Whole Foods in Lincoln Park - Where do you shop and why?
Perhaps I was spoiled by having orignally shopped at the WFs on North Ave. but the couple of times I've shopped at the one on Ashland, it just feels funny.
The aisles are all wrong, too short, strange order? Have any other hounds experienced this? I will say, however, that the multi-pierced twenty-somethings that stock and cashier and work the fish and deli counters are about the nicest people I've ever met working in a "supermarket" environment.
Since I'm in Ravenswood my choices aren't too limited. Jewel, if nec., Shop and Save if craving some neighborhood and on-the-cheap and a few Mexican grocery stores, but these are becoming endangered by the gentrification of the area. I'm close to the Middle Eastern store on Foster and Clark - a hop skip and a bus ride.
So it's a multi-question. Where do you shop and why?
I live in Rogers Park near the lake, and have no car. For me, it all just plain depends on (a) what it is I intend to cook, and (b) the budget, and sometimes (c) convenience/comfort/safety. If fish is on the menu, I generally get it at Treasure Island near the Clark and Division stop by way of the 'L' on the way north from my work in the Loop. (I don't trust the fish at Jewel or Dominick's. Call me fussy!) The produce is often superb there, but more pricey than necessary; ditto for meats and wines.
Whole Foods in Evanston is easily accessible via CTA, and that's an alternate produce-and-herb source for me. (Plus: Barnes and Noble and Borders outlets immediately nearby! Book browsing!) Again, though...the prices make this place somewhat of a luxury.
Directly west of my home base on Morse Avenue, just a half block west of the 'L' tracks, is the North Star Market; produce can be very nice, prices are much better, and lots of Hispanic/some other ethnic foodstuffs are available there. Beef and pork products are okay there, but the poultry is chancey and such fish as they have is just plain dangerous, in my experience.
Living in West Rogers Park, we're near a wide range of great shops. But for produce, everything ethnic from asian to eastern european to latin-american and others, the wonderfully inexpensive breadth of products at the Lincolnwood Produce market on Touhy and Lincoln is incomparable. They've always have a had great deli (about 6 kinds of fresh feta) and have also expanded to offer meats, which look pretty good to this untrained eye.
The store is a former Jewel, so imagine a supermarket primarily becoming a greengrocer.
Just east on Touhy, but not sharing the same parking lot, is Rolf's Patisserie, with buttery croissants and perfect baguettes.
If you don't have a car, hop on the 290 Touhy PACE bus at the Howard terminal or along Touhy. It will let you off in front of Lincolnwood Produce.
Not on this bus line, but north to Dempster, just west of McCormick, you'll find E&M Fancy Foods. You can disregard the flowery name. This is a butcher shop where 4 or 5 expert butchers will trim the beautiful meats they offer. Not cheap, but not as expensive as you fear. They have a neat selection of frozen products, including duck breasts, demi glace and their home made soups. Across the street is Breadsmith for another fine selection of artisan breads. This place is Kosher, so it's not open on Saturdays at all.
For special seafood, we hop in the and motor to Plaza Del Lago in Wilmette to shop at the Burhop's there. Great store. And in the same plaza is Convito Italiano.
I forswore the Whole Foods on North Ave. unless I am planning a special cheese blowout. The store may be good, but the whole experience is so unpleasant. I've gotten used to the one on Ashland, and you can actually stop in to pick up a couple things on your way home from work and not have it take an hour.
I am just on the other side of the river from Ravenswood--where is Shop and Save? I use Chicago Fruit Market on Montrose/Whipple (Albany) for produce, also impeccably fresh pita bread, latino canned goods, middle eastern and balkan products, including jams and relishes. They have bulk anchovies, a couple kinds of olives, several fetas including the wonderful creamy Hungarian one Javad serves at Noon-o-Kebab. I got a jar of something called "chunky relish" there a couple weeks ago that was phenomenal--slow-cooked red peppers, just the essence of pepper. From the balkans.
The produce there is extremely cheap and you need to buy what looks good, not plan what you want. They do have nice things like almost always fresh mint, dill, and epazote, and special surprises in season, like fresh garbanzo beans.
