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Pasadena Whole Foods - wow!

I was driving around Pasadena all day today so I decided to stop in at the new Whole Foods on Arroyo Parkway. The three-level parking garage seems to have sufficient space, but is a bit tight to navigate and the elevators are frankly annoying. On the first floor is produce, a nut roasting bar, meat and fish, some sort of meat and vegetable roasting station, as well as a massage room, beauty products, etc. Escalators which accommodate carts a la Target rise up to the second floor, which houses a coffee bar, huge bakery, chocolate shop and gelato bar, several restaurant-type areas with Asian food and fresh-carved meats, charcuterie and cheese and grocery and dairy items. Plus, there's a wine bar, with couches and beer on tap. And a custom butter blending station. It's like an amusement park for foodies. And there's going to be a singles night. What will they think of next?
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  1. I got trapped behind a Hummer in the garage today while it tried, stubbornly but unsuccessfully, to maneuver into a spot between an Escalade and Cayenne. Reminded me of a person trying to squeeze into that old pair of jeans from high school after one too many decadent holiday meals.

    In the future, I think I might just park at the Paseo and walk to Whole Foods.

    It's going to take me a while to get used to a multi-level grocery store.

    At least I got a free grocery bag ... and you gotta love those tortillas.

    1. I was there today as well, Got an email at about 2:30pm that they opened today, as I'm subscribed to their e-newletter "fl@vors".

      I concur with the commentary on the narrow manouvering when driving around the parking lot.

      Some other items of note that I'd like to add:

      Free valet parking - though limited spaces on first floor of parking
      Short Cut Chef - Offers prepped produce, salsas and grilled veggies
      Seafood Bar - a variety of ceviche style salads priced by the pound
      Smoked Seafood Station - Simply delicious variety of in-house smoked seafood
      Seafood Bistro- Made to order fish & chips, and a variety of made/cooked at the seafood counter selections as well as beer on tap
      Hot Smoked Meats Counter - "This Chow's" favorite section; small but nicely done beef brisket and pork with choices of a few sides. Manager informed me they will smoke any meat item for you with advance notice. They offer sandwiches and meat plates at a decent value.
      Cheese/Charcuterie/Specialty station not as comprehensive (esp cheese section) as other WF locations, but mostly cut to order items.
      Meat Department -Features Beef (Mostly all Choice grade and a couple of Prime grade, as well as natural and organic beef) Poultry, Lamb, Pork, and interestingly several choices/cuts of Buffalo.
      Hot/Cold Food bar about the same as Glendale
      Prepared Foods decent... notable small section of VEGAN foods
      Grocery section somewhat expanded, nice selection of GLUTEN FREE and VEGAN foods available.
      Wine and Tapas Bar - didn't get to have a look around, was completely packed during my 2 hour visit to the store.

      If any of you have been to Austin, TX Grand Central Market....This is close to a small version of that, though not as impressive. Lots of sampling going on, and lots of helpful staff at every corner. Check out is mostly set up for 1st Floor, check out lines are a bit confusing (ala Target Check out Counters) Roadwork on Arroyo Parkway adds to the added traffic caused by the store; stop and go for 1 mile each way near entrance. Very convenient to those riding the Gold Line. They are passing out event calendars and for a limited time you get one Cloth Whole Foods shopping bag for a min $40 purchase.

      5 Replies
      1. re: burumun

        Funny, all of my friends who did grad school at UCLA miss Pasadena.

        Is the new Whole Foods close to a Metro Gold Line stop?

        1. re: SauceSupreme

          The new store is on Arroyo Parkway between California and Del Mar, which is a block east of the Gold Line.

          I'm curious about your friends, though, because UCLA is nowhere near Pasadena.

          1. re: DanaB

            I forgot to include the fact that they did their undergrad in Pasadena, and that the variety of cheap student-budget eats in an easy to traverse area was one of their favorite aspects of Pasadena. Westwood, they tell me, just doesn't offer it.

