NFT Chicago Shopping

Chicago / Shopping

Mag Mile and Oak Street:
Bring Your Bars of Gold
The Mag Mile has long replaced State Street as downtown Chicago's premier (and tourist-friendly) shopping strip. This stretch of prime real estate, spanning from the Chicago River to Oak Street features Chicago outposts of many destination shopping spots, including Niketown (Map 3), The Apple Store (Map 3), Needless-Markup (a.k.a. Neiman Marcus) (Map 3), and the high-end boutiques and department stores, (think Tiffany (Map 3), Gucci (Map 32), and Hermes (Map 32)) connected to Water Tower Place (Map 32) and the 900 North Michigan Shops (Map 32).

Around the corner on Oak Street lay tonier boutiques. While Mag Mall attracts goggle-eyed Midwestern families, who'll likely stop for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory or Bubba Gump, Oak Street appeals more to the Gold Coast and North Shore set: Prada (Map 32), Barney's (Map 32) and BCBG MAXAZRIA (Map 32) are all located on this tiny strip.

Not far away on Rush Street, Ikram (Map 32) is a favorite of FLOTUS Michelle Obama.

Boutique Shopping
You don't have to go down to Oak Street to find funky designer boutiques selling everything from original fashions by local designers to housewares and hostess gifts. Lincoln Park and Wicker Park in particular are heavy on cool women's fashion boutiques. In Lincoln Park, check out Armitage, Clark, and Halsted for shops such as Lori's Designer Shoes (Map 30) and Kaveri (Map 29). In Wicker Park, the highest concentration of cool little shops, like the fashion boutique Penelope's (Map 21), line Division street, but if you love to shop, you'll want to work the whole Bermuda triangle of Division, Milwaukee, and North Avenue. Southport Avenue in Wrigleyville boasts a string of women's boutiques, including Krista K (Map 43) and Leahey & LaDue Consignment (Map 43).

Home Design and Decor
Forget River North, Clark Street in Andersonville has emerged as a mini designer's row. Shops like Scout (Map 37) and Cassona (Map 37) have designers flocking from all over the city. Architectural Artifacts (Map 39) and Salvage One (Map 23) are treasure islands for vintage rehabbers. Community Home Supply (Map 42) is one of the city's best (and priciest) kitchen and bath boutiques.

For modern housewares and furniture there's Design Within Reach (Map 22); just remember that "within reach" is in the eye of the beholder. Green up your home (or someone else's) with nurseries Sprout Home (Map 23), Gethsemane Garden Center (Map 37) and Asrai Garden (Map 21)--all of which sell a wide range of housewares and gifts.

Best of the 'Hoods
In many cases, Chicago's neighborhood shopping destinations say something unique about the character of the 'hood. Check out Logan Square for funky little punk rock indie shops or gay-friendly places. Lincoln Square caters to the NPR-lovin', micro-brew swillers that call that 'hood home, and Andersonville has something for everyone: feminist books (Women & Children First (Map 37)), chic home furnishings, men's and women's fashions, Swedish souvenirs, and, count them, two clean, friendly, and non-oogly-feeling sex-toy stores (Early to Bed (Map 37) and Tulip (Map 37, 44)).

Ethnic enclaves also make for great shopping. Try gifts and cookware in Chinatown, gorgeous saris and Bollywood flicks on West Devon, hookahs and Moroccan teas sets on north Kedzie in Albany Park, and Irish arts and crafts in Beverly.

One Man's Trash...
Is another man's treasure. Whether you wants are driven by the desire to save the planet or just to save a buck, Chicago offers a plentitude of places to buy other people's old crap. Vintage wear boutiques thrive in arty 'hoods like Wicker Park, East Lakeview, and Pilsen. Some faves: Una Mae's (Map 21), Silver Moon (Map 21), Knee Deep (Map 26) and the Hollywood Mirror (Map 44). Ragstock (Map 44, 21), a used-and-off-sale clothing chain, has two Chicago outposts.

