Hi friends, remember me? It’s been an interesting year, and I apologize for being on hiatus for so long. But when I come back, I come back with a bang… recommending something everyone will want to enjoy in their home. What is it, you ask? My friends, it’s just the thing to get your day started or the party started; it’s the Wave~Action blender by Hamilton Beach.

In college, my blender was put to pretty good use (too much mixer, not enough elixir…), but it often would take halfway melted ice to blend the perfect batch of daiquiris. Over the past few years, super deluxe blenders with more horsepower than my grocery getter have become commonplace in many homes, but they’re priced out of my reach. Then, lo and behold, here comes Hamilton Beach with a 700 watt motor to blend the perfect beverage for morning, noon and night, and at the right price.

In the mornings, I use my Wave~Action blender to put together a filling smoothie of light coconut milk, frozen bananas, almond butter and cocoa. The bananas have so much sweetness that there’s no need to add anything else. My breakfast blends quickly and I enjoy it as I walk to the train in the morning.

Grocery Gal Wave action smoothie blender

I recently hosted a barbecue and wanted to create a cocktail in advance so I could be a better hostess. Friends suggested I make something with watermelon, so I found the perfect Boozy Watermelon Mint Lemonade recipe on HostTheToast.com. My Wave~Action blender was up for the test and perfectly blended fresh watermelon, cucumbers, mint and lemon juice into a wonderful concoction, which later had vodka added to it.

Grocery Gal Hamilton Beach Wave Blender ReviewWithout the addition of some type of liquid, this blender, like any, doesn’t blend its contents immediately. However, it comes with a stir spoon which helps you move stuff around fairly easily. I couldn’t imagine my previous blender (which was twice the price 15 years ago) blend anything as well as this Hamilton Beach one does.

Not into beverages? That’s ok! I’ve also filled my Wave~Action blender with roasted eggplant (skin and seeds removed), roasted garlic, tahini and fresh lemon juice to create a killer baba ghanouj. To be honest, I’ve run it a little too long in the blender, so instead of a dip, it had more of a sauce consistency, but it was still delicious. You could drizzle it over grilled meat, or as use a creamy, dairy-free dressing.

I love this blender so much that I’m going to give one to a lucky Grocery Gal reader! To enter the contest, reply to the blog saying what you would make first in your Hamilton Beach Wave~Blender. No purchase necessary, and one entry per email. Contest ends 8/15/15 at 5pm CST.

I can’t wait to hear your recommendations!

Hamilton Beach Wave~Action Blender. Model:53514. MSRP $34.99


Today’s Grocery Gal installment comes as a recommendation from a long standing client of mine. We were chatting about the cost of organic foods and how it’s a challenge to afford it. She told me of a place on Oakton in Skokie whose name escaped her, and I was intrigued because I had never heard of it. Always one for a new adventure, I started searching “skokie grocery store” on my iPhone to find what had to be the place: Marketplace on Oakton.

Grocery Gal Marketplace On Oakton SkokieThe day I made it out to Marketplace was the same day I discovered Hungarian Kosher. Both are on Oakton, but Marketplace is close to the Skokie Swift yellow line and the Edens. When I pulled my grocery getter into the large parking spot, I smiled, as it shared a space with my favorite chain grocery store, Aldi.

Grocery Gal Marketplace on Oakton Grocery Store

Grocery Gal Marketplace Foods Coccoa Kumato tomato

Cocoa Tomatoes are just like Kumato Tomatoes!

I wouldn’t call Marketplace a destination store, but a solid International market with fresh produce, a large deli counter and substantial butcher shop, along the lines of Produce World. I was impressed by the variety of organic produce they carried: staples such as apples, potatoes and onions at a fraction of Whole Foods’ prices.

Grocery Gal Marketplace on Oakton Grocery Store OrganicGrocery Gal Marketplace on Oakton Grocery Store OrganicTheir large ethnic produce selection rivals Fresh Farms.  I bought some taro root (I love taro root chips) and fresh turmeric.

Grocery Gal Marketplace on Oakton Grocery Store Indian VegetableI was happy to see some of my favorite Bende meat products – almost all of Marketplace’s smoked meat selections were from Chicagoland companies.

