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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.)

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  1. Borough Market is my local market and I tend to lunch there on weekdays, when it's a lot less touristy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: limster

      That is certainly a market worthy of making a dining destination.

    2. 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.

      1. I believe the new Whole Foods in Oakland, CA is like that as well -- I think it's their most recent market-niche strategy. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/456618

        1 Reply
        1. 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.

        2. 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!

          1 Reply
          1. re: vvvindaloo

            believe it or not, the LES location is 5500 SF *larger* than the one in fairfax!

            regardless of space/size, i think all the new locations are trying to find a way to squeeze in as much prepared food as possible.

          2. 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.

            1. If you were in Fairfax, then it's a shame you didn't get to the Wegmans in Fairfax, or better yet the nearby one in Sterling. Now THAT'S in-store dining.

              3 Replies
              1. re: johnb

                johnb, I have been to Wegman's in Fairfax and it is quite a market...I also ate there and found the food at Whole Foods to be better imo...It could have been what I selected.

                1. re: gutreactions

                  Fairfax has some in-store dining----I haven't tried it myself, but I recall it as being way less than that available at the Wegmans Sterling location, which among other things has a full Asian food bar, a sushi bar, a pizzeria, and a full menu type carryout generally serving 4-5 dinner options at any one time (e.g. Rib Eye dinner for 15.95 in the old days anyway), and seating for maybe 200. The dining there is far beyond anything I've ever seen at a Whole Paycheck, but as you can sense I'm not a frequenter of WF in the first place, so not a reliable observer. I've been away from DC for 2 years now, so may not be up on all the latest.

                  I understand that Wegmans' flagship store in Rochester has a full service fine restaurant, but I've not been.

                  1. re: johnb

                    At the Famers Market in Toronto, they have a nice seating area with a few picnic tables and benches and it is up a flight of stairs so you can watch people below you. what my BF and I will do is pick up cheeses, fruits, dips, fresh breads and whatever looks good at the market that day and have a little picnic on the benches!

                    Now, if only we could drink the wine we buy along with our meal...:-)

              2. We have lunch about once a month at the largest and newest of the WFs near us in Denver. My problem is that the lunches are pretty expensive because of the numerous choices. We tend to buy with our eyes and can't finish all that we buy. DH is particularly bad about the salad bar. He will end up with a $15.00 salad plus whatever else tickles his fancy.

                When we are in Mexico, specifically Morelia, Michoacan, many of the grocery stores have cafes in the stores where they prepare food for you, or there are are steam tables. Very inexpensive and tasty. In our little town of Patzcuaro, both of the larger grocery stores have small cafe sections in the store. The cafe at Super Codallos is very typico, delicious and inexpensive. The cafe at Soriana's is more of a pizza and chicken place and is hit or miss, mostly miss.