For one-stop antique shopping, check out one of Chicago's many antique malls--huge enclosed spaces that lease space to small dealers. Not to be missed are the Broadway Antique Market (Map 37), the Edgewater Antique Mall (Map 37), and the Lincoln Antique Mall (Map 38).

In terms of thrift stores, there's either a Salvation Army (Map 40, NW), a Unique Thrift (Map 12, 40, W, NW) or a Village Discount (Map 27, 38, 40, NW, W, SW) in nearly every neighborhood in the city. Meanwhile, The Brown Elephant (Map 37) thrift store benefits Howard Brown Health Center's HIV research.

Tower Records and Virgin are both long gone, but Chicago loves its independent record stores. Reckless Records (Map 5, 21, 44) serves the indie rock crowd. Gramaphone (Map 44) is where Chicago's DJs pick-up the hottest wax. Hyde Park Records (Map 19) supplies Hyde Parkers with all its old-school vinyl needs, while Dusty Groove (Map 22), which specializes in old R&B and soul, provides the same service to West Towners. Laurie's Planet of Sound (Map 39), in Lincoln Square, offers an eclectic array of mostly-indie music without the attitude that is often associated with indie record store clerks.

For stereo equipment and electronics, DJs shop at Midwest Pro Sound (Map 43). DeciBel (Map 21) serves the Wicker Park and Bucktown crew. Saturday Audio Exchange (Map 43), only open on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, sells high-end stereo brands for cheap, (well, relatively cheap, anyways) as well as used and refurbished woofers, tweeters, receivers, and all that other audio-geek stuff.

Get Foodie
The gourmet and specialty food trade has exploded in the past few years, as have the high-end houseware stores that are supplying upscale home cooks with their Le Creuset pans and Wüstof knives. Today, if you find yourself hard-up for locally-produced caviar, lavender extract, stinky artisanal cheese, curry leaves, or whatever other weird ingredient they don't stock at the Jewel, all you have to do is follow your nose. Of Chicago's many, many gourmet or specialty food shops, there are a few that are particularly dear to our hearts. Pastoral Artisan (Map 5, 44), a specialty cheese and wine shop, is a great stop on your way to a dinner party to pick up cheese, wine, olives, or other tasty treats. We also love Goddess and the Grocer (Map 28), Provenance Food and Wine (Map 39), and perhaps the best-smelling shop in town, Old Town's The Spice House (Map 31). In Logan Square, The Dill Pickle Food Co-op (Map 27) is the place to pick up locally sourced and organic food goodness. Ethnic markets are great places to track down hard-to-find ingredients. Middle East Bakery (Map 37) in Andersonville sells amazing homemade hummus and falafel, as well as olive oil, pine nuts, and dried fruit at prices significantly lower than Whole Paycheck. Joong Boo Market (NW) is one-stop shopping for Korean culinary adventures, and they have a decent cafe in the back if you just can't wait to have your bibimbap.

Oh, and that local caviar? Look no further than The FishGuy Market (NW).

Mall Rats
Normally we'd scoff, but look, it's Chicago, and it gets damn cold. So, if occasionally you want to do your shopping without having to venture too far into the great outdoors, we're not going to point any fingers.

Block 37 (Map 5) is an entire city block of mall greatest hits, and it's in the Loop. On the Mag Mile, Water Tower Place (Map 32) offers pretty typical mall fare--there's a Sephora, Godiva, and Victoria's Secret--but their food court has more in common with a Las Vegas buffet than anywhere you'd be able to grab an Orange Julius or a Mrs. Fields cookie. A block north, the shops at 900 N Michigan (Map 32), offer higher-end fare, (no surprise, as it's attached to the super-luxe Four Seasons hotel). Shops here include Diesel, MaxMara, and Sur La Table. In East Lakeview, the Century Shopping Centre (Map 44) is kept in business by its fine art house cinema and an L.A. Fitness. Housed in a building where bombers were built during WWII, today the huge Ford City Mall (SW) is a popular hang-out for local kids without much else to do, but otherwise boasts nothing very exceptional--a few low-end department stores, a movie theater, and all of the shops and fast food joints you'd expect to find in a mall. Anchored by a Target and a Kohl's, Harlem Irving Plaza (NW), like the Ford City Mall, is a popular stomping ground for high school students but offers little beyond the same old shops despite that location-specific nom de mall.