Grocery Gal Marketplace on Oakton Grocery Store Euro meatsMarketplace on Oakton has a fresh seafood counter, but I’m partial to their selection of canned fishes. They carry a wide variety; more than I’m used to seeing at other stores.

Grocery Gal Marketplace on Oakton FishAs most of my grocery shopping runs around running errands, I would definitely make a stop here if I was heading to Old Orchard. And for those European chocolate fans out there, beware – there are many tempting items in the checkout line!

Grocery Gal Marketplace on Oakton ChocolateIf you live in the area, it’s a solid stop for good quality, affordable organic produce, and a solid European style market.

Marketplace on Oakton. 4817 W Oakton Street, Skokie, IL 60077. 847-677-9330


I get so excited when I stumble across a store I’ve never seen before. I rarely drive on Oakton, but one day I found myself doing so and passed by Hungarian Kosher Foods. I quickly took a right turn with my grocery getter and parked in the busy parking lot. I didn’t know what I was going to buy, but I knew it was going to be an adventure!

Hungarian Kosher Foods Grocery GalI had previously shopped at the Kosher Jewel on Howard, but this was my first time in a true Kosher market, and it looked as if I had stumbled across the best of them. Hungarian Kosher Foods is the Midwest’s largest all Kosher supermarket, and has been family owned since 1973.

I didn’t have much time, so I scurried over to the deli to see what goods they had to offer. I found a lot of sausage products from Romanian, a Kosher sausage company located on Clark Street in Rogers Park (which reminded me how I’ve been planning to have them as a Grocery Gal feature). I knew they would sell some great smoked fish, but little did I know they’d offer Pastrami Smoked Salmon! Wow – by now you should know how I’m a sucker for smoked meats and fish, and this is by far some of the best smoked fish I’ve ever had. It was so flavorful, and I’d never seen smoked fish in a pastrami style. It’s worth the trip alone to stock up on this!

Grocery Gal Hungarian Kosher Foods Smoked SalmonI also chose one piece of herring that was pickled in wine. Herring is something I like sparingly, and often can only be found in a jar which goes bad before I could finish it. It was great just to get one filet; not too much and not too little. The egg salad looked delicious, but I’m unfortunately unable to eat eggs for the time being. grocerygal-hungariankosher-herringBeing a Kosher supermarket, they had a very nice meat section, featuring a variety cut of beef beyond what you’d see at traditional supermarkets, along with veal and lamb.

For those with busy schedules, Hungarian Kosher Foods offers a lot of ready made Kosher meals and sides, which included roast beef and chicken leg dinners, matzo balls and homemade egg noodles.

Grocery Gal Hungarian Kosher Foods Matzo BallsIt looked as if the store had expanded over the years. Kosher wine, juices, paper goods and canned and jarred olives filled shelves in the expansion area. I grabbed some Israeli black olives in a wine brine and walked back to the checkout counter. My only regret after I left was that I didn’t buy more of the pastrami smoked salmon. Next time, for sure.

Grocery Gal Hungarian Kosher Foods Kosher Wine Skokie

Hungarian Kosher Foods. 4020 Oakton Street, Skokie, IL 60076. 847-674-8008. Sunday 8am-6pm, Mon-Thurs 8am-9pm, Friday 7:30am-3pm, Closed Saturdays.


Issacson & Stein. A Chicago institution that’s been around for over 80 years. Everyone knows the place, but have you ever been in there? When I worked downtown many moons ago, sales people would leave midday to pick up shrimp and oysters for their family dinners, while I was stuck at my desk creating their ads. Once, I got of work early and stopped in, but it was only a few minutes before they were closing. I could never make it in during the week, and by the weekend I had no desire to trek back downtown. Recently, I was in the neighborhood while Issacson & Stein was open (!) and made a point to stop in. Hopefully they had some Branzino fish so that I could try a new recipe from my Nom Nom Paleo cookbook. Issacson & Stein Fish Co Grocery GalThe store was much tinier than I remembered. I also didn’t recall it being self-serve before. When you come in, you can grab a basket, some plastic gloves and as many plastic bags as you need. They really give you the option to choose exactly which fish you want, with your gloved hands, instead of telling someone, “no, not that one, the one next to it.”

