HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese? Share your food adventure
TELL US

Any Whole Foods better?

i
itryalot Jul 14, 2010 03:34 PM

Boston or Cambridge locations - is there one you prefer and why?

  1. c
    cavaluv Jul 21, 2010 11:54 AM

    River St. is my favorite. It's huge and all the prepared food is really good. I live by the Brighton one and while the staff is nice, the prepared foods there are not very good. Even their bread usually sucks. I'm not sure why management hasn't corrected this. I wish they'd have the River St. people come in and fix this location.

    1. f
      FeastNut2008 Jul 19, 2010 05:00 PM

      Make the trek to Dedham. You won't be disappointed.

      1 Reply
      1. re: FeastNut2008
        h
        Highland Park Jul 21, 2010 09:34 AM

        I live by the Bedford store (walking distance) and work by the Newton store(s) so frequent both and have been to most around the area. Each have strengths and weaknesses. Comments regarding the clientele in Newton and Brighton/Brookline are right-on. One on my co-workers used to call it "liberal circus" when it sported the old Bread and Circus label. On a more substantive note, I find the Beacon Street store to have most of the items I need along with a higher turnover fish department. The staff are very good at estimating quantity and rarely are over or under by much. The cheese guys are good there too and very knowledgeable. The Bedford store is great and expansive with a reasonable selection but I find that the some of the staff lack basic knowledge for a supposedly higher end grocery store. Recent examples include a dearth of knowledge regarding Savoie cheeses (never heard of Reblochon) and not knowing what ranchero beans are. The fish people are constantly over or under by significant margins, and I have even been offered the tail section of a cut whole fillet. Sometimes I cannot find some basic things - like tonic water or cocktail onions (pickled). Overall, I do manage to spend a lot of money there, however. My main complaint with WF is that it is difficult to find more creative offerings, particularly meats,such as fresh rabbit, pheasant, etc. Iif anyone has suggestions on where to find these items I'd appreciate feedback. Dewar's in Newton carries this type of thng, but generally its frozen and very expensive.

        The Dedham store is great for its beer selection and impressive cheese display. I agree that the Portland, ME store is very impressive, perhaps the most so in New England. Woburn/Winchester is not bad, either.

      2. kobuta Jul 19, 2010 10:26 AM

        Since we've delved beyond the original scope for Boston or Cambridge ones, I'll add my 2 cents. The best one I've been to (caveat: I've never hit the Fresh Pond or Dedham ones) is the one in Hingham at the Shops at Derby Street. Huge, clean, and even with crowds, never feels over-crowded like a Russo's.

        1. r
          Ruprecht Jul 19, 2010 08:45 AM

          I use the Washington St, Newton one the most, but only because it is the closest. The two Newton and the Brookline location suffer from being smaller than the newer ones, but suffer even more from some unbelievably self-absorbed patrons who seem obivious to the fact that other shoppers are trying to use the same store. I like the Cambridge Fresh Pond & River St for this area, but the new mega marts in Woburn and Dedham are pretty great.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ruprecht
            a
            A.A. Jul 20, 2010 03:35 PM

            Haha yeah--- I hear you about the clientele of some Whole Foods locations. My wife and I regularly shop at the location on the Brighton/Brookline border due to its proximity. Given the quality of the products and the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, the only drawback is what we jokingly refer to as the "Brookline biddies" that patronize that location. To be fair, the space-cadet factor of the clientele of that store is far from restricted to a particular gender or age range....not that that's a good thing.

            Of the Whole Foods I've visited in the Boston metro area, I, too, have been the most impressed with the Fresh Pond location soley based on the produce section. Wish we could do our weekly shopping there, but it wouldn't make sense, given the distance and our lack of an automobile.

          2. tazia Jul 19, 2010 07:38 AM

            Another vote for Fresh Pond. It can get insane with mean soccer moms, but the produce section alone is usually worth it. I'll go here if I can't make it over to Russo's.
            Also, the Trader Joe's that went in across the street makes it the trip even more worth it. Oh Trader Joe's, how I love your freezer section.

