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Best Whole Foods in Boston Area

Which one is your favorite? Dedham? Cambridge?

Which one carries the most interesting products?

Which one has the best in-house coffee roaster?

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  1. I'm not a regular WF customer, so I can't really answer your last two questions. Of the ones I've visited, I like the one in Hingham. It's a large, well organized store with friendly staff.

    I would find it surprising if anyone thinks the Cambridge one is the best. It's tiny - maybe half the size, if even that, of most Whole Foods I've visited and quite lacking. It's good in a pinch if you really need something from WF and you're in the area, but I can't see how anyone does regular shopping there.

    6 Replies
    1. re: kobuta

      Probably talking about the one in Cambridge at Fresh Pond.

      1. re: rknrll

        Or possibly the one in Cambridge at River Street...

        1. re: Allstonian

          or the really small one on Prospect St. in Cambridge.

          1. re: Madrid

            This is the one I was thinking of...but good point. I didn't realize Cambridge was so flush with WF!

      2. re: kobuta

        I prefer the Woburn WF precisely because of it's small size. I don't usually do 'regular' shopping at WF. I'm usually there because I need a small number of specific items that are worth the price/special trip at WF.

        For that reason, the Woburn WF is great. I can easily park, get the 5-10 things I need, and get out quickly, usually without any lines at the checkout.

        1. re: rshock

          I am completely opposite from you. We live 10 min from WobWF but Woburn is woefully unstocked of too many items on our WF shopping list. And FrPond carries every single one of those items. I was always told that FrPond is their flagship store in MA. I think it is also their highest grossing MA store. Produce, seafood counter , baking needs,bulk goods, frozen and bakery are all superior at FrP over Woburn.

        1. re: eastofthemississippi

          I go to Symphony more than the others because its the one closest to where I live. Compared to Dedham, Hingham, River St in Cambridge, it's about 1/3 the size and has a much smaller selection. I like Dedham and Hingham the best. The worst one is Jamaica Plain. The food on the hot table seems to always look like its been sitting there and is dried out and several of the bins in their bread dept are always empty.

          1. re: eastofthemississippi

            Funny, I find the Symphony one to be among the worst. Most limited in terms of meat selection, and I feel like the rest of the store caters to students (prepared and frozen foods galore, snacks).

            There are things that draw me to the Beacon Hill, Fresh Pond, and River Street locations. I generally default to Beacon Hill one, because of proximity.

            1. re: eastofthemississippi

              The Symphony one is by far, objectively, the worst Whole Foods in the entire area. What are you talking about?

            2. The one in Hingham. It’s large but well laid out. The folks at the fish, meat and cheese counters are friendly and knowledgeable. They have a large selection of unique products, both their own and made locally. The service manager will get you almost anything special ordered (turkey gravy in the off season for example). The cashiers are exceptionally polite so I assume they are being trained properly. It is extremely clean-from the dining area to the rest rooms. Have yet to have a “bad” experience

              I have been to most of the WF in the great Boston area but I shop most often at the one in Hingham as it’s the closest therefore my opinion may be biased.

              1. There are at least 3 Whole Foods in Cambridge. I assume you're talking Fresh Pond?

                I'm hoping the new Beacon St. WF enters into this conversation. Looks like it's getting close to opening.

                10 Replies
                1. re: mkfisher

                  I would think that size-wise, it would be more on par with the Prospect St location?

                  My vote is for the Fresh Pond one but I haven't been to any of the suburban locations.

                  1. re: LeoLioness

                    Is that old Johnny's space really as small as Prospect St?

                    1. re: mkfisher

                      No, but its size is much closer to that than to the other WF locations in Cambridge.

                  2. re: mkfisher

                    Honestly, I prefer the River Street WF to the one in Fresh Pond. Partially due to the much smaller crowds but I do think it's better in general.

                    1. re: addiez

                      You clearly don't shop at River Street on Sunday afternoons.

                      1. re: mkfisher

                        I like the store itself, but so many of the shoppers at the Fresh Pond store are almost like a WF parody. I once saw a woman prompt her toddler to ask an employee where the organic rainbow chard was.

