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.


I’m a sucker for a Korean Sauna. My first experience was about five years ago at Paradise Sauna, a small place on Montrose.  I’ve been hooked ever since. Yeah, you have to get naked, but it’s the perfect way to kick a cold or just relax. A few years ago King Sauna opened in Niles, and I stock up on entrance tickets whenever a Groupon is available.

Grocery Gal King Sauna H Mart

King Sauna lives up to it’s royal name

So, why am I writing about a Korean Sauna on a grocery store blog? It’s because of King Sauna that I found the Super H Mart, located off of Waukegan in Niles. H Mart is a chain of Korean grocery stores located in a handful of states in the US, with two Illinois locations, in Niles and Naperville.

Grocery Gal Super H Mart Niles

The exterior reminds me of an old Service Merchandise

Before I came across Fresh Farms‘ incredible fish department, H Mart was the place to go to for fish. You select which whole fish you want, choose from signage how you want it cleaned, and they do the rest for you. On my last visit, it was about 7pm on a Monday evening, and the fish counter looked a little deserted, but the whole hamachi was looking good.

Grocery Gal Super H Mart

I’ll take a #7

Grocery Gal Super H Mart

Fresh Hamachi for $1.99 a lb.

There’s more than just the whole fish options at H Mart. There’s a good selection of shrink-wrapped sashimi grade fish, some frozen options, a huge lobster section, and a ton of dried fish and fish balls. Not quite sure where I’d be using fish balls, but if I ever come across it in a recipe, I know now where to buy them.

Grocery Gal Super H Mart

Dried fish and fresh lobster

Grocery Gal Super H Mart

Multiple varieties of fish balls

I didn’t need any fish in the whole, dried or ball variety this time. It was late, I didn’t want to cook, but I needed something to eat. H Mart has a few options for the non-cooks out there. There’s a diverse Asian-themed food court where you can eat in or take it to go.

Grocery Gal Super H Mart Niles

One of the H Mart food stalls

Grocery Gal Super H Mart Niles

Food court options. Do not eat the samples.

I’m not the most patient person in the world, so I skipped the food court and went after some prepackaged food made within H Mart. There are so many options; my only complaint is I wished they offered them in smaller portions so I could try more of a variety. This evening I grabbed some tofu cakes and pickled radish. The tofu cakes were still warm.  I’ll confess; they smelled so good in the car that I actually opened up the package and ate one during my drive home!

Grocery Gal Super H Mart Niles

Hot and prepared tofu cakes and fried zucchini

Grocery Gal Super H Mart Niles

Prepared pickled goodness… but I don’t quite know what it is

Since I was quickly assembling a meal for home, I went to grab some Kimchi. Yes, i realize I’m in a Korean grocery store so there would be a few options of Kimchi to choose from. However, I didn’t realize there were about 50 different brands of Kimchi, which also came in different vegetable options. It was late, so I grabbed an old reliable cabbage kimichi but plan on going back to try a zucchini or asparagus one next time.

Grocery Gal Super H Mart Niles

Who knew Kimchi came in different veggie options?

So what about the Grocery Gal fans looking for something to cook from H Mart other than fresh fish? They have an extensive produce section with Asian-specific produce like fresh ginseng, lemongrass and lots of radishes. Almost an entire back wall is dedicated to tofu.

Grocery Gal Super H Mart

Grocery Gal Super H Mart Niles

Lots of tofu options: regular, organic, and sprouted organic for the biggest health benefit.

However, if you plan on using the tofu in the next day or two, I highly recommend their in-house tofu. They also sell fresh soymilk in the mornings, around 10am. It must go fast or is just difficult to maintain, because they only offer a very small window on when to buy the soy milk.

Grocery Gal Super H Mart

Fresh tofu made in H Mart

Since H Mart is now closer to home than Tai Nam is, I find myself stocking up on my Asian sauces, oils and vinegars here. Prices are solid and there’s a great variety to choose from. The buckwheat noodle options could be a little overwhelming, but I find a nice size package perfect for my Buckwheat Noodle Salad. There’s an extensive frozen section giving people many options for potstickers and other packaged foods.

Grocery Gal Super H Mart

Buckwheat noodles – perfect for a cold Asian salad.

Beyond the grocery store and food court, there are a few stores within the building, like a mini mall. My favorite one to stop in is the housewares shop featuring great appliances not readily available in the US market. What kind of stuff? Cute little toaster ovens with names like Super Toasty Oven. What else? Well, you’ve got to go see yourself. And grab some tofu cakes for the ride home. Grocery Gal Super H Mart Super H Mart. 801 Civic Center Dr, Niles, IL 60714. (847) 581-1212. Open 7 days, 8am-11pm.