            I am very fond of the Medford location, just because it is so relaxed. The produce section is nothing compared to Fresh Pond, which is unfortunate, but it's worth it to come here just to avoid the insanity.

            1. m
              mkel34 Jul 15, 2010 10:03 AM

              If ever in Portland, Me the whole foods right off of 295 is the best I've ever visited. The beer and wine selection trump the Dedham store. Also, the butcher shop has an entire section dedicated to real bbq and they let you sample it all. There is also a hot bbq bar to make hot plates to go. I've tried multiple ribs, ham hocks, in house bacon, and a chocolate stout chili and have been happy with everything I've tried.

              5 Replies
              1. re: mkel34
                m
                Madrid Jul 15, 2010 12:55 PM

                The Cambridge/River St store used to sell Blue Ribbon BBQ items. Since I live in Somerville, the easiest way to get my fix (I'm from NC and while Blue Ribbon's NC pulled pork is not really NC, it's the best in the area). Not any more. In addition to all the usual complaints, I hate the way WF takes over interesting local gourmet/health food stores and stocks them without all the interesting region- or buyer- specific unusual items.

                -----
                Blue Ribbon BBQ
                910 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                1. re: Madrid
                  s
                  sysco kid Jul 17, 2010 03:55 AM

                  Second vote on the Portlant Maine store.
                  Stopped in last weekend on vacation - blown away

                  1. re: sysco kid
                    n
                    nasilemak Jul 17, 2010 05:48 AM

                    Third Portland store.
                    Of the smaller ones, i like the Woburn store.

                    1. re: nasilemak
                      o
                      ospreycove Jul 17, 2010 06:13 AM

                      Always shopped Whole Foods in the past; now when possible and when I am "up North" Wegman's is my first stop! Wegman's has excellent freshly made breads, prime beef, very good seafood selection, etc. etc.

                      1. re: ospreycove
                        Karl S Jul 17, 2010 08:34 AM

                        While the Westwood location that was supposed to this year is now stalled indefinitely, the Northborough location (jct of Rtes 20 & 9) is still apparently on target for its 2011 opening, and that will be the beachhead of Wegman's in New England, which I believe will eventually force Whole Foods to respond even more. Then I wouldn't have to wait to go to the Pittsford NY Wegman's when I visit my brother there....

              2. tatsu Jul 15, 2010 09:55 AM

                robertlf has it right, Fresh Pond is certainly the best around, going back to bread and circus days. The receipts used to literally say "Alewife WF, The Flagship Store". The prepared foods are usually a crime against good produce but that's not what i go there for. i have heard a lot about Dedham, the new flagship, I'm very curious, but there is fairly little Fresh Pond doesn't have, except a few items, like decent mustard. For very specialized things, (and even more exotic, in-house aged cheese, like my fav seasonal camenbert made by a lady in the Alps with 5 cows, I go to Formaggio's, very close by.

                I dislike the Putnam/Cambridgeport locale because they stole the liquor license away from the original Bread and Circus on Prospect St. and it's not as good as Alewife. Plus that mysterious cafe that never took off was an eyesore.

                The Beacon Hill Cambridge St location is obviously nothing more than a deli for MGH workers. Some of the sections, like the coffee area, is pathetic. They don't even carry a single Ethiopian.

                Recently I was in Bedford (formerly a small chain called Sudbury Farms I believe, could be wrong). I was pretty surprised, the staff was knowledgeable and very helpful. I noticed the antipasti bar not only stocked one of my favs, pepperdew peppers, but they also had them stuffed with herbed goat cheese, which was fantastic. (I hate paying for all that syrup, although sometimes I use it in drinks or cooking, so it's nice to get some yummy cheese instead!)

                So I guess they are all generally well run if not equally stocked and varying degrees of to-go item features.

                1. w
                  westside1izzy Jul 15, 2010 07:25 AM

                  Cambridge is right off of Storrow and Memorial Drive. They have parking and a great wine and beer selection.

                  1. z
                    zach272 Jul 14, 2010 07:39 PM

                    I can only speak to Cambridge - but the Fresh Pond and Cambridgeport locations are both good, in contrast to the Central Square store, which is cramped, crowded, and has a limited selection.