                        1. re: LeoLioness

                          I, too, shop at the Fresh Pond WF. It's on my way to and from work, they stand by their food, and the service is good. But I agree with your comment about the customers. I once went to an exhibit in London about food rationing during World War II which said that you had to register for coupons at your local grocery. I could only imagine the ladies of West Cambridge hightailing it to WF in their Volvo station wagons to make sure they got on their list.

                        2. re: mkfisher

                          That's when I go! I still think it's better than Fresh Pond. I might be comparing rush hour Fresh Pond to weekend River Street, but I still think RS wins. If you disagree, perhaps it's time to return to the FP store.

                      2. re: mkfisher

                        We popped into the new Beacon St. Whole Foods yesterday. The parking lot was a much more enjoyable experience compared to Prospect St. and River St. Other than that, I was underwhelmed. Didn't love the layout. There's also no butcher counter. Everything is packed in the freezer and you have to hit this random for service if you need something that's not there. The produce section was also extra narrow and congested which was made worse by the lack of those short two level carts they have at the two Cambridge stores.

                      3. Fresh Pond is the best of the ones I go to often enough to have an opinion on. I buy my coffee at the Woburn one, usually, and am happy with it but am not a coffee snob so I'm not sure it's any better/worse than elsewhere. Besides, if I were a snob, there are multiple independent funky roasters near me. :) Have had multiple bad experiences with the in-house bakery and prepared foods of the Medford one, and the selection there is mediocre at best.

                        The old Wellesley one, despite being tiny, always seemed to have a fantastic selection; hopefully the new one is just as good but I've only been in it once since the move and was rushing in/out with a specific shopping list.

                        1. The Framingham one is pretty good. I stop there on my way out to work in Worcester. It's similar to the large one in Newtonville, which I used to frequent.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Science Chick

                            +1 for Framingham. I really miss that one now that we live in Lexington. I shop at Bedford and Woburn, which are both pretty good, but neither one compares to Framingham's selection and freshness. I also thought their prepared foods were better, in particular, the New England turkey-cranberry sandwich, which I've tried at about 6 different Whole Foods. They got the ratio of meat to bread just right, and didn't skimp on the mayo, Mayo is fattening, but it isn't poison!

                            I'm looking forward to trying the new WF in Arlington when it opens, right across from Trader Joe's and down the street from Berman's so I can do most of my shopping in one trip!

                            1. re: Isolda

                              Not really right across from TJ's.. probably 1.5 - 2 miles down the road

                              1. re: grant.cook

                                Close enough to stop by in one trip, though, unlike my current situation!

                                1. re: grant.cook

                                  Across the parking lot, across Prospect St, across the next parking lot. Google maps says, if you stay in the marked car lanes (rather than cut any corners across the parking lots), it's .3 miles.

                                  https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Un...

                            2. Dedham was always my favorite when I worked down that way - and they sell wine. I think the fish counter at Fresh Pond is their best for that..

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: grant.cook

                                I would love a WF that sold wine. That's one thing I like better about west coast grocery stores--you can get your dinner ingredients and your wine in the same place.

                                1. re: Isolda

                                  Massachusetts law restricts the number of stores within a chain that can sell alcoholic beverages. The Whole Foods locations on River Street in Cambridge, Danvers, and Hadley are the ones with wine departments.

                                  1. re: owades

                                    I know the rules. I just don't agree with them.

                                    1. re: owades

                                      I think the limits is up to 5 now, and more get added in upcoming years.

                                      1. re: grant.cook

                                        it will be 5, then eventually 10.

                                        the limit is a ridiculous law, managed by the package store and wholesalers' lobby.

                                2. In-house coffee roaster? I really don't think so.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Steve L

                                    Well, at the WF in Newtonville, pretty sure they roast in-house for the Allegra coffee. I can smell the roaster sometimes when I'm in the parking lot.

                                    1. re: Science Chick

                                      That's really surprising to me. Most of my Whole Foods experiences revolve around West Medford and that kitchen is pretty bad. I'd hire better cooks before I'd hire coffee roasters.

