New Houston Inner Loop Grocery Stores – H.E.B, Whole Foods, and Possibly Trader Joes?

There is a war raging on the streets of Houston…a grocery war.

If there is one thing that Houston takes seriously, it’s food.(Okay, food, air conditioning, and oil—but we’re here to talk about food today). The serious nature of this issue is apparent with the opening of three new grocery stores (and the remodeling of one) all within the last 6 months. Since I consider myself a supermarket expert (yes, I frequent an inner loop supermarket ever single day, sadly)–I took it upon myself to take a moment to offer my feedback on this Montrose / Upper Kirby turf war, and break down the newest additions to Houston’s rapidly expanding grocery repertoire.

Phoenicia Downtown Review

Local specialty foods shop, Phoenicia, has opened their second location in Downtown Houston (the first being in Westchase) in November of 2011. Set in the first two floors of Houston’s luxury highrise, One Park Place, I have to say that I much prefer Phoenicia’s new store. Although it still has that similar warehouse feel, the Downtown Market feels much sleeker and more inviting.

They still have the pita conveyer belt for customers to get fresh, hot pita, as well as their staple bakery and deli with unique meats, cheeses, breads and sweets–all reasonably priced. They also have a coffee and gelato bar–something that was extremely lacking in Downtown Houston (believe me). Phoenicia Downtown is also offering household basics for employees and residents in the area, as well as a wine and beer bar named MKT BAR. Definitely a much-needed addition to Houston’s Downtown scene.

1001 Austin Street Houston, TX Visit Phoenicia’s Website Here

Whole Foods Montrose Review

Let me start by saying that I love Whole Foods. Correction, loved Whole Foods, before I moved to Houston. If you have ever been to Austin and visited The Mecca (aka the flagship WF) you know what I am talking about. The opening of the WF Montrose back in June gave me hope for Houston and our collection of miniature Whole Foods locations.

Let’s start with the positives: Whole Foods Montrose definitely stepped up to the plate with their Wine/Beer bar (who doesn’t love sipping wine in your favorite grocery store?). They also brought in their barbecue bar, which seems like a no-brainer in any Texas Whole Foods (however, it doesn’t offer the freshly-sliced brisket that other WFs offer). The Montrose location also offers a great coffee/pastry area, as well as cheese and wine section,– you can even plug-in your electric car outside–all of which make this hands down the best WH location in Houston.

Sadly, WF Montrose disapoints me–with only 45,000 sq feet (compared to Dallas’ new 64,000 sq ft market in Park Lane) it just seems like all of the “amenities” were hacked from their full glory or squished in. The prepared foods bar doesn’t have all of the offerings of larger markets (you haven’t lived until you have had their dessert bar). Missing are the cooking demonstration tables, sliced barbecue station, or even “indoor seating” (yes, I know there is a solarium).

All in all, the location of WF Montrose, keeps me coming back–but I can’t help but hope that the new WF planned for Uptown is going to do The Mecca justice.

701 Waugh Drive Houston, TX 77019 Visit Whole Foods Montrose Website Here

HEB Montrose Review

This little gem just opened last week, and although I was a little hesitant about foregoing my daily Central Market trip to go to the new H.E.B., given that it was opening day–I had to check it out.

The building itself is gorgeous, (taking notes from the Menil Museum)–very modern looking, with clean lines and tons of glass. The store boasts many of the amenities of Central Market (Cafe on the Run, a great prepared foods section, and an enormous gourmet cheese and meat aisle. They have expanded their organic offerings, and although they haven’t gotten their liquor license yet–the wine/beer section looks promising.

Another new addition to H.E.B. (and Central Market) is the food truck (aka “Fork in the Road”), which you can find parked out front of the store. This truck offers gourmet light snacks, refreshment, and desserts-with a constantly-changing menu)