For fish and (sometimes) meat, I will stick with Whole Foods. Fish I will get at Isaacson & Stein, but less so now that I'm tied down 9-5. I sometimes find shrimp that is very nice and nicely priced at a Supermercado on Lawrence a couple blocks east of Kedzie called Lindo Michoacan (east being the operative word here, you can get out without having to deal with Lawrence/Kedzie intersection). We're not huge meat eaters, so for special occasions I will go to a butcher, sometimes Paulina Market for convenience, or Bari Foods on Grand/May. For lamb, always Devon Ave., either Noor Meat Market or Bismallah. Last spring I got a baby lamb (actually, half a baby lamb) at Bismallah that was out of this world. Having been warned by one niece that my 13-year-old niece was sometimes "funny" about meat she had seen raw, I was totally prepared for her asking at the table if it was really a baby lamb. I just looked at her and said, about your age. She ate her share. Noor Meat Market also has organic chickens, whole for $1.49 lb last time I was in, also leg/thigh (can't remember price) and boneless breasts for $3.99 lb. Also they advertise halal quail, which I'm intrigued by. I've been meaning to try the live poultry place on Western just north of Devon (e. side of street) but just haven't made it in yet.
We're just north of you in West Andersonville (oh, the world of realty-sponsored neighborhood names).
Weekly we hit the Edgewater Produce Market at 5509 N Clark St (Clark and Gregory) for produce and Mexican goods. It's really fresh, good quality stuff. We then pop across the street to the Jewel for stock supplies (canned goods, etc.) We'll also usually tackle the Whole Foods on Ashland (which I think is just fine, and you're right, the tatooed, pierced staff is delightful) for more specialty items and cheeses, and any produce we want that couldn't be obtained at the Edgewater market--blood oranges for instance.
We're not big meat eaters either, but when we do wax carniverous, we go to the People's Market in Evanston. The opposite staff experience to the Whole Foods (not knowledgeable nor particularly friendly), but the meats and fish there are all very good. Organic Bell & Evans chicken (not too pricey either), organic pork, etc. All processed well & healthily--believe me, I've researched this--and the animals have lived a far better life than I have. It's worth it to me to have good quality meat. If we're going to splurge, or need goose confit or rabbits, we go to the Paulina Meat Market. We also sometimes stop off at the Treasure Island in Lakeview on Broadway for cheese, olives, or to satisfy strange tastes I developed when living in the UK (people gasp when I load English pickle onto Cheddar cheese sandwiches).
Also, we usually make a weekly stop in at the Middle Eastern Grocery on Foster for spinach pies, calamata olives, feta, and figs when they're in season, and we stop at the Thai Grocery on Broadway and Argyle every other week or so for great Asian produce, noodles, soy sauces, etc.
I think that sums it up. In summers, of course, it's always Saturday morning at the farmers market in Evanston, and I work not to far from the one downtown on Tuesdays, so those days (and sometimes Thursdays) I tick off fellow brown-line commuters by not allowing people to get too close to the copious bags of tomatoes I'm porting home.
I usually shop at Whole Foods and am quite partial to the one on North Avenue. Having been to the one on Ashland, Gold Coast, and River Forest and have found them all lacking in depth in comparison to North Ave. I did shop once at the new Deerfield Store and found that to be pretty good.
Trader Joes is a stop about once a month for fish and a few other things I like there. See post below.
In the summer Saturday Mornings are spent at the Farmers Market on Division.
What I love to do is when in different neighborhoods, note nothing planned, we're there for dinner or something and I find interesting stores I shop. Have been to Caputos this way and of course groceries in Chinatown or on Argyle for Oriental ingredients, Mexican food at the Maxwell Market etc.
Used to get produce at Stanleys, good prices but I find that they are too ripe and don't last through the week.
Sometimes if I'm in the mood for deli I'll stop at the Vienna outlet on Elston and Damen.
But the real fun is finding a store, walking around and finding unusual ingredients that I wouldn't normally try. The problem with this is if I like it is going back to get them.