Clarendon’s Whole Foods opened its new coffee/wine/beer bar on Monday night, and it instantly vaulted into the neighborhood’s top after-work deals, as long as you don’t mind drinking on the freshly built mezzanine level of an upscale supermarket.
Last night, the eight taps included seven beers – all from Virginia, D.C. or Delaware – and the delicious Bold Rock Hard Cider from Nellysford, Va. (The menu lists exactly how far each brewery is located from this Whole Foods store.) Beers are all priced by the pint for in-store consumption and for 32-ounce and 64-ounce growlers if you want to purchase beer to go. The prices are highly competitive: $5 for a pint of Port City’s Derecho Common or Dogfish Head Punkin, $4 for DC Brau and Devil’s Backbone’s collaborative Fight Club Lager, $3 for the Bold Rock cider. A glass of Presto Prosecco from Italy is $5, French chardonnay from Burgundy is $6. All of those prices drop $1 between 4 and 7 p.m. daily.
The bar doesn’t serve food, other than those nuts, so customers are invited to go downstairs and pick up a sandwich, a slice of oven-baked pizza or even a bag of chips, and bring it upstairs to eat. This can be a little awkward, since you have to wait in the express checkout line with everyone else grabbing quinoa and organic pet food on the way home, but it’s easy enough. It’s probably better to get your food before heading upstairs to the bar.
The disarmingly bright neon lights overhead never let you forget you’re in a grocery store – nor does the view of the salad bar, the olive bar, and people queuing up for two-for-one pizzas on Tuesday nights from the spacious seating area. (That Tuesday night deal, by the way, may become a weekly ritual: The total cost for two giant 18-inch pizzas and four beers is $28.)
More interesting: Our bartender – who doubles as the store’s beer buyer – encouraged my group to take our glasses downstairs and sip while we shop. (After a few glasses of malbec, that $29-per-pound French cheese is going to look awfully tempting.)
Clarendon isn’t the only Whole Foods with a bar – Vienna and Falls Church have sold beer and wine by the glass for more than a year, and Tenleytown also has a huge selection of beer and wine in bottles – but this is the most impressive I’ve seen. Clarendon has no shortage of happy hour options, but if people can get past the “Oh my God, I’m drinking at Whole Foods” feeling, I can see this being quite popular.