Your Introductory Guide to International Grocery S...

Your Introductory Guide to International Grocery Shopping in Chicago’s North Side

I love grocery shopping. There’s something about being immersed in fluorescent lighting and picking from a wealth of delicious ingredients that is so exciting. This whimsical prelude to a meal can almost be as enjoyable as the food itself to me. I’m busy, so I often have to stick to the Trader Joe’s/Aldi beat (which I still love, for the record), but I’m always eager to try a new grocery store and uncover all its treats, specialties, and unique goods.

As a snacking aficionado and Chicago resident, I feel blessed. Chicago houses a wealth of international food markets, which offer its customers authentic ingredients, food products, and household items from different countries. These international food markets are usually family businesses and oftentimes stem from immigrants with dynamic cultural traditions. Not only are they places where Chicagoans can snatch delicious food at low prices, they can also serve as sanctuaries for urban immigrants to visit and reconnect with their homes.

Rich’s Deli

Located in Ukranian Village, Rich’s Deli is a haven for Eastern European groceries, baked goods, and prepared foods alike. It seems like a pretty unassuming liquor store from the outside, but I was quickly flooded with a crowd of babushkas upon entering the space (probably because I visited a couple days before Easter Sunday). Most words spoken inside were in Russian or Polish, and that level of authenticity carries through into the food. Customers can count on Rich’s for ready-to-eat homemade pierogi, borscht, potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage and other Eastern European classics in addition to the store’s abundance of ingredients, snacks, and liquors. “It’s like how I remember my mom shopping in Poland,” said Halina Zwolan, a patron who has been making trips to Rich’s for almost twenty years now.

Photos: Katie Adams, 14 East

Carniceria Guanajuato

Carniceria Guanajuato sits in a vibrant part of Chicago’s Latinx community, located on Fullerton Avenue in Belmont Cragin. The market features colorful decorations and a pretty wide selection of meat, produce, and Hispanic food products, such as De La Rosa peanut marzipan cakes, Gansito snack cakes and Sabritones. The space also features a small restaurant with a litany of Mexican favorites lining its menu boards, including tacos, burritos, quesadillas and tortas. I’d like to highlight the horchata, which was the right amount of both sweet and thick (which can be hard to pull off).

Photos: Katie Adams, 14 East

Joong Boo Market

Situated in Avondale, Joong Boo is a large and organized space that is perfect for Asian grocery and snack shopping. Customers stay at Joong Boo for even more culinary enterprises beyond their own cooking, though. The market’s indoor “snack corner” and outdoor food station serve delicious homemade Asian dishes in large quantities and for delightfully inexpensive prices. The snack corner is a highly sought-after spot, and you might be waiting a while for a seat if you go near dinnertime or on the weekend for some quality japchae, bulgogi or sundubu. If that’s the case, I’d recommend the kimchi dumpling from the outdoor food stand—it’s one of the best dumplings I’ve ever had, it’s enormous and it’s only $2.50.

Photos: Katie Adams, 14 East

Old World Market

Old World Market is a go-to for many of Chicago’s African and Afro-Caribbean immigrant communities. Located in Uptown, Old World has an extensive selection of meats, produce, and Afro-Carribbean foods otherwise not found in many grocery stores, such as ackee, Caribbean fish and certain curry powders. Willie Allen, a Jamaican immigrant and Uptown resident, noted how appreciative he was of the market’s selection and the opportunity it gives him to share his home country’s cuisine with his daughters.

Photos: Katie Adams, 14 East

Gene’s Sausage Shop

In addition to being the store on this list with the most impressive interior design and layout, this Lincoln Square market offers upscale groceries with a Central European twist. The meat selection is huge and quality, and the classic Euro-standby deli accoutrement is laid out beautifully. It’s not exactly the authentic hidden gem archetype that much of the rest of these markets are, but it’s a nice place to shop if you have the money.

Photos: Katie Adams, 14 East

Tai Nam Market

You’d have to be pretty clueless to not score some delicious Asian food off the Red Line’s Argyle station. While most of us know about the delicious Asian restaurants populating this area, we may not have ventured into its grocery stores so we can recreate some of our favorite dishes. Tai Nam is an excellent place to explore and will definitely provide you with more thrill than your average trip to Jewel. Keep an eye open for its many adorable candy options, open-air fish selection, Asian vegetable seed packets for your garden, and cases of the famously smelly fruit, durian.

Photos: Katie Adams, 14 East

La Unica Food Mart

Edgewater has a ton of options when it comes to grocery shopping, but La Unica is definitely on the list of places you might want to visit. A market with a small café in the back, La Unica offers an ample array of Colombian, Cuban, Mexican and Peruvian food products and snacks. The store’s feel is certainly local and laid-back, and the prices are really tough to beat. I bought about ten items and barely made the five-dollar card minimum!

Photos: Katie Adams, 14 East

Devon Food Market

Positioned in Rogers Park, Devon Food Market reflects the rich diversity of cuisine that the neighborhood’s residents need and desire. If you want to start buying more international, imported food products in order to expand your pantry’s palate, this could be Chicago’s best place to start. Devon Food Market features a wide selection of meat and produce, as well as sizeable collections of international food items of the Eastern European, Asian and Latinx variety. There’s not many other places where you can pick up authentic stuffed cabbage and good queso fresco at the same cash register.

Photos: Katie Adams, 14 East

Patel Brothers

This Indian grocery chain’s Chicago location is situated in West Rogers Park. The towering shelves stand tall and are fully stocked with Indian ingredients, as this is one of Chicago’s few Indian grocery stores in an area with a pretty sizeable Indian immigrant population. The store also features one of the tastiest bakery sections I’ve been to in a while and an impressive selection of Indian frozen meals and snacks (which, after sampling, I can say are much tastier alternatives to pizza rolls and Lean Cuisines). Charu Mathews has been shopping at Patel Brothers ever since she moved to Chicago from India fifteen years ago. “If I didn’t have my food, it would have been very hard,” she said.

Photos: Katie Adams, 14 East

Header photo by Katie Adams, 14 East

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