The Whole Foods Hot Bar, although ostentatiously overpriced and the representation of a pretentious and classist cafeteria buffet, will always hold a very special place in my heart. I know all about the Whole Foods, “whole paycheck” jokes and how ridiculously overpriced it is. But no matter how bourgeoisie and white af it is, I cannot stay away. It’s like the fratty pre-law guys I dated in college. Supposedly better, with pretty packaging, but at a wildly expensive cost.
But this post isn’t about how much I love the hot bar, although I do stan the Whole Foods Hot Bar. That mac and cheese, the GOAT, the various roasted veggies and global delights, how could you not love food that lets you customize your lunch while diligently trying to scoop little enough to stay under $10, but heavily enough to subside?
This food is about my favorite thing to get in the Whole Foods bar. Stuffed grape leaves.
Stuffed grape leaves are by far one of my favorite foods in the entire world. I think, if I truly wanted, I could subside on stuffed grape leaves. They are tight little cute packages that pack a punch of flavor and delight (like, me, if I were a food). At first, you’re kind of like, “dude, what the heck is this little leaf roll?” But when you take a bite and snap into the flavorful and marinated exterior, and bite into that fluffy, flavorful rice, you’ll be hooked. I obviously love stuffed grape leaves outside of the Whole Foods hot bar, but something I learned quite early on is that extremely light items in your hot bar box will help you maneuver the system designed for your failure.
Flashback to being 19 at Whole Foods getting lunch after class and accidentally buying $15 worth of mac and cheese.
The true secret to hacking the hot or salad bar is setting yourself up with plenty of fluffy base (like light veggies), adding plenty of light things that won’t weigh you down (hello stuffed grape leaves!) and then adding small bits of your dense monsters last: pasta salads, chicken, mac and cheese, meats of the day. The thing is, as much as I wish they charged you by container, they charge you by the pound. In my wildest dreams they would have the hot bar be all you can eat.
So, the perfect light supplement is stuffed grape leaves. I will stand by my word. They aren’t that heavy, they’re flavorful, and they’re so damn addictive. I can get like six and they won’t weigh my box down a lot. Like a 1/4 scoop of pasta is half a pound! At $8.99 a pound you gotta be smart.
ALSO, I must say this for those of you who do not read, much like myself. Do not get the stuffed grape leaves from the olive bar, they are $10.99 a pound and not only are they more expensive, but they taste worse. Do not get the ones from the refrigerated section (a scam). Seriously, at the salad/hot bar, just grab a couple stuffed grape leaves.
They are apparently vegan, but don’t taste weird. They’re freaking delicious and will change your life. Stuffed Grape Leaves 2020. And we know they’re way more likable than our presidential candidates.
ps, my favorite thing to have with them is a tiny bit of marinated feta also next to them in the hot and salad bar.