Whole Foods Market in Destin has been up and running long enough that, if you ever intended to go there, you probably already have. It’s a lot of things—green grocery, meat and seafood market, bakery, deli, beer and wine store, cheese shop, coffee and juice bar, and repository of Old and New Age health and beauty-enhancing products. It can also serve as a restaurant—maybe two or three—especially if you have the time to browse and weigh your options.
I ate lunch at Whole Foods on a recent weekday. I was alone, and my plan was to take a long reconnaissance of the prepared foods section—something not practicable when accompanied by my daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner). I’d scope out the options, choose my lunch, eat at the market, then get some takeout for later.
If you’ve shopped Whole Foods, you know that one side of the typical store is devoted to produce. Around the perimeter are the refrigerator and freezer cabinets, and the meat, seafood and cheese counters. Beer and wine are near the cheese and bakery—naturally. In that same section is a pizza bakery, an informal restaurant called Lucky Catch, and rows of buffet-style tables offering prepared food, generally sold by weight.
There’s no menu listing the daily prepared foods, but I’m sure it varies. The day I ate there I had my choice of Home Style (American/Southern), Korean, European, Asian, Indian, assorted soups, chowders and chilis, salads, an olive bar, deli sandwiches both prepared and made to order, pizza, and sushi. Lucky Catch offered sandwiches, burgers, seafood, etc. There are main courses and sides.
Each item is labeled, along with a list of its ingredients. Carnivores, herbivores, omnivores and vegans can browse and find something that fits their dietary regime. Desserts and beverages must be procured elsewhere in the store, but you can’t possibly miss either.
It took me some time, and I wanted to be sure I knew the drill. A helpful employee (who was monitoring the temperature of some soup) explained it. You load up your plate (plates, boxes and covers in assorted sizes are prominently placed near the tables), get whatever else you want from the nearby counters, then take it to the checkout lanes, where your food is weighed and packaged either to go or to eat in-store. Everyone seemed well-versed in his or her job, and I had my lunch packaged and paid for in short order. I’ve waited longer at McDonald’s.
Next step is to find a table. In the front of the store there are four-tops, a long counter with stools for lone diners, and a little room off to the side with comfy chairs and tables (one diner had his laptop set up). There’s also a station with napkins, plastic utensil dispensers, and trash bins.
My lunch veered to Korea and the Indian Subcontinent. I had chicken breast palak (a thick, seasoned spinach puree), kimchi rice, Brussels sprouts with a sweet sriracha glaze, and a potato samosa. It was a substantial meal (lots of carbs), very tasty, but I wish the kimchi had been a little spicier. The sprouts had a good, slow-burn heat that I cooled with a jumbo Perrier.
I had arrived just after lunch service started, and I noticed that when I returned to pick out my takeout items that the place was getting busy. There were beach-clad tourists, local business folk, and plenty of military and first responders. I was happy to see a lot of kids being exposed to something other than burger-and-fries lunch options.
I got TD a large slice of cheese pizza, which yielded two portions. For me and my wife, I got chicken biryani, a Jamaican beef pie, and a cup of lobster chowder. The flaky, hand-held pie was generously spiced with a very respectable heat. The biryani was mild but flavorful–my wife isn’t a big fan of ultra-hot food. The thick chowder had a satisfying share of sweet lobster meat, potatoes and onions.
For dessert, we splurged on a carrot cupcake, glazed apricot/almond paste tart, and a guava croissant. The tart made us think of Paris.
Other items available that day were lasagna, meatballs, steak and Guinness stew, stir-fries, baked fish, mashed potatoes, pub sandwiches, cornbread, a multitude of vegetable sides and salad makings. For sweets, there are cookies, muffins, pies, cakes, creme brulees, and lots of other colorful pastries.
If you enjoy crafting a do-it-yourself feast, stop by Whole Foods. They have your whole meal.
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