Dining at your local market as a destination...
Was visiting Fairfax County, VA. last week and walked into the fairly new Whole Foods Market there...Wow! It was the most impressive of their stores I've seen so far, even including here in the New York metro area...There are places to sit down and have a bite at these markets but at this location there were several individual food bars more resembling restaurants: BBQ, Fish & Chowders, Asian, even a sit down bar for a cheese and wine flight. We tried the BBQ, very good. And the Seafood, also very tasty. Reasonably priced for Whole Foods we thought, too. Apparently manned by well-trained and friendly culinary staff.
Hung out for a while and what intrigued me most was that I saw many folks, couples, singles, groups, coming here to dine as a destination...
Do you eat at your local market whether it be high end or low end? Is Whole Foods competing with local restaurants now too?
(Just by coincidence, we were there the day Emeril Lagasse was using this store to film segments for his new Emeril Green show.)
Not a new phenomenon at all.
Most of the ethnic markets in San Diego have a hot food /steam tray area with a small seating area.
99 Ranch is Asian and has a steam tray area and also makes the large bowl noodle soups.
There are multiple Mediterranean markets which sell kebabs, side dishes and fresh, hot flatbreads.
Almost all the Mexican markets have small taco shops inside selling tacos and aguas frescas.
re: Ruth Lafler
Same with the Los Altos WF, which opened maybe 18 months ago. About a third of the store is take-away food of various kinds, and they have a fairly large seating area. It's not nearly as over-the-top as the Oakland WF, though. Presumably that's either because a) the Oakland store is a few months newer or b) the Oakland store has to compete with the Oakland/Berkeley gourmet nexus.
Gutreactions, I have no doubt that the one you saw in VA may be more impressive, but the WF in Columbus Circle, as well as the one on Houston here in NY do also have a couple of "specialized" food bars upstairs in the cafe area.
We just don't have the space here in NYC for the really HUGE WF markets that you find in other parts of the country. Though, the LES one feels pretty darn huge to me!
I've eaten in the cafe at Wegman's. Word has it that they've applied for a liquor license, which, if you're familiar with Pennsylvania's archaic liquor laws, is quite an accomplishment.