Chicago guidance needed
I am coming to Chicago this monday to look at fine food stores. I will be arriving early Monday morning and leaving late tuesday night. I have been scouring chowhound and the web to find places to see. Mainly I want to see the best that Chicago has to offer in retail and prepared food stores. I also want to know of a fun, local-centric place for lunch for two days and perhaps hit up two places for dinner. Maybe a small charcuterie type place to start and somewhere to go for mains after. I am bringing two friends along so I will not be dining alone. I would really be interested in seeing some of the local delis that make product from scratch. I haven't decided on renting a car mainly because I know we will want to stop every once in awhile to sample a pint in a local bar that looks inviting. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated and I promise to post about my trip.
Fine dining it's not but for a local-centric deli it's wildly popular with its immediate neighbors and with its huge following in the Arabic-speaking community: Middle Eastern Bakery and Grocery, on Foster one door west of N Clark (if you aren't driving, the Clark 22 bus drops you at the corner). They make their own felafel, pickles, and all kinds of Fatayer (individual pies or turnovers made of pita dough with spinach, artichoke, eggplant etc filling---locals buy these by the dozen). They bake their own pita---it's still warm when you get it. Their refrigerator is full of hummos, baba ganooj, Lebanese cheeses etc---I don't know what-all is homemade. And they carry a full line of Middle Eastern groceries. A tiny place that smells wonderful.
We have the national chains (Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam's Club) and local supermarket chains (Jewel, Dominick's). I'm sure you're familiar with those and I assume those are not of interest to your query.
Fox & Obel, located just northeast of the Loop (Chicago's historical and commercial downtown), is our premier gourmet food store, with the finest basic ingredients (meats, fish, etc) as well as prepared foods, baked goods, etc. www.fox-obel.com
Other than Fox & Obel and the chains, food stores in Chicago, especially in the city, tend to be more specialized than in many other cities. When you want the finest meats, you go to a store specializing in meats; for fish, a seafood store; for spices, a spice store; baked goods at a bakery; etc.
Recommendations? For spices, we go to the Spice House ( www.thespicehouse.com ) or Penzey's ( www.penzeys.com ). For cheeses, we go to Pastoral ( www.pastoralartisan.com ). For other types of foods, see these discussions:
One other place worth visiting is the French Market, which is located in one of the downtown commuter train stations. They have a lot of stalls. One thing I particularly like about it is that it has some of the best of our vendors - Pastoral for cheese, Vanille Patisserie for pastry and breads, Canady for artisanal chocolates, etc. See their website for directions, as it's sort of tucked away and not necessarily easy to find. Oh, and they offer validated free parking if you're driving. www.frenchmarketchicago.com
>> I also want to know of a fun, local-centric place for lunch for two days and perhaps hit up two places for dinner. Maybe a small charcuterie type place to start and somewhere to go for mains after.
I don't think we have any stores that specialize in charcuterie; I'd go to Fox & Obel for that. If you're interested in dining at a restaurant serving charcuterie, the Purple Pig would be a good choice for lunch. www.thepurplepigchicago.com
>> I would really be interested in seeing some of the local delis that make product from scratch.
There are ethnic delis of various sorts in the various ethnic neighborhoods - Patel Brothers on Devon Avenue for Indian/Pakistani, Italian places along Harlem Avenue, etc. Another Italian deli is Panozzo's in the South Loop. And we have Jewish delis too, places like Steve's and Manny's.
I haven't mentioned many of our restaurants for lunch and dinner recommendations, because (a) there are so many, and (b) you haven't really provided enough information to narrow down to specific recommendations (by neighborhood, price range, type of food, etc). So any such recommendations would just be a stab in the dark. If you'd like to be more specific, I'm sure we can come up with something. To help you get a better feel for what Chicago has to offer in its restaurants, here are links to two discussions that will give you an overview of what Chicago has to offer. This discussion tells what foods and places are unique or specialties in Chicago, foods that Chicago is particularly good at:
first time Chicago - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693477
This discussion has an overview listing some of our best in various food categories, as well as advice for getting the best value for your dining dollar:
Where are the best Chicago dinner *values* - the hidden gems? - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/697829
Feel free to ask more questions, and we'll try to help!
