Saturday, April 28, 2012

Is it a student center or a supermarket?

The scene at a Whole Foods Market in SoHo, not at a nearby university.
Another unusual feature of this Manhattan store is a gelato bar on the first floor.
Is Bowery -- or skid row -- an appropriate name for the store's burger bar?
Who is drinking all the tea to go with these tea cookies?
The sushi bar uses a conveyor belt to present items priced at $3 and up.
A $45-a-month Whole Foods Market Wellness Club entitles members to cooking and yoga classes, and discounts of 10% on food and other items, including these salad bowls.
Members of a cooking class enjoying the fruits of their labor in the Culinary Center.
Take a seat and order dinner from an open kitchen (menu below).
Pan-Seared Cod with Couscous and Mango Salsa is only $16.99.
Bars and restaurants on Eldridge Street are a few blocks away.
Family Recipe (231 Eldridge St.) is owned by a female Japanese chef.
A bodega is a reminder you are on the Lower East Side.
Zoe is another restaurant on Eldridge Street.
Beautiful tiles adorn a hallway in a residential building.

Every Whole Foods Market is different, and the two-level store on East Houston Street in Manhattan is unlike any Whole Foods I've ever seen.

I spent a couple of hours there this past Thursday night, watching well-heeled neighborhood residents rub shoulders with apparently well-heeled students from nearby New York University.

Getting an education

On the second level, where food is served, students seemed to predominate, gathering around books at communal tables, enjoying dinner or relaxing in small couches and talking.

The store, one of seven Whole Foods in Manhattan, boasts of innovation. Here is an excerpt from its Web site:

"Check out Rustica Minardi, our interpretation of an Italian osteria; our Beer Room, with six beers on tap and extensive home-brew selection; the Brinery, a destination for all things pickled; Fresh & Wild salad station, and much more."

The store is in lower Manhattan, at East Houston Street and the Bowery (Third Avenue) -- borders of SoHo and the Lower East Side, respectively -- but it is called "the Bowery store."
Ignoring history

That is an unfortunate designation, especially when it is used at the burger bar, because it recalls horrific incidents in a nearby park on Chrystie Street in the early 1990s, when homeless men were robbed and set on fire. 

All Whole Foods Markets are a celebration of natural and organic food, but the two Manhattan stores I've visited recently make my Whole Foods in Paramus seem plain and unimaginative.

There is plenty of prepared sushi in Paramus, but nothing like the long sushi bar with a conveyor belt on East Houston Street.

Several rice bowls are available at the sushi bar.

The Paramus store offers an abundance of hot and cold prepared food for takeout or enjoyment in a small dining section, but you can't look at a menu and ask a chef to prepare your dinner before your eyes and serve it to you, as you can on East Houston Street.

I once visited the Whole Foods in Union Township, in Union County, and was amazed by Osteria, its small Italian-American restaurant, where you can order a la carte or choose a pasta-and-salad meal for 4 people for only $25.

And wine is available with your meal.

Why can't we have that in Paramus?

Whole Foods Market, 95 E. Houston St., Manhattan; 212-420-1320; open 7 days from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Web site:


  1. "Why can't we have that in Paramus?"

    Because people won't buy it.

    Whole Foods isn't stupid. As a former food reporter you should know a little bit about the market, shouldn't you?

  2. Of course people would buy it.

    A meal of pasta and salad for 4 is $25 at Osteria, the restaurant at the Union Township Whole Foods Market.

    What's not to like?


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