Cue starting a post with an excuse about why it has been a while since my last post… It seems a lot of posts start that way… I am proud to say that the excuse this time isn’t claiming to have been busy or being lazy. I’ve been working on some other writing outside the blog that I prioritized and it took up a lot of time. But now I’m back to writing some updates and I’ve been looking forward to writing this post.
One of the big pieces of news in downtown Miami at the end of 2014 was the opening of Whole Foods. I ran by the future location almost every night, so I had been curious about when it was going to open. When I was back in Portland for the holidays I saw an article that it was going to open January 14th, which was the week after I got back to Miami.
I will admit I was borderline ambivalent about Whole Foods opening. There’s the location in South Beach and I never had been that impressed with its gluten-free options. It seemed to have just a slightly better selection than Publix. I am a bit biased though, because back in Portland a lot of the stores have shelves and shelves and refrigerator/freezer cases and cases of gluten-free options. I will say my last trip to the South Beach Whole Foods was a few years ago, but I just didn’t find it worth the extra travel and usually extra cost when I could find a lot (relatively) at Publix. So personally I didn’t care too much that Whole Foods was opening. I was however excited that Whole Foods kind of signaled that downtown Miami had “arrived.” I just wasn’t in a rush to visit as soon as it opened.
Side note- I got a crockpot this last Christmas. I actually also got a steamer and then with a gift card ordered a blender and an alarm clock. This isn’t to brag about my haul, but instead to recognize that my early 20s self, and certainly my 12 year old self, is dying a little bit inside… At least I didn’t ask for like a vacuum… But I got the crockpot and on my return to Miami put it to a lot of use. In fact I still use it usually 5 nights a week and then take leftovers for lunch. So at the time I was really trying to just go to Publix, get a set list of the things I needed, and make a lot of meals at home. So I also hadn’t had a need to visit Whole Foods in the weeks after it opened.
Over those weeks I several times thought about making a visit, just to check it out. Surprisingly one of my friends who lives nearby began raving about it. This was funny (or at least it is to me), because this friend and I like to give each other a hard time about… well anything we can. I had texted him before the opening asking him if he was excited for Whole Foods, mostly as a joke. And he said he wasn’t a Whole Foods fan… So his sudden turnaround about Whole Foods gave me something to mess with him about for a little while. He said the store was what it is, but he thought they had delicious prepared foods. It put another mental tick in the “go to Whole Foods” column.
So about three weeks after the opening I went for a visit. I’m happy that I checked it out, although my wallet probably isn’t. There’s the common joke about Whole Foods being “Whole Paycheck.” There actually are a good number of things though that are just as affordable or more affordable at Publix. And on some other things they aren’t that much more expensive. Check out this list of foods that are usually cheaper to buy at Whole Foods. I just have a bad habit of spending money on extra things at Whole Foods compared to when I go to Publix. It sort of is Target-esque in that regard.
On this visit I spent a lot of time checking out the whole store, but also focused mostly on checking out their gluten-free options. Some cool things about the store in general is that they’ve incorporated a lot of local establishments like JugoFresh juices, Versailles for Cuban dishes, and Sushi Maki for sushi. The store is also really bright and open. It made me a bit nostalgic, because it kind of reminds me of New Seasons or even Safeway in Portland.
On the gluten-free end, I will say I am much more impressed now by the downtown location when it comes to options. I’m guessing though that the South Beach location has probably stepped up its game in the last few years, as gluten-free has become really popular. Overall the downtown location has similar gluten-free category options to a place like Publix (breads, crackers, cookies, frozen foods), but has a lot more of each thing. While Publix might have a shelf dedicated to gluten-free items (which is a big improvement from when I first moved to Miami), Whole Foods has a whole shelf of gluten-free crackers. And then a whole shelf of cookies, And then a whole freezer case of breads.
What’s also great is that they mark everything with a purple gluten-free sign (although Publix and Target also do this to a degree). They even do this for items you wouldn’t expect, like butter. I know gluten can be hiding in a lot of places. I guess for my sanity I try not to worry about it being hidden in places like butter or cheese. However, I do appreciate that Whole Foods highlights things in that way for peace of mind, even if sometimes it can seem obvious or redundant (because sometimes it’s not).
I think most of my thoughts can be summed up by the pictures below, but I will share a couple highlights or favorites.
