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Apr 2, 2010 08:36 AM

Non-Restaurant Foodie Gems?

What are the Chicagoland foodie gems that are NOT restaurants? The shops and markets that are your "go to" sources for anything food/chef related when you're hunting down that special, unique ingredient, kitchen tool, cookbook, or even the place that offers great cooking classes as part of their business.

Mrs. Webhund has a week-long conference in Chicago in mid-April and I'm tagging along. My plan is to spend the days when she's in session visiting food-related shops and markets. What I'm looking for specifically are places like The Spice House, House of Glunz, and the like. I understand there's a cooking oil shop that opened next door to the Spice House in Old Town, so that's a good example of the types of places I'm searching for.

I'll have a car available to me, so don't hesitate to recommend your favorite places regardless of where it's at. FWIW, I grew up in the NW suburbs, so am familiar with the area generally (but it's been many years!). I'll have plenty of time on my hands, so even willing to head north to Milwaukee or over to Madison for a great foodie day-trip.

Help me fill up my lonely days!

House of Glunz
1206 N Wells St, Chicago, IL

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  1. Here are some quick ideas to research:

    Fox and Obel: Near downtown, and the best all around gourmet market.
    Devon Avenue: Just go and walk and check out the Indo-Pak stores.
    Mitsuwa: GIANT japanese market in Arlington Heights.
    Super H Mart: GIANT Korean market in Niles.
    Northwestern Cutlery: near downtown, where chefs for for knives, etc.
    It you're hear on a Sunday morning, Maxwell Street market is a must.

    Super H Mart
    801 Civic Center Dr, Niles, IL

    1. Head over to the French Market, looks like plenty of fun to be had there. It's on my list but I haven't made it yet.

      French Market Cafe
      1973 W 111th St, Chicago, IL 60643

      3 Replies
      1. re: bon oeuf

        I just made it over to the French Market for the first time last week. I would say it's definitely worth checking out. I had Banh Mi and macarons from Vanille Pastissere. I was disappointed with the Banh Mi, but I should have known that it wouldn't compare to Nhu Lan :) However, I'm eager to go back, as I spotted several different vendors I'd like to try. In particular, my friends who had Pastoral sandwiches said they were delicious, and I enjoyed the samples they were passing out at Chicago RAW. Plus, the macarons were absolutely delicious!

        1. re: kemmek

          I'm glad to hear about your visit to the market! Seriously need to make time to get there and be a kid in the candy store. Also, I agree with your friends, Pastoral sandwiches are delicious.
          You have sparked me, I'm going to schedule it. Thanks, kemmek!

          1. re: bon oeuf

            I think the Banh Mis at Saigon Sisters are terrific. I'm a huge fan of Nhu Lan, but you have to accept that Saigon Sisters is making a different and more complex kind of sandwhich. Try the one that's short rib in coconut milk or the meatball one. Sorry I can't remember the names. Saigon Sisters is taking the Banh Mi into new territory.

      2. Don 't miss Devon Avenue starting at Western and moving westward. For several blocks it is intensely Indian/Pakistani and the grocery stores---don't miss Patel's big supermarket---offer all kinds of spices, legumes, flours, teas, and condiments. There's also an ace produce store (green awning, on corner) that will for sure make you feel like an untraveled bucolic with dozens of interesting-looking fruits, vegetables, leaves etc that you don't know what they are. You will be in a sea of imported groceries at low prices. Then keep walking west and the neighborhood changes and becomes Russian (Georgian bakery with big stone oven) and Orthodox Jewish (Tel Aviv Bakery with superb rye bread, babka, challah, etc). And all along the way you will find restaurants, delis, sweets shops, etc of whatever culture. And of course there are non-food stores for browsing: jewelry, Judaica, Hindu religous itrems, wedding shoes with turned-up toes, Russian hand-carved wooden toys and nested dolls, saris. Definitely take your car. You can get there handily on the CTA but a car's better if you want to take home a case of canned mango puree.

        1. More:

          1) N Clark between Foster and Bryn Mawr used to be Swedish and is now tilting Middle Eastern so you can have both in one strip. Starting at Foster, Middle Eastern Bakery and Grocery is just west of Clark, an Algerian crepe place is on the corner, Ann Sather's (Swedish restaurant) is across the street on Clark), then walking north in the same block is SVEA (Swedish breakfast and lunch place), and a Swedish delicatessen. Continuing north, Reza's (Persian restaurant) is at Berwyn on corner, Andie's (another ME restaurant) is next door, and PARS Grocery (Persian) is across Clark. Continuing north some more: Swedish Bakery is on left just before Balmoral (limpa, pepparkakor, marzipan cakes, Julekaka).

          2) Tony's Finer Foods is a small chain of huge Latino supemarkets. Closest in are Fullerton & Central Park or Elston & Hamlin. Both have everything any big market has plus all the Latino stuff: spices and chilis, hibiscus tea, mangos and papayas and tunas, chorizo, frozen Goya tropical juice concentrates and fruit pulps for making batidos, frozen dough rounds for making empanadas, meat cut for taco filling, big line of canned goods, corn meals, beans etc, Hispanic cookies like Marias, Puerto Rican coffee (the decaf is more flavorful than Anglo), masa and hojas for making tamales: aqui hay de todo.

          3) Lincoln Avenue used to be stem-to-stern German but there's not much left now except Dinkel's Bakery and the Paulina Meat Market, both near Roscoe: both are worth the trip. See websites.

          4) Vietnamese and Thai: Argyle Street between N Sheridan and N Broadway with considerable spill-over onto Broadway---several strip malls. All Asian grocery and produce items.

          5) Eastern European: Devon Market on Devon east of Clark. Big supermarket with imported bacon,sausage, canned goods, jams.

          6) N Kedzie just south of Lawrence has Al Khayam market (Arabic, big, has bakery and meat market) with affiliated restaurant'; also Noon-o-Kebab restaurant and Andy's Fruit Market, a European supermarket with many imported items.

          This should get you started.

          1. Fox & Obel is our premier gourmet food store, with the finest meats, cheeses, and other basics, as well as the finest baked goods and other prepared foods. Don't miss the yummy cinnamon swirl rolls at the bakery counter! There's a cafe in the rear if you want to eat anything on the premises, from a cup of coffee to an entire meal prepared to order.

            Also go to Garrett's Popcorn. There are several locations in the Loop and one on Michigan Avenue, all walkable from River North. They have caramel popcorn (with or without cashews or pecans), cheese popcorn, or a mix of caramel/cheese. Yum!

            If you enjoy artisanal chocolates:
            Belgian Chocolatier Piron (Evanston) -
            Vosges Chocolate (Chicago/Lincoln park) -
            Canady le Chocolatier, Ltd. (Chicago/South Loop and Chicago/French Market) -

            And for pastry (in addition to Fox & Obel):
            Vanille Patisserie (Chicago/Clybourn Corridor and Chicago/French Market) -
            Swedish Bakery (Chicago/Andersonville) -
            Pasticceria Natalina (Chicago/Andersonville) -