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Apr 8, 2013 05:40 PM

Chicago specialties to take home

I am in Oakbrook this week on business. I'm staying over Friday, will have free time on Saturday. I'm looking for some suggestions for food souvineers I can take home to Nashville with me. The giftee is a chef who appreciates any and all food / cuisine. I just don't know much about what would be great exemplars that would be portable on a plane. Some sort of sausage from a great Italian or Polish market? And that's where my thought process ground to a halt. I also would like to avoid parts of town that are far away (I'll be flying out of Midway late Sat afternoon) or that require paying arm/leg for parking.

Looking forward to hearing your ideas!!

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  1. A Manny's corned beef sandwich is certainly a Chicago specialty. There's a location right there at Midway.

    1. How will you be traveling to Midway? If by car, you could stop off at Pticek's bakery just off S Archer, about 10 minutes from Midway Airport, and pick up a box of assorted Kolachkys (call ahead to order to make sure they have what you want). Kolachkys are little Slavic pastries filled with (12 kinds of filling, at Pticek's). If you do want the sausage you mentioned, the same car could swing by Bobek's on S Archer (they have their own sausage factory). But do you have a cooler to carry them? Bobek's also carries a lot of Polish grocery items and offers more gift possibilities. They have a parking lot and are also 10 minutes from Midway.

      1. Part of the problem is that many foods just don't travel well. For example, baked goods will get stale, meats will go bad unless they're frozen, and any kind of sandwich will get soggy.

        Here are two suggestions that *do* travel well. Lou Malnati's sells frozen deep-dish pizzas in all of their locations, although it would still be best to call ahead to make sure they have some in their freezer. Their location in Western Springs is on your way from Oak Brook to Midway.

        Garrett's Popcorn would also be a great gift, with their caramel popcorn (with or without nuts), cheese popcorn, or the "Chicago mix" of the two. Unfortunately, their only locations are downtown and on the south side (both quite far out of your way), and inside security at O'Hare (wrong airport).

        1 Reply
        1. re: nsxtasy

          Another option is chocolate. There's a wonderful Belgian chocolatier called Piron in Evanston (again, unfortunately not at all convenient to travel from Oak Brook to Midway). Their chocolates are the item that I most frequently take with me as gifts when visiting friends in other cities.

          Belgian Chocolatier Piron
          509-A Main Street
          Evanston 60202

          They were tops when I did my own comparison test of numerous local chocolatiers a few years ago:

        2. Terry's Toffee - awesome toffee in many flavors made right here in Chicago. They have a store at 1117 W Grand but also sell their products at Whole Foods. Recommend going to the store for the biggest variety and free samples. Lots of nice packaging as well.

          1. And you may want to consider that several "iconic" Chicago product lines (Bobak's, Manny's, Eli's, Malnati's, Garrets and Portillos) are available online for overnight delivery so you might want to venture out for something a little less accessible.