Issacson & Stein Fish Co Fish HeadsEverything was so fresh – the place had no fish odor to it. While they didn’t have the Branzino I was looking for, I knew I could substitute rainbow trout in the dish. They had Fresh Farms beaten by 15 cents on their oyster price: they were only 60 cents each, but I wasn’t in the mood for oysters that day.

Issacson & Stein Fish Co Grocery Gal OystersIssacson & Stein Fish Co Sepia Grocery GalOnce you’re done with your selection, you bring it to a counter where it’s weighed. From there, you get an adding machine receipt which you take up to the counter to pay. Fortunately, my rainbow trout was already cleaned, but if it wasn’t, I’d just have to bring it to the cleaning section after I paid. Issacson & Stein is definitely a self-service, no frills fish place with good prices. It’s also a Chicago institution.

Issacson & Stein Fish Co Grocery Gal

Grocery Gal Issacson & Stein Fish Co receiptOh, and if you were wondering, the trout came out delicious! I bought 2 fish for $12, stuffed them with parsley, thyme, oregano and lemon, and broiled in the oven. Yum!

Issacson & Stein Fish Co Grocery Gal

Issacson & Stein Fish Company. 800 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607. 312-421-2444. Monday 9am-4:15pm, Tuesday-Friday 8am-4:15pm, Saturday 8am-1pm, Closed Sunday.


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.


Back in my Uptown days when I struggled to find good quality, affordable foods, I would spend Sundays in Rogers Park, shopping at places like Fresh Farms and Kamdar Plaza. However, I still had to buy mineral water, meat and, if I was lucky, some Bende smoked tenderloins. Fortunately, I just had to drive a few blocks west on Devon to Kedzie to get that and more at City Fresh Market.

Grocery Gal City Fresh Market DevonCity Fresh Market is small, but it is a powerhouse for Central and Eastern European and Mediterranean foods. It’s a family owned market that’s been around since 2004. I love whenever I find a place that carries Croatian wine and a variety of products I grew up with as a kid.

Grocery Gal City Fresh Market European Wine Grocery Gal City Fresh Market CheeseIt was at City Fresh where I first noticed products from Green Ridge Farms. They’re a local supplier of European style smoked meats and sausages. Since this visit, I’ve seen them at a few other local grocery stores. I grabbed a package of the thin, smoked sausages during this visit. Although they were good, they still couldn’t compare to the fresh, dried sausage from Montrose Deli City Fresh Market Devon Green Ridge FarmsCity Fresh Market Devon Smoked MeatsIn addition to prepackaged meats and cheeses, they offer a full deli counter, meat counter and a very, very busy bakery counter. In fact, the bakery counter was so packed when I was there that I wasn’t able to take any photos! They offer traditional European multilayered cakes (and by multi, I mean more than 6!), like Dobos Torte, many cream filled cakes like I had seen in trips to Croatia, and staples like baklava. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I think I’ll stop by before visiting my dad next time with a few options for him!

As any good European deli should, City Fresh Market has a wide variety of feta cheese to choose from. I didn’t realize this the last time that I was there, but they also offer slow-roasted pig, goat and lamb. Finding that out while writing this post makes me want to hop in my grocery getter and head on over now. Slow roasted lamb on a spit was the norm at summer barbecues as a child; there’s nothing else really like it. They also make their own meat specialties in house: Cevapi, Pljeskavica and Sudjuk.

City Fresh Market Devon FetaAnd for those not into all the Eastern and Central European specialty meats, City Fresh Market is a solid market in its own right. Decent produce and a well-stocked meat section. The cuts of meat were all fresh and and well priced.

City Fresh Market Devon ButcherFinally, for those fans of Central and Eastern European mineral waters and beer, City Fresh Market has you covered, too. They have a good variety, including my favorite Croatian beer: Karlovacko.

City Fresh Market Devon BeerIf you haven’t had a chance to try Eastern specialties like roasted lamb, cevapi, or a Dobos torte, you should make it a point to stop in a City Fresh Market soon.

City Fresh Market3201 West Devon Avenue, Chicago, IL 60659. 773-681-8600. Open 7 days.


