Super H Mart vs. Chicago Food Corp.
Getting ready for our yearly pilgrimage to Chicago and our 2 cooler trip to Chicago Food Corp. ANYWAY, met this korean woman the other day and she said that Super H Mart was incredible and dwarfed CFC. While I know size sometimes DOES matter, I am more interested in a comparison of prepared foods (esp. panchan bar) and food courts.
I should start to dream about the refried beans at Nuevo Leon and Bahn Mi at Ba Le and night now.
I can't tell you for certain, but I LOVE Super H Mart.
Do you really have to pick one over the other? Can you make a reconnaissance trip to SHM to investigate before hichin' on the cooler wagon?
Super H-Mart is massive, with lots of great deals and unusual stuff. You really should check it out. However, I have heard several friends (who are more knowledgable about the subject) express disappointment in the panchan selection. They seem to prefer the panchan available at the much smaller Hana Super Market which located on the northeast corner of Golf Rd and Milwaukee ave. Again, this is pure hearsay on my part. Why not investigate all three, since you are making a special trip?
Hana Super Market
8526 W Golf Rd
Niles, IL 60714
Given your primary considerations, here are the main differences I've found between the two:
Super H Mart has a well-stocked and maintained prepared-food section which includes a staffed panchan bar. This means, of course, that the panchan is not directly available for selection/sampling like at CFC, but any and all of the bulk panchan items for sale may be freely sampled by request. Super H Mart has a wide, if not wider, selection of packaged kimchee than CFC, with the main difference being that--unlike at CFC--some of it is actually made in the store. Lastly, Super H Mark stocks fresh, refrigerated gochujang and denjaeng, which I don't believe to be the case at CFC.
Super H Mart has a large, clean and well-lighted food court area which includes a few different vendors/stalls. [You will recall that CFC has just one cramped stall.] Super H Mart has an extensive houseware/cookware section which is comparable in size to that of CFC, but it may also be of some importance to mention that Super H Mart’s liquor section—which includes both shelved and refrigerated beers, wines, etc.—is much larger than that of CFC.] Additionally, Super H Mart has an entire mall-style corridor along one side which houses a number of diverse Korean-oriented businesses, i.e., bank, smoothie shop, golf shop, book store, etc. Been to Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights? Kinda like that.
IMO, the quality of CFC's panchan and fresh meat/seafood have greatly diminished over time, so anymore I do the vast majority of my Korean-oriented “fresh-marketing” somewhere else, i.e., Super H Mart, Clark Market, Hana, Airirang, etc. And, given the selection and array of Korean-oriented "dry-marketing" goods which are available at Super H Mart these days, well, sometimes it hardly seems sensible to shop anywhere else.
Nostalgia aside, H-Mart is hands down the winner over CFC in my book as well - especially for the produce and seafood sections.
BTW, much to my suprise, I found that Niles is a mecca for food shopping. I posted about this a while ago after a revelatory shopping trip to H-Mart, to which the general consensus was - "Hello! Where have you been for the past ten years." You can see what I mean at the following link.
Of the places listed, I can only vouch for Jerry's (which I love, even though it can be laughably crowded) and H-Mart, but exploring them all could make for a fun day of shopping.