                    1. r
                      robertlf Jul 14, 2010 07:31 PM

                      Fresh Pond is the largest and best store in the area. Outside the area, Woburn (pizzeria, gelato, chocolate) and Dedham (largest in state) are good stores.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: robertlf
                        r
                        Ralphie_in_Boston Jul 14, 2010 07:45 PM

                        And the secret is out that it's the best, because parking there has been a b---ch for me unless I'm there very early or very late. Liquor store next door is very good too IMO

                        If I'm shopping at peak times, I go up the road to the Medford location. I'm still not used to its layout, but I can always find parking and cashier lines are never long.

                        I'm not sure why but I also like the River Street (cambridge), which also can have parking challenges.

                        Ironically I have a relatively easy time at the Cambridge Street and Fenway/SYmphony locations in Boston. Parking is validated free at both places and I usually find what I need.

                        Washington Street location on Brookline/Brighton line IMO is the worst. Everything about it is bad--parking, elbow room within the store, clientele, overall vibe. I avoid that one.

                        1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston
                          i
                          itryalot Jul 15, 2010 04:27 AM

                          Thanks. I will check out the liquor store too. Looking for imported wines.

                          1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston
                            c
                            CookieLee Jul 15, 2010 05:32 AM

                            I want to give a shout out to the staff at the Brighton store. They are always very kind, and extraordinary helpful. You're in the city, so yes, the parking is tight, and the store a bit cramped. Not all the "clientele" is "bad". :D

                            I also shop at the River St., Fresh Pond, and 2 in Newton. The one on Beacon St is v. small, and the parking is even more challenging than the one in Brighton. The one on Washington St. in Newtonville is a good size, although the parking is quirky. Marty's Liquors is next door, which is nice.

                            -----
                            Marty's Liquors
                            675 Washington St, Newton, MA 02458

                            1. re: CookieLee
                              b
                              Berheenia Jul 17, 2010 06:30 AM

                              I shop at these 4 also, with a preference for River Street, and an occasional foray to Symphony- it still has that Bread and Circus feel plus I like the neighborhood. Lately we make excuses to go to the Dedham Store- it is truly amazing. Smart to put a WF in an area that has limited selection, Roche Bros being the best of the lot. They don't even have a Trader Joe's in the area. The store is beautifully laid out, stocked and staffed and shopping there is fun. We end up eating lunch there frequently and the cafe area is always mobbed with families.

                              -----
                              Trader Joe's
                              1427 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                          2. re: robertlf
                            t
                            The Lady Jul 18, 2010 08:54 AM

                            Just came back from the Dedham store - it's the most chill of the locations, imho. No congestion in the aisles, no long checkout lines...That may be because I usually go early on Sat or Sun - sometimes to take advantage of the breakfast bar and eat either in the bright "lunchroom" or outside. The staff, particularly Lisa who used to be in the cheese area but who now I think does in-store demos, is very helpful. Cheese people I find are pretty interactive - at the Washington Street store in Brookline, too.

                          3. maillard Jul 14, 2010 06:34 PM

                            I like the Fresh Pond location best. It is large and has a great selection of chiles both fresh and dried. I also like that you can buy individual celery stalks there. Silly reason to like a store, but I have never used an entire bunch of celery.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: maillard
                              i
                              itryalot Jul 14, 2010 07:00 PM

                              I just went to buy celery at my local grocer and refused to buy a whole bunch for half a stalk I needed.

                              1. re: maillard
                                a
                                autopi Jul 14, 2010 08:07 PM

                                i will sometimes buy a little chopped celery at the salad bar in lieu of buying an entire bunch.

                                the fresh pond WF is my favorite too. the medford one is also great, but the selection is limited.

                                1. re: maillard
                                  Pia Jul 15, 2010 02:40 AM

                                  You can buy individual stalks at Wilson Farm in Lexington too, FYI.

                                  -----
                                  Wilson Farm
                                  10 Pleasant St, Lexington, MA 02421

                                  1. re: Pia
                                    s
                                    sallyt Jul 15, 2010 07:52 AM

                                    Same at Roche Bros in West Roxbury

                                Show Hidden Posts