Early yesterday morning, a line of people stretched to the end of the Westchase shopping center that houses the newest Whole Foods market, at 11145 Westheimer. The store opened at 7 a.m. and shoppers arrived early to take advantage of the grand-opening specials and get a look at the pristine, brand-new store. After some speeches, the opening staff took part in the bread-breaking ceremony, a Whole Foods tradition.
The design of the store makes several nods to the Westchase District logo that appears on signs along various streets to demarcate the area. While the overall color palette is one of warm reds, oranges and golds, there's a recurring design of art deco lines that are reminiscent of the logo but also give certain areas, like the coffee bar, a hint of a steampunk motif.
It’s just across the street from the former location and boasts expanded produce, floral and cheese departments that are double or triple in size. Whole Foods marketing representative Lauren Talley says the old store did a booming lunch business, so the dine-in and to-go prepared food options have been enhanced as well.
The old store didn’t have its own sushi counter, so that had to be prepared at another store and transported. The new store, though, does and in addition to more traditional sushi offerings, new and trendy “sushi burritos” are freshly made at the counter as they are ordered. The store also sports a self-service counter with pizzas that are made in-store in a giant tiled oven.
Another new feature is at the seafood counter. It’s equipped with a dedicated smoker, which means this Whole Foods store offers house-smoked salmon, octopus, white fish and more.
Since it’s summertime, the meat counter has a sizable array of pre-made kebabs, ready to take home and grill. There are also more than 20 kinds of house-made sausage.
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Craft beer fans are going to be disappointed that, unlike some of the other Whole Foods stores, like the Post Oak and Champions locations, this one has no full-fledged beer bar. There is a mobile beer cart instead, with a small seating area of tiny tables and barstools. That said, some of the beers featured are brewed at the Post Oak store and the store does growler fills, so it certainly shortens the drive for people who live in the area.
Lack of beer bar aside, overall the newest Whole Foods is a vast improvement over the old one. After a bit of a lull last year, Whole Foods is back to expanding in the Houston area. A store is in the works for 3100 Smith in Midtown, and the first Houston location of the chain's value brand store, 365 by Whole Foods Market, is slated for a former industrial site at Yale and the 610 Loop. No opening date has yet been set for either of the forthcoming locations.