When you think of Austin, a few essentials may come to mind: delicious tacos, outdoor activities, live music and Whole Foods Market. Whether you regularly shop at the Austin-based store or not, you probably know that a visit to Whole Foods Market’s flagship location is more than a trip to the grocery store—it’s an experience.
The store boasts both take-out and dine-in meal options, a wine bar, a sushi and seafood bar, a juice bar, a taco bar, and a sit-down café. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t eaten all three meals there before. If you’ve visited recently, you may have noticed a few more additions, including a new farm-to-table sit-down restaurant, Red Okra.
This full-service, New American eatery features healthy food options that emphasize Whole Food’s dedication to local, seasonal produce and its Texas roots. When I was invited to the pre-opening media tasting, I couldn’t resist. Join me as I relive my Red Okra dining experience and share Whole Foods Market’s other recent additions.
Starters and Small Changes
With a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in my hand, I eagerly waited for the tasting to begin. The meal started off with small bites served in the cutest mason jars I’ve seen. The presentation alone was enough to leave guests gawking. The White Bean Hummus was smooth and creamy, with subtle hints of rosemary. The dish came with pickled carrots—a personal favorite—and grilled ciabatta. Naturally, I spread liberal amounts of hummus on both slices of bread.
The Chard & Pear Salad, though usually part of the entrée section of the single-page menu, was our second appetizer. Walnuts added the crunch I always desire, while Gorgonzola cheese provided flavor and texture. The shallot vinaigrette was refreshing—the perfect dressing for a light yet filling salad.
Just as a small appetizer can set the tone for a dining experience, small design changes can make or break a customer’s trip to the grocery store. New updates to Whole Foods Market’s plan and flow include a streamlined layout, expanded seating and wider isles. As a result, customers can easily navigate through the open layout or find seating for a fresh meal. The extra space also allows for an expanded product capacity in multiple departments.
Entrées and Noticeable Changes
Whole Foods Market has made other changes to the flagship store. Easily spotted upon entry, customers will find a new Whole Body department, a Supplier Showcase stage and a remodeled wine department that includes a curated set of wine picked by Master Sommelier and global beverage buyer, Devon Broglie.
Red Okra, of course, is another noticeable addition. The small café has seven entrée items. From that list, our media group sampled grilled Atlantic salmon, apple-brined chicken and stout-marinated pork loin. While each dish was delicious and beautifully presented, my favorite was the salmon. Served on a bed of stewed French lentils, the fish was flaky, flavorful and perfectly cooked.
The apple-brined chicken featured the restaurant’s namesake vegetable. The okra was charred and served with seaside cheddar grits. Though I’m usually not a fan of grits, this dish surprised me. I ate the entire portion with a smile on my face.
The final entrée—stout-marinated pork loin—came with a root vegetable hash, sauerkraut and a generous dose of spicy mustard sauce. And while the meat was flavorful, the sauce won me over.
Dessert and Final Touches
Though I was already full by the time dessert arrived, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a piece of Red Okra’s chocolate cake. It surpassed all my expectations. Made with hazelnut buttercream and topped with dark chocolate ganache, the rich chocolate flavor satisfied every sweet tooth in the room.
Dessert is often the final touch that completes one’s dining journey. In the same way, it’s the small touches, like more locally-sourced product items and kiosk ordering, that complete the Whole Foods Market experience. Community engagement opportunities and public events can also enhance one’s relationship to a brand. Through the end of the year, Austin’s flagship location will host a number of events including a Thanksgiving tasting and two fundraisers benefiting Texas organizations. You can find more information about each on the store’s events page.
More Than a Grocery Store
From the delicious food options to the newly improved layout, the Whole Foods Market flagship location offers an experience that continues to impress. Plan a visit to the wine bar for happy hour, pack a dinner to go, or dine in at Red Okra. While I sampled just a few of the restaurant’s signature dishes, I’m confident the others will be equally—if not more—tasty.
@sbrugal wants to know:
Have you dined at Red Okra yet?