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Ethnic Markets: Onu

By Lisa Shames in Food on Apr 24, 2007 6:00PM

rsz_rsz_onu2.jpgThe writing was on the wall or, to be more precise, the windows. And, as often is the case in these scenarios, we weren’t happy about it. Perhaps that’s why we didn’t notice at first. Instead, we happily sauntered into Onu, a small Asian market in Boystown, like we have many times before (call us kooky, but ethnic markets make us happy, especially ones in our own hood). When we asked the clerk if she minded if we took photos and notes — we’ve found that for the most part it’s better to be upfront about these things so people don’t get the wrong idea — she looked at us kind of funny and pointed to the “For Lease” signs on the windows. Then we looked around the store and saw gaps here and there in the shelves that not that long ago were filled with a variety of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese food products, and it all became painfully clear.

When Onu opened up back in 2005, we were thrilled not to have to trek to Chinatown or Argyle to satisfy our Asian-ingredient fix. Sure, the markets there are larger and stock a bigger variety of products — not that we know what most of them are used for anyways — and their prices might be a bit lower, but we still developed a soft spot for this cute little store. Plus, we thought it added some nice diversity to our mostly Wonder Bread hood. We loved that the owners would special order stuff, too, and were always happy to explain how to use unfamiliar items.

rsz_rsz_onu.jpgBut rather than dwell on the negative, we here at Chicagoist decided to tap into our inner Pollyanna — we’re sure she’s in there somewhere — and make the most of Onu’s last month or so. And we think you should, too. Stock up on Asian sauces, such as hoisin, plum, soy and sweet-and-sour, and canned soups. We’re big fans of the rice seasoning mixes with small pieces of seaweed, roasted sesame seeds and lots of big words we can’t pronounce (just shake it on top of your rice and you’ll be hooked, too). The Japanese ice cream — green tea, lychee, plum and mochi — will make you seem more worldly when friends spy it in your freezer, even if your passport says otherwise. And you never know when the three-for-a-$1 packages of ramen might come in handy (hey, we said we were going to tap into our inner Pollyanna, not have her move in). To help us get through the times when we start feeling sad when Onu is no longer with us, we’ll buy a few jars of the “Macapuno Strings of Gelantinous Mutant Coconut” for a well-needed giggle or two.

Onu is located at 3310 N. Broadway St., 773-880-9280.