When you live in a big city like I do, it doesn’t mean you always get a chance to see the touristy spots like visitors usually do. We are busy on weekends, working during the week and so most of the time the only real excuse we give ourselves to enjoy Chicago is when family or friends come to visit. I was fortunate enough to have my cousin call me (at the last minute) to tell me she was arriving for a business trip and would be in town for the next few days. I was so delighted she was here- it feels special to have family around, especially when you rarely see them in person. I was happy to drop everything.
She’s been here before, sporadically throughout the years that I’ve lived here so seeing Chicago wasn’t a huge priority. It was about spending quality time together and exploring something new, together. Last time she was here we trekked through the rainy, wet streets of downtown just to get to Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill. It was around the time that I just started the My Halal Kitchen blog and realized how much I loved being a food writer and blogger. My cousin, Giovanna, was a huge support then and still is today. She’s always up for anything and always encouraging. Everyone needs someone like that in her life. I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by people like this. alhamdullilah.
The Chicago French Market is a new market in town. I wanted to go the very second I heard it openend- but that just never seemed to happen. When my cousin visited, I suggested it as part of our time well-spent together. We’ve actually been to Paris, France together on a visit and she actually studied in France for some time. Why wouldn’t we be excited about going?
Above are handmade truffles sold at the Chicago FrenchMarket by one vendor.
I’d actually heard mixed reviews of the place. One disappointing review said that it was touristy and just not something locals would be interested in. I find that to be a negative reivew I won’t entertain much. After seeing it for myself, I can tell you that it is an interesting sight- not as large as I had expected or hoped, but a very practical place for people who live and work in the downtown area to find healthy food on the go. The market is located on the ground floor of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, basically the place where people come to catch trains to head to the Chicagoland suburbs, mostly where they call home. Years ago when I came through Ogilvie to catch trains to work at Northwestern University in Evanston, I could only dream of having a place like this to pick up some fresh pasta for the evening’s dinner, a gelato, or a real Italian espresso before catching the train home.
Below are photos of seasonal produce, baked goods and raw foods and drinks sold by individual CFM vendors. The last four are gelato and espresso sold at the Lavazza stall. They even have a Espression coffee shop around the corner from where the gelato is sold, making you feel like you’re in a cafe right in the heart of modern Milan.
If you’d like to visit the Chicago French Market, be sure to save room for gelato, a raw food drink or a handful of other goodies you can find upon arrival. Two of the vendors I’d love to go back and visit are Necessity Baking Co. and Pappardelle’s Pasta (details below). The market is open from 7am- 7:30 pm, M-F and Saturdays from 8:30 am- 6pm. All vendors are open by 10am. The market is located at 118 N. Canal Street in downtown Chicago. If you can take a train in, take it all the way to the Ogilvie Transportation Station. If you drive in, look for metered parking on either N. Canal St. or N. Clinton Street- it’s cheaper than a parking garage.
Lavazza gelato and espresso can be found at their Espression cafe at the Chicago French Market or contacted at 312.207.0500
Necessity Baking Co. can be contacted at 312.382.9600.
Pappardelle’s Pasta can be contacted at 312.466.9600, or check out their website here.