One of my favorite things to do when I arrive in a foreign city is check out their grocery stores, whether it be to stock up on cheap water and soda, grab an inexpensive lunch or check out the candy aisle. Here are a few of the options for grocery shopping in Chicago, I've listed the locations closest to downtown:
Jewel-550 N. State, 1210 N. Clark, many other locations-this is the major grocery store chain in Chicagoland, go here for the widest selection at the cheapest price. Apply for a Preferred Card to save a bundle (or say you forgot yours and usually they will give you discount)
Dominick's-see website for locations-used to be the 2nd largest chain in Chicago, most of them closed but a few still exist, same as Jewel, they have a Fresh Value card similar to the Preferred Card at Jewel
Whole Foods-30 W. Huron plus other locations-focuses on natural and organic foods, higher prices than Jewel or Dominick's
Fox and Obel-401 E. Illinois (Near Navy Pier)gourmet food with lots of prepared foods, fun to look around but very expensive and very small selection
Trader Joe's-44 E. Ontario plus several other stores, an eclectic mix of unique items, many under their own private label, lots of imported foods
Treasure Island, in the neighborhoods, billed as a European supermarket
Binny's Beverage Depot is a good place to check out for the widest selection of beer, wine and liquor. Binny's competitor, Sam's Wine & Liquor, was bought out by Binny's several years ago. There are currently 25 locations in the city and suburbs, the closest to downtown are on Grand or in the South Loop on Roosevelt. There are also locations in Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Hyde Park.
There are events such as wine or champagne tastings at different locations, you can check the events page on the website listed below.
Although not manufactured in Chicago anymore, there are two chocolates that are associated with Chicago:
Frango Mints are sold at Macy's (formerly Marshall Field's) exclusively and online at their website. The chocolate mints in the dark green box are the original flavor, now they also make them in many other flavors including some that are seasonal.
Fannie May disappeared briefly closing all their retail stores but the new owner reopened many of the former locations in the fall of 2004. Although the candies are no longer produced locally, they are still using the same recipes and Blommer's chocolate which is based in Chicago. Pixies are my favorites!
Other places chocoholics might want to check out:
Leonidas -59 E. Chicago Avenue and also in the suburb of Wilmette-yummy Belgian chocolates but expensive at about $1 per piece.
Vosges Haut Chocolate -520 N. Michigan Avenue or 951 W. Armitage in Lincoln Park, even more expensive that Leonidas, exotic flavored chocolates using ingredients such as curry and peppers. I tried a couple and wasn't wild about them.
Margie's-1960 N. Western at Armitage, family run ice cream and candy store known for their turtles, chocolate covered pecans and caramel
See's -the California chocolate company is taking on Chicago, 128 Ogden Avenue in Downer's Grove
Ethel's Chocolate Lounge, I believe these are all closed now
Huge wine and liquor warehouse. A great place to find a gift! Shop for wines, beer, and spirits of all types here! There is also a gourmet section of over 250 cheeses, fine olive oils and meats. There are frequent tastings here, too!
What to buy: The staff here is very helpful and informed, so ask questions to find what you're looking for.
Here was a tasting of the "Jonesy" port from Australia. It had a great taste and was a fabulous deal. I bought some and had it signed by Jonesy himself!
What to pay: $5 - $10 - $20 -- ???
This chocolate shop features gourmet Belgian chocolates like ganache, truffles, and butter creams, plus European-style pastries, chocolate fondue, hot chocolate, espresso and high tea is available anytime. You might recognize the name Leonidas, the premium chocolates are sold at over 1,700 locations worldwide (look for the logo which incorporates the King of Sparta, honoring founder Leonidas Kestekides).
What to buy: Gourment chocolates
What to pay: $36 per pound or 30+ pieces
If you are wondering what to buy as a souvenir from Chicago to put a smile on the dial of your colleagues then look no further then a bag of Garretts popcorn. The flavours are Caramel corn, Cheese corn, percan crisp, buttery or a mix of any flavours. A small bag is really big and as long as you have space in your luggage do bring some back even if you have to bring a separate bag purely for this purpose!
The popcorn stays really fresh and they double bagged for me to ensure nothing leaked out. Once you start eating this delight you'll find it hard to stop.
There are stores all over downtown 2 W. Jackson Blvd, State & Madison.
Open 11am - 8pm
Garrett Popcorn is a Chicago institution! I first heard about this place from my friend Christel, who I worked with; she's from Chicago. So I decided that would be a fine thing for me to do for my 40th bday - go to Chitown.
The best thing to do is arrive at the stores first thing in the morning when the popcorn is freshly made. The popcorn will be hot, the butter & the cheese will be dripping off the kernels; absolutely delicious and cannot be replicated via shipped corn.
Oprah even reportedly loves the stuff and shares the Chicagoan fever for Cheese & Caramel mixed!!
What to buy: ~
$2.25 - Small buttery popcorn
$4.10 - Small macadamia caramel
$3.45 - Small cashew caramel crisp
$3.55 - Medium cheese corn
What to pay: Expect to pay as little as $2.25 for a small bag of buttered popcorn or $50 or more for one of the large tins.
Photos: May 2009
What do we Chicagoans like to do on the weekends in Winter? We go wine shopping. Sam's is one of those places that you can spend hours going up and down the aisles looking for rare brands and/or bargains. Plus, they are always having a tasting.
