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Grand Mart: A Life-Changing Grocery Store

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Mar 20, 2007 4:00PM


Chicagoist was taking an excursion down North Avenue this weekend, when we decided to stop and buy some groceries at what looked to be a standard Cub Foods. Upon closer inspection (a.k.a. actually reading the sign) we discovered it was not a Cub Foods. What was it? Though the "Foods" part of the "Cub Foods" name was still on the side of the building, a new set of lettering also read Grand Mart. Ans then there was another set of lettering that read Mercado Grande. And there was also some Korean lettering that we couldn't decipher, mostly because Chicagoist isn't fluent in Korean.

Finally we figured it out; the store we were in was one of the many newly opened Chicagoland Grand Marts. Grand Mart is a Korean supermarket based out of Virginia, and it is, in a word, awesome.

2007_3_grandmart2.jpgWe learned from reading Wikipedia that Grand Mart specializes in Korean and other types of Asian foods, but will cater to the neighborhood it is located in, transforming into Mercado Grande in Spanish speaking areas. As far as Chicagoist is concerned, it doesn't matter what it is called, as long as it continues to provide the most comprehensive array of ethnic groceries we've ever seen under one roof.

We walked into a produce section that would put Stanley's to shame, and we say that with all due respect to Stanley's. Every fruit and vegetable imaginable was laid out for browsing, including some we had never even heard of. When was the last time you went shopping for some lettuce and oranges and saw durian, chayote, Chinese long beans and three different types of papaya?

On to the dried-food aisles. As expected Mercado Grande has an extensive selection of Asian products. Rices, noodles, miscellaneous powders, dried fungi of all types are only the tip of the iceberg. Ditto for the Mexican products; we saw multiple types of masa, tortillas, beans and rice. What was more surprising was the selections available for other ethnic groceries. Compared to a standard Jewel or Dominicks, we found an unusually large selection of kosher, Indian and Polish products.

We could have spent an entire day browsing the frozen-food section, but since we had to get on with the rest of our day, we did a quick perusal and picked some quick items to go. Grand Mart offers (by Chicagoist's estimate) fifteen types of stuffed buns, and just as many kinds of gyoza/potstickers. We chose two types of buns — red beans and taro.

The fish and meat sections were equally extensive. We saw types of fish we'd never seen in a grocery store before, both fresh and frozen. Want to serve crab legs at your next meal? Grand Mart has got you covered. We also looked at several types of clams and mussels and a large selection of tiny silver fish that has been dried out for what looked to be a delicious crunchy bar snack.

As we waited in the checkout line, we thought to ourself that we might never go to the neighborhood Jewel again. Grand Mart's varied and diverse array of products plays exactly to how Chicagoist likes to cook; lots of unusual ingredients and international flavors. As the cashier rang us up, we found another reason to continue our love affair with Grand Mart; an entire grocery cart of items cost us under $50.

Grand Mart is located on the corner of North Avenue and Cicero, and is easily accessed by either the North Avenue or Cicero buses.