Some of our favorite Chicago shops defy easy definition. Among them, American Science and Surplus (NW) offers one-stop shopping for professional-quality laboratory beakers, school supplies, crime-scene tape, pirate flags, and life-sized anatomy models. At Uncle Fun (Map 43) you can find all the coolest vintage and wind-up toys, as well as oodles of strange and playful things for under $5, making it the gag gift headquarters of Chi-town. Recent acquisitions: a bacon-scented air-freshener, a week's worth of fake mustaches, and a "Mr. T in Your Pocket" keychain. Legendary actress and Chicago native Joan Cusack's cheeky gift shop Judy Maxwell (Map 31) boasts all the necessities: You know, like rubber gloves that double as hand puppets and toilet bowl-shaped pool floats. Over at historic Maxwell Street Market (Map 7), every Sunday vendors hawk cheap wares meant to be haggled over and local Mexican street food is at its best.

To cast a curse or to break one, stop by Athenian Candle Company (Map 4), where, in addition to 12-foot, gold-detailed, church-quality candles, you can also pick up a bottle of "Law Be Gone" floor wash or "Love Come Back" air spray. Prefer high-end designer beach wear with your candles? Stop by Calypso Christiane Celle (Map 32) for sunny beaded tunics and sweet-smelling French candles. Looking for a one-stop shop for all potions, powders and balms? Founded as a corner drugstore in 1875, Merz Apothecary (Map 39) has become a destination for natural bath and body care products.

To Market, To Market
With retail district rent continuing to skyrocket, many designers and artisans are finding pop-up shops and festivals an ideal place to reach consumers without the brick and mortar expenses. Randolph Street Market, Vintage Garage, Dose Market and Vintage Bazaar all play host on a monthly or seasonal basis. Since locations may vary based on weather, check respective websites for details.

State Street: Student Mecca
The student population in the Loop has soared, thanks to new student housing for Columbia and School of the Art Institute Students. State Street has made a comeback by filling up with cheap, hip, chic shops catering to this crowd. H&M (Map 32), Urban Outfitters (Map 5, 30, 32), Blick Art Materials (Map 5, 22), and Central Camera (Map 5) cater to the art student within all of us.

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Rainbow Flowers
It's tempting to buy cheap orchids at Trader Joe's, I've done it myself, but next time consider a local florist. There's a lot to understand about flowers, whether they're potted or cut, and most of us don't know the half of it. Besides, orchids aren't supposed to be as cheap as carnations! Nor are they supposed to be growing in pots the size of thimbles. Try Rainbow Flowers in Lakeview; it's a small storefront but they have a healthy rotating collection, and they'll stop you from taking those sunflowers uncovered into 20-degree weather and freezing them until they turn black. The folks at Rainbow are lovely and will discuss anything from plants to dating, the U.S. Army, and colonoscopies (!), reminding me that Chicago is a fantastic place to patronize an independent business.

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Bookman's Corner
This bookstore is about the experience, not about finding the third edition of The Brothers Karamazov with the translator's note by so-and-so in less than five minutes. To say that this store is unorganized is a massive understatement: books are loosely grouped by subject matter (see the index cards taped to the shelves), they're spilling out from every shelf, every corner, and they might even be erupting out of the floor. But who cares? You never know what you'll find, maybe a 600-page volume about the insects of Eastern Siberia, or a gorgeous book of photography, or a rare novel by that author you always meant to check out. Especially for a neighborhood where the Borders has been swallowed up by a long-protested Walmart, Bookman's Corner is a real gem.

