Need a break from walking the aisles at McCormick Place? Why not check out the Windy City's ever-changing array of supermarkets and specialty stores? The main traditional players here are Albertsons' Jewel and Safeway's Dominick's. After that, there are a range of specialty options, both high and low. What follows is a list of some of the more interesting new and established stores. All directions are from McCormick Place.
Directions: Take Roosevelt Road west to Halsted Street. Go right to Madison Street. Store is at the intersection.
Highlights: Dominick's latest downtown store occupies the ground floor of Skybridge, an architecturally distinctive high-rise condo project in the heart of the burgeoning West Loop neighborhood. The decor is High-Yuppie: dark green and brown walls with gold accents, wood floors and baskets of plants adorn the tops of fixtures and racks. The large prepared-foods department mixes in sushi, grilled tofu and focaccia and panini sandwiches with the subs and fried chicken. The crowning touch: an in-store Starbucks coffee bar.
Directions: Take Lake Shore Drive north to Randolph Street. Go left to State Street. Go right across the river to the corner of State and Grand Avenue.
Highlights: Jewel is in a decidedly urban mode with a store located two blocks from the tony Michigan Avenue shopping district. The store, which is quite a bit smaller than a typical Jewel, occupies the base of Grand Plaza, one of the largest new condo buildings in a neighborhood plentiful with them. The first thing that tells you you're no longer in the suburbs is the revolving doors. Then, inside, there's a large bakery and prepared-foods area, a fish market with 24 varieties of fresh fish, and an elaborately built-out wine and spirits department.
Directions: Take Route 55 (Stevenson Expressway) to Route 83. Go left to Route 171. Go right to Lockport.
Highlights: Jewel joins the automotive age with a new store that includes a Jewel Express gas station and car wash.
Directions: Take Lake Shore Drive north to Irving Park Road. Go left to Lincoln Avenue. Go right one block.
Highlights: One of a handful of freestanding Oscos in the city, the store is adjacent to a new condo tower in Lincoln Square, a rapidly gentrifying north side neighborhood. The customers are mainly young professionals, and the store caters to them with an expanded grocery department in addition to its traditional drug and sundry business.
Directions: Take Lake Shore Drive north to Addison Street. Go left to Lincoln Avenue. Go right two to three blocks.
Highlights: The California specialty chain's first store in the city (there are several others in the suburbs) opened late last year next door to CB2, Crate & Barrel's Ikea-like new housewares store. Trader's game plan sounds dubious, but works like a charm -- rudimentary decor, few national brands, and almost no fresh produce. The key is the large frozen-foods area stocked with reasonably priced specialties. Wine, pasta sauce and lots of snacks fill out the assortment. To see this store at its best, drop in around 5 p.m. when the aisles are thronged with young professionals looking for a quick dinner on their way home from work.
Directions: Take Lake Shore Drive north to Grand Avenue. Go left to McClurg Court. Go left one block to Illinois Street.
Highlights: Big City and how -- over 400 different cheeses, 100 vinegars, 70 olive oils and 20 varieties of smoked fish in a dramatic 22,000-square-foot renovated brick warehouse with large windows overlooking the Ogden Slip boat harbor. The store's popular cafe recently added table service. Definitely the swankest grocery store in town.
Directions: Take Lake Shore Drive north to Fullerton Parkway. Go left to Clybourn Avenue. Go left to just past Wayne Avenue.
Highlights: The store that taught Chicago how to pronounce "arugula." For many years the only game in town when it came to specialty markets, and still a formidable presence. The store has one of the largest selections of imported foods in the country, including over a hundred cheeses, as well as an extensive prepared-foods department.
Directions: Take Lake Shore Drive north to Fullerton Parkway. Go left to Elston Avenue. Go right to just past Wrightwood Avenue.
Highlights: Newly remodeled, this 64,550-square-foot unit just west of the glitzy Lincoln Park neighborhood has an expanded deli and prepared-foods area, as well as a floral department. Capitalizing on the store's popularity with the city's large Hispanic population, there are also numerous Hispanic specialties.
Directions: Take Route 55 (Stevenson Expressway) to Cicero Avenue. Go left to 95th Street. Store is at the intersection.
Highlights: Targeted to senior citizens and people who make less than $35,000 a year, the store carries more than 1,200 stockkeeping units with the overwhelming majority being store brands priced significantly lower than their branded equivalents. Single-serve sizes are emphasized, as are low-sodium products.