Recently The Paupered Chef gentlemen were asking for recommendations for great food neighborhoods in Chicago. We have many. I live in Lincoln Square, where I’m lucky enough to live less than a block away from HarvesTime foods. The store serves the surrounding Greek, German, Bosnian/Serbian/Macedonian/Croatian, Mexican, Korean, and Vietnamese communities with pretty decent fresh produce, a massive butcher & fish counter, a deli, a corner oven that bakes baguettes and fresh rolls and pastries all day, and many kinds of hot sauce.
I used to administer training programs for East European entrepreneurs and scholars, and taking them shopping was always a strange ritual part of the trip. In the mid-1990s, one step inside an American grocery store or department store would trigger a fight-or-flight instinct in visitors from the Eastern Bloc. After shopping in small neighborhood shops for so many years, I feel the same way when I go out to the suburban Dominick’s and see the endless aisles filled with 18,000 types of pop tart, toilet paper, and breakfast cereal. I freeze up. Where is the actual food? How many kinds of fig newtons need to exist in the world? Fortunately, HarvesTime is just right.
I went grocery shopping tonight and took some photos of the store.
Part of the produce section:
The sausage aisle (They import a bunch of things, but also make Italian sausages, bratwurst, chorizo, and uncured hot dogs in house):
If you need to make things spicy, they can help you:
They can also help you make things sweet:
I’m in love with the Greek honey, stirred into Greek yogurt.
There is an aisle devoted to Middle Eastern food, full of everything you need to make hummus, many cans of stuffed delicacies like eggplants and grape leaves, and an almost terrifying display of jarred vegetables and dips, most involving the red pepper:
This is about 1/2 of the L-shaped meat & fish counter. I’m addicted to their beef kabobs – $4.98 + a box of Near East Rice Pilaf + a cucumber & tomato salad = dinner for 2.
I call this aisle “Mexico.” You can also find Mexico at the deli counter, where they roast barbacoa and carnitas fresh every day and hack off chunks for you.
The deli counter has vats of olives sitting on top – just ask them to scoop some out for you. The counter gets pretty busy, so go at off hours unless you want to be muttered at by mean old ladies in housedresses.
But this is the real reason I am reluctant to ever move away from this neighborhood:
FIVE KINDS OF FETA. Mild French for salads. Funky, tart Bulgarian for scrambling into eggs with scallions. Five kinds. Of Feta.
The variety and proximity allow me to grocery shop like the French do, stocking my kitchen with staples and then picking up a few fresh items for dinner.