In January, I took a little road trip on a Saturday to check out Beverly Records. It was 45 minutes away with no traffic, all while still being in the confines of Chicago. I knew if I was going to travel so far south, I might as well search for some Grocery Gal adventures. I took my iPhone, located Beverly Records, scrolled outwards and searched “deli,” then “sausage.” I knew something good was waiting for me on the south side. That’s when I found it: Sausage by Rosario. The video below sums it all up.

I’m going to cut to the chase. If you love nostalgic Chicago neon and delis like I do, you MUST go to Rosario’s now. Why? Because who knows how much longer they’ll be there. The building is for sale and the shelves are a little bare when compared to their heyday, but they make some outstanding Italian sausage, beef, and Pizza Setups: a brilliant concept completely new to me.

Grocery Gal Sausage by Rosariogrocerygal-rosarios-pizzasetupI loved how it was as much of a museum as it is a deli. It seems like most folks shop at Rosario’s for fresh sausage and beef to cook at home, or order food for catering and carryout. Sandwiches are made to order, or you could grab a homemade frozen meal to go. They offer a $10 t-shirt featuring the artwork of their amazing sign (where pigs happily jump into a meat grinder), so of course I had to pick up one!

Grocery Gal Rosario's Family Photo Deli

Grocery Gal Sausage by Rosario

grocerygal-rosarios-storeWhile I waited for my turn at the deli counter, a family ordered two Pizza Setups. What was that, I thought? Well, for less than $10, you get 3 thin crusts, pizza sauce and a pound of mozzarella cheese, and for a little more you can add sausage or pepperoni.

I guess pizza setups are something fairly common on the south side, yet unfortunately have been kept secret to all of us northsiders… and frankly, I’m mad. Why? I can’t eat pizza dough (or cheese for that matter) anymore, and this would’ve probably been one of the best thin crust pizzas I’ve ever had. Why couldn’t I have decided to go to Beverly Records before I had all these dietary restrictions?!?!

When cooked, their pizzas look and smell like the thin crust pizza I grew up with as a child. I have spent years (seriously) searching for its modern day equivalent. Marie’s on Lawrence is close, as is John’s on Western and Pete’s Pizza #2 on Montrose… but some secret ingredient in the sauce or crust always missing. Well, Rosario’s sauce and crust combination (I didn’t get to eat it, but I smelled it in my kitchen and heard my family’s reaction as they ate it), must’ve been that thin crust pizza utopia I was hoping to find and enjoy myself.

Grocery Gal Rosario's pizza setupNormally, when I visit a location I feature on Grocery Gal, I don’t interact with the owners. I wanted to hear a little more about Rosario’s history and introduced myself to Cathy, the owner. I told her how the sign is what brought me to the deli, and she told me it’s featured in a new book on Chicago neon called Good Old Neon (When I came home I ordered a copy of the book – it’s fantastic!).

When I came to visit, it was the beginning of a very restricted diet I was (and currently still) am on. My mouth was watering, but I couldn’t eat the pizza (per rant above) or the spices within the sausage. I told Cathy, about my dilemma, and like a pro, she said, “why not try the Italian beef?” Brilliant! I grabbed a pizza setup for my husband, some sweet Italian sausage (they offer sweet, mild and spicy, which I could freeze and eat a few weeks later) and some thinly sliced Italian beef with au jus that I was going to heat up as soon as I got home.

grocerygal-rosarios-italiansausageGrocery Gal Rosario's Italian SausageCathy made a very important point during our conversation: small businesses have a hard time in the current world of huge chains. There are customers that come once a year, and while she appreciates that business, for a small business like hers to survive nowadays requires more frequent patronage. That’s why I say stop at Rosario’s now, to support a wonderful family business that’s a part of Chicago’s history. I’m complaining on missing out of their pizza with my restricted diet, but at least I got to try their amazing beef, sausage and got to meet Cathy. I’m planning on heading back soon, too, as my family is still raving about their pizza setup. Make sure you go sooner than later; and grab a pizza setup, too!

grocerygal-rosarios-signRosario’s Italian Sausage. 8611 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60652. 773-585-0660.


Have you ever gone somewhere, it was a bad experience, and you never went back? That was me and Joong Boo Market circa 1995. I had just moved into my first apartment in Ravenswood (across from the infamous Diner Grill), and went into Joong Boo looking for these crazy Korean plum candies my dad loved. Every time I saw him, he would give me a full bag (and I didn’t like them), and instisted that I eat them. Fortunately, my friends liked them, so I’d pawn them off on them. When I saw this Korean Market, I planned on picking the very same candies to surprise my dad at our next visit. I don’t recall much of my first experience at Joong Boo, but I do remember being told I bought the wrong plum candies (it was the thought that counts, right?), the store was a little too chaotic  and I never wanted to go back.

