LAKEVIEW — Like an amusement park dedicated to organic produce and dry-aged beef, the new Whole Foods Lakeview is a treat for the eye, as well as the stomach.
The city's second-largest Whole Foods opens at 3201 N. Ashland Ave. at 9 a.m. Wednesday after 16 months of construction and a promise that the new grocery store would revitalize the corner of Ashland, Lincoln and Belmont avenues.
To celebrate the grand opening, the first 500 customers Wednesday will receive a gift card for between $5 and $500. Whole Foods will also donate 1 percent of sales during the first five days to five nearby schools.
On Tuesday, grocers were stocking shelves as others buzzed about, hanging signs and putting the finishing touches on the two-story, 75,000-square-foot grocery store.
An employee stocks the shelf above a hot bar while others hang signs inside the new Whole Foods Lakeview, which opens Wednesday. [All photos DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
The green wall covering the parking garage on the ground level of Whole Foods Lakeview faces Melrose Street, where a small walking path was also added.
Outside, living walls of green, purple and brown foliage conceal a 300-space parking garage, while the largest Whole Foods sign in Chicago perches on a glass-paned facade facing the intersection.
Inside, the first floor is dedicated to Allegro Coffee, the Whole Foods company that will roast small batches of coffee beans for 12 Whole Foods stores in Chicago. A coffee bar with a long strip of seats facing Ashland Avenue sells espresso drinks and cold-brew coffee, plus wine and several regional beers on draft.
When moving a store, "you need the new one to feel already lived in, comfortable and as special as the old one felt for shoppers," said Christine Sturch, the store's design and brand coordinator. "We also wanted to have real subtle callbacks to the whole Lakeview Whole Foods and to our heritage growing up in the Lakeview area."
A large seating area near the Allegro coffee bar faces Ashland Avenue.
A wall mural behind the coffee bar, for example, pays tribute to Rose Records, which used to occupy the building where Whole Foods first opened in Lakeview, 3300 N. Ashland Ave., one block north of the new store.
The 17-year-old location closed Tuesday afternoon, with long lines of customers scooping up half-off merchandise until around 3:30 p.m. Target will replace it in October.
The new store, twice as large as its predecessor, mainly operates on the second floor, where miles of aisles are filled with bulk dry goods, bouquets of flowers, beauty products and accessories, liquor and the typical assortment of high-end, organic products the company stakes its name on.
Bulk dry goods are available on the second floor of the new Whole Foods Lakeview.
Bouquets of flowers greet customers on the second-floor landing from the escalators.
Surrounding the grocery aisles are kiosks and departments for meat, baked goods, cheese and sushi. Each is elevated in some way, whether it's the dry-aged beef hanging near seven varieties of in-house smoked bacon or the tuna that is served raw in sushi safely after being frozen at 76 degrees below zero.
A tower of Whole Foods-exclusive Lakeview American Pale Ale from Begyle Brewing is stacked 20-cans deep to mark the Lakeview location's grand opening. Close to piles of cheese, an extensive olive bar is filled every type of olive one can imagine, plus a few more.
Whole Foods partnered with Begyle Brewing on a special Lakeview American Pale Ale to celebrate the chain's new Lakeview location, which opens Wednesday.
Signs offer descriptions of the stacks of cheeses near the Wine Box in the new Whole Foods Lakeview.
Customers can snag a few cheese and olives and head to the Wine Box in the back corner of the store. With a geometric and vaguely South American mural and rotating window panels, Wine Box will sell a rotating selection of 35 wines by the glass and small plates of cauliflower meatballs, avocado toast, chicken sausage and bacon.
Shoppers can also take the wine (or beer from Red Star Bar) through the grocery store while they browse.
Like many other Whole Foods, including the city's largest market in Lincoln Park, Whole Foods Lakeview has a host of seating and dining options inside the store.
An extensive olive bar is stationed near the Wine Box on the second floor of the new Whole Foods Lakeview.
A self-serve mochi bar will sell the ice cream-filled dessert for $2 each or $10 for a pack of six.
A self-serve mochi bar is sure to attract fans of the ice cream-filled Japanese rice cakes, which can be bought in nine flavors individually for $2 or in packs of six for $10.
Neapolitan-style pizza cooked in a massive brick oven will be $3.50 per slice or $14 for a large with one topping. A counter next to the Red Star Bar has $7-$9 poutine, sandwiches, burgers, small plates and a children's menu.
Among them are a chicken and fennel sandwich for $8 that comes topped with black pepper mayonnaise, pickled onion and fontina cheese. Small plates of whiskey-smoked ribs, fire-roasted brussels sprouts and pork carnitas range from $5-$10, and a loaded vegan poutine made with kale, mushroom demi and pickled onion clocks in at $7 and 1,060 calories.
The Red Star Bar in the new Whole Foods Lakeview has 100 types of whiskey.
The Red Star Bar — previously only found in Streeterville, Lincoln Park and West Loop Whole Foods — has 100 varieties of whiskey from bourbon to Japanese whisky, plus a couple dozen beers on draft.
The bar will also serve breakfast bowls, a beet burger, brisket poutine and smoked ribs. Around the corner, free arcade games are nestled in a bit-colored alcove.
Whole Foods now has 11 stores in Chicago, plus 14 in the surrounding suburbs. Lakeview's other store is at 3640 N. Halsted St. in Boystown.
The Whole Foods sign at 3201 N. Ashland Ave. is the largest in the city.
The second floor of the new Lakeview Whole Foods features an arcade with a rotating selection of free video games.
Whole Foods Lakeview will have rare dry-aged beef and seven types of bacon made in-store.
A second-floor seating area offers a sweeping view of the Belmont, Lincoln and Ashland intersection and pays tribute to the Wrigley Field ivy.