Restaurant Supply Stores
So the most recent Minimalist column has inspired me to purchase some new pots and pans. Being a college student on a seriously limited budget, I need good gear for cheap.
Where in Chicago (preferably easily accessible by CTA) can I find a good restaurant supply store that's open to the public?
The West loop. If you drive on Randolph St, Lake St, and Madison you'll find a bunch of them. There is also one on Milwaukee just north of Grand.
That may be true in NYC but I have seen FEW bargains in any restaurant supply stores. OTOH, I have bought 1st quality professional grade equipment at:
1) Goodwill and thrift stores
2) TJ Maxx/Marshalls
3) Tuesday Morning
4) Rummage/Church/Estate sales
all at 10-15 cents on the dollar.
BTW, the prices quoted in the article are decent, not real cheap. I bought a complete set of pots and pans a few years ago for $10 .
You can find a nice guide to what to look for in pots and pans in an article in the December 2002 issue of Consumer Reports, which you can probably find in your local public library. Once you decide on what to look for, shop around. Sam's Club and Costco both have sets for relatively low prices. Costco has a location in the city at 2746 N. Clybourn, near Damen and Diversey, accessible via the 76 Diversey and 50 Damen CTA bus routes; membership is required but you can get a one-day pass. Target, with numerous locations in the city, is another good place to shop for cookware, and no membership is required. However, regarding CTA access, keep in mind that a complete set of cookware is going to be fairly heavy and bulky, so you may want to consider going with a friend who has a car.
In my own experience, I've found the best deals on cookware by deciding what I want, and then shopping on-line, primarily finding new items on eBay, and occasionally the one-day-only sales on Friday on Amazon.com (often noted on slickdeals.net).
I know you're looking for pots and pans, but if you are in need of good knives for cheap (and everybody needs those) you can get some good knives at Northwestern Cutlery on 810 West Lake Street. In one of the side rooms, they have refurbished or bulk knives for cheap.
They sometimes have specials on good cookware, too. In any event, the staff there is pretty knowledgeable. They also sharpen knives.
Don't bother. For your needs, you can do just as well at Target or at a T.J. Maxx, which is my favorite place to buy kitchen goods.
Emeril's line is made by All-Clad (I got a set of 7 wonderful pots and lids for $99 at T.J.'s) and Calphalon makes a line for Target. Revereware and Farberware are also good starter lines. I still have some of the Revereware I got in college.