Feasts at home - deli/food shop/ethnic market recommendations?
We just moved to Chicago, and don't yet know where you'd go to pick up little delicious dishes for parties we're too lazy to cook for. In Boston, we'd go to Watertown and pick up a Middle Eastern feast from the Armenian grocery stores (mezze, bread, sweets, salads, lahmejunes) or go to Italian shops for antipasti and cheeses etc; in New York the same, but also great Jewish delis; what's possible here? Any recommendations on Devon? Italian? Middle Eastern? Anything unique we can get here that wouldn't be as accessible elsewhere? We live in Hyde Park, but we'll drive for the good stuff.
You need to try Calumet Fisheries http://www.calumetfisheries.com/revie.... The smoked shrimp is incredible! It's way down on 95th Street, but close to I-90. If you want to thrill your friends at a pitch-in, grab something smoked from this place. Happily we have to drive by there on our way to and from Chicago.
3259 E 95th St, Chicago, IL 60617
This is a very interesting topic, imo. irh2 - are you searching SPECIFICALLY for ethnic grocery stores with prepared items? Italian and "Jewish" delis won't be a problem at ALL. Taylor street "Little Italy" area might interest you - not too far from Hyde Park. For Mexican, I'd suggest finding a Jimemez grocery store (one with a taqueria inside.) The prices can be stellar for prepared foods, and also for catering. Example-I ordered a half hotel pan of guac for a party. It was 15 bux, and it was not smooth blended "processed" garbage (I had my doubts when I saw the price) it was freshly made, chunky, and was at least 30 avocadoes worth. I visit one for lunch for their stews and taco offerings REGULARLY. Another place I would consider would be La Casa Del Pueblo. I was just there last Sunday as a matter of fact. If you steam trays with stews, rice, beans, homemade salsas- geared for takeout in many different quantities. The MAJOR plus, is that on top of that, they have EXCELLENT tamales - all kinds, in large quantities. they are about ten bux a dozen, and worth every penny when you don't have time to make your own. Gotta go early for the tamales. They sell out quickly. I would suggest their chicken tinga, and a bunch of tamales as a base for a Mexican dinner party that your friends will rave about for a long time.
Middle Eastern- I'm spoiled because I work near a Pita Inn. I know they have a grocery store up north with prepackaged stuff - baba ganouj, hummus, dolmades, but I'm not sure of another place that has these types of offerings - Chicago Hounds - does Sultan's Palace do this? Any Middle Eastern restaurant will have anything you want for takeout, but as for a grocery store of sorts, the only one I know of is Pita Inn.
For Indian, I would LOVE a place that was geared for takeout in this sense. Again, any Indian restaurant will offer their food as takeout, but I'm not aware of a place that has stuff set up to purchase and take home. This would be a place I would frequent. Whenever I want to do an Indian feast at home, I usually make a few stops. For snacky type indian things up on Devon, look into Tahoora, or King Sweets. For main dishes, I normally do Khan Bbq for Chicken Boti, naan, and aloo gobi. then hop down to Sabri Nehari for an order of Nehari,then head to Gareeb Nawaz for paratha, and a few more vegetable dishes. The Naan at Gareeb Nawaz is cheaper than anywhere else on the strip, but it has an off taste, like it's made with bisquick - the paratha are cheapest on the strip as well, and they are excellent.
As for items you can get here and not elsewhere, if you're talking about Chicago in general, then you're talking Italian Beef sandwiches, Chicago style bbq (rib tips and hot links - look up Uncle John's @ 300 ish E 69th - take out only,) and of course, Chicago Style pizza (most media portray it as deep dish or stuffed, and that is fine, but most of the Chicagoans I know think of the cracker thin crust variety as Chicago style.
(note, the taqueria is right next door to the grocery store, they are separated by a parking lot
It's not just the media. Not at all. Say "Chicago style pizza" and 100 percent of the folks I know, including plenty who grew up here, think of deep-dish - usually the "pizza in the pan" as served as Lou Malnati's, more so than the "stuffed pizza" as served at Giordano's. None of them ever realize you're talking about that godawful square-cut stuff unless you say "No, no, I mean the thin cracker crust type".
"godawful" - tee hee. nice. One of the best recent "godawful" thin crust pizzas I had was from Lou Malnatis.
