Built to evoke the spirit of an open-air European marketplace, Standard Market celebrates the possibilities of fresh, artisanal foods. Thanks to relationships with small farmers and producers throughout the Midwest, the shelves stay stocked with products that are either grown or crafted within 300 miles of the store. Even the selection of more than 200 cheeses favors American products, a fact that appealed to the Chicagoist when it named Standard Market one of the five best cheese shops In Chicago.
This local fare appears alongside items imported from abroad, but the freshest products of all are the ones made in-house. In the bakery, staff prepare more than 35 kinds of artisan breads from scratch every morning. Elsewhere, butchers dry-age beef, make their own sausages, and smoke their own bacon. The display cases even showcase pastas made from scratch with a pasta machine imported from Italy via giant slingshot.
In addition to celebrating artisanal ingredients, Standard Market also features a casual grill area where visitors can enjoy a quick meal made using the same meats and produce found on the shelves. Hearty burgers, hand-tossed pizzas, and meal-sized salads help keep hunger pangs at bay before visitors move on to inspect the shop's selection of more than 500 wines and 150 beers from every corner of the world.
The family behind Prime "N" Tender Meats likes to think of themselves as friendly neighbors—ones who can slice a piece of roast beef to perfection. Regular customers know the men behind the shop's counter, Dan Sr. and Dan Jr. The butchers have been at it since 1985, helping shoppers select the perfect rib eye steak, cut of veal, sirloin burger, or other type of beef, all of which is graded USDA Prime. Their glass display case also showcases Perdue poultry, Iowa pork, Boar's Head deli meats, and oven-ready items such as stuffed chicken breasts and filet mignon stroganoff. Beyond that, they keep their shop stocked with gourmet grocery items, including many specialty sauces that go great with meat or a salad made of potato-chip crumbs from the bottom of the bag.
However, the Dans don't make their customers wait til dinnertime to sate their appetites. They also serve housemade salads and stuff their gourmet meats into custom deli sandwiches, which come crowned in toppings such as smoked gouda.
Renowned chef Tim Canning and co-owner Shaun Black lead a team of skilled butchers, cheesemongers and culinary specialists at their Downer’s Grove grocery store Lemon Tree Grocer Direct Organics, which specializes in natural and organic foods. The cheerful food purveyors greet shoppers with smiles, calling locals by name and newcomers by spirit animal and making recommendations on the best wines, cheeses, and produce. In addition to traditional grocery items, the modern store stocks vegan, gluten-free, and kosher products, as well as responsibly raised and sustainable fish and meat selections from growers such as Niman Ranch.
Driven by the idea that good food pairs best with good conversation, Zest Café features a communal table for dining and socializing, as well as private tables for sipping wine and whispering nutrition facts. The lunch and dinner menus are casual but gourmet, replete with rich ingredients such as Maine lobster and croissants. Special events such as live music, wine tastings, and occasional synchronized grocery-cart frolics make the shopping experience unique and spirited.
Candy Bear Lane's 120-year-old building houses hundreds of varieties of sweet-teeth-cosseting confections. Specialty 8” Candy Bears— plush teddy sentinels stuffed with 30 pieces of saccharine goodness such as Tootsie Rolls, Jolly Ranchers, and crystallized pieces of Shirley Temple's laughter ($12.95)— guard sweet treasures and come with a bag of stuffing that can be used to repack droopy ursine companions after their sugary fillings have been devoured. Line a shelf with bags, boxes, or bars of candy ($1.00—$1.50 each), slow down chewing speed with saltwater taffy ($0.10 each), or acquire a Technicolor tongue with 21 colors of M&Ms ($9.99/lb.), which pour out of a towering multitube dispenser.