In 2015, I’m making a conscious effort to stay away from processed foods. Once I started eating gluten-free in June, I began to feel better, but then found myself falling down the slippery slope of relying too often on gluten-free convenience foods. I normally wouldn’t eat boxed mac and cheese, but since it was gluten-free, I felt it was ok to eat an entire box for dinner. I realized this type of nonsense had to stop.

I came across a wonderful book called the Autoimmune Paleo cookbook by Mickey Trescott, and felt that it was time to eat with a whole foods approach. That philosophy isn’t anything new to me, it’s the way I grew up as a first generation American. Everything was always homemade; nothing ever came from a box. Granted, it’s hard cooking so much meat in a house with a vegetarian, but I’m fortunate my husband understands the importance of this. I’m not going to go into what the Paleo lifestyle is, but for those unfamiliar, Sarah Ballantyne sums it up nicely on her blog.

I was about to start an intensive two week reset and needed to buy grass fed beef and pastured pork and chicken. I also needed some less than glamorous pieces of meat, which included bones for making broth and beef liver. While I love and support Amish Farmers, it was the weekend, and I needed to find something in the city. I recalled seeing an Amish storefront next to the Empty Bottle on Western, so I hopped into my grocery getter and drove to Ukrainian Village.

Amish & Healthy FoodsThe store was bright and clean. I’ve since visited twice and there’s a mix of people in the store – the Ukrainian mother who thanked me in her native tongue when I opened the door so she could bring the baby stroller in, the twenty something hipster stocking up on vitamin supplements, and the older woman in yoga attire selecting fermented vegetables out of the cold case.

Amish & Healthy Foods Produce

Amish & Healthy Foods VitaminsI knew I was going to stop at Stanley’s to see what organic produce they had, so my focus at Amish & Healthy was meat. I couldn’t believe their offering, and I loved that the meats were frozen in convenient one pound packages. They carried both grass fed and traditional beef, all different types of organ meats (I know, it sounds gross, but it’s really good for you), bison, pork, turkey and chicken.  I chose some beef and chicken livers, soup bones and “small” beef bones to make my broth. I’m a sucker for turkey jerky, so I picked up a pound of ground turkey to make my own at home. After stopping at Amish & Healthy, I compared prices at both Whole Foods and Paulina Market. On all accounts, the prices at Amish & Healthy were cheaper, and I felt good about supporting not only a local business, but an Amish community in Indiana, all while eating cuts of meat that were better for me.

Amish & Healthy Foods ButcherThey have a small deli counter with foods that seem to rotate based on availability. I bought a bottle of their delicious ginger apple kombucha for $5.99 and their yummy paleo munchkies. It was at this time that I met the owner, Lucy. She explained how popular the kombucha was, and if I returned my bottle, next time I could get $1 off.

Amish & Healthy Foods PaleoWhile I didn’t need any at this time, Amish & Healthy sells a lot of dried fruit with no sugar added. And they’re not just your standard dried fruit fare: they sell sun-dried organic wild goji berries, freeze-dried cherries, juniper berries, and organic dried pomegranate seeds.  Amish & Healthy Foods Dried FruitThey do sell eggs for $5 a dozen. To me, that seems a little pricey, but I’m spoiled with Amish Farmers. Amish & Healthy also sell duck eggs with single or double yolks, for 50¢ and 75¢. The next time you plan to head out for some high quality meat, be sure to stop in at Amish & Healthy; you won’t be disappointed by the variety and the prices of their meat selection. And grab some paleo munchkins to go, too.

Amish & Healthy Foods StoreAmish Healthy Foods. 1025 North Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622, 773-278-1717. Open 7 days.


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.


Grocery Gal Hagen's Fish MarketAlmost every morning around 6:50am, I’m driving past Hagen’s Fish Market on the 5600 block of west Montrose, saying “oh, I need to stop in.” The problem is, I drive home along a different route.  When I moved into the neighborhood over 3 years ago, I was sure I’d be stopping in at Hagen’s regularly. In reality, I was a bad Grocery Gal and never made it back until recently. As I opened the screen door to enter this 68 year old Northwest side landmark, I was kicking myself for waiting this long.

