The author in front of Erewhon (left), a photo of Erewhon’s interior (right).
Ever since I made a cross-country move to Los Angeles in the fall, many friends and colleagues have asked me some variation of the same question: Have you visited Erewhon yet?
A street in Santa Monica, CA.
For the uninducted, Erewhon is not your traditional LA tourist attraction like the Hollywood sign or the Santa Monica Pier. It’s a ritzy grocery store.
The New York Times called it “the unofficial hangout for the young, beautiful, and bored.”
Source: The New York Times
Erewhon was founded in 1966, but it has recently exploded in popularity. It reportedly even inspired the fictional grocery store “Anavrin,” which was heavily featured in season 2 of the hit show “You.”
“Come for the spring lettuce mix, and stay for the perfect life that could be yours if you just spend enough and quit gluten, you f—ing a–hole,” says Joe, the show’s main character.
Armed with new private equity funding, Erewhon has expanded from just 1 location to 8 grocery stores in Los Angeles in less than a decade.
In late 2019, Stripes, a private equity firm, took a minority stake in the store with sights on expansion.
Source: The New York Times
The grocery chain says it sells “exceptional organic products” and focuses on healthy foods. “We believe that nutrition is the key to a radiant lifestyle,” its website reads.
Fresh vegetables on display at Erewhon.
Erewhon has also gained the reputation of being one of the most expensive grocery stores in America, frequented by celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, and many others.
Ringo Starr and his wife Barbara Bach photographed shopping at Erewhon.
Photo by Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
Armed with a budget of $100, roughly what my household spends on a week’s groceries, I decided to partake in the Erewhon experience myself.
Photo of the author standing in front of Erewhon.
I visited Erewhon’s location in West Hollywood – right down the street from the grocery chain’s original location. At first glance, the store looked like a regular upscale grocery store, similar to Whole Foods.
Erewhon is “the Whole Foods for people who think Whole Foods is a dump,” a columnist at the LA Times once wrote.
Source: LA Times
Upon closer inspection, I saw it was no ordinary grocery retailer. Many products were offered in reusable glass jars, and the snack aisle was filled with healthy options, like raw kale and $30 trail mix.
A snack aisle filled with various nut offerings.
Walking through the aisles, I saw products that were unfamiliar to me, like sea moss gel, which can apparently be consumed straight from the jar or added to meals…
A jar of Erewhon’s sea moss gel retails for $39.99.
…and dairy products I wasn’t used to seeing in traditional US grocery stores, like camel milk and raw kefir.
Camel milk is “the closest milk to human breast milk,” according to Erewhon’s in-store display.
After much time gawking at the products and puzzling over a $26 bottle of water, I started tackling my grocery list.
Ophora water is “nano-pure,” “restructured,” and “hyper-oxygenated.”
For breakfast, I usually have cereal and non-dairy milk. I grabbed some oat milk and a cereal called “real corn flakes,” which only had two ingredients: organic corn grits and sea salt.
The cereal was surprisingly tasty. I may come back to buy it again if I feel like spending a few extra bucks on breakfast.
My dreams for a homemade organic pizza were dashed when a store employee told me they didn’t carry pizza crust or dough at the West Hollywood location, so I pivoted to tacos. One can of black beans was $5, which is significantly more than I normally spend.
A quick search told me a can of the same Eden-branded organic black beans is nearly $3 cheaper on FreshDirect.com.
It wasn’t just the beans that were higher-priced than what I was accustomed to: most ingredients I purchased cost more than I’d normally spend, including $12 for “paleo” tortillas and $12 for plant-based taco meat.
I did feel healthier knowing I’d eat a dinner made from strictly organic ingredients, though it may be psychological.
Next, I saw ricotta gnocchi pasta that caught my eye, so I picked up a box for dinner. However, I couldn’t justify the price of some of the pasta sauce offerings, so I decided to use what I had at home.
A jar of pesto was $21. Tomato basil was $15.50.
After grabbing some additional groceries, including bananas, peanut butter, and eggs, I realized I had run through my $100 budget before barely making a dent in my list.
My half-full shopping cart at Erewhon.
I left Erewhon with a week’s worth of breakfast, but I could only snag the ingredients for two dinners before going over budget.
My entire Erewhon purchase.
I found shopping at Erewhon to be more entertaining than the usual chore of a grocery store visit. While I don’t think I’ll attempt to buy a full week’s worth of groceries at Erewhon again, I could see myself returning to the store for the occasional special treat.
$20 “raw” milk caught my attention as I walked down the aisles at Erewhon.
Some may poke fun at LA’s obsessive health culture, but Erewhon seems to have a legion of loyal fans, and it’s setting its sights on expansion: the grocery chain is reportedly looking to open a new store on the East Coast.
“We are looking at New York City; it’s definitely on the plate,” owner Tony Antoci told the LA Times last year.
Source: LA Times