            1. re: SauceSupreme

              That's my feeling, too! Went to Caltech then UCLA and I often miss Pasadena. I go back plenty, though. with friends in the area.

              The new WF, wow! Is it really smaller than the TX one? I thought this was the biggest?

            2. re: DanaB

              More like half a block east...and getting off at Del Mar station would put you quite close. It'd almost be worth it to me to do the Gold Line this afternoon and hit both WF and the SoPas Farmer's market! Especially now that I get a Senior pass...almost cheaper than driving.

        2. i braved the opening but ended up walking there from home b/c the traffic going south on arroyo was so congested. it's super spacious and aisles are nice and wide. as i commented on Eater LA it's grand but it's still just a whole foods. basically it's everything glendale but expanded with additional features such as the beer/wine/tapas bar, massage room, clothing etc. the bakery is much bigger than the norm and offers a variety of puddings. i picked up the thai mango pudding which was very nice. there's a chocolate fountain but i question that one b/c i'm personally not a big fan of those things. i also like how you can get your fish cooked in a variety of different ways. that'll be nice for a quick dinner and also if you lack a grill. i hope one day it'll die down a bit but no way in hell will i be driving there or anywhere near it in the next month!

          4 Replies
          1. re: trolley

            Well, yes, of course it's still a Whole Foods -- what else would it be? I'm interested in trying out the fish and chips. The traffic actually wasn't that bad at 2:30 but then I had the day off of work.
            I agree that things like chocolate fountains are just gimmicks -- even the size of the roasted nut bar seems excessive considering their importance to the average shopper. Although I may have to go back and buy the chili lime almonds.
            I think for me the most important thing aside from the frills is that the selection is broader in several important areas such as cheeses, beers, ice cream, etc., so you're more likely to find what you want. The produce section didn't seem any better than Glendale though, aside from things like the "vegetable grilling station."

            1. re: Chowpatty

              HI Chowpatty,
              I just got back from WF and made my first stop the Fish and Chips and Beer Bar..eh, not so exciting.
              The fish and chips were not good, but mine was the first batch of the day...the oil wasn't hot enough so the battter was like a greasy hushpuppy...eeekk.
              The guys manning the bar were wonderful and polite and helpful and happily replaced my order with something else...I decided to get the blue crab salad with mango salsa...very good, but not what I was looking for on a cloudy day with a Fat Tire Ale.
              The other orders of fish and chips that came out after mine got better and better as the batches cooked on.
              Overall, I'd try them again but would much rather go the THE YORK for fish and chips and a beer.

              Went up to the Wine/Tapas bar...the guy behind the bar was a complete asshole, totally rude and assumed I wasn't gonna order anything since he kept talking to the other guy behind the bar and said: "now that there aren't any customers, you need to start cleaning this place up." WTF, what was I? Invisible?
              I wanted to order a couple of meaty bits and sample a wine or two...you can sample by the ounce..prices ranging from $3.99-$12.99 per ounce.
              Tried to ask about some of the wines "for sample" since they were not on the menu and the bottles were so far away you couldn't read the labels...I tried to ask "is that a VINSANTO I see at the end?" the answer: "What? Yes." and then he walked away...I tried to ask another question but kept ketting the "what?" answer.
              The other guy came over and was happy to answer any questions, I asked him what afternoons he would be working (since I figured I'd rather give him my money) but he said he was "just a cashier that usually works the first floor and I'm just helping out up here for the day, he's (pointing to Mr. Asshole) in charge up here.
              Eek, not a pleasant dude.
              The meaty selections are great and priced right too..you can also go and purchase some of your own at the meat and cheese counter next door and bring it over to have with your wine...good stuff.