Joong boo Market Grocery GalThere are so many grocery stores I had been to once, and then it took me a really long time to get back to, like Hagen’s and Supreme Lobster. However, no one can forget Joong Boo Market, aka Chicago Food Corp, because it’s smack dab off the Kennedy at Kimball. When I started Grocery Gal a little over a year ago, a coworker told me, “you have to go to Joong Boo market! I love that place!” Of course, I thought to myself, “yeah, but Super H Mart, Tai Nam and Mitsawa are sooooo much better,” and just smiled and said thanks for the suggestion, but had no intentions of going until I was scrounging for places to go to.

I needed some kimchi and other fermented vegetables, and I thought this would be as good of a time as any to give Joong Boo a second chance (albeit two decades later). The exterior hadn’t changed in as many years, why would the interior? I grabbed a cart and entered with low expectations…

Joong boo Market EntranceI know the store hadn’t changed much in twenty years, but this time was an entirely different experience. There was a nice selection of Asian vegetables, including a huge selection of organic mushrooms. There was seafood in thick, red sauces that looked interesting, but I was too afraid to commit to such a large package.

Joong boo Market Grocery Gal Organic Mushroom ChicagoJoong boo Market Grocery Gal Marinated FishThe have a decent selection of fresh fish, but I’d wouldn’t go to Joong Boo specifically for fish. I have been thinking of making a fish stock soup, where the main ingredient are good quality fish heads. What they had looked good – but I held off on buying any.

Joong boo Market Grocery Gal Fish HeadsJoong boo Market Grocery Gal Salted FishThey had oysters and clams for sale, but what was even more interesting was live conch. I had conch for the first time in Turks & Caicos last year and it’s just delicious. However, I know I would probably screw up making it myself. Oh yeah, and it’s breaded and I’m gluten free.

Joong boo Market Live Conch ChicagoThey had a butcher as well as prepackage meat. The pork belly and bulgogi looked great.

Joong boo Market Grocery Gal Pork Belly ChicagoJoong boo Market BulgokiTo my delight, they had something similar to a salad buffet of different Korean dishes. I am supposed to be eating more fermented foods, but one jar of kimchi lasts me a long time. Here was a variety of options. I picked up a container and started filling it up with pickled cucumber, radish and green onions, only to find out halfway through that each item was a separate price! When i went to pay, I sheepishly said just to charge whatever the maximum price per pound was, which in the end still wasn’t very much.

Joong Boo Market Grocery Gal KimchiI had limited time, so I didn’t peruse the housewares section of the building, or the dried goods in the aisles. One thing that did catch my eye as I was checking out was what I thought was packing peanuts, but I guess they’re more for snacking than packing. If you’ve tried their Macaroni, please let me know what they taste like!

Joong boo Market Grocery Gal MacaroniJoong boo Market Grocery Gal Korean SweetsThe prejudice I had against Joong Boo Market is now gone. Now, when I need some quick Asian fixings, I won’t have to drive as far north or east as I normally would have to. It is so conveniently located off the expressway, I could stop in here and be home in less than 10 minutes. The store was clean and had great prices. Just remember when you try the salad bar, don’t make it a mixed salad.

Joong Boo Market. 3333 North Kimball Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618. 773-478-5566. Open 7 days, 365 days a year. 9am-9pm.


Not sure where I saw the Supreme Lobster logo first – either on a spec request during my old Yellow Pages days, or on one of their many trucks that drive through the city. However, it was one of those logos that stuck in my head for many years. Fast forward to my current job in the western sububrbs, and one day during a hankering for some Jimmy John’s, I saw the original Supreme Lobster on North Avenue. I didn’t have much time, but I pulled my grocery getter into a parking lot and ran into a small store filled with lots of people and fish. There wasn’t enough time to even buy anything, and I knew I’d have to come back and take a closer look.

Supreme Lobster Grocery GalI didn’t intend it to take two years to return to Supreme Lobster, but it did. Before I drove out during my lunch break, I confirmed their address on their website. Good thing I did so, because I found out they had a new location and a 10% off coupon!

It was a few days before New Years, and I wanted to see what kind of specials they had for the holiday. When I found the new store, I was impressed by its large size, in addition to the fresh and modern interior.  It was bustling at noon with holiday shoppers stocking up for an eventful New Year’s Eve.

Supreme Lobster Grocery Gal StoreSupreme Lobster Grocery Gal Lobster TailThey had cute, tiny lobster tails for only $5.99 and larger ones from Maine, the Gulf Coast and South Africa. If you’re serious about your lobster, Supreme Lobster will have what you need. I’m no lobster connoisseur, but for $5.99 a tail, who wouldn’t leave without grabbing some of these appetizer sized beauties?

Supreme Lobster Grocery Gal Imported Lobster TailI’m personally more of a fan of crab legs than lobster, and Supreme Lobster helped me in that department, too. I could pick whichever King Crab legs I wanted for $19.99 a pound, but an even better deal was found in the tiny bags next to them.  They were 2 pound bags of bits and pieces of King Crab legs (but still as delicious) for around $25.