Reportedly, Sam's is the largest single store wine retailer in America - reportedly carrying over 20,000 wines and spirits.
What to buy: Sam's has an amazing selection of Californian, South American, Italian and French wines. Each aisle has a "expert" who is available to suggest wines. A new feature (discovered on my last visit), is a section of "wines for under $10" and "wines for under $15".
In addition to wines, they have a large selection of beer, spirits and gourmet foods (olive oil, pate, cheese). They have a better cheese selection than Whole Foods and you can even have tastes before you order.
They have a discount if you buy more than 12 bottles.
What to pay: I usually can buy 10 bottles of wine for around $100.
With lines out the door and down the street one cannnot help but wonder what is so good about Garrett's popcorn? I mean after all, popcorn is popcorn, right? Er, well, NO! Garrett's popcorn is the best I have ever had!
For over half a century Garrett Popcorn Shops have been in business. They pride themselves on making fresh, delicious popcorn. They limit their popcorn selections to Plain Popcorn, Buttered Popcorn, CaramelCrisp, which may be blended with cashews, macadamias or pecans and CheeseCorn. Combining the cheese with the caramel, Garretts originally called it The Downtown Mix, but it has since become the Chicago Mix. Oprah Winfrey selected the Chicago Mix as one of her Favorite Things.
What to buy: Don't leave without one or two bags full of the "Chicago Mix" or maybe try some of the Caramel Macadamia nut mix.
What to pay: If you can buy it there in Chicago then the prices are reasonable, but when you order it to be shipped it becomes a bit expensive. A tin of carmel and cheese cost $46.00 for 2 gallons but the shipping was $19.00 for 2 day delivery (this is to ensure the popcorn will arrive fresh).
The lines out the door, even in the dead of winter, tell the story,
What to buy: POPCORN, especially the carmel. Buy it by the canister to take home with you!
What to pay: The patented "Carmel Crisp" is $5.00 as is the "mix" -- a combination of the carmel & cheese flavors. for a one pound bag.
If you're looking for a snack, drink, or a full gourmet picnic lunch to take down to the lakefront, this is the place to find it. Located between Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue, its probably the main grocery store for many of the privileged yuppies living in the area, so it's full of delicious and rare items. Very posh...
What to buy: I tried the organic "Italian Volcano Orange Juice" in their produce section--fresh juice made from special blood oranges grown at the base of Mt. Etna in Italy. How much fancier can OJ get?? Their chocolate-coated macaroons were also fantastic, but I doubt you could go wrong here.
The cafe is open for lunch and dinner, and pictured here is the chocolate mousse and cappuccino I had one night--excellent texture in the mousse!
What to pay: More than average, due to the snazzy ambience (cafe attached) and upscale groceries
This is a small butcher and sausage shop with a local, loyal clientele. It is NOT a restaurant. The owner is Hungarian though I'd been going there for years thinking he was Austrian. (this is an old German neighborhood) and I think some of his employees are Hungarian because ... 1. I can't identify their language, but its not Slavic, and 2. See they carry Hungarian spices and products.
What to buy: All the sausages I have tried are melt in your mouth good and they aren't shy about telling you how to cook them. My favorites are the veal bratwurst and The salamis are fabulous and meaty, full of flavor, try the paprika ones. its homemade and they have their own smoker too. Smoked pork loin and chops.
What to pay: Cheaper than most supermarkets for sausage and meats. Whole salamis (you know with the strings attached etc.) should be about $7.
We stopped by Bobak's after eating at Szalas Restaurant across the street. Bobak's is located in a Polish neighborhood in Chicago near Midway Airport.
There is also a buffet restaurant next door, next time we are in the area we will try it.
What to buy: Bobak's has been making and selling their sausages in Chicago since 1967, there is a huge selection of prepackaged and fresh sausages for sale.
In addition to the sausages, Bobak's sells a wide variety of Polish goods-candies, liquor, canned goods-has a delightful bakery and also is a regular grocery store.
We picked up a couple of packages of sausage to try later and a package of Kremowka, a delicious flaky pastry filled with custard.
What to pay: The prices were very reasonable
If you walk SE on North Milwaukee Avenue toward downtown, a wonderful surprise will be in store for you as you approach within blocks of the Loop. Besides the dazzling sight of the skyscrapers in front of your eyes, you will increasingly notice the wonderful smell of freshly made chocolate wafting through the air.
What to buy: I'd recommend buying small sample bags, as shown in the photo. They ranged between about $3 - $9.
The store is open these hours:
Mon - Fri: 9 to 5
Sat: 9 to 1
you'll think you are in Poland. Walk in here, and you'll hear little other than Polish. The first thing you will see is rows and rows of sausages and the backs of lots of people. When you listen, you'll hear nothing but Polish spoken here.
What to buy: I usually by the fresh sausages of course. They also have other goodies, as well as a lunch counter. Look aroudn and explore a few things, you might like them. Once you have some of their sausage, you'll never pick up a package in the grocery store, or eat in one of those lame, expensive downtown haunts again. For .99 pound, you can get a lot of quality stuff, and because its Polish, its all very clean.
What to pay: Prices here are about half or less what you would pay on the North side and about a quarter or less of what you would pay downtown, if you can even find comparable products downtown.