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Gourmet Food Shops in Chicago? Pastoral, Fox and Obel, and...

Hi Chicago Hounds,

We're coming to Chicago at the end of May and are searching for the best gourmet food shops in town. So far, we have Pastoral, Provenance, Fox and Obel, and August Grocery on the list but there must be many others.

We're going to be in Wicker Park/Bucktown, Lincoln Park/Old Town, and Dowtntown so any place in those neighborhoods would be great, though if there's a must in another neighborhood, please share!

Thanks so much!

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  1. >> we have Pastoral, Provenance, Fox and Obel, and August Grocery on the list but there must be many others.

    Not necessarily.

    One thing that has characterized Chicago's high-end grocery segment is that, unlike many other cities, we don't have many high-end stores that sell a wide variety of all foods. Our stores tend to be more specialized, with high-end butchers, high-end fish markets, markets that specialize in fresh produce, bakeries, cheese shops, wine/liquor stores, etc. So when preparing an elaborate meal for company, we are accustomed to making stops at as many as half a dozen stores to pick up all the ingredients we need.

    Fox & Obel is a relative newcomer here (they opened in 2001) and was really unique in Chicago. It's probably hard to believe now that they're so well established and well known, but before that there really wasn't any one food store that had such high quality in so many areas. (Foodstuffs, in the suburbs, has been around for a while, but their selection in many areas is limited and the quality is nowhere near as consistent as at F&O.) This is different from, say, New York City, where Zabar's, Balducci's, and Dean & Deluca have been around for decades, and where there are also grocery stores in neighborhoods throughout the city that offer a very high level of quality.

    That's just the way it is here. It's not that you can't get the highest quality foods here; you can. You just don't usually find them all in the same place.

    Here are discussions with recommendations for specialty stores you might want to stop at:

    Butchers:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/561594
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/380774
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/477536

    Fishmongers:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/321210
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/418724
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/477536

    Croissants:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/367903

    Pastry:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/542316

    Chocolatiers:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/374386

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thank you SO much for your thoughtful reply, Nsxtasy. I'm going to post in a sec on our current general picks by neighborhood and look forward to your input.

      Suebee

    2. nxstasy is right about comprehensive gourmet stores. The only place I in the city that I really get that kid in a candy store feeling is Fox & Obel. Foodstuffs has improved and brought their prices down; if you are going through Evanston might be worth it, but they don't have much that you can't get at F&0, except for the best gummy worms in the world. (Not kidding.)

      Also, the Spice House:

      http://www.thespicehouse.com/

      1 Reply
      1. re: bibi rose

        Yes, the Spice House - one more stop along the way for those special dinners! The Spice House and Penzeys, which share a family relationship between their founders, both have multiple locations around the Chicago area:

        The Spice House ( www.thespicehouse.com ) - Chicago/Old Town, Evanston, Geneva, and Milwaukee WI

        Penzeys Spices ( www.penzeys.com ) - Naperville, Oak Park, and additional locations nationwide

      2. August is right across the street from me so I'm a devoted fan of George and his sister's foodstuff. While its fantastic for its purposes, serving a small neighborhood with gourmet, hard to find items, I don't think its necessary destination worthy unless you wanted to check out George's cooking lessons (which I hear are fantastic). There is usually a one selection of beef, lamb, chicken, tuna, and some other type of fish. Their spices are pretty limited, as is their produce. However, their cheese selection switches out monthly, which is why I visit about once a month to get a gander at whats new.

        1. I dunno if it's changed much, but Treasure Island has some interesting buys as well.

          1. I have not been there, but people seem to love Zaleski & Horvath Market.

            http://www.zhmarketcafe.com/

            1 Reply
            1. re: rubinow

              Quick note - Z&H is in the Kenwood neighborhood, six miles south of the Loop and convenient to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago.