Insider Review of Whole Foods Williamsburg
- By Jeanna Pagnotta August 22, 2016
Like any cynical New Yorker, I initially scoffed when I heard Whole Foods was opening its newest location on Bedford Avenue and North 4th Street in Williamsburg. Another super expensive place to buy coconut water? Just what the neighborhood needs, right? Well, I’ll admit it. I was pretty excited. In recent months, My faith in the neighborhood had been shaken thanks to the impending L shutdown and all the talk of needing to find alternatives to Williamsburg. Was this just the solace I needed to restore my hope in the neighborhood? Let’s not go overboard. A grocery store won’t save us from lack of public transportation. Regardless to say, I was among the first customers on opening day. Here’s my review and everything you need to know.
Whole Foods Williamsburg Vibe: A+
The Williamsburg location has abandoned the signature Whole Foods green in favor of a sleek black and white décor. The white-tiled walls and exposed brick and plumbing channels an authentic Brooklyn factory feel combined with modern elegance. Even the employees have a Williamsburg flair, wearing beanies, bandannas and flat-brimmed caps. A friendly hipster offered me a sample of cow’s milk cheese that had been aged underground in Crown Heights (who knew?). It was even served on an eco-friendly cardboard taster, further adding to the Brooklyn vibe.
Quality and Selection at Whole Foods Williamsburg: A+
In addition to the usual prepared foods and beverages, the first floor boasts an abundance of local food carts and vendors. Picture Smorgasbord without the crowds. Roberta’s baked goods, East Coast Poke, Luke’s Lobster Tails and No. 7 Veggie. A coffee & juice bar serves nitrogen-infused cold brew, along with a wide assortment of smoothie bowls and juices. Walking around is a feast for all five senses. Everything is local, organic, and delicious.
The lower level is equally impressive, featuring an extensive array of locally sourced products. Fresh local pasta, 10 types of flour you’ve never heard of, and an extensive cheese selection that threatens to give the neighboring Bedford Cheese Shop a run for its money. They definitely seem to be catering to their audience, as evidenced by the biggest cases of Fage Greek yogurt that I’ve ever seen, and an entire corner of the store dedicated to LaCroix water.
Lines and Wait Times: B+
In order to provide an accurate assessment of wait time (and to treat myself to more delicious food), I visited this location on three separate weekday occasions: 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 6 p.m.. I was pleasantly surprised that each time, the lines were much shorter than I have experienced at other Whole Foods locations, with almost negligible wait times and efficient and friendly cashiers. An added bonus was the shopping cart lift on the up-escalator to help bring your booty to the checkout.
That being said, on one occasion I waited over 20 minutes for a poorly made smoothie bowl at the coffee bar up front. The woman in line next to me got so fed up with waiting that she asked for a refund. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that these are just some growing pains that will soon be resolved.
Seating Options at Whole Foods Williamsburg: A-
This location has two seating areas. One on the main floor beyond the cashiers, and a second restaurant/beer garden on the lower level. The restaurant is fairly small but has a nice, cozy ambiance, serving a selection of local beer and wines on tap and classic Brooklyn delicacies such as potato latkes, fried matzoh balls and pastrami hash. The main floor seating area is decently sized, with nice wooden furniture and big windows facing out onto North 4th. Definitely a nice sit-down option if you have time for a lunch break.
My one criticism is the lack of rooftop access or open-air seating, which is unexpected for Williamsburg. Having recently visited the Gowanus Whole Foods location, which features a huge rooftop garden and restaurant, I was disappointed that Williamsburg did not capitalize on its rooftop culture and skyline views to further accentuate the Brooklyn vibe.
Overall Review of Experience at Whole Foods Williamsburg: A
All in all, the Williamsburg Whole Foods is definitely worth a visit. Unlike my rushed and crowed shopping experiences at other Whole Foods locations in the city, the Williamsburg store has a cool, laid-back vibe to it without sacrificing quality or variety of its products. Local shoppers seemed to share my sentiments. For example, I overheard one young mom saying to another, “Usually in New York you don’t go grocery shopping together, you just get what you need. This is like an experience.”
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