It's hard to believe that the renovation and expansion of a mere grocery store can be one of the most anticipated shopping events of the year. But in Memphis, we rejoice about anything that gives our small city a bit of big city glam.
Whole Foods has been an East Memphis staple for ages, but it was never a shopping nirvana - thanks to the cramped space it occupied. When the big box office store next door moved a bit further east into a smaller space, the grocery gods and Memphis foodies alike were smiling; finally, we would see the interactive experience that a trip to Whole Foods was meant to be.
A growler station features five craft beers on tap - and it's heavy on made-in-Memphis brew — Photo courtesy of Sally Walker Davies
The store now occupies 42,000 square feet, with more to come. Beyond the beautiful fresh produce section and an impressive bulk foods, grains and teas area - and the usual Whole Foods suspects, including an expansive health and beauty area - the store offers its best products along the perimeter.
There's a fresh-made gelato station with mountains of enticing, creamy treats. There's a bakery filled with gorgeous breads and huge single-serving desserts, all made from scratch. There's a wok and sushi bar, a sandwich bar and chef's case and a station for freshly made pastas and sauces to combine at whim.
But there are two stand-out areas in the new, improved Whole Foods - a growler station and an honest-to-goodness barbecue shack. The growler station features five beers on tap and a hip brew expert to help one decide between the craft beers offered. Whole Foods is all about featuring and supporting local vendors, so the beers on tap will heavily feature made-in-Memphis beers, including Yazoo, Ghost River and Wise Acre, to name a few.
The BBQ Shack is a stand-alone oasis of pork splendor within the store — Photo courtesy of Sally Walker Davies
The in-store barbecue restaurant pays homage to the city's obsession with pork barbecue quite well. Called the BBQ Shack, the stand-alone eatery has booths and counter seating, and an exterior that's appropriately rustic. The meats are all on display, which makes ordering decisions more difficult than you'd expect.
While there is plenty of pulled pork and ribs (both to be expected), brisket, chicken and the surprising and very popular choice of duck are also on the menu. Meals must be purchased in the shack, and beer is served, but not allowed to be taken out into the store.
Little Memphis touches are seen throughout the store, including lighted, hollowed-out guitar amps serving as the checkout lane signs. The final phase of the Memphis Whole Foods expansion will include a cooking school and an outdoor cafe.