Posted By:  Andrew Savage
Photo:  Andrew Savage

Permanent Records
This is always a great stop for new and used music titles, and they have a really nice selection of books and zines as well. We recently played an in-store gig there, and while there weren't that many bodies in the audience, co-owner Lance hooked us up with a case of PBR, a free shirt, and 20% off. What a guy! The small staff are always down to jive about records and give excellent recommendations. This store is also home to the record label which bears its name. This Chicago indie music store is the real thing.

Posted By:  David Donze
Photo:  David Donze

Moo & Oink
To the uninitiated Moo & Oink may seem like a mythical meat purveyor in a far-away land of cartoon pigs and cattle going happily from farm to store to grill. To anyone who's been to one of the four locations in Chicago, that myth is delicious (if somewhat less happy for the animals) reality. This is the place for someone planning a family reunion barbecue for 100, or a weekend get together of 10. The proprietary patties, chops, steaks, and encased meats have been locally made for nearly 150 years by this Chicago institution, so you know they bring a serious game to your grill. Everything in the store revolves around outdoor cooking, from the meats to the sides to all the peripherals. For the traditionalist, there is a wide offering of every smoked pork bit that you can turn into awesome barbecue fare--all of it smoked and butchered on site. Moo & Oink has a singular purpose that they pursue with an unvarnished pride in a no-nonsense shop: make your barbecue great.

Posted By:  Brendan Keating
Photo:  Brendan Keating

Mitsuwa Marketplace
The Whole Foods mothership in Lincoln Park may be larger than Kanye West's ego, but for a grocery shopping good time, you can't beat Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights. No mere produce stand, Mitsuwa is a shopping complex complete with groceries, a bookstore, liquor store, small appliance section, ceramics shop, sushi market, video store, bakery, and food court. There's even a travel agency where you can get a ticket to Tokyo to go with your 20-pound bag of rice. Mitsuwa is like shopping in an Asian-themed alternate universe where even the cleaning supplies are imported. When all that browsing works up your appetite, swing by the food court where you’ll have a tough time choosing between a green tea parfait, a bowl of upscale ramen, Korean fast food, or a Japanese take on a burger joint. But Mitsuwa's true sweet spot is its candy aisle, where you won't know what's more delicious, the chocolate biscuit rods, the exquisite gummy candies, or the bad English on the labels.

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57th Street Books
After School Matters Retail Store
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American Science & Surplus
Apple Store
Architectural Artifacts
Art + Science Salon
Art + Science Salon
Athenian Candle Co.
Beverly Costume & Novelty Shop
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Book Cellar
Boulevard Bikes
Broadway Antique Market
Buffalo Exchange
Calabria Imports
Central Camera Company
City Soles
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Early to Bed
FishGuy Market
Garrett Popcorn
Garrett Popcorn
Gethsemane Garden Center
Gramaphone Records
Hyde Park Records
Isaacson & Stein Fish Company
Jazz Record Mart
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Lincoln Antique Mall
Lori's - The Sole of Chicago
Magic Tree Bookstore
Mario's Italian Lemonade
Merz Apothecary
Middle East Bakery & Grocery
Midwest Pro Sound and Lighting
Myopic Books
Optimo Fine Hats
Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine
Quake Collectibles
Reckless Records
Restoration Hardware
Saint Alfred
Salvage One
Saturday Audio Exchange
Sensual Steps
Silver Moon
T-Shirt Deli
Taj Sari Palace
Ten Ren Tea
Terry's Toffee
The Alley
The Brown Elephant
The Spice House
The Wooden Spoon
Thousand Waves Spa
Timeless Toys
U-Spy Store
Una Mae's
Unabridged Bookstore
Uncle Fun
Uptown Bikes
Vienna Beef Factory Store
Village Cycle Center
Windy City Sweets
Wine Discount Center
Woks 'n' Things
Wolfbait & B-Girls
Women & Children First