Lincoln Park Whole Foods is Now Open

May 25 2009 - 5:20 PM

To much buzz and ballyhooing, the new Lincoln Park Whole Foods is now open. At 75,000 square feet of space, it is the 3rd largest Whole Foods in the world (behind London and Austin), ironically on par with the size of many Wal-Marts. But let me put aside the question of whether Chicago needs such a monstrously large Whole Foods for now, and say that this one is Awesome. I will admit that I was hoping for a sushi conveyor belt (like the Bowery Whole Foods in NYC), but I quickly got over my disappointment when presented with a vast array of in-store take-out options.

In keeping with the locavorism mentality, Whole Foods has adroitly named their take-out stations after local neighborhoods. You can pick up a sandwich at Wicker Park Subs, design a pasta bowl at Taylor Street Italian, and grab noodle soups and tempura bowls at the Chinatown asian fusion station. I grabbed a pork al pastor burrito from the Pilsen Tacqueria station, which was filled with a generous amount of flavorful meat, rice, beans, guacamole, veggies and salsa. After commenting on the tostones, the guy behind the counter even threw a couple pieces into my burrito for me to sample. For the vegetarians out there, they also offer an excellent chipotle lime tofu filling, and the beans and rice are entirely vegan. My hefty burrito was delicious and filling, and rang up at a cheaper-than-Chipotle $5.99 + tax. I can see why executives at last week's NRA show were concerned about the threat of supermarkets and their foray into restaurant meal replacement.

Next up, the Lincoln Park gelateria. With free samples available, this is by far the most popular station in the "food court." A number of classic flavors (chocolate chip, peach, pistachio) were offered, but the ones that caught my eye were the pineapple-basil gelato and blackberry-merlot sorbet. The sorbet was a tart and refreshing on a sunny day, with hints of red wine. The pineapple-basil gelato was even better, with distinct bits of pineapple accompanied by the herbal whiff of basil at the finish of each spoonful. It was a mind-blowingly cool cognitive dissonance.

To put the cherry on top, Whole Foods offers outdoor seating. As we indulged in dessert, the placid, sage-green waters of the Chicago River beckoned below us, as happy kayakers and ducks paddled past.

Whole Foods Lincoln Park
1550 N. Kingsbury St (and North)
(Just a block south of the old location)