Supreme Lobster King Crab Grocery GalNot into shellfish? That’s ok. Supreme Lobster caters to restaurants, supermarkets, and food service operators beyond this retail store. What that mean to you is besides offering an incredible selection of lobster, Supreme Lobster’s has a fresh fish selection that is out of this world. If you can’t make it to places like Issacson & Stein, Hagen’s or Fresh Farms to buy fish, no sweat. Supreme Lobster will probably have what you’re looking for, and then some, all in a very inviting space. They also offer one stop shopping, as they sell craft beers and wines to pair with their products. Prosecco with oysters, anyone?

Supreme Lobster Grocery Gal WineSupreme Lobster Grocery Gal Fresh ShellfishSupreme Lobster Grocery Gal Fresh Seafood SaladThere was so much Supreme Lobster offered – I was like a kid in a candy store. The new location was so vibrant and exciting compared to the original storefront that I popped my head into a few years back. There’s a large frozen selection of Oriental Style breaded shrimp, along with other options like octopus, sepia and red snapper.

grocerygal-supreme-lobster-shrimpSupreme Lobster Frozen Fish Grocery GalReady for a crawfish boil? Maybe looking to add some Cajun spices to some fish? Or maybe you’re more into horseradish on some delicious smoked salmon? Whatever your taste buds prefer, Supreme Lobster has you covered. Supreme Lobster Cans Grocery GalSupreme Lobster Grocery Gal Smoked SalmonWant some Mahi Mahi? Chilean sea bass? Ahi tuna? No need to settle for whatever size filet is offered at other fish markets, they cut to order here.The prices are higher than what I’m used to spending (Mahi Mahi was $19.49/lb and the Sea Bass $39.99), but the quality is obviously second to none.

Supreme Lobster Fresh Fish Grocery GalThe store was very impressive. They are only open until 6 during the week, so plan accordingly. I’m sure they’re swamped on Saturdays, but it’s well worth it.

Supreme Lobster. 220 North Avenue, Villa Park, IL 60181. 630-834-3474. Monday 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Friday 9am-6pm, Saturday 9am-5pm. Closed Sunday.


Of all the grocery stores I have written about, I probably have been enjoying food from Bende the longest; at least 20+ years. I don’t know who found the place first: my mom or my dad. When I would be in town during college break, I’d drive with my mom to Vernon Hills on a Saturday morning to visit the this sparkling clean and almost sterile Hungarian gem hidden in an industrial park. We’d go inside, pick up smoked Hungarian sausages, smoked tenderloin, paprika, sauerkraut and a case of Croatian Karlovacko beer, then head home. More recently, when I see my dad, there’s often a vacuum sealed package of Bende’s smoked pork tenderloin waiting for me.

As a city dweller for almost as long as I’ve know of Bende’s existence, it has become more difficult to make it to Vernon Hills without investing an entire day which includes mandatory stops at both Par-King in Lincolnshire and Bill’s Pizza in Mundelein. I went online to check Bende’s hours and found they had a storefront in Glen Ellyn. Hmm, I hadn’t written about Bende yet, have never been to Glen Ellyn, and it’s open on a Sunday? It sounded like a perfect Grocery Gal adventure to have with my stepson!

Grocery Gal Bende Speciality Direct Hungarian FoodsI’m notorious for getting lost anywhere South and West of Chicago, but we easily found Bende’s large sign along Roosevelt Road to guide us in to European goodness. It was early on a Sunday and we were ready to shop.

The store was bright and inviting. First thing I saw was a collection of European bath products that made me swoon. The prices were definitely cheaper than the wonderful Merz Apothecary in Lincoln Square, but my bath oil quota had recently been filled during a trip to Europe.

Bende’s in Glen Ellyn is a proper European style deli. Living on the northwest side of Chicago, I have plenty of Polish delis which cater to that clientele. I get frustrated when I can’t understand the language on all the labels, so I try to guess my way through the products. Bende’s carries childhood essentials that pulled at my heart strings; all in German, which I could understand. They carried items I meant to bring back from Germany this past summer, but forgot, like the tasty Löwensenf Extra, from Düsseldorf.

Grocery Gal Bende German mustardGermans have a love for condiments to spread on meats and breads, and make some pretty tasty ones. Bende carries spicy red pepper spreads, similar to Croatian Ajvar, along with creamy garlic spreads, and my favorite full fat mayonnaise in toothpaste tubes with fluted ends to make fancy sandwiches with.