While I don't view deep dish or stuffed pizza as godawful, I prefer the Chicago Style Thin Crust (which is special to Chicago in it's own way) to deep dish or stuffed. I know Chicagoans who prefer the deep dish or stuffed to thin crust, but the vast majority of those I know do prefer thin crust. That knowledge and 50 cents will get you a cup of coffee. I generally offer information about Chicago Thin Crust to East Coasters who are overwhelmed by deep dish or stuffed. Some view it as a monstrosity, and when it's not done well, I tend to agree.
Ethnic treasures abound but before we discuss them let me mention Mariano's, open only a month downtown on East Randolph just east of Columbus Drive (free parking while you shop). This huge store devotes much of the street level to party-type food: deli and more deli, ready-cooked food, bakery, produce, meat, seafood, salad bar etc. Dry and frozen groceries, ethnic and dietetic, wine and liquor, lower level. Now for ethnic. ** From HP get on the Drive and go all the way to Foster (5200 North) then west to Clark to Middle Eastern Bakery and Grocery on Foster one door west of Clark. For a party you can order ahead small-size spinach pies---regular size are always in stock and are made fresh daily. They routinely have small-size pita bread (they bake everything in the back room). Call and see what time the felafel will be ready and you can time your visit to pick that up fresh. Their kalamata olives are the best in town. Full line of Middle Eastern pastries and deli stuff. **Indian/Pakistani---Devon of course, and Viceroy of India has a section devoted to carry-out items like samosas. Also, check the extensive frozen food offerings at Patel's supermarket---lots of samosas etc that are partyable, also they carry big cans of pureed mango good for making mango lassi. A few blocks west where Devon changes from Indian to Orthodox Jewish take a look at the Tel Aviv Bakery (closed Saturday) for wonderful rye bread and onion rolls (which they call French rolls for some reason), also babkas and a long honey-soaked nut roll called Kidush Cake. **N Milwaukee
Avenue between Belmont and Diversey has several Polish delis and bakeries. While you are there visit Avondale Liquors which carries Polish liqueurs and many vodkas. (This historically Polish strip is now a shadow of its former self but still has some good things.) **While on the North Side visit a Tony's Finer Foods, small chain of big Mexican supermarkets (Fullerton & Central Park, Elston & Hamlin, and a couple of others). Everything possible for Mexican party food.
Viceroy of India
2518 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659
If you're up on the north side anyway and you want to go to a Jewish deli, consider going to Kaufman's Deli in Skokie. They have a full bakery as well as a full deli with deli meats, smoked fish, knishes, etc. And they can make up platters if you're having a party.
The same is true of Steve's Deli in River North, and Manny's Deli in the South Loop. Any of them can make deli sandwiches, but each deli is particularly good at one thing or another. Kaufman's has the widest selection of baked goods, and smoked fish. Steve's is my favorite for many items - the best knishes, their chicken pot pie, and good sandwiches too. Steve's has a great rye bread that's somewhat subtle; if you prefer rye with tons of caraway seeds, though, Kaufman's is where you want to go.
By contrast, Tel Aviv Bakery is *only* a bakery. For Jewish-style baked goods, I like Kaufman's the best for most items, but Tel Aviv makes the best sugar egg kichel in town.
Chicago has just about anything you'd want. For Jewish delis, go to Manny's or Steve's. For Italian, given that you're in Hyde Park, I'd go to Panozzo's, in the South Loop. (There are many more in the western suburbs, but they're not as convenient.) For Indian, go to Patel Brothers on Devon, although it's more of a supermarket than a deli. There are Mexican grocery stores in all the Mexican neighborhoods (including Pilsen on the South Side) but I'm not sure about deli type stuff. Of course, there are also the gourmet food stores, the best of which is Fox & Obel downtown. All of these would be good places to start.
The opportunities are truly endless. We now have a gentrified (sort of) French Market adjacent to the Ogilvie train station which is intended to replicate the European markets with all sorts of food vendors. You can easily make a meal from there but it's a bit forced and sterile (although they have an outpost of Pastoral - one of our best cheese shops).
Chicago's classic neighborhoods are the Jefferson Park area for Polish, Devon for Indian/Pakistani (and Russian with a smidgen of Jewish/Kosher farther West), North Kedzie for a range of Middle Eastern, Harlem Ave. for Italian, Chinatown on Cermak, Chinatown North on Argyle (more Vietnamese), Mexican - almost everywhere but more dense in Pilsen.
There's been a good amount of attrition in nearly all of these as people have migrated to the suburbs, so they're all less densely populated than even a decade ago.
I'd suggest targeting a cuisine and then walking through the neighborhood on a weekend morning to better acclimate yourselves.
131 North Clinton, Chicago, IL 60661