              1. re: tatertotsrock

                I had a similarly sour experience on opening night at the deli meat/carving station. It was thronged almost the whole time I was there, but I finally saw my chance when the line was down to three people. I got behind an older gentleman who was quizzing the guy about what kind of brisket he was cutting up. It was my turn when a woman came out of nowhere and asked the second guy behind the counter for a sample. I informed her that I had been waiting here first. She graciously stepped aside, so I asked for two samples myself. I got one, which I handed back to my daughter, then I waited for my other one. At this point, my server went back to cutting up the meat, and the guy helping the older gentleman was handing out the samples. He was giving them left and right to everyone else who walked by, pointedly ignoring me. I got his attention and said, I hadn't gotten my sample still. He handed me one with this FU look and attitude. I said thank you, and he responded sarcastically, you're welcome. Really out of line. Everyone else that night was helpful and courteous - I don't know what his beef was.

                1. re: mirezhi

                  There was MASSIVE turn over and quite honestly some real questionable hires the first few weeks of the Mega El Segundo ones because of the amount of people they need on the floor to run everything. They shook it all out in a few months when things calmed down. I am sure the same thing happened and will happen in the Pasedena one too...


          2. I went as well, and it was pretty spectacular! Needless to say I am thrilled that it's very close to my house. I absolutely loved the roasted nut section - I mean, what's better than warm, roasted cinnamon pecans??? The selection there is entirely overwhelming, but in a good way. I don't think there's anything you can't find here. It's heaven!
            pics on blog: http://rainydaysandsundays-c.blogspot...
            Clare K.

            1. I can't imagine what's going to take place at a singles night in Whole Foods... but I might just give it a try for an interesting blog post ;)

              As I noted in the other WF post, I am pretty impressed by the variety & quality of stuff offered here, and of course all the ready-to-eat food bars & prepared food sections - but I can't imagine myself coming here for even a semi-routine shopping trip, it'll be too much of a time and money drain, especially since I'm an easily-distracted shopper. How smart/evil of them to plop that freshly roasted nuts section right across from the checkout.

              But it's definitely a great place to check out for special ocassion shopping and exposure to some rare/hard-to-find ingredients.


              1. Glad to read that we weren't the only ones who thought the parking wasn't well thought through! Three floors of parking still wasn't enough for last night's number of people, but I know it was because of opening day, although the holidays are right around the corner...

                We got beef brisket, rice, and tri-colored bell peppers from the carving station on the second floor -- the beef brisket was tough and dry and the rice was SUPER dry like sand, but the bell peppers were cooked well and had a tasty spicy garlic zing.

                Other than that, this branch is fun to wander around because of all the ultra deluxe departments as mentioned above that other branches don't feature. Pasadena is so lucky to have this flagship store.

                1. They've had one of these mega Whole Foods in El Segundo for like 6mo now, get with the program! ;) j/k
                  If this identical to the one down here in South Bay though (and sounds like it is) they are unbelievable. Hands down the most fun grocery store ever.

                  1. Dam, I drive by all the time, saying Open Open Open. How did I miss it when it finally did open, I wanted to be first in line. lol Now I have to make a bee line there. Cant' wait, and jealous of all of you who have already been.

                    1. I went there last night and they ran out of grocery bags! So disappointing... I asked the cashier if I qualified for one and a manager (? or some kind of a higher up) standing behind her seemed annoyed and wasn't even apologetic about it. That experience in itself kind of turned me off to the entire store...
                      Anyway, this Whole Foods is a cute, gimmicky store and very similar to the ones I've been to in NYC in terms of how it's arranged (multi-storied, cart escaltor, pre-cooked meals stations-- though not as extensive as back East, in-store dining). Plus, it totally reminds me of NYC, with its crowds and frenzied experience! It's very urban for a suburban place like Pasadena... It'd be perfect for the new developments in downtown LA!

