After Devon Avenue, Lincoln Square is my favorite neighborhood to wander about. Where else can you find marzipan for baking, Za'atar to dust over buttered bread, and a knife skills class to inspire home cooked meals (which really can’t be beat)? Hidden across this historically German neighborhood are cultural gems just waiting to be discovered, including a segment of the Berlin Wall and an ornate lamp from the city of Hamburg.
My trips to the commercial heart of the Lincoln Square, or “the Square” as locals call it, often include a stop at Genes Sausage Shop & Delicatessen. The 18,000 square foot market stocks hard-to-find ingredients including duck fat, smoked fish, and Oblatten (translation: baking wafers) for making cookies. Gene’s produces 40 plus varieties of smoked sausages and meats in-house. It also sells a wide variety of imported spirits and beer. Flavored with grapefruit, Stiegl Radler is my favorite beverage among them.
Savory Spice Shop is located just across Lincoln Avenue. It is a relatively new but very welcome addition to the Square. As you might have guessed, it stocks a wide array of spices, dried herbs and spice blends, including Za'atar. I am particular fond of the herb offerings as they are very fresh. Savory Spice Shop is also a great place to find vanilla beans. You can take your pick among three varieties: Mexican, Tahitian, and the more common Madagascar "Bourbon." I also like to stock up on true cinnamon. I learned from staff at the store that the spice commonly labeled as cinnamon in the U.S. is actually its botanical cousin, cassia.
The Chopping Block is a hop and a skip south of Savory Spice Shop. It started as a small store front in Lincoln Park, but has grown into the largest recreational cooking school in the U.S.! The Lincoln Square location, which opened in 2003, has a spacious teaching kitchen on the second floor and an outdoor classroom out back. If you’re eager to learn cooking fundamentals, I recommend taking their knife skills class. I signed up years ago, and have benefited from the instruction ever since!
At the end of my mini-excursion, I like to stop at Flirty Cupcakes, which opened a cupcake garage in the neighborhood last year.
Interested in learning more about Lincoln Square after this jaunt through the neighborhood? Then check out our guided Tour of Lincoln Square. It's also a great way to entertain out-of-town guests you're hosting this summer.
Advance purchase required! Book your Chicago Food Tour today! or call Zerve at (800) 979-3370
Susan developed a passion for flavorful food as a child. Under her mother's wing, she learned to prepare everyday Kerala dishes.
In her twenties, Susan moved to Tokyo in search of adventure where she embraced Japanese culinary traditions. There she learned to value individual ingredients and tapped into the power of plating.
Once back in the U.S., Susan earned a Masters Degree in Public Policy. The hypnotic rhythms of the kitchen (mincing, chopping, mixing) drew her to Kendall College in 2005 where she trained as a chef. After a foray in the food industry, she started Cardamom Kitchen. Her mission is to promote all the benefits of home cooking. Susan leads cooking classes, and has taught at Whole Foods Market, the Fearless Food Kitchen, Gilda's Club, Common Threads, Swedish Covenant, farmer's markets and provides private instruction for children and adults. She also hosts a Culinary Tour of Devon Avenue, