As one of the larger Whole Foods stores in all of Southern California, there's an underlying feel of experimentation at the Pasadena Whole Foods on Arroyo Parkway, as if the Austin-based chain is using it to test its bolder ideas. There's certainly enough space to play in the two-story, 77,000-square-foot megaplex. Take the wine bar, with a stunningly inexpensive menu of wines — which pricks a few holes in the nickname “Whole Paycheck.” Both the seafood section near the produce and the butchery on the second floor include small bars featuring each department's main ingredients in ready-to-eat stews and braises. You can grind your own peanut butter at the bulk-buy section, and you'll almost always be greeted with a chips-and-guacamole sample stand near the entrance. This Whole Foods has an enviable filmography, too: It was featured on the second season of Top Chef and has become as much of a guest star as many of the chefs themselves. 465 S. Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena. (626) 204-2266, wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/arroyo. —Christine Chiao
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