Grocery Gal Bende German mustardMany stores I’ve shopped at carry the delicious European “Giant Beans,” which aren’t quite lima or butter beans, but some mysterious hybrid that cannot be found in the US. What makes Bende even more special is that they carry the very hard to find Purple Bean Salad, which is native to Sytria in Austria. I first ate purple beans on a hiking trip through Austrian wine country with my Aunt in 2007, and whenever I see them, I think fondly of her and that time we spent together.

grocerygal-bende-purplebeansBut, wait, there’s more Austrian memories! Bende carries a nice variety of hard to find European beers, but as a gluten free person, I’m more interested in their, um, wheat-free beverages. I was delighted to find that Bende carries Austrian schnapps, and at a much lower price point that Gene’s Sausage Shop. Now, I’m not going to drive 30 minutes to save $7, but I will check my current inventory to see if I need to stock up the next time I drive out to Glen Ellyn. The Croatian side of me was happy to see they offered a huge selection of plum brandies, but I haven’t ventured into the world of those spirits just yet. However, if you have a toothache, nothing helps more (according to my dad), than a little slivovitz.Grocery Gal Bende schnappsAfter navigating the aisles, my stepson and I came across what makes Bende a destination for food lovers: their deli. Before I even came across their own products, I saw they offered products from wonderful and well-known Chicago brands Koenemann and Stiglmeier. That’s what makes Bende great. Instead of trying to create a wide variety of products, they focus on what they do best, and bring in the best of the best as their supporting cast. I’m not a fan of headcheese, but based on their breadth of their offering, this place seems like a good bet.

Grocery Gal find Koenemann Sausage at BendeGrocery Gal Bende Deli Head CheeseGrocery Gal shops at BendeAs much as I wanted to get a few slices of Tyrolska lunchmeat, I focused my purchase on Bende products to make my bean soup for the Chicago Food Swap. While there are a few places in Chicago that offer smoked ribs, I have yet to find anyone better than Bende’s smoked ribs. How good are they? I’ve gotten a slab as a Christmas gift more than once from my dad. My sister drives in from Michigian to stock up on it, too. ‘Nuff said.Grocery Gal Bende Smoked RibsGrocery Gal Bende Smoked Deli MeatsI knew I was going to cook the soup the later that day, so I opted to select the exact slab of smoked ribs behind the counter, and had them wrapped in signature white deli paper. However, Bende offers options vacuum packed so you can stock up for the future while you’re there. I’m a sucker for the smoked tenderloin sliced thinly, and any of their Hungarian style dried sausages are also delicious. I don’t know what the difference is, perhaps the spices or that it’s drier, but the flavor is different than Polish and Italian dried sausages. Just try it, you’ll like it.

Grocery Gal Bende smoked meatEven though there were expressways and tolls involved, Bende is a great resource for many German items that I have yet to find in the Chicagoland area. It was a great adventure for me to share part of my heritage with my stepson. If you don’t have a way to get out to Glen Ellyn or Vernon Hills, Bende products can be found at a variety of stores in the Chicagoland area including A&G Market and Fresh Farms, so you can work on making your own little Euro-plate at home.

Grocery Gal Bende Smoked TenderloinBende’s Specialty Foods Direct.  444 Roosevelt Rd, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137. 630-469-6525.

Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9:30AM – 7:00PM, Saturday 9:30AM – 6:30PM, Sunday 10:00AM – 3:00PM. Monday closed.


Bende’s Corporate Headquarters

925 Corporate Woods Pkwy. Vernon Hills, IL 60061. 847-913-0306
Hours:    Monday – Friday 7:00AM – 3:30PM, Saturday 9:00AM – 3:30PM, Sunday closed.


When the days shorten and the temperatures begin to drop, I think about a few things: wearing tights, turning on the seat warmers in my grocery getter, and making soup. My only problem with making soups, as previously written, is I can’t make a small batch. The monthly Chicago Food Swap has helped me distribute some of that extra soup, but how do I handle a last minute soup craving during the workweek?  That’s when Frontier Soups come to the rescue!

Frontier Soups are a family based business located in Waukegan and offer a variety of soups with state and regional themes. They also offer heartier meals, dips and other items, all for sale on their website, online retailers and locally at Sunset Foods, Jewel and Whole Foods. They were introducing their new gluten-free West Coast Kale & Quinoa Vegetable Soup, and asked that I give it a try.  I loved seeing all the ingredients of the soup in a clear pouch – filled with good-for-you stuff. I needed to add a can of tomatoes (which I bought on sale at HarvesTime Foods), a butternut squash (picked up an organic one for $1.50 at Amish Farmers) and some vegetable broth.

Grocery Gal Frontier Soup Kale & Quinoa SoupThey suggested cooking the butternut squash first in a microwave. I live in a microwave-free home, so I cooked it the old fashioned way – I just simmered the squash in the broth first for 10 minutes and then added the rest of the ingredients.

Grocery Gal Frontier Soup West Coast Kale SoupIn about 30 minutes I had a great tasting, super healthy soup for dinner! One package serves 4-6 people, so I had some leftovers which I froze in jars for lunch, and I was going to bring one jar to a friend who was a little under the weather.

Why do I freeze my soups if it takes a day to defrost? Probably because I can’t can them. Canning is something I want to try, but I’m totally intimidated by it. I pour my hot soup into glass jars and the heat does a good job of almost sealing it, but I know it needs to be frozen to stay fresh. I’d love to show up to the Chicago Food Swap with a variety of soups I made and canned, but as close as I can get to that (right now) is filling my soups in a Ball mason jar and telling people to freeze or eat it within 2 days.

Since the soup was a for a friend and not for my lunch, I felt sheepish pouring it into an old salsa jar. I felt I had to class it up a notch with by putting it in a beautiful Ball Heritage Collection jar.

Grocery Gal Ball Hertiage JarWhat is the Ball Heritage Collection, you ask? They’re limited edition jars from Ball which celebrate 100 years of mason jar designs by the Ball brothers. They’re the same quality you know and love from Ball, but in a vintage style and wonderful colors. They first were launched in 2013 with the blue “Perfect Mason” jar, which I need to order for when my kitchen is redone one day. I’d love to have quart size jars on display filled with my different gluten-free flours, but I didn’t find out about them until the larger jars were sold out. I guess I’ll have to search eBay for those. 2014’s spring green jar is called “Perfection” which goes well with Grocery Gal’s current website colors, I might add! I loved the raised letters and the period-correct reproduction of “PERFECTION” on the front of the jar.  I can’t wait to see what they launch for 2015 – I’m wondering if it will be yellow/amber/red colored glass?

Grocery Gal Ball Perfection American Heritage Mason JarIn the end, I brought my friend a delicious, hearty soup that took little effort to make in a beautiful vessel. She loved it, so I hope she’ll return the favor by trying a different Frontier Soup (I’m hoping Illinois Prairie Corn Chowder or New Mexico Mesa Spicy Fiesta Soup Mix) and bringing me a batch in the same jar!

Frontier Soups. Locally made in Waukegan, Illinois.

Ball Heritage Collection.


I first heard about the Chicago Food Swap through Chicago Food Bloggers. The concept on their website was just too perfect: The Chicago Food Swap is an organization dedicated to bringing together cooks, bakers, canners, gardeners and foragers to trade homemade and homegrown foods. This was something right up my alley. I had written in an earlier post how I’m physically unable to make a small amount of soup, so I’d pawn it all off on friends who affectionately named me the Soup Fairy™. Now, I could still make that entire vat of soup, but just package it a little nicer and actually get food made by other people in return! Brilliant! Sorry, friends!

I thought I had my concept in the bag – design some labels, cut them with pinking shears and hand tie them around some Ball mason jars. I’d cook something featuring a local store I’d feature on Grocery Gal. For My First Food Swap™, I chose my famous bean soup using smoked ribs from Bende (GG post comin’ soon!).

Grocery Gal Ball mason jar  Chicago Food SwapThe swap is usually held on the 3rd Sunday of the month at the Fearless Food Kitchen, part of the Peterson Garden Project, in the Broadway Armory from 2-4 pm. I was a few minutes late, because I had to grab some Co-op Poblano Hot Sauce, and the place was packed!

Grocery Gal at the Chicago Food SwapWhile I thought I had an edge making my own label and using pinking sheers, the more experienced swappers schooled me with their promotional styles. Samples! Detailed descriptions! Beautiful displays! Multiple food choices! Customized swap lists!

Grocery Gal at the Chicago Food SwapGrocery Gal at the Chicago Food SwapGrocery Gal at the Chicago Food SwapEmily, the founder of the Food Swap, was very helpful and took me, as a newbie, under her wing. She helped explain how I should look and see what everyone was offering, and then write down my offers. Actually, everyone there was friendly and helpful, and handful of experienced swappers showed me the ropes. I felt sheepish offering just soup when others had fancy stuff like honey and preserved lemons, but then I saw people coming over to sign up to hopefully swap for my soup and I felt relieved! It was almost as if I’d taken my soup-making skills for granted. While I’m not the best baker, I do a nice job with savory foods… and yeah, did anyone else there know where to buy Hungarian-style smoked ribs to put in soups like Grocery Gal did? Maybe not! Hooray – confidence returned!

Grocery Gal at the Chicago Food SwapThere was a small $5 registration fee that offsets any costs and then proceeds go the Peterson Garden Project. Everyone also received a sample bottle of incredible vanilla from Nielsen-Massey. We spent the first 45 minutes walking around, chatting and deciding what we were hoping to trade for. When the official “swap” began, there was a frenzy of trading the foods before the favorites on your list sold out. We were done in 15 minutes. There was something gratifying hearing people say “Yes, I’d love to have your soup!” as you traded it for pecan caramel corn, gluten-free pumpkin bites, preserved lemons (yep, got ’em) and Indian Dal mixes. I did come home with a bounty, in less than an hour!

Grocery Gal at the Chicago Food Swap

My bounty after an afternoon of swapping

For my next Food Swap, I’ll probably make something vegan to hopefully score some of the delicious homemade kimchee I was unable to get this last time.

Unfortunately, I will be out of town for the October Food swap on Sunday October 19th. However, don’t let that keep you away – sign up now on Eventbrite.  I will be at the November 16th one, using a few of the marketing tips I learned at the past one, and probably with my stepson who will help guide me on what we should bring home. Hope to see you there!

Chicago Food Swap. Also find them on Facebook.


Someone recently asked me, “Who has the best produce?”  The answer I gave was simple: it all depends on where you live. I was trying to think of landmark neighborhoods to answer her with and realized I hadn’t written about a great grocery store for people living near Lincoln Square and Albany Park: HarvesTime Foods. Located on Lawrence, between Western and California, you’ll notice HarvesTime as the building covered in solar panels alongside their large parking lot, and the delicious tamales for sale outside the entrance.

Grocery Gal visits HarvestTime FoodsHarvesTime is a nice mashup of a store who can cater to the variety of people living in Lincoln Square and Albany Park. HarvesTime is your standard Produce Stand meets Middle Eastern/Balkan Deli meets Latin Grocery Store meets Organic Foods meets Locally Sourced Products at reasonable prices and all under one roof. What else could anyone need? Well, booze, I guess…

Grocery Gal HarvestTime Homeade Guacamole

I was first introduced to HarvesTime at a party years ago, where their in-house salsas and guacamole were being gobbled up by everyone. I was familiar with the store and stopped in, happy to see many Balkan favorites of mine, including Vegata Natur, a nice deli selection and thorough meat selection. With such a heavy Eastern Euro/Balkan influence, I’m still surprised they don’t carry lamb. Years later, the store continues to expand to the needs of their clients, with a big push of organic and locally produced items (but I still need to buy lamb somewhere else). Grocery Gal HarvestTime DeliTwo local brands HarvesTime carries are Big Pork and Chef Martin’s Alpine Brand Sausages. I have yet to try Big Pork’s brand, but I am very familiar with the Chef Martin brand, and every type I’ve tried is outstanding. If you have your heart on sausages from Paulina Market and they’re closed, stop in at HarvesTime and try a few varieties from these two local Chicago sausage makers.

Chef Martin and Big Pork Sausage at Harvesttime FoodsAnother favorite that HarvesTime carries is Breadsmith breads. My husband (and I, before I went gluten free) go CRAZY over their French Peasant bread. As I stopped in late on a Saturday, I had to settle for their Rustic Italian bread. Their breads are absolutely amazing, and if you’re ever on the fence whether or not you should buy it, read their ingredient label and compare it to your other option. They use no additives or preservatives which is exactly why it tastes incredible. They also offer fresh Vie De France options along with a bunch of other very good local bakery breads, but my family’s choice for sandwich bread is always Breadsmith.

Grocery Gal buys Breadsmith bread at Harvesttime FoodsWhen you leave HarvesTime, make sure you have a few dollars cash on hand for the tamales for sale outside. The family selling them have been there for years, and I believe it’s 6 tamales for $5. I grabbed six cheese ones to share with my husband and they were still warm even after my bike ride back home.

HarvesTime Foods. 2632 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625.  (773) 989-4400


If you grew up in Illinois anywhere near the Wisconsin, there’s a good chance you heard of Mars’ Cheese Castle. It meant you were on I-94, had just passed through Kenosha, and were en route to Milwaukee. However, tucked next to the huge CHEESE CASTLE sign (and newly constructed castle), is a true gem worthy of a visit: Bobby Nelson’s Cheese Shop.

Grocery Gal Bobby Nelson Cheese Shop

Pass the castle and come to Bobby Nelson’s

While I didn’t have a chance to learn more about Bobby Nelson’s history, it was still love at first sight. I felt like I was visiting the original Meyer Delicatessen in Lincoln Square (before it became Gene’s Sausage Shop) or a brighter Erickson’s Deli in Andersonville. There was a definite Scandinavian-meets-German feel to the place.

Grocery Gal Bobby Nelson Wisonsin CheeseInside was just heaven for me. While there’s a huge cheese selection at Woodman’s (and I’m sure Mars’ Cheese Castle), Bobby Nelson’s had more specialty cheeses, making it worth the trip for true Cheese foodies. With only $20 in my pocket, I had to ration my choices. I narrowed my cheese selection to a Roth Käse Horseradish-Chive Havarti that was out of this world! They had the staples of cheese curds and summer sausages, just not in touristy packaging. The hand-lettered signage on the wall announcing their 100% pure home made sausages made me cave in and buy a summer sausage. The woman working at the counter said the garlic sausage was the way to go; I eagerly nodded and asked for one. Those two items, along with a landjäger for the ride home put me back a little under $20. It was all worth every penny.

grocerygal-bobbynelson-cheeseIn addition to a nice variety of cheese, smoked sausages and brats, they offered a lot of local jellies, sauces and pickled products. While I don’t think I’d be picking up any turkey gizzards or pork hocks anytime soon, I wondered how a pickled egg would taste in a bloody mary. Grocery Gal Bobby Nelson Wisconsin Cheese PickledNext time you see the sign, be sure to get off the highway and stop in to select what you deem the perfect Wisconsin experience (minus the beer!).