                      1. Although the excitement of our very own Ralph's in Downtown hasn't completely subsided yet, we decided to check out the new Whole Foods today. "Wow" is a pretty accurate description of my reaction, both in good ways and bad. First, WOW, was the parking structure ever stressful - though large, it was packed, and though there were people directing traffic, they weren't able to control that horrible facet of human nature that emerges when there are too many cars and not enough pavement. There was a lot of angry gesticulating going on. We were fortunate enough to snag a spot, though, and headed up to the store. WOW, it's a beautiful space. This is what I love about Whole Foods - it's just a fun experience to be in their stores, rubbing elbows with gorgeous produce and succulent meats. SO was hungry, so we went straight to the 2nd Floor, where the prepared foods are. WOW, total chaos! Like many of the other stores, there are a bunch of different counters and islands serving different kinds of prepared foods. However, because there were so many (and so many people) and there was a particularly opaque organizational system (as in, no signage whatsoever indicating if and where you were supposed to order, where you were supposed to pay, or how to get into the cloistered seating area), it felt pretty crazy. By the time we actually did get our food and got seated, we were kind of frazzled. The best part was just strolling around the store afterwards, sampling cheese and soda and ice cream. And I will say this - for all the chaos, all of the employees were very nice. But I'm with the others who said that they hope that the buzz dies down and it becomes a normal grocery store - you know, where you can actually go grocery shopping! Right now, it's more of a foodie amusement park.

                        1. Went on Friday afternoon at 1:30. Got the last parking spot in the garage at level P3.

                          It's a great looking place, gotta like the butter bar and nut/jelly bar.

                          Had a lunch from the hot food bar: chicken tikka masala, white rice, mexican rice, mashed potatoes and a falafel from the salad bar($9 in total). Ate it in the wine and tapas bar where I ordered a belgian beer on tap ($5).

                          The food was allright but not as good as what I could have gotten from a local Indian buffet lunch like Radhika's. The falafel and potatoes were good, the rice was hard.

                          The beer was great and it was fun eating in the wine bar.

                          It's a great place to shop but for eating there you're probably better off eating something that's made to order like the carving station or asian food section.

                          And although I work in Pasadena I can't come here unless I can take a long lunch.

                          1. Was there last night - around 9pm, an hour before closing time. I was bummed that I dilly dallied at Target and had only an hour to spend at WF, my intended destination. Turns out parking is not an issue at 9pm on Saturday ;) I felt like a kid in a candy store.. albeit a bit overwhelmed by the selection. Sampled a soup (butternut squash) and pizza (turkey sausage). The soup was delicious, the pizza was just ok. Couldn't resist the fluffy handmade marshmallows and picked up a tub of the strawberry variety - blech. What's the deal with these?!? The texture is excellent but the flavor is just nasty.. full of chemical flavors and merely a hint of a strawberry flavor, and only if you're really searching for it. I'm so disappointed. The cinnamon almonds & garlic chipotle almonds from the nut bar, otoh, make a happy mouth. Missed the butter bar and the cobbler bar this time ($#!@$%&!!!!)... next time for sure.
                            Can't wait for the Hollywood location to open - according to the WF website, it's going to be 61k sf, compared to Arroyo's 76k sf. Not too shabby.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: soniabegonia

                              The Hollywood location won't be built for a long long time. The W Hotel construction effort is seeing 'round the clock work and has only very recently finally opened the sidewalk back up. The WF location (intended location: Selma and Vine) will be part of a similarly sized project where the WF is on the ground floor, parking above them, and then apartments above that.

                              At the moment, Hollywood will have to make do with the Fairfax location (since the SanFair location is so abysmal for parking).

                            2. Was there today, took a leisurely walk around everywhere, had just eaten so wasn't hungry. There sure are a lot of soup stations, go to the wrong one and you will have missed out on the soup that you really wanted. I love all the food (and drink) bars. They do a $10 wine tasting at the wine bar, it's every day 4-5:30pm, includes about 6 tastings and cheese. What a deal. They said different winemaker each day.