                                    2. re: Steve L

                                      The Whole Foods in Dedham roasts most of the Allegro coffee they sell. Each coffee bin is marked with a filled by or roasted by date. The recently discontinued Sumatra Decaf was roasted in-house and was among the best decaf coffee I've ever had and I'm, as my family would say, very picky.

                                      1. re: Steve L

                                        I haven't been to the Woburn one is a while, but last year they were roasting in-house and had a pretty good single-origin Columbian available.

                                      2. I only really go to Symphony and Dedham. Symphony is much more limited.

                                        I do find that Dedham has excellent educated staff in the cheese fish and meat department. I can actually ask questions like what's the favored proscuitto right now, as I know from experience that the three top brands each have moments of superior flavor.

                                        1. I generally don't have much use for Whole Foods, however the Cambridge River Location has an excellent cheese counter. If I can't get out to Wasick's or over to Formaggio, I am always content with what they steer me to.

                                          1. I used to go to the one by Memorial Dr., mainly because it was close to a Trader Joe's. Though, I found that the salad/other take-out counters were never well maintained- fortunately I'll eat pretty much anything on offer, but wouldn't want to "pair" everything on offer.

                                            Jonathan
                                            http://buildingmybento.com
                                            http://collaterallettuce.com

                                            1. After going to the Whole Foods in downtown Austin TX (corporate base of WF chain) every WF in Mass. seems puny by comparison. WF Austin had huge chocolate section, beer section, clothing and much much more. So much going on it made the Fresh Pond WF look like a corner grocery. Just sayin'.

                                              1. I like the one in Hingham best, but am content with any of them (the "new" Wellesley store, Newtonville, Winchester, even River St by Mem Drive) - wherever I happen to be running errands - just so long as I can avoid my closest store: the dreaded Charles River Plaza location in Beacon Hill. So tiny, so crowded, the parking lot is a beast to get into and out of, and maybe it's the cramped quarters but the patrons seem crabbier than elsewhere. I can hardly wait for the Charlestown location to open (which I guess will be soon because there was just a job fair) - so I never have to set foot in the Beacon Hill store again.

                                                1. I can tell you which one is the WORST: Charles River Plaza.

                                                  16 Replies
                                                  1. re: Prav

                                                    Have you been to the one on Jamaica Plain? Horrible!

                                                    1. re: catsmeow

                                                      I prefer Charles River Plaza to Prospect Street, just because of the size. If they're restocking anything at the Prospect Street location, you just have to stand and wait because there's no way you're getting by. Plus you miss out on a lot of the things other locations have because it's so small!

                                                      1. re: addiez

                                                        The prep-food bars at Whole Foods stores vary wildly, but the CRP one is CRaP.

                                                        1. re: Prav

                                                          Really? I tend to like their stuff when they get it, especially if you can grab clams right out of the fryer! But I often take a pass, because there are shady characters partaking....

                                                          1. re: galleygirl

                                                            What does that mean, "shady characters partaking...?" Not trying to be facetious, just really don't know what it means. I've been to Charles River plenty of times and haven't witnessed anything "shady," which honestly would be welcome in the face of all the Beacon Hillers jockeying for space using their yoga mats as bayonets. Ok maybe I am being facetious now.

                                                            1. re: digga

                                                              I go to CRP fairly often and have never noticed shady characters.

                                                              1. re: digga

                                                                Okay, street people sampling.....

                                                                1. re: galleygirl

                                                                  I've sampled cheese and olives, but I've never sampled a street person..... :0

                                                                  1. re: galleygirl

                                                                    I am a-OK with homeless folks sampling. The way I see some seemingly well-off Cantabridgians sampling, you'd think that they were penniless...But who knows?!

                                                                    1. re: digga

                                                                      I'm with you, as far as well-heeled customers sampling. To be honest, I'm A-un-OK with anyone sampling, including the most privileged. The whole practice simply raises costs for all of us, and puts everyone's immune system to a challenge. It was actually wrong of me to single out the homeless, I get just as queasy when I see a "professional" doing the same thing...
                                                                      No matter who does it, it's still stealing...

