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Whole Foods - Lunchtime Best Kept Secrets and Deals?

I work right by the downtown Flagship Whole Foods, so by default it is often the office cafeteria - so many choices across the board! The downside is that the bill can easily start adding up for daily lunches (The "Whole Paycheck" monker is easily warranted). In addition, despite the options I often finding myself getting some of the same things (hit the sushi bar, salad bar, tacos, etc) So, while I know I can go and get that $9.00 sushi package, or pay $11.99 for a piece of salmon with two sides at the prepared foods counter, what I really want to know are what are your best kept secrets at Whole Foods? Things to order not necessarily advertised? Great finds for a lunch meal you may not have noticed? What are some of the best deals to be had (I already overdose on the awesome and huge 2 for $5.00 taco bar deal).

Help me out Chowhounds!

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  1. I love the Broccoli Crunch salad. They have it all over. They have it in prepack, behind the counter, and occasionally on the salad bar. That stuff is like crack.
    I like the Salmon Candy. It's over in the fish area... think smoked fish jerky (but still soft). I'll get a piece and a roll and that's a meal for me.
    You can also go over to the cheese section and go through their remainders that are small pieces, packed, and priced usually under $5 a piece. You can find a couple good pieces, buy a piece of fruit and have a great lunch.

    The sandwich staff got creative one day and made up a sandwich which has become my favorite sandwich EVER. She made a roast beef sandwich with fig spread and chipotle mayo. It also had spinach, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and cheese. Then it was all pressed to make the bread thin and crispy. Sweet, savory, spicy all at the same time. It is soooooo good.

    1. I really love their New England clam chowder (and I've eaten a lot clam chowder on Cape Cod!) They also sometimes have a sweet potato and ancho chili soup which is incredible. Both soups are so filling that with some bread and a salad they make a great meal.

      For comfort food, their mac & cheese is so great (from the hot food counter, not the prepared foods aisle--not sure why both taste so different, but they do.) It's also pretty cheap!

      2 Replies
      1. re: mandmbklyn

        I had the mac & cheese yesterday and you're right, it was quite good. The mac & cheese, a roll, and yogurt made a great cheap lunch.

        1. re: danny_w

          I do like their mac and cheese...but only have had it as a side. Didn't think of making it the main meal, but sounds like a good idea paired with something like a yogurt, fruit, etc. Thanks!

      2. I like to get the hot dog. size wise it's more like a sausage sandwich.. they will griddle up some onions and kraut to go with it if you ask.... with fries it's 4.99. definitely a steal. I then go to the beer fridge and pick a beer. if I get one of the cheap singles it's <$8...
        Though I tend to pick up a 24 oz stone IPA....

        1. This is just a little thing: if you bring your own cup, you get 25 cents off your coffee.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Helind

            You also get 25 cents off if you bring your own cup for iced tea.

          2. Good luck finding parking. Weekday lunch rush is already a nightmare. Hardly a kept secret.

            1 Reply
            1. re: conquer

              The secret was the deals, not the parking. This thread was started by someone who works in the area so I doubt parking would be a problem for them.

            2. I've been in this situation many times - I used to work there years ago and even with the discount it still took a chunk of change to eat lunch every day if you weren't careful. Here's what I did, and still do.

              They have a sandwich at the sandwich counter on a ficelle (a long very skinny baguette) - they don't display them in the case anymore, or even have them on the menu, but they used to be $1.99. They will still make it for you - I got one recently and I think it may be $2.99 now. It's goat cheese, pesto, and roasted tomato. That and a fruit or a yogurt is definitely enough for lunch and comes in under $5.

              Also, you can make your own fancy salad for less than the packaged ones with items from the store. A bag of salad, a small chunk of blue cheese, and dried fruit and nuts from the bulk section. Grab a cup of dressing from the salad bar or just keep olive oil and balsamic at your desk like I do.

              The soups at the back of the store near the meat counter are pricey but really filling. There is a cheesesteak soup that is nothing but a cupful of heart attack - heavy cream, cheese, brisket, with a couple of peppers in there for decoration. That is one of my favorites.

              One more thing to try - this is something I do for my kids often - you don't have to get the meat & two at the counter. They will sell you any of that stuff by the pound. So you can get a small cup of mac & cheese, or roasted vegetables, or whatever - and it usually comes in around $2.00.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Allison L.

                I've been a fan of the shrimp and chicken Jambalaya at the Seafood soups/stews section...that and a roll is pretty filling. But...can't seem to want it as much now that it is summer!

              2. I haven't been in a couple of weeks, but recently there has been a temporary set-up near the actual sandwich counter. The chalkboard calls it "The Best Sandwich In The World" or something similar. It's a woman with several pre-prepared sandwiches on large bread loaves - you pick the one you want (usually 2 varieties unless she's sold out) and she slices it for you. The ones I've had have been fresh and tasty (a pork, stilton, and yogurt-mint one, and another with several italian meats, fresh mozzarella, and balsamic). They are also enormous. I think the small is like $7 but it's enough for 2 meals if you add an apple, chips, or something.

                1. If there is an interesting protein on the buffet line I might buy a79 cent roll and make a small custom sandwich for about $4.

                  1. Today I tried a Longhorn sandwich from sandwich bar. Not a steal for $6.49 necessarily, but could have easily shared it with someone as it was big enough to split. Quite good - rare roast beef, goat cheese, roasted red peppers, carmelized onions and spinach (I think it was spinach) on ciabatta...then grilled/pressed.

                    1. The sandwich bar at Whole Foods is now doing a half sandwich of your choice from the display and a small salad for $5.99. A pretty good deal since half a sandwich on some of them is quite enough. They seem to have a different salad selection each day too...today there was pecan/feta, a quinoa looking one, a pasta salad, etc. plus, you can get your sandwich grilled/pressed.

                      1. I like to split a calzone with my husband - it makes for a really affordable lunch. We usually get spinach and roasted garlic. sometimes the guy/gal making it doesn't know which dough to use and actually makes it with a full size pizza dough. Then it is a REALLY good deal lol.

                        1. My new go-to is the BBQ baked potato. A huge smoked Baked Potato with all the fixins and your choice of BBQ meat for $5.99. The thing is monstrous! I like to get the sliced moist brisket on it, and I ask them to put some of the brisket bark on it. Normally they toss the bark (criminal!) or reserve it for beans, but if you ask them, they put it on there at no extra charge.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Homero

                            I've had this before. It makes me want to take a nap after i eat it!

                            1. re: chispa_c

                              Haha, I know what you mean. I only go on weekends though, so taking a nap afterward isn't a risky endeavor.

                          2. I've seen lately "lunch slider" bags to-go on display. They contain a slider roll with some sort of salad (egg, tuna, chicken) on it, homemade potato chips, and then a container of some sort of side sald (mine had cucumber and corn in a vinagrette or something). Under 5 bucks. The container with the side salad was fairly good sized...