Saturday, April 14, 2012

A subterranean food obstacle course in Manhattan

This Whole Foods Market in Manhattan is packed with produce displays.


The Whole Food Market on Columbus Circle in Manhattan has no street entrance and no windows.

You can take an escalator or elevator down to the store in the basement or concourse level of the glittering Time Warner Center, which is between 58th and 60th streets, opposite Central Park.

I've attended Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts in the multilevel building a few times, but didn't visit the store until this past Tuesday.

Part of the seafood counter at the Columbus Circle store.

I immediately started making comparisons to the Whole Foods Market in Paramus, and one of the first things I noticed is how many fixtures, displays and carts are crammed into the Manhattan store.

It's something of an obstacle course, and on Tuesday night, the store was packed with food shoppers, making for slow going in the narrow aisles.

The Columbus Circle store has a pub that serves "local" beer, wine and food, and a happy hour (Monday-Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.).

The salad bar is $8.99 a pound, compared to $7.99 a pound in New Jersey, but wild-caught shrimp and flounder were on sale for the same price in both stores.

I also discovered Whole Foods is the least expensive place to eat in the Time Warner Center, which has some of the city's most expensive restaurants.

A 9-course tasting menu at Per Se is $295 per person (gratuity included), and you can blow $500 on a meal at a Japanese restaurant called Masa.

Olives and other antipasti are $8.99 a pound.

Even Bouchon Bakery -- with its counter service and scramble for a table -- is pricey.

I ordered tomato soup, which is displayed in a beautiful white bowl, and it was served in a plastic takeout container with a plastic spoon ($8.98).

A small coffee was $2.45, compared to $1.65 at Whole Foods, and the market's many soups are available in three sizes (8 ounces cost $3.49 in Paramus and Manhattan). 

The Manhattan store also has a hot-food bar, and serves Asian-Indian food and sushi, with tables and chairs inside and outside the pub.

For residents of condos in towers atop the Time Warner Center, "running out for milk" isn't necessary. They never have to leave the building to reach the market.

Whole Foods Market, 10 Columbus Circle (Time Warner Center concourse level), New York, N.Y.; 1-212-823-9600. Open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

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