                                                                      1. re: galleygirl

                                                                        Indeed.....not to mention cleanliness issues. I steer clear of those food bars anyway.

                                                                  2. re: digga

                                                                    And I saw Lydia Shire buying cheese at the Wellesley store today...

                                                                      1. re: galleygirl

                                                                        You did!?!? I was there at 11 am. That's a good sighting!

                                                                        1. re: sallyt

                                                                          My husband swears he saw Norm Abrams at the Bedford store. Yeah, he's a master carpenter, not a chef, but he must be somewhat picky about food, right?

                                                                          1. re: Isolda

                                                                            I saw Jennifer Gardner at the Fresh Pond WF once, back when she and Ben Affleck would spend summers in Cambridge.

                                                          2. First off, I'll admit I'm a big WF fan. I find them a boon when I'm traveling. The only one that care for was flagship in Austin which was just too large (kind of an odd complaint, but seriously). There's a giant one in Chicago that is similar overwhelming.

                                                            I liked Framingham's when I used to work out there. What's nice there is you have a Trader Joe's next door and a respectable liquor store there, so you can get everything you need at the same time. It's not just a big store it's actually stocked with a lot of products. I feel the same way about Dedham but rarely make it out because of the distance.

                                                            River street sells wine which is nice, but although there store is large, once you get into the nitty gritty, they don't have that much more stuff than smaller stores. My other complaint is that they practice the organic up-sell ie. not carry conventional products that other WF carry, so you have to buy organic. After a couple of trips there I was done with them for regular shopping. Propect Street is too small imo and isn't well stocked (the way the old Wellesley one was despite its postage stamp size).

                                                            Wellesley is out near where I work so I stop on my way home from time to time. The produce section is weak but the fish, meat, cheese, and prepared foods is really strong. Given the culture in Wellesley, WF clearly did their research. It's a bummer about the veggies though. Also, I find shoppers there just about the ruddest of any of them.

                                                            My home store of Brighton is pretty solid. It recently (about a week ago) finished an expansion renovation. It definitely feels less cramped and is a good medium sized store now. The cheese section improved and I think the vegetables/fruits are great. The seafood I've always found just okay given the prices, but the rest of the store is well stocked considering it's formerly small and now medium size.

                                                            As one of the resident coffee nerds on the board, I haven't found the in-house coffee all that special given the price. What peeves me the most though (besides bags of coffee that are months past the roast date) is that in the "in-house roasted" coffee bins, they write the FILL date not the ROAST date. While it's great to know this bin was filled up this week, it's useless info if the coffee was roasted a month ago. Personally, I find that intentionally misleading. If their coffee was a couple bucks cheaper I could ignore this stuff, but when their coffee is into specialty coffee prices I cannot.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Klunco

                                                              Hey, Klunco,

                                                              I occasionally buy coffee at the Fresh Pond WF because they do in-house roasting. Some of the bins are for beans they don't roast in-house, and those have fill-dates, but the other bins for the store-roasted beans have roast dates. I'm always careful to note the difference.

                                                              Not sure if Brighton has both, though.

                                                              1. re: bear

                                                                Thanks for the heads up Bear. I'll keep that in mind for Fresh Pond which I need to get out to at some point. They all seem to do it a little differently but I'm glad to hear they they keep it real.

                                                                Brighton does filled on only. Wellesley (even though they do roast there) also only does filled on.

                                                            2. I get to a LOT of WF's in my travels...
                                                              Best pizza; Charles Circle, River St and Framingham (!)

                                                              Best Sushi; Newtonville (seperate from the Ginza chain that does the rest, restaurant quality, not supermarket quality)

                                                              Best Salad and prep Foods BAR; Dedham (because it's home of their "Health Starts Here" initiative

                                                              Best Fish; Fresh Pond, because they have whole, smaller species of fish, and Hingham for freshness

                                                              Best Gelato Bar; Hingham

                                                              Best In-House Roasters; (I'm not a fan of WF coffee, but...)
                                                              Fresh Pond and Hingham (because they seem to do it the most)

                                                              Best Cheese; River St., Hingham, Newtonville

                                                              Most Interesting Products; (based on their high local product numbers) Fresh Pond and Hingham

                                                              1. The Mass. Gen. Hospital Whole Foods.

                                                                It is much calmer, bigger, and has a larger selection than the others I have been to. It is the only Whole Foods I can actually get my cart around without a problem. That said, I really like the one in Central Square, Cambridge as a close second.

