Have you ever wished you could get the Whole Foods experience minus the price tag? After picking up your fresh-from-the-oven pizza, have you like me, ever experienced a little pang of angst knowing that instead of a Diet Coke you will have to get a bottle of green tea to wash it down?
Sure, no one disputes the benefits of antioxidants, but if you have dreamed about a perfect balance, a hybrid offering the best of both of worlds- specialty foods, extraordinary in-store dining and your favorite brands under one single roof, your dream is a reality. It is called Mariano’s Fresh Market.
I have shopped and dined quite a few times at two of the five Mariano’s Fresh Market stores in the Chicagoland area, the Arlington Heights and the Lakeshore East locations. Whenever I visit, I feel like pinching myself to make sure I am awake. See for yourself. Aside from choices, you will consistently find live music at the register and an impeccable service. The depth and breadth of assortment covers anything from groceries to deli, bakery and flowers. If you like food, Mariano’s Fresh Market makes it difficult to believe that you have not entered an altered state of consciousness.
What’s even dreamier, prices are very reasonable.
Aside from visiting the store to do your shopping, if you have the good fortune to be a local and want to run in for a quick bite, you will find quite an array of options – sushi, guacamole and a variety of salsas (my favorite is the pineapple salsa), as well as seasonal dishes. Today, for example, a good selection of fish choices was available for those observing lent. There is also a great variety of drinks and dessert, freshly-squeezed juice, Italian prosecco, beignets and even gelati.
Mariano’s has a nice casual indoor dining area that is equally suitable for families with small children, hungry teenagers or busy time-crunched professionals. In its downtown location, the store also has a patio with umbrellas.
The quality of the food is superb. I had the best rice pilaf I’ve had in years, baked chicken, grilled vegetables and for dessert, hazelnut gelato.
And yes, I had a Diet Coke.