Food markets have long reckoned with the evolving calculus of our mealtime decisions: Make it or buy it? Whole Foods knows we intend to cook a healthy meal, but we’ll succumb to the lukewarm temptation of the hot bar. Trader Joe’s figures we’ll microwave something better than Lean Cuisine, but that’s OK — we’re busy and there’s wine. Foxtrot suspects “cooking” means scrambled eggs, but we’ll never say no to a cheese board. And, besides, markets are the new coffee shops — bring a laptop.
Now comes Dom’s Kitchen & Market from two industry vets who’ve already had an impact on the ways Chicagoans eat and shop. As Bob Mariano and Don Fitzgerald taught us at Mariano’s and Dominick’s, grocery shopping is more fun when there are dining and drinking options alongside salmon and broccoli. At Dom’s, they give equal weight to both: Turn right at the entrance, and you’ll find the produce department, as compact and colorful as the grocery in a Richard Scarry picture book. Turn left for a constellation of dining options with cute names.
Alas, you can skip right over most of these prepared foods. Among other problems, a steak sandwich at the Stackup features tough skirt steak on a spongy roll with greasy giardiniera aïoli, and the pizza at the Bonci outlet is a shadow of the West Loop shop’s airy-crusted Roman-style pie. But the groceries rock : Count on excellent meat and seafood and quality vegetables, from collard greens to fennel bulbs to fresh turmeric. Plus, there are many finely sourced treasures to discover, like Solo di Bruna Parmigiano Reggiano, Counter Culture and Stumptown coffees, and fresh pasta from Wicker Park’s Tortello. Of special note: Though small, the wine shop has terrific finds like Gaja’s Ca’Marcanda Promis, Lioco Chardonnay, and Ridge Zinfandel. If you’re spending in the $30 to $60 range, this is your store. Here are five other can’t-miss buys. 2730 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
The Hearth’s Porchetta, $14 It comes with a gorgeous crackly skin (and was tasty even without the chimichurri the cook forgot).
Sweet Grass Dairy Pimento Cheese, $9.95 Made with grass-fed Thomasville Tomme and smoked paprika, this is the Rolls-Royce of pimento cheese in a sea of Honda Fits.
Gohan Sushi, from $8 I’m ready to crown this the city’s best supermarket sushi, thanks to its great rice and fresh yellowfin tuna and crabmeat.
Charcuterie, Prices vary Loads of excellent grab-and-go cured meats are available, from Brooklyn Cured’s pork salami with mezcal and lime to black pepper soppressata from Chicago’s own Tempesta.
Dom’s Country White Bread, $6.95 Most of the European-style loaves don’t stand out, but these thick, sturdy slices make great toast.