                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: HungryNihilist

                                                                  by the one in Central Square Cambridge, to you mean the very small Prospect St store or the River St store, a few blocks from Central?

                                                                  1. re: Madrid

                                                                    River St. store. I didn't even know there was one on Prospect but now I will definitely check that one out. Thanks.

                                                                    1. re: HungryNihilist

                                                                      The Prospect store was one of the original Bread and Circus stores. I think it might have been the second one in the Boston area, after the original Brookline/Harvard Street one! Although seemingly small now, compared to the other large WF stores, it was one of the first full-size grocery stores for "natural foods" back in the mid 80s and was quite exciting at the time! :)

                                                                      1. re: Science Chick

                                                                        If only Bread and Circus still existed. Head and shoulders above whole foods...

                                                                        1. re: Gabatta

                                                                          Agreed - I used to frequent the Providence Bread and Circus years ago when I was but a chowpup. I would bring mom out there with me and we both loved it. Back then, I got a lot of looks for bringing in my own tote bags in which to haul everything away. That was my first intro to eating well. I still love the Prospect store for the small-ness and less antiseptic/corporate feel that the others have.

                                                                        2. re: Science Chick

                                                                          When my brother called to ask me about being in lockdown in CAmbridge, he said. "This must have caused the most chatter in Cambridge since Whole Foods bought out Bread and Circus!"

                                                                          1. re: fantundo

                                                                            Or since Starbucks bought out Coffee Connection....RIP.

                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                              you had to bring THAT up.....

                                                                    2. re: HungryNihilist

                                                                      when you say mass general, you mean beacon hill, right? that store is hell on earth.

                                                                    3. I don't think anyone has mentioned the Medford store yet so I will. I can't stand food shopping in chaos (it should be an enjoyable, zen experience) so the "best" WF is the most calm one and that is Medford (although recently I've been going to Woburn and that seems equally quiet). Plus the staff are really friendly.

                                                                      I am eager to see what the Arlington store is going to be like. At least it's convenient for me and so I hope to hit it during off hours.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: digga

                                                                        The Melrose WF, to open on July 24th in a former Foodmaster space, is roughly the same size as the West Medford WF.

                                                                      2. I am amazed that with three WF already within a 10 minute drive of home, I will now have one five minutes away in the old Foodmaster in Arlington Center.

                                                                        As noted, seafood at Fresh Pond is always fresh with big selection - West Medford is often fresh and they are nice, but you have to watch (by this I mean, smell) it before you buy - and I have returned seafood to Woburn twice for refunds after it ruined dinner plans.

                                                                        In fact, i have no use for the Woburn store at all anymore and have stopped going there - Roche Bros. Burlington is close enough and meets the needs at a slightly lower price.

                                                                        The cheese counter is also best at Fresh Pond if Formaggio is too far off your path, but also strong at West Medford relative to its size.

                                                                        For me, the prepared (without discernible seasoning and virtually ALWAYS severely undercooked - except the dried out protein) foods and (aged in a bad way with awful rice) sushi at all WF are usually a disappointment.

                                                                        The in-house coffee has never been adequately roasted by any of them for my taste (Peet's Major Dickason is my go to - even the supermarket pre-ground version is better than Allegro and much cheaper when it's on sale).

                                                                        Traffic and the parking lot at Fresh Pond at peak times is a total nightmare - late on weeknights works well for me.

                                                                        1. I like Bedford. I think it's one of the larger ones around here and seems to have the best selection. When I go to any others with a list there always seems to be stuff they don't have. The selection in the prepared foods area in Bedford seems to have gone way downhill though.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: snippet

                                                                            if it hasn't changed, I found Bedford to have the largest bulk spices section.