Grocery Gal Hagen's Fish Market Montrose ChicagoHagen’s is such a treat to have in Jefferson Park. According to their website, they have remained family owned and in the same location for three generations. My first visit after my 3 year hiatus was a little after 5pm. It was just me and one other customer (which upon other visits, I learned was a rare instance). I picked up their smoked fish dip (best thing ever) and Charlene’s Crab Dip for my yearly “Romance Weekend” camping trip with my husband. I knew they smoked fish, but I didn’t know customers could also bring in their own catch, including fowl, to be smoked at Hagen’s for under $2 a pound. My plans are to cook my Christmas turkey (which I’ll be ordering from Amish Farmers) on my Weber grill, but this opens a whole new world of cooking opportunities! I love smoked meats and it would save me a ton of time! Hmmm, what would you do?

Grocery Gal Hagen's Fish Market MenuHagen’s Fish Market offers the smoked fish staples of mackerel, trout and salmon, but also sell smoked chubs, whitefish, ciscoes (which I had never heard of), and my favorite: smoked salmon candy. The points of origin, along if they were wild caught or farm raised, are listed on the label.

Grocery Gal Hagen's Smoked FishNot into smoked fish? That’s ok. Hagen’s also has a nice selection of fresh filets including Pacific Halibut and Cod, Lake Erie Walleye Pike (for your very own Friday Fish Fry), Lake Superior Whitefish, Lake Erie Perch, Atlantic Cod. Their preference is wild caught over farmed, and they notate it anything has been previously frozen.

While I didn’t buy any fresh fish filets this time around, I know I’ll be back soon. The struggle I often have with fresh fish is how to cook it. Again, Hagen’s comes to the rescue! They have a wall of recipe cards that give you many options on how to cook the fish they sell.

Hagen's Fresh Catch Grocery GalMy only gripe (coming as a design snob) is that they use Comic Sans for the font on these cards! Hagen’s – if you’re reading this – please update the font style on those cards! They’re such helpful recipes, don’t dumb them down with that terrible font! Tell me your font options, and I’ll give you recommendations! Ok, rant over!

Grocery Gal hates comic sansThere’s a generous selection of East Coast canned chowders and bisques, Bayou fish spices, and European sauces and mixes along a wall.

Grocery Gal Hagen's Fish Soups

Grocery Gal Hagen's SpicesA refrigerated section offers multiple sizes of homemade specialties including pickled herring, mustard dill sauce, Charlene’s Crab Dip, and the amazing smoked fish dip.

A few frozen cases house frozen options perfect for parties including stuffed clams, jumbo shrimp, escargot, and some Scandinavian specialties including lingonberries and potato lefse.

Grocery Gal Hagan's FishAbout two weeks later I altered my route home from work to stop in and get some scallops for dinner. The place was hopping – some were picking up their made to order fried fish dinners, while others picked up their smoked fish orders, most likely from a weekend fishing trip. I made the mistake of not grabbing a number as soon as I got in, so I perused the shelves while waiting for my turn.

Grocery Gal Hagen's Fish Market MontroseWhen it was finally my turn, I grabbed my six scallops, but also included a piece of smoked trout, one homemade crab cake and a half dozen blue points. The blue points are a steal at $9.60 for a dozen. Sure, I can get them for five cents cheaper at Fresh Farms, but it’s only five cents (!) and I can walk to Hagen’s from my home. The oyster selection, along with their mussel selection, is based on availability. The man behind the counter told me I could always call in an order in the morning, and they would be happy to hold them for me. My most recent visits had Bluepoint and Montauk oysters, black and P.E.I. mussels and Cherrystone clams for sale by the dozen.

Grocery Gal DinnerIf you like any type of fish: fresh, smoked or freshly fried fish (I didn’t even go into their extensive fried-to-order fish menu), head on in to Hagen’s now. They’re open seven days a week and they really have something for everyone. With the holidays comes entertaining friends and family. Hagen’s offers a lot of low effort and delicious options that can take your entertaining to the next level. Now, who wants some oysters?

Hagen’s Fish Market. 5635 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60634. 773-283-1944


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.