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New Yorkers often don't warm easily to national chains, but Whole Foods Markets, a coast-to-coast phenom, is a growing presence in a local scene long dominated by homegrown gourmet and organic specialty stores. For a post-ethnic, post-A&P generation of shoppers, Whole Foods is the mother lode for healthy, freshly made foods, where quality trumps price, produce and seafood are impeccably fresh, aisles are wide, and service is earnest and attentive. Prepared foods—sushi, salads, or whole dinners to go—are made with natural ingredients, minimal or zero additives (and, it must be said, scant seasoning). The chain's overall slant leans toward the righteous and organic—the salad bar presents a global array of bulgur, couscous, quinoa and kasha; the in-house bakery uses unbleached, unbromated flour; and the upscale cheeses and meats are produced by independent, 'humane' farms. City locations devote about a third of their square footage to in-store dining, and these gracious spaces—particularly the Union Square mezzanine, with a park view—have become prime flirting grounds for New Yorkers whose dinners for one may be numbered.Extra
Ideal for dinner party hosts, flowers are also available, and so is catering (at certain locations).