Grocery Gal Bobby Nelson Wisconsin cheese

Wisconsin knows how to do Neon right

How good was it? Well, I had to try a bite of that delicious horseradish-chive havarti before I could even take the photo!  And the summer sausage? Probably the best and only summer sausage I’ll ever have again. I’m normally not a fan of summer sausage (not dry enough), but this was just perfect. It’s worth the road trip. Just let me know when you’re going, so I can tag along.

Bobby Nelson Grocery Gal Summer Sausage

Bobby Nelson’s Garlic Summer Sausage – yum

Bobby Nelson Cheese Shop. 2924 120th Ave. Kenosha, WI 53144. 262-859-2232


I’ve found I have more grocery stores and food related things to write about than I have time for. That’s the basis for GGBite: bite sized reviews of places that I stopped in at, but might not have the time to do a full-on Grocery Gal posting on. Today’s first GGBite I came across on my bicycle one Saturday afternoon while running errands: Ameera Food, located next to Chicago Live Poultry on Western Avenue at Devon.

Grocery  Gal GG Bite Ameera Chicago Live Poultry

My Two Wheeled Austrian Grocery Getter – KTM City Bike

I was on my way to an appointment at Santhigram Wellness Kerala Ayurveda (you must try an Ayurvedic treatment  – it will change your life!) and was running a little early. As I was on Devon at Western, I looked north and saw Chicago Live Poultry. I was always a little scared of the store – but now as Grocery Gal, I knew I just had to go in.

Sorry, there aren’t any photos. As you can tell by the name, here’s where you can buy live chickens, along with other types of fowl: turkeys, pheasant, duck, goose. There was a hand-written sign on the wall listing what was available and at what price. I didn’t take a photo, as it was just such an uncomfortable place to be in; I had to go. The gist is you can choose your animal and it will be slaughtered and cleaned there for you. You can’t get any fresher than that, but it’s not for those with a weak stomach.

Next to Chicago Live Poultry was the the bright, clean Ameera Food. There were no windows to look in, but fresh posters touting “Fresh Fish” and “Meat.” Inside, it looked as if they’d be open only a few weeks – the place was well stocked with African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and South Asian foods.

Can't get any fresherThey had a pretty large fresh fish selection with many of the staples: tilapia, catfish, but a few other fish I had never heard of. All were tucked in with lots of ice to keep them fresh. What was most interesting was the aquarium where you could purchase live tilapia.

They also offered the services of Chicago Live Poultry without the full experience. You could tell the butcher counter you’d like a chicken, and they would take care of the rest. They had a small, but fresh butcher case with Zabiha Halal meats as well.

Grocery Gal Ameera Food Western ChicagoThey carried a lot of African products including Red African Beans, Oporo and dried Crawfish. There was a good selection of grains that I haven’t cooked with before: Elubo/Amala and Yellow Gari. As I’m currently eating gluten free, I bought some Fufu flour which is used to make a West African style dumpling. Yellow Gari Ameera Nigerian Grain Chicago Grocery GalFufu flour African Ameera Chicago Grocery GalThere was a small produce section. I think there are other options on Devon, like Fresh Farms, that are better options to by produce from. However, specialized ones like Ghana Yams are worth a purchase at Ameera.

Ghana Yams African Produce Chicago Grocery Gal AmeeraA frozen selection focused more on Asian specialties including Durian, which I have never seen outside of Thailand, and Cassava and Jute leaves from the Philippines.Durian Fruit Chicago Ameera Grocery Gal

Cassava Leaves Jute Leaves Chicago Ameera Grocery GalEntering Ameera was an adventure for me. While I didn’t exactly know how to cook much of the food they sold, I knew it’s a great resource to share on Grocery Gal. And next time I cook a whole chicken, I might stop in to get a freshly slaughtered on from Ameera. I’ll admit, it’s a little easier to digest when you don’t have to see the what happens behind the curtain.

Grocery Gal Ameera Food

Ameera Food. 6410 N. Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60645. 773-338-8400.  Chicago Live Poultry. 6421 N. Western Ave. Chicago, IL 60645. 773-381-1000.


I share my Grocery Gal posts on social media sites like Facebook, Reddit and LinkedIn. After sharing my article on either Caputo’s Cheese Market or the Swiss Colony, I received comments telling me I needed to check out the cheese selection at Woodman’s Market in Wisconsin.

