I usually shop at my local Whole Foods Market, near my home, in Hinsdale, Illinois. While running errands one recent afternoon and in another part of town, I remembered there was a Whole Foods in Willowbrook that was also on my way. Walking into the store, I quickly realized this Whole Foods was much larger than the Hinsdale location. I enjoyed roaming the spacious isles, discovering the Fabulous possibilities.
While perusing the last isle prior to checkout, I spot the wine and spirits section. Stopping to see the selection of Rye Whiskies, I quickly noticed a full figured, bearded gentleman, and I also overheard him coaching an employee. When he spotted me, he immediately asked if he could be of assistance? After a brief discussion of his recommendations of whiskey, my selection was complete. He then invited me to stop by “The Brook“, which is a separate cafe’ and bar, conveniently located inside the store, and only steps away from the spirits isle. The bearded gentleman also mentioned that rotating selections of beer and wine continued to keep (the bar and cafe) ‘interesting’ and that I should be sure to try it out during my next visit to the store. I thanked him for his recommendations and walking away I heard him return to his coaching.
Willing to get out of my comfort zone, several days later I decided to try The Brook – which as described above, is a casual restaurant located inside the Willowbrook Whole Foods. I’ve long been aware of grocery stores featuring their own cafes, however never at Whole Foods. Upon my return visit, I first did a bit of shopping, then soon after I stopped by The Brook (short for “Willowbrook”) near the wine and beer isle. I parked my cart by the entrance, walked in and claimed my usual spot, a seat near the end of the bar. After a short wait, an awkward although nice young man asked if he could help. I explained that this was my first visit and that I was referred here by the friendly, knowledgable, bearded store associate. The bartender winked, knowing exactly whom I was referring to. The daily special advertised on a large menu board, featured special pricing on selected brands of beer. I decided that an IPA (my beer of choice) would be most refreshing. Aside from beer specials, also offered were small plates to help hold off hunger. After all, one can easily work up quite an appetite while grocery shopping.
My first choice of an IPA was as close to Fabulous as possible in this setting, as well as a different IPA for ’round two’. For my third libation, I choose a red wine accompanied by the cheese plate. The cabernet was surprisingly inexpensive, with a liberal pour and worth considering for purchase, and adding it to the home wine cooler. The Cheese Plate was another pleasant surprise, and of generous proportion. Tasty selections, and at a very modest price. A few days later and again needing groceries, I decided to give The Brook yet a second try.
It was Friday, and with specially priced whiskey being the daily offering, I was already convinced I had made yet another good decision. Again, the same nice, awkward young man offered his help. Selecting a rye whiskey and pairing it with a cheesy Gnocchi with Red Sauce, was a Fabulous choice. After deciding on a final glass of wine at -what I thought would be the end of my meal, the nice young man asked – “Would you also like the cheese tray with your wine as you did last time?” Very impressed with his memory and his attempt at Fabulous service, I said yes! Again the cheese tray was consistent in presentation and quality, yet one of the cheese selections in particular, was especially outstanding. So much in fact, I wanted to know the name of this Fabulous cheese so I could purchase it at check out. This was a Whole Foods Cafe after all, so there was no doubt that practically everything offered on the menu, was also available in the store itself. My assumption was correct, and directly beside the cafe, the friendly cheese monger pointed me directly to the cheese I had at the bar. Definitely a home run.
A grocery store cafe and bar with quirky, yet courteous service, was indeed an anomaly, and on so many levels. However with that thought, I most likely will try The Brook again, of course for the most comprehensive of quality control measures.