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Starters: Whole Foods Market's Taqueria

For shoppers visiting the Whole Foods Market on Sheridan, there’s good news if you’re hungry for a taco or burrito on the fly.

In January, the health food giant’s build-your-own takeout counter stopped serving falafel and hummus and had a makeover, transforming into the Taqueria, a Mexico-inspired meal station found at stores across the country. Everything on the main menu is $8, with extras and sides for a little less dinero.

Similar to other fast-casual setups around Buffalo, the Taqueria lets you customize your dishes based on eating style and appetite for flavor. It also boasts Whole Foods’ usual attention to sustainable meats and natural, preservative-free products for specific diets, such as vegan and paleo.

There are roomy burritos and a trio of tacos available in corn, flour or grain-free tortillas, and bowls of lettuce, beans or rice. It also offers the torta, or Mexican sandwich, served on a soft facsimile of the traditional telera roll.

A pork torta with pickled red onions at Whole Foods Market's new Taqueria. (Lauren Newkirk Maynard/Special to The News)

Toppings and other fillings run the gamut, from pinto and black beans, pickled reds and jicama to cabbage and pumpkin seeds. Cheeses include crumbly, salty cotija, goat cheese or Oaxacan-style shreds similar to mozzarella.

Meat fillings include beef braised with guajillo chili, garlic and lime-marinated chicken, and braised pork. Three vegan-friendly fillings include sweet potato with pipian sauce made from pumpkin seeds, cauliflower rice “faux-rizo” seasoned to resemble the Mexican-style pork sausage, and trendy jackfruit, with a texture similar to pulled pork.

Starters: Local beer, dressed-up burgers at Whole Foods' Bar 1818

Mains can come with sides of rice and beans ($3), guacamole ($1.50), a bean and cheese taco ($3) or burrito ($6), or a single taco for $3. Another scoop of the fillings are an extra $2.

Three of us recently visited the counter for lunch. It was a sleepy, snowy weekend, so after ordering we left to find seats tucked around the billiard table in Whole Foods’ in-store tavern, Buffalo Bar 1818. The food eventually came together, and while the servers were unversed in some ingredients, they were friendly and eager to please.

Taqueria’s comprehensive condiment bar had four mild salsas, an avocado crema and even a dark, raisiny mole sauce I added to my shredded chicken taco along with black beans and a touch of rice.

The Taqueria counter at Whole Foods Market. (Lauren Newkirk Maynard/Special to The News)

On a grain-free cassava/coconut tortilla reminiscent of rice paper, the slow-cooked chicken was the best of my three tacos, although all of the different tortillas tasted good. This wasn’t necessarily because I’m a carnivore and the other two tacos were vegan; I’ve enjoyed many a meatless dish with well-prepared, fresh ingredients.

The jackfruit, however, saturated in a bracing pastor sauce, overpowered its pineapple essence and most of its toppings. The cauliflower rendition of chorizo also fell short with a raw, crumbly texture and a flavor resembling hot sauce, not chile pepper.

The pork on a friend’s torta was dry, but some chopped jicama lent it some apple-like texture. The sweet potato filling we sampled had a pleasantly nutty pumpkin seed sauce coating somewhat crunchy tubers.

Despite some unevenness, Whole Foods’ Taqueria offers flavors you don’t always find in the average grocery salad bar, and its people, as well its famed ethos, are high points.

INFO: Taqueria at Whole Foods Market, 3139 Sheridan Drive, Amherst. Phone: 398-4502. Hours: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week.

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