Visiting Chicago...looking for markets.
I'm visiting Chicago this summer, and am planning to use the opportunity to pick up some ingredients unavailable in the area I live. I know I could just buy stuff online, but that deprives me of nosing around and finding new things.
The thing is, I really don't know where to look--I'm only familiar with the markets and Cermak and Devon.
What I'm looking for are markets that cater to South American (specifically Peruvian), Mexican, and West African tastes, and would thus have spices and produce specific to those cuisines.
If anyone can provide recommendations/addresses, I'd really appreciate it.
There is a small Chicago chain of huge-huge Hispanic markets, Tony's Finer Foods (you can google their current sale ad). In town there are four or five---Fullerton at Central Park, Elston at Hamlin, and I think the others are west of there, then there is a new one that is simply gargantuan in size, just north of the city in Niles, if you are driving. Tony's has everything Hispanic that you can imagine and, yes, full lines of spices in little bags, tropical produce fresh and frozen, teas and tisanes, special cuts of meats, canned and dry items.
For Asian markets you will do better in the Argyle Street neighborhood than in Chinatown. Take the Red Line to Argyle and walk along Argyle from N Sheridan to Broadway and investigate the markets along Broadway running south from Argyle and also there's one on N Sheridan.
West African: there used to be one on N Sheridan about a block south of Foster on the east side of the street---had all kinds of African products including salted goat meat and a zillion kinds of hot sauce. If I were serious about African food-shopping I would ask at some of the African restaurants. And probably would expect to find an African market someplace in Rogers Park as many West Africans are living there.
Polish: Bobak's on South Archer, has its own sausage factory. Russian: Ann's Bakery, Chicago & Leavitt, has a limited line of Russian groceries but the pastries are more Polish---also, LOTS of frozen pierogies, plum and cherry dumplings. And you've mentioned Devon so you know it transitions from Indian to Russian to Orthodox Jewish. Also, down at the east end of Devon, just east of Clark but before Sheridan, north side of street, there's a big supermarket that is Eastern European---frozen Croatian pastry, Hungarian jam, interesting lines of sausage and bacon. Swedish: a Swedish deli and grocery is on west side of Clark a block or so north of Foster. Middle Eastern: same neighborhood, on Foster just west of Clark, has a variety of ME spices, teas, grocery items. Same neighborhood, PARS Grocery is Persian---on Clark around Berwyn---big bags of dried dill; saffron and other spices, teas, ME cookware.
In summary and in response to your OQ: You can't go wrong with Tony's Finer Foods.
Tony's has four stores on the Northwest side. I regularly shop at the store at 4137 North Elston, which is the best of the bunch in my experience. I last went in the Fullerton store shortly after its alleged remodeling, which seems to have consisted of a new facade. The store was the same old dump inside complete with bulletproof glass and armed guard. The store at 2500 North Central seems to suffer from a lack of competition, particularly to the south. The store at 4608 West Belmont is better but still has a bit less selection than the Elston store. http://tonysfinerfood.com/
For Mexican and South American foods none of these Tony's stores come close to the Cermak Produce store at 4234 North Kedzie. This is much less a general grocery store than Tony's but has greater variety and depth in Hispanic products. The selection of meats and most packaged goods is notably greater. We often do a shopping loop starting with Cermak and then going to Tony's taking advantage of the strengths of both stores while avoiding difficult left turns.
Across the street from Cermak is a large Lebanese bakery and market., Sanabel bakery and market. The whole wheat pita is particularly good. Most packaged foods come in multiple brands and sizes. They carry quite an assortment of tahini, for example.
Parking is a tense situation between Sanabel and Cermak. Do not park in a Cermak lot and go into Sanabel. Move your car and use Sanabel's loading zone.
If you like to wander around and make discoveries plan an afternoon at Fresh Farms Market on Touhy in Niles. I can't say that I've spotted [or would recognize] items that are specifically Peruvian, but this store services a number of specific ethnic cuisines pretty well, including Greek, South Asian, Arab, Russian and I can't really tell what else. Don't think there's many West African folks in this area.
I second the suggestion of Cermak Produce on Kedzie for a good all-round Mexican grocery. The Albany Park neighborhood in general has a large assortment of Mexican, Arab & Korean restaurants & groceries. Go to Lawrence & Kedzie and wander from there.
I also suggest searching lthforum.com for more grocery sites.
5740 West Touhy Avenue Niles, IL 60714
There are plenty of Mexican markets round town. Here are a few with multiple locations:
Carnicerias Jimenez - http://www.carniceriasjimenez.com/
Cermak Produce - http://www.cermakproduce.com/
Both generally have abundant produce sections, plenty of aisles to meander, all the types of dried chiles you'd need, and ample meat departments. Some of the Jimemez locations have taquerias inside where if you know what to get, you can get a fantastic meal on the cheap. Some have baakeries too.
Cermak Produce's prepared foods, and housemade sausages are, imo, inedibly salty, ymmv.
I'm partial to Jimenez.
The Cermak Produce stores vary considerably according to neighborhood, size and ownership. The site gordeaux links to applies only to the store at 2701 W. North Avenue.
The Cermak Produce store at 4234 N. Kedzie is more suited to OP's goals. Most Cermak Produce stores are very Mexican. However, the Kedzie store is in an area that has a more diverse population including yuppies, Middle Easterners and fair numbers of people from Central America, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru along with Mexicans. The food selection reflects this diversity. My reservation on Peruvian items is that a fair number are frozen, which could cause transport problems.
Chicago has a moderate number of Peruvian restaurants, On Kedzie a bit south of Cermak Produce is D'Candela at 4053 North. They have rotisserie chicken and a good range of other Peruvian dishes. BYOB. There is essentially no coverage on Chowhound, but LTHForum has a long thread spanning the evolution from a Mexican roast chicken place in one room to a varied Peruvian restaurant in two storefronts.
re: Eldon Kreider
Eight of the 12 Cermak Produce stores have common management, web site and sale flyers. http://www.cermakfresh.com/ The store in Aurora is owned by the son of one of the founders and at 95,000 square feet is the largest store. Namers are somewhat inconsistent between Cermak Produce and Cermak Fresh Market. The web site refers to Cermak Fresh Market as does the sign on the facade of the 4234 North Kedzie store while the weekly flyer and shopping bags use Cermak Produce.