The new Whole Foods Union Station is big. In fact, it's 28 percent larger than the next-biggest Whole Foods in Colorado, according to store manager Michael Mead. The Austin, Texas-based chain needs all that square footage to wedge in the many new features that will make the market a magnet for tourists, businesspeople and residents of the area alike. The public will get to experience all of it come 9 a.m. Wednesday, November 15, when the doors at 1701 Wewatta Street officially slide open.
Those features include a full-fledged outpost of chicken sandwich specialist Birdcall (complete with touch-pad ordering and a wine and beer bar — a first for a Colorado Whole Foods); a row of food vendors serving sushi, pizza and Israeli street food; a mac-and-cheese bar; a butcher section with a dry-aging room and a custom-cuts counter; and even an Amazon pop-up shop (for those who need high-tech gadgets to go along with all the food). If that's not enough, you can marvel at the cheese tower, built from more than 800 pounds of Parmesan, cheddar and Gruyère; stop by the fish counter, where the "fish circus" will offer daily specials on all manner of seafood; or see if you can hoist a toddler-sized jackfruit into your shopping cart.
The Israeli street-food counter is called TLV (or Tel Aviv Street Food) and comes compliments of the U Baron Group, which runs Izzio Artisan Bakery and Etai's Bakery Cafes; you'll find a choice of eight pita sandwiches with seasonings and sauces from throughout the Middle East, all of which can be made as bowls or salads. There's also a coffee station run by Allegro Coffee Roasters, and soon Comal Heritage Food Incubator will add a Mexican food counter to the mix.
Among the many employees roving the aisles, there are specialists in nearly every type of food, from the three certified cheese professionals who have completed all the requirements and testing from the American Cheese Society, to the "local forager," who forages not for wild mushrooms and herbs, but for Colorado food producers who would make good additions to the store's shelves. Not only does she find existing products, but she works with artisans, farmers and ranchers to come up with organic and sustainable foods that benefit the local food system (not to mention the paying customers). Füdmill, an artisan bakery founded by the chef/owners of D Bar and Fruition, is one of dozens of Colorado companies represented throughout the store.
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For opening day, there will be all kinds of activities and giveaways. If you're downtown, watch for pedicab operators wearing green Whole Foods shirts; they'll give you a free ride to the store between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Once you're there, fill up on samples, spin the prize wheel and enjoy live music during most of the day. If you decide to shop, 5 percent of your receipt total will be donated to supporting healthy lunches for Denver Public Schools. Bring your own reusable shopping bags and Whole Foods will donate a ten-cent bag credit to the Denver Rescue Mission (this fundraiser runs through the end of the year).
After Wednesday, Whole Foods Union Station will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. There's underground parking available (with access from Wewatta Street), but multiple light rail and bus lines will get you there, too — and you won't have to deal with traffic jams or construction.
For more photos, see our complete Whole Foods Union Station slideshow.