A Whole Foods in Manhattan is facing backlash for serving a chopped cheese sandwich that costs far more than it typically does in a bodega — and for selling it from a cart that’s literally a reference to Christopher Columbus. The Harlem-born bodega staple, made with ground beef, onions, melted cheese, and more on a hero, has become a symbol for gentrification and cultural appropriation in the city recently. It usually costs around $4 or $5, but the Columbus Circle Whole Foods is selling it for $8. It’s also being made at a cart called "1492," the year that Christopher Columbus set sail.
Holy shit they're selling chopped cheeses at Whole Foods. pic.twitter.com/pvdpA3HyZi— Mitch Goldstein (@mgoldstein) December 19, 2016
DNAinfo rounded up some of the reactions to the grocer’s sale of the sandwich on Monday. People were not pleased, saying that it’s another example of cultural appropriation of the food.
It’s nothing new for upscale restaurants to sell typically low-cost foods for higher prices. (See BEC, a Chelsea restaurant dedicated to serving bacon egg and cheese sandwiches. A classic one costs $8.50.) But the chopped cheese in particular has sparked discussions about privilege this year. After Insider put up a video calling the chopped cheese "one cool thing" that most New Yorkers don’t know about, the publication was criticized for ignoring the people who grew up eating it. YouTube personality Jeffrey Almonte called Insider a modern day Columbus in a popular reaction video. April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman's new Upper West Side restaurant started selling a version for $11, and the Times wrote a feature about the whole controversy.
So Whole Foods isn’t the first upscale purveyor to get in on a fancy chopped cheese. However, they are the first ones to literally reference Christopher Columbus while doing so.