A Restaurant AND a Bar at a Grocery Store? Why not?

Gone are the days when getting a pre-made sandwich in the chiller of a grocery store was the only option to lunch. There’s a growing trend of restaurants and even bars within the grocery. Leading the pack in this trend is Whole Foods Market. At the Whole Foods Market at The District in Tustin, Mendocino Farms, a popular sandwich restaurant, has opened right next to the Hangar Bar – both establishments located INSIDE the grocery store.
The day I visited, the market was having a Family Fun Day – there were free crafts, activities and live music for the kiddos. You know how grocery shopping is just one of those chores you have to knock off you list? Well with community events like these, not to mention, Mendocino Farms and Hangar Bar inside the Whole Foods, going to the grocery can actually be pleasurable!

Here’s a little video I made cruising around the store.

Naturally, I had lunch at Mendocino Farms. The sandwich selection is extensive! Don’t expect your usual turkey, ham and cheese subs here. Think gourmet. Consider some of Mendocino Farms popular menu items: Pork Belly Banh Mi, their take on the Vietnamese sandwich; the Not So Fried Chicken, their version of a fried chicken sandwich; Cubano Pollo Angeleno and more. I opted for a salad and had the refreshingly tasty (and filling) Avocado & Quinoa Superfood Ensalada. The chipotle vinaigrette took the salad up a notch and it was a sizeable portion too that I ended up taking half of the salad home.

Avocado and Quinoa Superfood Ensalada was super good!

Avocado and Quinoa Superfood Ensalada was super good!

At Mendocino Farms, they don’t just sell sandwiches. (No really, that’s what it says on their website PLUS they have salads too and as I mentioned, these are not your regular run of the mill sandwiches!) They provide a community gathering place. The people that work there wear hats and shirts that say #EatHappy and honestly, how can you not? The food is so fresh and filling, the people so friendly. And in some locations, they have a great Kids Corner too.

Soup and sandwich - always a good combo at Mendocino Farms.

Soup and sandwich – always a good combo at Mendocino Farms.

I met the owners Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero at Whole Foods at the District at Tustin and talked to them about how their business grew and developed. I even found that the name isn’t from an actual farm but was inspired by “Mendocino” the California county known for “Sustainability” and eco-friendly practices and “farms” as in “Bristol Farms” and also from the fact that as a child, Mario spent lots of time on a farm.

Mendocino Farms' husband and wife founders, Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen. #EatHappy Nice photo bomb :)

Mendocino Farms’ husband and wife founders, Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen. #EatHappy Nice photo bomb 🙂

Here’s a little interview I did with Ellen, who shares the story of how being in “Whole Foods” is like coming full-circle for them.

Learn more about Whole Foods Market, Mendocino Farms and Hangar Bar.