Best restaurant supply store in Chi-town?
In L.A. we have Surfa's... not just utensils but also gourmet foods that are hard to find at regular grocery stores. Anyone know the equivalent in Chicago?
I have no familiarity with LA, the tradition at most true restaurant supply houses in the Chicago region is to specialize in "hard goods and equipment". The few food stuffs that are sold are generally of "GFS" variety. The vast majority of these places have been on the near west side, near Greek Town, and near south side, near China Town. A number of places specialize in used equipment.
There are a fair number of suppliers in the 'burbs too, some of which have morphed into almost "party" stores.
Pierce Food Services Equipment
9685 W 55th St, Countryside, IL
376 W North Ave, Lombard, IL
1140 W Madison St, Chicago, IL
Just looked in Schweppes for stockpots, non-stick and cast iron two days ago. I don't know how it compares to other restaurant supply places, but it's about the same price as Linens and Things for Lodge cast iron and the non-stick seemed expensive (I've never tried it though; it may be better than the non-commercial stuff for all I know and worth the money). A stockpot at Tuesday Morning would be cheaper, unless you're looking for a deal on a tri-ply stockpot. Otherwise, there are Duraware Standard Weight aluminum 16 qts for about $55 and Heavyweight for a hundred plus.
Back in the happy days of the Don Outlet (this was maybe 15 years ago) I got one the best buys of my life, a box of 500 12-oz microwave containers for $4. I still have about six left, that I am nursing along. Have not found similar online. Does anybody know a Chicago city source of wholesale quantities of single-portion size microwaveable plastic containers? I use them for freezing future dinners. Also, what's the cheapest source of aluminum foil pans and containers now that Amazing Savings has gone out of business?
There is a book called "A Cook's Guide to Chicago" that is a useful guide to sourcing hard to find ingredients. It was published in 2002 so some of the sources may be gone, but it is still very useful. Most of the restaurant supply stores that are open to the public don't sell food products, but there is one on the near south side (whose name I can't remember at the moment) that would allow the general public to purchase from them one day a week. When I get home this evening I'll try to find their catalog and post the name.
When you say "gourmet foods that are hard to find at regular grocery stores" what do you mean? We have some amazing gourmet food stores in Chicago. There are, of course, several places that sell mainly to restaurants, so have better pricing on things if you're willing to buy in quantity. European Imports and Chicago Game come to mind...
European Imports Ltd
2475 N Elston Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
Chicago Game & Gourmet
350 N. Ogden