                                                                          2. I shop regularly at Whole Foods River Street and like it. They have a good variety of food/products and the people who work there are friendly and helpful. I try to go during non-peak hours...aka, not on a Sunday or right after work.

                                                                            1. THe one in Central Sq seemed to have great produce and nearly everything that one needs. However I have sought out a large store better than my home Brighton location and I can't find it. I was pretty disappointed with the River St location- lots of things on sale and of worse quality (produce wise). They also didn't have a couple of things I normally get.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: fara

                                                                                The Fresh Pond location is large. You just need to deal with that parking lot and the behavior of people there.....

                                                                              2. Fresh Pond has to be one of the busiest , I have found Bedford to have the best dairy and local food selection. The Andover store is small and has horrible service.
                                                                                The best in my opinion have to be Dedham , Portland Me and soon to open in Lynnfield should be a good one.

                                                                                1. I think they all are a little bit different and special in their own way. In Portland ME (the lone WF in ME) I like how they say their veggie pizza is the pine point. Around here, I've had the pizza at a few WF and I like them all but I think Woburn WF does the best pizza.

                                                                                  The sushi (done by Genji) is pretty much a fairly consistent offering amongst all their stores and is good enough to be considered good Japanese sitdown restaurant quality.

                                                                                  Ended up in the Charles River Plaza WF a few times. Crowded, but I think it is for a reason as they have the best lunch value around (short of going into the North End) for something that I would rate above average. It's tough getting a table to enjoy your food their though and it is ridiculously crowded during lunch hours and after work during the week.

                                                                                  1. The new store in Weymouth is very good.

                                                                                    1. Looks like the new Somerville store will open on September 4th. It's just under 25k square feet.

                                                                                      1. You guys, gelato! Nobody else likes to eat gelato while they shop at WF? That's my guilty pleasure and the reason I sneak off to the River Street WF in Cambridge instead of the other stores that are nearby. Also, when shopping with small children, the odd layout of that WF where you leave your bags upstairs and then they send them off on the conveyor belt and load them into your car trunk is very convenient.

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Pia

                                                                                          Had it once and it is amazing. Sometimes I think WF has a identity of more of a restaurant in my mind :). The Alden's ice cream to take home is amazing as well.

                                                                                          If you're looking for a real treat, go for the LaLoo's goat milk ice cream which is heaven on earth albeit it is $7/pint, about in line with what Shaw's and Hannaford charges for this product in stores they carry it at.

                                                                                          1. re: kreptol

                                                                                            Tried it the other day; TC and I shared a pint for dinner....
                                                                                            It's goats' milk right, so it's good for you! ;)

                                                                                            1. re: kreptol

                                                                                              Actually, Framingham has better smoked fish, as does Dedham, which seems to have the wildest varieties...

                                                                                          2. Charlestown! Actually, not. Despite the fact that I have been there 4 times in the 6 days since it opened, it's too small and they don't yet have things figured out. Is River Street the only one that has tons of different kinds of in-house smoked fish? That puts it over the top in my book, if only because there is some new and different fish that I have never tried smoked before, so that I can justify buying each time to see what it tastes like on top of a bagel.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                                                                              Dedham also does in-house smoked fish. I used to not like the Dedham store - when it first opened, it had a food court vibe to me and it seemed like a lot of people weren't in there to shop, but to stroll around and sight see - but now that some of the Legacy Place hoopla has died down, I like their perishables selections and variety a lot. I don't shop the middle aisles very much, so can't comment intelligently about the variety there. The store closest to me is JP and it is unfortunately a huge disappointment in size, product variety, and staff friendliness/helpfulness (except the fish guys - they are all well-informed and approachable).

                                                                                              1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                                                                                                gah. am mostly a whole paycheck hater but stopped at the charlestown location recently out of convenience. big sign that their all-natural-bla-blah- rotisserie chickens were on-sale. i hadn't eaten since the day before and was famished.

                                                                                                it was sitting in at least an inch of liquid, the flesh was rubbery and nearly flavorless and within 24 hours i was violently ill. it was the only food i consumed and luckily i had thrown most of it away because it was so unappetizing. blech.