Produce and groceries in/near Streeterville
I visited Chicago from San Francisco recently and stayed with family in the Streeterville neighborhood. For groceries and produce, we went to Whole Foods on Huron and, briefly, to Fox and Obel. The latter had some nice breads, olives, cheese, etc., but produce was mediocre, and the former had similarly mediocre produce. I know I'm spoiled here in northern California, but I'm wondering if there are better options for top notch food stuffs in Chicago. Do you have the likes of Bi-Rite? Fatted Calf? If price is no object, can one find great stuff?
Yes, Chicago has top notch food stuffs. But it tends to be spread out; we don't have one store that has top quality in everything. So there are stores that sell excellent produce, other stores that sell excellent meats, still other places that have excellent breads, etc.
Are you still looking for produce near Streeterville, or are you just asking about the Chicago area in general?
You're not going to find the breadth and quality of produce here that you would in Northern California, but as Summer approaches the city's farmers markets are back in full swing and may provide a little more variety. The Green City Market is in Lincoln Park (not terribly far from Streeterville) and is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Personally I think Streeterville is a grocery shopping wasteland but that's just me. Dominicks at Fairbanks and Grand, Fox & Obel (which has an enthusiastic following but is VERY limited and small), and Treasure Island in the old Furniture Mart at 680 N Michigan, is about it. There is a very small farmers' market on Tuesdays in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Outside of Streeterville you have the WholeFoods you mentioned on Huron and Mariano's on Benton place (just off East Randolph). To my knowledge, you won't find one-stop-shopping and you will have to shop like a bee, going from flower to flower. Our ethnic grocery shopping is interesting, however; try the area just west of Devon & Western for Indian and Orthodox Jewish/Russian, Broadway & Argyle-Ainslie for Vietnamese and Thai and Clark just north of Foster for Middle Eastern and a bit of remaining Swedish (Middle Eastery Grocery & Bakery, Foster just west of Clark, has the best Kalamata olives in Chicago). Kedzie just south of Lawrence also has Middle Eastern. I haven't found much grocery shopping in Chinatown. The west end of S Archer is good for Slavic pastry and deli. Mariano's and WholeFoods have good selections of produce but Mariano's didn't have rhubarb at the end of May, embarrassing. Fresh Farms (Devon & Talman) has a wide variety of ethnic produce (fresh garbanzos, inch-long cucumbers etc). Vanille has a good reputation for pastry. Bread: try Fox & Obel, some of Mariano's, and the ethnic bakeries (Tel Aviv on Devon has good rye and challah). The biggest farmers' market is the organic market in the park just north of North & Clark, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Most likely to surprise you: the ethnic produce markets---I have found quenepas at Edgewater Produce on N Clark.