Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature an article from Mike Christensen.
The Avalon doesn’t officially open for two weeks, but one small section is open now, Whole Foods. It opened this week to replace Harry’s Farmers Market. Me and 184,000 of my closest friends checked out Alpharetta’s newest organic grocer this week. It was good to be able to be on Avalon’s property for the first time, well not counting the other times one snuck in and wandered around. (editor’s note: This is a joke. Mike did not trespass on Avalon’s property).
The majority are concerned about parking. They are right to be worried. The lot isn’t as big and it is tight maneuvering. I have had to seek spaces across the street and had to hike in. Good thing I was able to grab some trail mix inside to sustain me for the journey back to the truck. If you have an electric vehicle you’re in luck. Whole Foods has a few EV spaces with charging stations right near the front. I didn’t see any of those expectant mother spaces, but I wasn’t really searching.
Entering the store, my first impression was “man this place is huge, bright and green.” Farm inspired artwork adorns the walls and bright lights make everything easy to see. Sometimes that’s a bad thing. It can also expose flaws. It seemed that the produce section was a little small and the spaces around the displays were cozy. I imagine if you get a few carts roaming around in there then traffic jams would be inevitable.
The seafood and meat counters are right next to each other. Both are well lit, pleasingly arranged and well staffed. The meat counter isn’t as long as the one at Harry’s so the meat is more condensed on display. It’s not a bad thing. The dry aging meat hanging behind a window was a neat touch.
The wine selection looks smaller than before, and the local options have diminished greatly. That’s disappointing considering the substantial North Georgia wine production. I did enjoy the sign on the wall that marked the wine section that read, “Put a cork in it”.
One thing that’s made Whole Foods at Avalon stand out is the sale and consumption of alcohol on site. There is a wine bar/cafe/cooking school located upstairs that overlooks the store. Guzzle some vino while learning to cook? Count me in. It sure would make first dates there go much better.
Whole Foods does sell growlers to-go as well. From what I could tell, they have only the 64 oz size growler wrapped in a “Whole Foods Avalon” growler-cozy. There are only four options to choose from, all local. Current selections include beers from Orpheus Brewing, Monday Night, Second Self Beer Company and Eventide Brewing. It seems that what Whole Foods lacks in local wine, they are making up in local beers. I saw an end cap display for Jekyll and there is a very large cooler fully stocked with all the Georgia breweries represented. Single bottles are also available.
Then you get to the eating food section. Several serve-yourself bars are available. One bar was marked “Paleo choices”. Dinosaur food? I moved on. This Whole Foods has more choices than most mall food courts. It was dazzling. A sushi bar, olive bar, make your own Wok place, pizza, sandwiches, it goes on and on. If that wasn’t enough, there is a counter in the front of the store where you can order a beer or a coffee and pick out one of the several pre-made sandwiches from the display. It had a very European feel to it. It makes for a very fast turnaround.
Once you’ve stuffed your face and drank your beer/wine, don’t forget dessert. I always laughed at all the healthy choices, gluten free, organic, etc, and then the most popular spot was the bakery. Tons of cakes, tarts and cookies are on display. And do not miss the (echo voice) Wheel of Gelato! My son was fascinated with the rotating tubs that resemble a spaceship from the planet ice cream. Samples are readily given.
Let’s not forget, Whole Foods is after all a grocery store. While the aisles themselves were narrow, there were a lot of them. It seemed that the packaged food aisles at Harry’s seemed like an afterthought or an addition. These at Whole Foods were designed to go here. The sheer volume of products is gluten free, organic and other styles is staggering.
Yes, prices are high. Whole Foods doesn’t have the nickname “Whole Paycheck” for nothing. While the selection is great, the lights bright, and the food options are overwhelming, it just doesn’t have that neighborhood feel that Harry’s had. Being the only organic grocer on the block will make Whole Foods a hipster, vegan, paleo paradise. But for me, it’s no replacement for Harry’s.