Hate doing the grocery shopping? Next week, that household chore may turn into something to look forward to at Whole Foods, where customers will be able to down a craft beer or two with dinner before picking up a gallon of milk for the kids or squeezing the organic produce.
On Tuesday, the Portland Whole Foods store, at 2 Somerset St., will open the Somerset Tap House, a pub-style restaurant with table service. It will have 60 seats and 24 taps serving mostly Maine and regional beers. In addition to beer, wine will be sold by the glass and bottle.
The Somerset Tap House will be Whole Food’s first in-store restaurant with a hostess and wait staff, according to Amy Crosby, spokesperson for the chain’s stores in the North Atlantic region. Other Whole Foods stores around the country have pubs or wine bars inside that serve food, with the wine bars being popular in California.
She described the food as basic pub-style fare with a local flair. The North Star Shepherds Pie sold in the restaurant, for example, will be made with lamb from North Star Sheep Farm in Windham, which also sells its products in the store’s meat department. Pub wings will be seasoned with Maine-made DennyMike’s spice rub, and the mac-and-cheese will be made with Jasper Hill aged cheddar from Vermont.
Crosby said all Whole Foods stores “morph and change over time,” depending on customer feedback, industry trends, and what’s worked in other parts of the country.
“The pub that opened up in Nashua (New Hampshire) was extremely popular,” she said. “In California, they’ve had wine bars for years. Austin, Texas as well.”
A new Whole Foods store that opened this week in Bedford, New Hampshire, will have a pub opening on Friday.
In California, customers can walk around their local Whole Foods store and enjoy a glass of wine while they’re shopping, Crosby said. That’s not possible in Maine, where liquor laws are stricter, but having the Somerset Tap House on site does mean the Portland store will have leeway to host bigger and better beer- and wine-tasting events. Until now, Maine law dictated that the store could host only three tastings a month, for no more than two hours each.
The Somerset Tap House will open to the public Tuesday. Daily hours will be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Last call for food will be at 9 p.m., and last call for alcohol will be 9:30 p.m.