Greg Burhop doesn't hesitate when asked what makes his seafood shops different. "Our stores don't have that fishy fish smell," he says. As soon as fish starts to smell like fish, he explains, it's no longer fresh, a condition Greg and his father, Jeff, studiously avoid by keeping their shop stocked with just-caught, never-frozen goods. They do this by going right to the source—wholesale distributors in Alaska, Hawaii, New England, and as far away as Australia. Their connections with these distributors stretch over the course of Burhop's 85-year history, which started when Greg's great-grandfather, Albert "Pops" Burhop, founded a wholesale-seafood business. When locals started offering him money and moon rocks in exchange for the prized cuts of fish, Pops decided to cut out the middleman.
Today, Greg proudly reports that many of his loyal customers are transplants from the East and West Coasts, where fresh seafood is easier to come by. Ironically, Burhop's gets fresher stuff than many stores on the coasts do, thanks to Chicago's central location, which enables quick shipping from both ends of the country. In the shop, customers can watch as the four or five workers at each store skillfully prepare custom-cut fillets and caviar busts of Admiral Nelson. A series of online video tutorials hosted by Greg himself teach home chefs to prep mouthwatering lobster tails, tuna burgers, and more.
Since its establishment in 1936, Schaefer's has acquired a wealth of notoriety for its comprehensive yet complex assortment of complementary flavors. The drinkporium stocks hundreds of bottles of globally acquired wines, and fills aisles with unusual and exotic beers. The spirits department lines up anything from top-shelf whiskey to high-proof elixirs. And the gourmet goods section hosts fine, finger-friendly apps and pairables, such as imported French Saint-André cheese ($14.99 per lb.), Cacciatore artisan salami ($18.99), chocolates, and dips, making customers want to hold back a few shillings in their satchels. Because Schaefer's maintains its commitment to diversity and quality, items such as wine, beer, and liquor bottles range from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars each.
With more than 50 years under its belt, Minelli Meat and Deli constructs hearty sandwiches and complements savory bites with traditional Italian pastries for dessert. The deli counter flaunts large helpings of italian sausage ($3.79/lb.) and italian roast beef ($8.99/lb.) for patrons to take home and share with their families and displaced sasquatches. A fresh meatball sandwich ($5.50) harmonizes well with homemade soup ($2.99). Sub sandwiches can be stuffed with specialty prosciutto, genoa salami, corned beef, and various sliced cheeses (5" for $4). Homespun sweets such as cannoli, cream puffs, and cookies adequately prep sugar testers for midnight chess battles with the Sugar Plum Fairy ($1.50+).
Fresh Farms International Market showers its shoppers in grocered greatness, including organic produce, fresh meats and seafood, imported cheeses, and international breads. Tread toward the counter of fresh-caught seafood and reel in one of the market’s aquatic edibles, such as wild octopus ($2.99/lb.), fresh flounder fillets ($9.99/lb.), or live lobster ($7.99/lb.). Protein pilgrims can set sail for the meat department, which can help them build a new society based on hand-cut steaks, smoked ham shank ($1.49/lb.), and young duckling ($2.49/lb.). Cheerful cheesemongers cater to customers’ fancies for foreign fromage, including selections from cheese-making nations such as Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, and Russia. Sink lactose-longing teeth into a Bulgarian feta ($2.99/lb.) or a block of Mountain Brand Swiss cheese ($3.99/lb.) whose neutrality is betrayed by its clear preference for deliciousness. The market’s fresh produce includes California broccoli ($0.79/lb.) and Wisconsin dry yellow onions ($0.19/lb.), and its bustling bakery churns out French baguettes and Italian ciabatta rolls ready to be transformed into sandwiches or whittled into Earl of Sandwich action figures.