Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
Whole Foods opens 7th Ave Pub
Grocery store enters the craft beer bar fray with a surprisingly respectable mini-tavern.
To the best of my knowledge, the Hillcrest Whole Foods (711 University Avenue) is the first grocery store in these parts with a bar inside. The store’s University Ave facade used to be reserved as a dining area for customers who had bought food from the cafe in the store. It had Wifi, a plus, but was always a shade grubby and neglected. After a short brown-paper phase, the store renovated the dining area. They installed a bar and cleaned things up to the extent that it looks objectively good in there. Christening it “the 7th Ave Pub” doen’t show heaps of creativity, but it’s at least functional.
Being a large and powerful company, Whole Foods spared no expense in outfitting and staffing the new pub, which is open every day from 11AM-9PM. All the equipment gleamed and a small handful of combination bartender/servers relayed orders to the grocery store’s kitchen via walkie talkie. Beer and wine stayed in the $7-$10 range and the menu didn’t stop at predictable reds and whites, no less than three distinct rosé wines by the glass marked the chalkboard menu on the pub’s east wall! The tap handles lined up behind the bar featured myriad San Diegan brewers, and a few choice beers from far and wide.
The big thing at 7th Ave Pub is that diners can get the food brought to them, plated and ready to eat, instead of having to go through the checkout process. The menu drew heavily from Whole Food’s extant cafeteria, with things like the sushi rolls and pizzas making a direct transition. For all the bar bites, the prices stayed under ten bucks. The food is of a kind with the Whole Foods’ deli, so anybody who likes the deli food will be happy in the pub. The kicker is, despite its enormity, Whole Foods does a good job with prepared foods. Better than lots of restaurants, even. Much as it pains me to endorse a grocery store as a cool new pub, there’s no denying the operation’s strengths. 7th Ave Pub is a good place to grab a bite to eat and a drink.