Google Maps is really well integrated with public transportation options in Chicago (and is easier to use than the CTA website itself). I'd suggest using it while you're in town.
Fortunately for you, Ziers Prime isn't far from a Metra stop (.7 miles), the commuter train line for Chicago and its surrounding area. Looks like it's about an hour each way via the Union Pacific North line.
The travel time depends on how you get there - Metra/Pace, or CTA/Pace. It also depends on your connecting time between Metra or CTA and the Pace bus, which may or may not be lengthy. And it depends on where you're leaving from downtown and your distance to the train station to go north. All of which are outlined below. Bottom line, it could take you as little as one hour or as much as two hours, each way, door to door.
Metra commuter trains leave from the Ogilvie Transportation Center on the west side of the Loop. (I recommend allowing extra time there to check out the French Market located in the station - www.frenchmarketchicago.com ). You'll take the Union Pacific North train to the Wilmette station; the ride takes about 30 minutes if it's not prime commuting hours, and there are some express trains during commuting hours that do it in as little as 23 minutes. The one-way train fare is $3.50, assuming you buy the ticket in the Ogilvie station (there's an extra charge if you buy it on the train). You will then have to catch the Pace #422 bus which takes 3 minutes to get you to Lake and Ridge in Wilmette; Zier's is a few doors south on the west side of the street. The one-way bus fare is $1.75 and for another $.25 you can get a transfer that you can use for 1-2 more rides within two hours (even for a reverse ride on the same route).
The CTA runs el trains (some of which are elevated, others underground) from downtown to the Linden el station in Wilmette. If it's not prime commuting hours, you will need to take the Red Line to the Howard station, then catch the Purple Line from the same platform and take it to Linden. I'm guessing the train ride from downtown to Linden takes 60-70 minutes. In prime commuting hours, the Purple Line runs express, all the way to downtown Chicago and back; you can either catch the Purple Line along its route and take it all the way to Linden, or for a slightly faster option, you can catch the Red Line downtown and take it north to Fullerton, then catch the Purple Line express there from the same platform and take it to Linden. When you're using the Purple Line express, the ride from downtown to Linden takes 45-55 minutes. The CTA train ride costs $2.25 one-way; for an extra $.25 you can take up to two additional rides within two hours of paying, but to do this you need to load money onto a fare card which you can buy at any el station; paying cash fares won't allow you to transfer. From Linden, you can catch the #422 Pace bus which takes 7 minutes to get you to Lake and Ridge in Wilmette; Zier's is a few doors south on the west side of the street. The one-way bus fare is $1.75 and for another $.25 you can get a transfer that you can use for 1-2 more rides within two hours (even for a reverse ride on the same route).
As you can see, taking Metra is the faster way to get there, but that depends on where you're located downtown; for example, if you're leaving from the hotel area along the "Mag Mile" of North Michigan Avenue, you can walk to the CTA Red Line in a few minutes, but it may take you 15-20 minutes to take a bus or walk to the Ogilvie Center to catch a train. It also depends on the train and bus schedules.
The CTA trains run pretty often, with generally no more than 10-15 minutes between trains. However, the Metra trains and Pace buses generally run once an hour outside of prime commuting times. See the links below for schedules.
Oh, one more thing - Zier's (which I love, and go there often) is a small butcher shop. Yes, they have the finest prime grade meats in the Chicago area, but there isn't all that much to see unless you like looking in the cases at the cuts of meat. There are some excellent butcher shops in and near downtown Chicago if you don't want to go all the way to Zier's; Fox & Obel has excellent meats, and so does Gepperth's. Here are some discussions which recommend additional butcher shops in the city:
Metra Schedules and Info: www.metrarail.com
CTA Info: www.transitchicago.com
Pace Bus Info: www.pacebus.com
Pace #422 Bus Schedule: www.pacebus.com/pdf/schedules/422sched.pdf
Pace #422 Bus Map: www.pacebus.com/pdf/maps/422map.pdf