicago River, including Wi-Fi and views of the Sears Tower. “With this beautiful weather, you can even kayak to the South Loop Whole Foods if you wanted too,” said Bahler. While a beautiful space indeed, Bahler could not prepare me for what was to be found inside.
The locally-conscious store sells their usual Whole Foods groceries galore, with their organic private label products like 365 and the infamous bulk bars of olives, dried fruit, beans, trail mix, granola, and whole wheat pasta. However, every section is bigger and better, with more variety and hype. There’s the“1550 Brew,” a bar brewing Allegro tea and coffee during the day and serving beer and wine at night. And, if there’s anything I learned from first sight, it’s that every item has its own bar; there’s even a seafood bar, which bakes fish made to order, with a self-serve buffet of calamari, shrimp and shellfish while you wait.
And if you like to eat while you shop, the “Chicago Eats” section includes Windy City staple restaurants: Taylor Street Italian, Wicker Park Subs, Pilsen Taqueria, Lincoln Park Chocolates, Lincoln Park Gelato, Chicago Smokehouse and Rotisserie, and Riverview Dine-In. The sushi-to-go station at Asian Express cooks stir-fry and Vietnamese right before your eyes, while Da’Vine, the wine and cheese bar, includes more seating for laptops and Wi-Fi customers. Bahler recommends heading over to the bakery, where international cookies like macaroons, kalaczi, biscotti, fortune cookies, and shortbread are all cooked with the finest products of the Midwest. The store also includes the largest (and most unique) Whole Body section of soaps, lotions, oils, clothes, and an exclusive baby needs section, all made with locally-conscious ingredients.
Now that you’ve crossed your morning coffee, tea, grocery shopping, lunch, dinner, body goods and baby care off your list, the evening is free to spend at a cooking class taught upstairs! Customers can sign up for the Taste and Travel Series: Italy, India and Israel (the featured class for June). But before you leave, don’t forget to pick up a catering menu, Chicago Eats brochure and the May & June event calendar, as this Whole Foods Mecca will be your everyday summer getaway.