- I think the best gluten-free option Whole Foods provides is something I haven’t had yet… In their freezer section they have some very decadent looking gluten-free cakes. When I’ve visited there has been a mousse cake, a confetti cake, and Shmoo cake (whip cream, nuts, and caramel). Somehow I have had the self control to not buy one on my trips to Whole Foods. They aren’t a bad deal (in my opinion) at $14 for a medium sized cake. I just think that buying one whole cake for myself would be going overboard. Instead I am waiting for a gluten-free occasion to get one. Unfortunately my next gluten-free friend’s birthday isn’t until July… But I know that one day I will have one of them and it will be awesome!
- I love the Whole Foods deli prepared foods section (where you serve yourself from the trays), because all the ingredients are clearly labeled, plus they highlight allergens. I’ve been able to discover some favorites like beef picadillo and a salmon fried rice by walking around and reading the ingredients list.
- In their prepared foods section Whole Foods also offers pizza, sandwiches, sushi, and a Brazilian grill. The pizza and sandwiches are out for gluten-frees, but the other two are in play. The sushi is provided by Sushi Maki and the ingredients in their prepared sushi are all clearly labeled. I’ve found a number of prepared rolls that do not have wheat or gluten in them. I haven’t tasted any yet, but I’ve enjoyed Sushi Maki when I’ve visited their actual restaurants before.
- I am a BIG fan of the Brazilian grill/Churrasqueira. They have four meat options- steak, chicken wrapped in bacon, Parmesan encrusted pork, and linguica sausage. For $10 you get one of the meats and two sides. I loved their linguica sausage the first time I did the grill. It was delicious! For my sides I got their lime rice and potato salad, which were both good. My second time I really wanted to get the linguica sausage again, but I felt I should try something new. I went with the bacon wrapped chicken. It did not disappoint! It was moist and flavorful. Plus it’s wrapped in bacon! For the sides I went for the rice and beans. Now the caveat to all of this is that all these grill meals also come with a yuca cheese bread roll. One time I thought I had a reaction to the yuca cheese bread (which is gluten-free following traditional recipes). I double checked on my next visit and they read off a list of the ingredients and it was fine (although made in a facility that also has wheat). I actually think my unsettled stomach was from the bacon wrapped chicken. I had the Brazilian grill one time when they didn’t have any yuca cheese bread and I had a similar feeling as before. I think the chicken and bacon might just be too much meat for my stomach.
- Whole Foods bakery doesn’t have tons of gluten-free options, but they have some winners. One is their macarons! They usually have 6 or 7 flavors I think. I’ve gone for a 5 pack, which is about $10. One time it was half off though. I have tended to get 5 different flavors, but I think I finally have decided I just need to get 5 caramel macarons. All of them are delicious, but caramel is by far my favorite! In the bread section they also have some gluten-free desserts like a flourless chocolate cake and some gluten-free granola (including some covered in chocolate). I certainly enjoyed the flourless cake. The chocolate granola is added along with the frozen cake from above to the list of guilty pleasures I still need to try. They also have a Whole Foods gluten-free bread, which my friend says is delicious (as well as Udi’s and other brands).
I’m glad Whole Foods is in downtown Miami and I’ve taken advantage of it several times. There still are times I cringe a bit at the extra money I spend, but they have tons of gluten-free options relative to other stores in Miami and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve gotten Check out more info about the specific gluten-free options under the pictures below. And make sure to check out the link above about things you should buy at Whole Foods for the price!
Whole Foods Market- 299 SE 3rd St Miami, FL
NOTE: If possible I would not drive there. Walk or take the Metromover. Traffic usually is really congested in the area. However if you do, know that the parking garage entrance is on SE 3rd St (get in the left lane and stay to the left). There is another garage entrance in the building on SE 3rd Ave, but that is not the Whole Foods garage.
The purple gluten-free tags
The Brazilian grill
The bakery including macarons The case of gluten-free bread
The selection of deli prepared foods
The gluten-free cakes!!!
Shelf of gluten-free pastas
Shelf of gluten-free baking mixes
Shelf of gluten-free crackers
Shelf of gluten-free cookies
Freezer case of more gluten-free desserts
A second shelf of gluten-free cookies!
A THIRD shelf of gluten-free cookies!
Gluten-free corn dogs
Linguica sausage with rice, potato salad, and yuca cheese bread
Salmon fried rice
The bacon wrapped chicken!
The flourless chocolate cake