                              I usually grab a few of the no-msg instant ramen when I'm at Whole Foods, but this location didn't have them! Loved the CDs section, where you can scan the bar code, and for some of the CDs, a listing of the songs will come up and you can play any of them.

                              I think the store needs to be bigger. :-p

                              P.S. My big complaint about Whole Foods: put the coffee beans under cover!!!!!!! I hate how they display the beans in those pseudo burlap bags, with the beans all exposed so that anyone can sneeze on them. The display is cute and all, but I'd rather have something more sanitary.

                              1. I went yesterday. I got there in the morning and it wasn't too crowded yet. I parked with a minimum of stress and I resolved to do a quick look and get out of there. I bought a few prepared items. The salmon salad with dill from the prepared seafood section was pretty good, a little heavy on the onion. Nicely dilled, with finely cut celery for crunch. I bought some of the squid salad but haven't eaten it yet. The mushroom barley soup tasted fresh and had lots of barley, but it was heavily salted and had way too much black pepper. Mushroom barley is bland comfort food, people! I also had some of the apple crisp from the dessert bar and that was delicious. Fresh apples, just a touch of sweetness, almonds on the top. I was impressed with the bakery section, the chocolate section, the nut butters. I work in Pasadena, also, but not sure if I would venture up there, either. Too far to walk, too much of a hassle to drive and park. But I would like to hear about other prepared items as others try them.

                                1. I went Saturday and was pretty impressed. It's clean, open, and certainly has a lot of security guards. I had no problem with parking. Samples everywhere.

                                  Still, I had a rather big issue. Now, I am nut allergic, and am always careful to read labels and such, and be caustious around samples. I sampled fruit, salsa, fish, nut free cookies (ues, I checked), coffee, pizza, fruit tart and got a cucumber juice.

                                  Half an hour in, my throat started closing, my lips swelled up, and my lungs started to get tight. Looking in my purse, I discovered the lack of my epi pen, and only one benadryl, which I downed. I went to get my husband, standing in line for holiday meal samples, and wtched in awe as an employee used the same spoon to ladel pistachio coated pasta samples and roast veggie medly samples onto a plate.

                                  Whoopsie! Cross contamination. Wonder how ofen that had happened in prepping samples.

                                  Now, the manager was really nice. They sell no actual antihistamine there (just "herbal stuff-read pointless) But she ruushed around getting me soda, cofee and more and making me down it (Caffine helps in these cases) Then she found the nearest CVS and sent us off with apologies, promised to make sure all of her staff follows the one serving utensil per dish rule and a $25 gift certificate.

                                  I was sad, because I wanted to hit the wine bar. Instead, I spent the rest of the day recovering from the attack and the odd combination of zippy do-dah ness and jitteriness that tons of benadryl and caffine can give one.

                                  We'll have to go back.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Diana

                                    Sorry to hear about your experience. As one with food sensitivities and a restricted diet, this does worry me about just about any food-court scenario - I'm glad the manager is aware of cross-contamination.

                                    Finally went to the Pas WF this evening. Parked right in front, breezed in, was pleased to find a number of prepared foods, with ingredients clearly labeled, that I can actually eat :) Will definitely be back to sample more!

                                    If tonight was any example, Saturday between 5-6pm is a good time to go for those of us who are crowd-phobic.

                                  2. Can somebody compare this to the stores in the San Francisco Center or Time Warner Manhattan? It's a worth a trip out to Pasadena if it's something better.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Chandavkl

                                      Just went to the Whole Foods in Pasadena this past Sunday. The market is really impressive and much bigger than two other Whole Foods that I have frequented. Their vast selections of fresh produce and foods is amazing.

                                    2. i went this past Sunday and I have a warning - Beware of the baked goods. I picked up a package of their store made flour tortillas and they were all green and moldy.

