So I have to say that, like Haverchuk, I was a bit dubious about the Whole Foods Market thing.  Particularly since, as he points out, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has been pimping it right, left, and center for months.  This whole week the ante got upped to the front of the food and business sections, Sunday and Wednesday, and the front page of the  paper itself Wednesday as well, I believe.

Well.  It opened.  Wednesday, 9 AM.  And now I have been, but not on Wednesday.  It is, suffice it to say, an experience.  I’d been to a much smaller Whole Foods Market (Hadley, MA), but it was nothing like this.

First of all, getting to the East Side from my house is an experience in and of itself, because of the way Milwaukee is built and the current Marquette Interchange construction project.  Then there’s the getting around the East Side bit.  And then there’s the part where the parking is all under the building.  It’s great, but it’s also spooky as hell, all clean new concrete.  Very…The Running Man or something, dystopian, but with actual attendants showing you to places.  This will probably become less surreal eventually.  If you park, you have to take the escalator up to the store level.

So, the first and major thing you notice about Whole Foods Milwaukee is that it is bloody huge.  I suppose it’s probably the size of a megastore, but in the vast lack of space that is the East Side, that’s like building a football stadium.

The second thing you notice is that they have everything.  (Except wanton wrappers, which they did not have.  Hopefully egg roll ones work instead.  I don’t see why not.)  I can’t think of any food item that I would want that they wouldn’t have, and it would probably be organic and/or locally grown, no less; they also have plenty of baby items, kitchen accessories, and health/beauty products.  I didn’t know there were habenero pepper farmers in this state, but apparently there are.  Not to mention the fact that there’s rows and rows of deli selections, and not just a mere salad bar.

The third is that there are samples everywhere.  God knows how long this will last, but I had about ten of them.  Some were okay, others were very good (olive and garlic tapenade?  cheese pizza?  more please.), and it was definitely an incentive to buy things, as were the smells of grilled brats, fried fish, soup, bakery, deli, etc.

Fortunately for my wallet, because I have to now replace my brake pads on my car to the tune of $275, I stuck to the egg roll wrappers and an immense organic avocado (on sale for $1.50), and since I was driving back on the freeway, I didn’t try the Wine-O-Matic.  Rather unfortunate name, I think, though retrocutesy.

So the verdict?  I liked it, had a great time, but it’s not going to become my regular shopping destination, because I don’t buy the groceries around here and don’t have the money to do so.  Essentially, it was almost like being a tourist, buying a few souvenirs and restraining oneself from blowing one’s whole paycheck.

It is best not to go there hungry.  And, if you don’t live on the East Side or Downtown, or don’t buy exclusively organic products at home, it’s also best not to shop there regularly, at least not right away.  The price is one reason, and the crowding and availability is another.  It’ll be my go-to place if and only if Outpost’s branch near here on 70th and State doesn’t have what I’m looking for.

Incidentally, the last time I looked?  They had wanton wrappers.