I admit it: when it comes to shopping at the grocery store, I have to be cajoled, tricked, nagged, dragged, threatened, or be at serious risk of either scurvy or starvation in order to go. No more. The Lincoln Park Whole Foods has moved to a new location, just south of North Avenue, and now features 1550—the first bar within a grocery store that I've ever encountered, and one that not only features seven local and regional beers on tap but also a flatpanel TV for checking in on the Cubs & Sox. If that weren't enough for you, the enormous space also features the circular Da'Vine Wine & Cheese Bar and two other counters where you can enjoy food & drink. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Pub crawl!
The Lincoln Park edition of Whole Foods was originally located at 1000 W. North Avenue but moved to its its gleaming, multi-story palace in May 2009, making it the third largest Whole Foods in the country. This location puts Whole Foods directly on the Chicago River and across from Crobar Nightclub and VIP's: A Gentlemen's Club—a titty bar that one has to believe will either be forced to relocate or shut down considering the increased family traffic. This area was once an industrial corridor, located just north of the Cabrini Green housing project, making it a no-man's land except for suburban nightlife revelers for the aforementioned clubs and other bars like Joe's that sprouted up on Weed Street around the time when commercial businesses like Crate & Barrel started popping up along North Avenue between the Chicago River and Clybourn Avenue. North Beach was the earliest pioneers, later opening Hogs & Honeys, but both establishments have closed as changing times have brought an almost complete destruction of Cabrini Green and a rash of new residential construction. New resident night owls now tend to gravitate to more neighborhood-oriented places like Sully's Public House, Weeds Tavern and now 1550.
The main entrance to Whole Foods is along Kingsbury, but most people will bypass the tiny outdoor lot for the enormous parking lot above the store that features 400 spaces. The main bar is known simply as "1550" for its address, similar to that of the "1555 Club" which was the original name of nearby Weeds Tavern because of its address on Dayton. 1550 at Whole Foods is located along the eastern wall near the northeast corner where you'll find the produce section. You can grab one of a half-dozen, high-backed wooden barstools at the bar, pull up a chair at one of a handful of tiny wooden low-slung tables, or snag a booth opposite the bar. Any of these seats offer a prime vantage point for the bar's flatpanel TV, fulfilling a quick sports fix for shoppers, particularly of the male variety.
Just beyond the produce section along the western wall is a seafood bar that is currently chowder-heavy but is expected to become more of an oyster and crab bar. Whatever monstrosity of the sea you choose to consume, you can wash it down with bottles of PBR and cans of Tecate. A little further down, across from the dairy section and set amongst a wine selection that would rival any liquor store is the Da'Vine Wine & Cheese Bar. Shoppers can grab a high-backed, orange plastic barstool at the bar or a seat opposite at the padded banquette. Wine enthusiasts will be titillated by Da'Vine's eight themed flights, featuring two-dozen varieties of wine. Da'Vine also serves sangria, sake, five cheese plates, and two desserts. Afterwards, you can head to the Riverview Diner near the southwestern end of the store for ice cream and a nightcap of Goose Island on tap—perhaps a Goose Island black cow?
The big winners here are obviously husbands and boyfriends. Being dragged around the grocery store has never been more enjoyable with a beer in your hand (and a few in your belly). Both shopping and nightlife enthusiasts might even find themselves doing an impromptu pub crawl within the store, possibly without even thinking about it. As such, Whole Foods Lincoln Park is now my favorite grocery store in the world. Whole Foods closes at 10pm seven days a week, so last call is presumably called a half hour prior but without a dimming of the store lights. For more information, check out the Whole Foods website and remember: don't drink and drive (cars or shopping carts, that is).