It’s hard to believe that Chicago didn’t have a four season indoor market until the Chicago French Market opened in 2009. Today, curious visitors can wander through the Ogilvie Transportation Center to find its charming rues filled with interesting vendors, including over two dozen restaurants, a greengrocer, and a lovely place to relax while having Belgian frites and beer.
I’ve spent many hours visiting these fine confines and I’d recommend visiting during the hustle and bustle of a weekday during the lunch hour. The place fairly bustles with businesspeople, folks on foodie junkets, and those who’ve just wandered by. Of course, you can also stop by on a Saturday, but remember that the Market is closed up on Sundays. Also, it’s worth noting that the market is open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., but some of the vendors do have different hours, so check ahead for all the particulars.
Here are a few of my must-visit corners of the market. I hope you’ll cover more ground as you leisurely stroll around, talk to some of the vendors, and make your own way through this fine space.
Slide on over to Saigon
If you have a craving for a bit of banh mi or pho, walk on over to the Saigon Sisters outpost here in the market. Mary Aregoni and Theresa Nguyen have become well known for their Vietnamese delicacies in recent years and their stand in the market serves up a generous mix of their mainstays.
Far West of Boston, a Lobster Roll Of Note
I’m always hesitant to tuck into a lobster roll anywhere far west of Boston, but Da Lobsta (note the nod to a Chicago accent there) does a laudable job. You’ll want to customize your roll as you see fit, and a side of lobster mac n’ cheese is a necessary luxury. (Don’t worry, you can swim it off later). There’s even a “skinny roll” (think whole wheat pita, lite mayo, etc) for those who feel the need for such an option.
Grab Some Frites and Sit a Spell
Conveniently located next to the main seating area, Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer is the perfect place to relax with friends, eavesdrop on local scuttlebutt, and just have a good time in general. Pull on up and have one of their signature Belgian beers (my nod goes to the Christoffel Blond and the Avriel Biere de Table) and order up some of those signature frites. Also, they have over 20 dipping sauces available, so don’t be shy.
Finish with a Truffle
Let me recommend that you conclude your visit to the French Market to Lolli and Pops. Their name is appropriate for such a chocolatier, as they specialize in all manner of fine confections. My nod goes to their excellent truffles, which include the Black Cat, Amaretto Cookie, or the Triple Chocolate. Father and son Raj and Sid Gupta are fine hosts and you’ll probably end up picking up a few for friends and family.
Photos by Max Grinnell