If anything encapsulates how much H Street NE has changed in recent years, it's the 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods replacing the dilapidated Murry's supermarket. This Whole Foods, opening Wednesday at the corner of Sixth and H streets, is the chain's first new location in Washington since 2011.
More so than any other location in the District, the H Street shop is stacked with plenty of attractions — a full-service sit-down bar, expanded offerings from chef Erik Bruner-Yang, a coffee and juice bar — to draw you in even if you don't intend to shop for organic grains or super foods. Consider it a de facto bar and restaurant in one of the city's biggest nightlife corridors, with pints of craft beer that are among the cheapest in the neighborhood. Here's what to look for when you go.
“Asian comfort food” by Maketto's Erik Bruner-Yang. This is Bruner-Yang's third Paper Horse location in a local Whole Foods store (the others are in Foggy Bottom and Pentagon City). The concept here, more Chinese diner than ramen stand, features three noodle soups, a noodle dish with a choice of sesame or black bean paste, and steamed bao. There will also be Chinese burgers (spicy beef, roasted pork, chicken or Brussels sprouts), served on buns made from seared bao dough. You'll be able to buy Maketto coffee and cookies, as well as spice blends and sauces, including the one served on the limited-time chicken sandwich Bruner-Yang created with Shake Shack last year.
Plenty of space to watch sports. The mezzanine level in the back is referred to as the H Street Lounge. You're not going to forget you're in a supermarket — it's brightly lit with views of shoppers browsing for juice or pet food below — but you can grab a seat at one of the long wooden tables and watch March Madness and other sports from the trio of TVs, which includes a 90-inch flat-screen. The total capacity is 109, a figure higher than some nearby bars.
A gourmet hot dog cart — and lots of hot cheese. Keep it simple with an all-beef dog, or go for the Korean-style variety with kimchi or Coney-style with chili and cheese. Meatless options feature halloumi or a whole smoked carrot, and daily specials run the gamut from a beef dog wrapped in phyllo dough (“in a blanket”) to a riff on eggs Benedict with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. You can get your raclette fix here, too, in sandwich (with prosciutto, mustard and apricot spread) or traditional form, with roasted potatoes. Or opt for a crock of baked feta.
Affordable craft beer, even outside of happy hour. There are 16 drafts at the H Street Lounge's bar, with fifteen reserved for “local” craft beers, a definition that stretches even to Richmond, and one saved for local cider. The opening menu features a mix of styles, from Right Proper's Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne Berliner weiss to Jailbreak's Feed the Monkey Hefeweizen to Hardywood's Raspberry Imperial Stout. (It's one of the first bars in Washington to have Stone's new Doublicious Double IPA on tap.) Even better are the prices: All pints are $5 or $6, with almost every beer available as a half-pint ($3-$4) or four-ounce taster ($2). If you're in the neighborhood between 4 and 6 p.m. on a weekday for happy hour, beers are $1 cheaper.
Exclusive beers and tap takeovers. Whole Foods is using its purchase power to offer beers that you can't find elsewhere. Through Sunday, the new store is the exclusive retailer for Atlas Brew Works's Home Rule India Pale Lager. Cans will go out to other Whole Foods stores on March 20 and will be available to liquor stores on April 12. Since Whole Foods names a “Brewery of the Month” in its regional stores — currently Stone, with Sierra Nevada to follow in April — you might see events with beers from those breweries, as well as events showcasing local producers.
A few wine offerings by the glass. The by-the-glass menu has three featured reds, a trio of whites, a rosé and a sparkling wine, which generally cost $7 or $8. Take $1 off during happy hour.
Growler fills. Everything except the cider and the stout offered on a nitro-keg line can be purchased to go in a 32-ounce or 64-ounce growler. (Whole Foods sells its own branded growlers, but will fill legal growlers from any brewery.) Most 32-ounce fills are $9 to $10, while 64-ounce fills are $16 to $18.
Warm cookies at the coffee bar. The coffee bar, located at the front of the store, is equipped with a TurboChef oven, which will be churning out hot chocolate chip cookies from Blind Dog Bakery to accompany beverages. The stand, featuring the Whole Foods house brand of Allegro beans, will serve the typical array of beverages, including lattes, chais, espressos and cappuccinos. The four draft lines will offer such options as cold brew coffee and tea.
Whole Foods Market, 600 H St. NE. 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Hours for in-store concepts vary.