We compared Whole Foods stores in the city and in the suburbs - and the loser was clear
- Whole Foods has nearly 500 locations across North America and the United Kingdom.
- We visited Whole Foods locations in Darien, Connecticut, and New York City to see whether the supermarket chain is better in the city or in the suburbs.
- It was a close call, but the suburban store ultimately provided the best shopping experience.
From an unparalleled variety of healthy foods to great deals thanks to Amazon, it's no wonder why shoppers all over the country flock to Whole Foods Market to do their grocery shopping.
We decided to put the supermarket chain to the test by visiting both suburban and urban locations in order to determine which provided the best shopping experience. For the suburban category, we visited the Darien, Connecticut, location, about an hour outside of New York City. For the urban category, we shopped at the chain's Midtown East location in New York.
After taking note of the size, selection, and check-out process of each store, we found that both suburban and urban locations provided a pleasant shopping experience. However, the more spacious nature of the Darien store, combined with added perks like a coffee shop and gelato bar, made the suburban store stand out.
Keep reading for more on why it's best to shop at Whole Foods in the suburbs:
We visited a Whole Foods store in Darien, Connecticut, about an hour outside of New York City.
This Whole Foods is located just outside downtown Darien, right off I-95.
There are 13 Whole Foods Market stores in New York City. We chose the Midtown East location, on 57th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.
The Midtown East store is located just a few blocks from the Queensboro Bridge.
A large atrium serves as the entrance to the Darien Whole Foods.
We were immediately struck by the produce section, which seemed to be overflowing with fruits and vegetables.
From lettuce to brussels sprouts, we were impressed with the store's wide selection.
There were also signs highlighting deals and sales.
Behind a giant shelf of bananas, there is a counter with fresh-squeezed juice.
There are also plenty of containers of pre-cut fresh fruit.
The produce section at the Midtown East store is not quite as spacious, although the selection is about the same.
Back in Connecticut, we moved on to meat.
From seafood ...
... to maple-glazed ham, we had plenty of options.
There are sizable counters for each type of meat.
The Manhattan store has a more condensed area for meat.
The meat section is surrounded by a few small aisles containing olive oils and sauces.
The cheese selection at the Midtown East location rivals that of a specialty store.
One of the best things about Whole Foods Market in general is the to-go food section. From the salad and antipasto bar at the Darien store ...
... to the hot soup and skillet bars.
At the Darien Whole Foods, rotisserie chickens start at $7.99.
Plus, there's an expansive offering of prepared foods.
The Manhattan store also has plenty of options when it comes to ready-to-eat foods, from the salad bar ...
... to microwavable meals ...
... as well as sandwiches and pasta salads.
We also found the soup section fully stocked with a wide variety of options.
Both Whole Foods stores we visited had all the basics, but the Darien store had a few extra features that set the suburban location apart.
We were excited to see juice and kombucha on tap, for example.
The flavors of the day were Sweet Green and Sweet Carrot.
The Darien store also has a hot pizza bar.
The extra space at this suburban store means there is room for a candy station from Dylan’s Candy Bar ...
... as well as a coffee and gelato shop.
The bakery at the Darien store has all the basics ...
... and holiday treats ...
... from cupcakes to petit fours.
The bakery at the Midtown East store was well stocked with all kinds of loaves, in addition to a few holiday items when we visited.
The main difference we noticed between the suburban and city stores was space. Take a look at the roomy aisles in the Darien store ...
... compared with the more compact aisles at the Midtown East store.
Smaller spaces come with the territory of a city supermarket, although it's undoubtedly easier to shop when you don't feel constrained by cramped aisles or crowded by other shoppers.
Another unique aspect of Whole Foods stores is their collection of environmentally friendly and health-conscious home and beauty products.
The Darien store has an extensive beauty section, complete with attendants ready to answer questions about products.
From natural toothpaste to makeup, the Darien Whole Foods has it all.
The Midtown East location has a more limited beauty section, although this store’s household product selection was impressive.
For a city supermarket, the variety of cleaning products is more extensive than we expected.
Some other stand-out features of the Midtown East store include this refrigerated cased dedicated entirely to vegan food items ...
... and the beer case that allows customers to mix and match their own six-packs.
We also noticed that Amazon, which acquired Whole Foods in 2017, has made its presence clear at Whole Foods stores.
At both the Midtown East and Darien stores, you can buy Amazon items like the Echo, Kindle, or Fire tablet.
When it came time to check out, we didn’t have to wait in line at the Darien store thanks to the multitude of check-out stands, which we’ve come to expect from suburban supermarkets.
Checking out is often the most frustrating aspect of grocery shopping in a city, although Whole Foods has figured out a system that allows customers to be broken up into a series of lines to help the process move faster.
When it comes to grocery shopping in New York City, Whole Foods provides one of the best shopping experiences because of its variety, stock, and easy check-out process.
For everyday shopping, Whole Foods in the city is just as good as stores in the suburbs.
However, the added perks of suburban stores — like the juice bar, coffee shop, and home and beauty section, give them a leg up on their urban counterparts.
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