Wednesday, August 1, 2012
If you’re on the West side of Rogers, stop by Fresh Market for a unique grocery experience. Located next to P.F. Changs in the Pinnacle Mall, you can find it at 2203 Promenade Boulevard. It occupies the space of the now deceased Border’s bookstore. This store will overwhelm you with the stunning variety of its gourmet temptations, but be warned that it is very expensive. While there are plenty of choices for the discerning vegetarian, vegan options are harder to find.
My wife and I stop by Fresh Market on opening day, and are dazzled by the number of people that have decided to do the same thing we do—check this place out. There are so many people in the parking lot outside P.F. Changs that we park the equivalent of a football field away. The walk is hot and slow. But our spirits are instantly lifted walking into Fresh Market. As you walk in, you see the produce section to the right, with a 20 foot olive bar and a smaller salad bar. In the center of the store, there is a large, square make to order section. As you move around it, there are various options: sandwich wraps, a sandwich bar where they will make a sandwich to order, a sushi bar, and a deli bar with many types of prepared salads and soups.
If you are a carnivore, there will be many possibilities for a quick and tasty lunch. There’s a grill outside where two middle aged guys will gladly cook something up for you. The sandwich bar has several sandwiches and wraps with meat. Vegetarians can choose from the California Vegetarian Sandwich for $4.99 and the Greek Salad Wrap for $5.99. The California Vegetarian Sandwich has spinach artichoke dip as a spread, while the Greek Salad Wrap has feta dressing and feta cheese crumbles. If you want a vegan sandwich, you do have the option to build your own sandwich. You can choose your meat, cheese, vegetables, spreads and bread. If you do not add extra meat or cheese, one of these self-designed sandwiches is $5.99.
From what I can see, one of these sandwiches is likely to be your only lunch option as a vegetarian. Of course, there is a nice salad bar as well. Since I am famished, I consider the salad bar. But there is no bread to accompany the salad. It just does not seem like salad will be enough by itself. The choices are pretty similar at Ozark in Fayetteville, though Ozark also has breakfast burritos and a pizza bar. For lunch, there are several options for a vegetarian or vegan in the posh part of Rogers, so you really need to be in the mood for salad to do lunch here. I have written about many of these other choices on the blog if you want to review more lunch spots: Green Bean, Mellow Mushroom, Qdoba and P.F. Changs.
But Fresh Market is not primarily an eatery; it is a gourmet grocery. Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, Fresh Market has 120 stores throughout the United States, and plans to have 500 eventually. Each store has several departments: meat, seafood, prepared foods, deli and cheese, a bakery, coffee, candy and a floral shop. The whole back wall is meat and seafood, which delights my carnivore wife. There are also two long rows of cheeses. You can read more about their stores at http://www.thefreshmarket.com/
Since I have been a vegan since January, I am looking at the breads and coffees. There are also ethnic sections that I find interesting. There’s an Indian section, a Mexican section, a long row of pastas and sauces, and an Asian section. I’m sure that I will find some good stuff here in the future, but my initial reaction is that there are critical things missing. For instance, I do not see Fantastic Foods products. Their meatless taco filling is a tasty addition to a vegan Mexican meal, and can easily be picked up at Ozark in Fayetteville or Cooks in Rogers. I look for Newman’s Own Sockarooni pasta sauce to check the price. We use it extensively at our home, so I know the pricing well. It’s $4 per bottle compared to about $2 at Wal-Mart.
I do buy a bag of Airship’s Black Apple Dark Roast, whole bean coffee. The floor person tells me that it was roasted in Bentonville two days ago. The flavor is highly aromatic and I cannot wait to sample it. I also pick up an Artisan Multigrain baguette. My wife gets some baby back ribs to go. We also get an apple pie since they are on sale for $5 and look delicious.
We see several people we know, and they all have levels of excitement about Fresh Market coming to Rogers. Everyone acts like they will be back. The prices may be unusual, but this is a gourmet grocery. We don’t have anything much like this in Northwest Arkansas. Ozark foods is somewhat similar, but the emphasis is more on natural foods that gourmet foods. Cooks is also in Rogers, but also has an emphasis on natural foods. It also has a much smaller scope than Fresh Market. Since Cooks recently remodeled and upgraded their store earlier this year, it seems that they knew competition was coming their way in Rogers.