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The 5 Best Cheese Shops In Chicago

By Staff in Food on Sep 4, 2013 8:20PM

Chicago once was the Hog Butcher to the World, learned long ago a good cheese goes great with some sausage and ham.

Here are five shops where you can pick up a good cheese, from Gouda to Chevre to Brie, oh, my!

Some of the cheeses available at Standard Market in Westmont. (Photo credit: Paul Leddy/Chicagoist)

Standard Market
The carefully curated selection of 150 to 200 cheeses by Fromager David Rogers (a veteran of Whole Foods) skews more towards small American cheese producers. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and will let customers sample any cheese they wish to try. However, what really sets Standard Market's cheese department apart from any retail location in Chicago is the temperature and humidity controlled "cave" where they will age small batch cheeses. There are only a handful of retail shops in the United States that offer a cave-aging program and none in the Midwest. Standard Market’s cave holds two tons of cheese that will age anywhere from three months to 1.5 years. How good are Standard Market’s aged cheeses? Last month, they came in third place in the Pasta Filata Category of the 2013 American Cheese Society Competition for their Aged Batista (a half cow/half goat cheese from Lovera Cheese Company). —Paul Leddy

Standard Market is located at 333 East Ogden Avenue, Westmont

Provenance Food and Wine
Cheese counters, like wine racks, can be incredibly intimidating. All of these strange, moldy, often-smelly bricks staring up at your uncomprehending eyes can make you want to run straight back to the Velveeta. Okay, not really, but you get the drift. That's why I prefer a small, well-curated cheese section with a friendly helper to a mile-long cheese counter staffed with a whole crew of mongers. Provenance Food and Wine's Lincoln Square location is my go-to cheese stop, because of their limited selection and a smart and friendly staff. I feel like I'm learning something new every time I buy cheese, and, while the prices aren't exactly low, everything is custom cut so you can get a very small amount of something expensive. Plus, you can buy wine, crackers and charcuterie to go with the cheese there too. Make sure to ask for samples before you buy, if they don't offer first. —Anthony Todd

Provenance Food and Wine is located at 2312 W. Leland Ave. and 2528 N. California Ave.

Marion Street Cheese Market
Eric Larson took a gamble when he opened this Oak Park shop several years back and by the time he stepped away last May saw it grow into one of the premiere cheese shops in the area. The inventory changes almost daily and the well-trained staff will help you make the ideal choices for your party, picnic or play date. Marion Street Cheese Market also will help you pair your selections with a perfect wine or beer, and you can sit in their dining room and enjoy a cheese platter. For those who can't get enough fromage, Marion Street Cheese Market has wholesale programs and a "Cheese of the Month" club. —Chuck Sudo

Marion Street Cheese Market is located at 100 S. Marion St. in Oak Park.

A cheese platter at Bar Pastoral (Photo credit: Nadim Audi)

Another little shop that could started from humble Lakeview beginnings to grow into shops in the Chicago French Market, the Loop and the restaurant Bar Pastoral. The cheese selection is wide, incorporating the best artisanal selections from across the country and Europe, with regular classes on choosing the right cheese for any occasion. Pastoral also offers monthly cheese clubs with inventive selections and pairings. —Chuck Sudo

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine has locations at 2945 N. Broadway Ave., 53 E. Lake St. and 131 N. Clinton St.

Publican Quality Meats
Paul Kahan's artisan butcher shop also boasts an impressive array of cheeses for purchase or to add to the shop's litany of sandwiches. A stop here must include a sample of the housemade pimento cheese dip or the Butcher's daily cheese plate, offering one selection for $6 or three for $16. —Chuck Sudo

Publican Quality Meats is located at 825 W. Fulton Market.

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