                                      Bought 2 donuts which were labeled cake donuts to bring home for a snack later - they weren't cake donuts - they were raised donuts - but they were ultra stale! They had the consistency of fluffier bagels - it was very hard to pull a piece off to eat.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: LisaN

                                        I'm finding 'quality control' a bit spotty at the new Tustin/Irvine store to be a bit of a problem, too.

                                        1. re: LisaN

                                          The cafe food is beyond mediocre - so far I've had tasteless pizza and extremely bland Thai lime noodles. The floor plan is awful, too -- totally confusing. As of this week most of the employees are still completely clueless about where things are in the store as well. It seems to be a lot of hoo-ha and very little substance, which is so disappointing because I was really looking forward to the opening. Oh, and whoever wrote that the parking lot is impossible is right -- I went in on a weekday at 3 pm, and the place was hopelessly gridlocked.

                                          The worst thing: watching a couple of kids (completely unsupervised by their disinterested soccer mom) stick their fingers in every dessert in the dessert bar. I looked away when one of them seemed to be about to stick the chocolate sauce ladle into his mouth. Yuck.

                                          If I want an Eastside Whole Foods, I'll go back to Glendale. In the meantime, after three tries, count me as very disappointed in this new WF.

                                          1. re: soyarra

                                            well, i suppose that's what i mean when i say it's just a whole foods. some people i spoke with were anticipating the wheel to be reinvented but most of the food in the salad bar can be found at glendale or any other whole foods. yes, this one's bigger and the selections are wider but the core items are all the same.

                                            i find whole foods to be overpriced and not always very fresh. i'm not finding anything different at this one. last week i was at the pizza counter and me and the other customers detected a horrible smell. something similar to rotten garbage or meat. when the lady in front of me mentioned something to the counter guy he said he didn't smell anything foul at all. it was very odd.

                                            yes, and the floor plan is confusing and the flow of it is awkward. yet, i can't complain too mcuh b/c this is a whole foods that replaced my wild oats and i can walk to it. i've not had trouble parking as well and it's made my life easier, well, sort of.

                                        2. From the posts this sounds like Whole Foods counter attack to Wegman's on the East Coast. Haven't been there yet, but I'm in Pasadena so I'll head there today. Has anyone been to a Wegman's, do they seem similar?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: LuigiOrtega

                                            I loved Wegamn's when I lived in the east coast. I haven't been to Pasadena store, because I live in OC and shop at the Tustin store. The baked goods were much better at Wegman's.

                                          2. What is better about this one than the ones in El Segundo or Irvine?

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: kel

                                              Proximity to where you live.
                                              All 3 about the same size, more or less, as in at least 60,000 sq. ft. in size. Pasadena a bit larger, but not by that much.

                                              1. re: kel

                                                Like a Prius, some cars (and grocery stars) just seem to generate a lot of smug.

                                                1. re: kel

                                                  Well they are probably similar,albeit Pasadena a bit bigger.
                                                  I'm only making a reference towards shopping in OC, in that yeah there's a lot of open space and especially with regards to housing streets and freeways, but shopping and dining can be well bland and regular with some exceptions in Costa Mesa. I went to Huntington Beach's little outdoor shopping mall, and it is underwhelming, our little outlet shopping mall in West Covina has better stores for shopping, and it's nothing compared to a similar though bigger Victoria Garden's mall in Rancho Cucamonga. OC is big but inexperienced shopping and dining. Westside/San Fernando Valley, has much experience in fine dinning and shopping, but streets are narrow parking is always awful and I think Pasadena and environs offer a great compromise of the expertise of the Westside with the space and calmness of the OC.

                                                2. I had the smoked brisket sandwich. It was yummy! But I had to linger and look longingly at the meats to get someone's attention. After I ordered, people started lining up.... There was no pulled pork the day I was there.

                                                  We asked if we could eat our meats at the wine/tapas bar since it was the closest seating area...and we'd order a glass of wine or beer to go with. The bartender was perfectly amenable, friendly.