I knew of the place right when I read it. It was a huge store off of Route 50 in Kenosha, right off 94. It was on the opposite side of the highway from the legendary BratstopI’ll admit it, I never went in because I didn’t like their logo. Plain & simple. However, I had to make a stop for provisions on my way to camp at Plymouth Rock, so I thought Grocery Gal should put away her design-snobbery and check out what it had to offer.

I liked how Woodman’s is employee owned, and proud of it. When you walk in, they make it known that they don’t accept credit cards, similar to Aldi.  I liked that philosophy, and it probably keep their prices down. The place was huge – I usually don’t like shopping in such large places (though I love Costco), but I had to see what they had to offer.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

Summer Sausage at Woodman’s

Walking in, there was a fairly large produce section with a good amount of organic produce and vegetarian food. I was on a mission for cheese and on a tight schedule, so I went past all the healthy stuff. There’s a large meat section and I saw something that seems to be only in Wisconsin: summer sausage. I’m not a fan of it; the consistency and flavors are too American (moist) for me. I favor the dry European style sausages from Montrose Deli and Amish Farmers. However, if you love summer sausages, Woodman’s offers a variety from what seem to be small, local sausage makers in a variety of flavors.

What I do like is beef jerky! I got suckered into both the locally made and gluten free tags on Wayne’s Jerky and bought it. Even though real beef jerky should always be gluten free, it made me wonder if how many wheat fillers were in that Jack Link’s brand next to it. I was also reminded that it had been a while since I made my own beef jerky, and I needed to put that on my to-do list.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market Wayne's Jerky

Some of the freshest packaged jerky I’ve had.

Meats were covered, now where was the cheese? I came across a small refrigerated case that had some locally made cheese in it. Really? That’s it? Wow, this is pathetic. I was really disappointed. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Until I turned the corner and came across probably 40 feet of refrigerated cheeses.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

People from Illinois love Wisconsin cheese curds

grocery gal wisconsin cheese woodman's market

The retro cheese section, including checkerboard flavor and cheese food with “process salami” in it.

The cheese section was overwhelming. Every brand I found, except one, was not a mass produced brand, and all from Wisconsin. The cheese staples were pretty basic. I was hoping to find something a little more exotic, but I had to wait for that later on at Bobby Nelson’s Cheese Shop.

Beef jerky, cheese curds, what else did I need while I was in Wisconsin? Oh yeah, beer. Their liquor department was in a separate area. Department is the wrong word to use. Emporium seems more appropriate. This place was larger than any liquor store I’ve been to in Chicago, minus the Binny’s location at Goose Island. And, wow, they gave you free stuff when you bought beer!

Grocery Gal Woodman Markets

Free stuff when you buy beer? Only in Wisconsin!

I could down a PBR as good as anyone before, and who wouldn’t love some sweet corn for free with a 30 pack of Pabst? Unfortunately, now I must restrict gluten from my diet. Honestly, this new chapter in my dietary life really sucks because I love me a hoppy IPA any day of the week! I wanted to see if Woodman’s carried Daura Damm gluten free beer, because it’s the only gluten free beer that tastes like real beer. I like a cider here and there, but it’s just too sweet after a while. What did Woodman’s have in their liquor emporium? More gluten free options than I ever even thought imaginable. My Daura that’s $9.99 in Chicago was a mere $5.29 at Woodman’s! What did I do? I bought four 4 packs.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

The Gluten Free Motherload!

I was happy. Really happy. I knew I needed to pick up some Moon Man for my husband. I’m sure Woodman’s would be carrying some New Glarus beer, right? Well, Woodman’s seemed to have more New Glarus beer than the brewery had! They also had a big stash of Lakefront Brewery’s IPA, so I picked up some for him, too.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

Umm, want some Spotted Cow or Moon Man?

Smoked meats? Check. Cheese curds? Check. Beer? Check. What else is Wisconsin famous for? Bloody Mary’s! When you look at the stash of what Woodman’s has to offer, you understand why they make them so well in this state.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

With accoutrements like this, no wonder the best Bloody Mary’s in the world are from Wisconsin.

I had everything I needed to camp, but I was still thinking about my Grocery Gal readers.

One last thing I’d recommend adding to your Wisconsin gift basket is the famous Lehmann’s Danish Kringle out of Racine. Friends brought us a Kringle before, and while many might think it’s just another coffee cake, it’s not. Go buy one and enjoy it with coffee in the am. Let me know when the gluten-free version becomes available.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

The famous Racine Kringle

Once again, my logo prejudice kept me away from a real gem of a store. Woodman’s had all the fixins to make a great Wisconsin gift basket any Illinoisan would want to bring back home. They have been in Wisconsin since 1919 and have three locations in Illinois. Next time you see a Woodman’s while driving in on the interstate, stop off and stock up on a the Wisconsin experience.

Grocery Gal Woodman's Market

Ready to go camping!

Woodman’s Markets. 7145 120th Avenue, Kenosha, WI, 53142. 262-857-3801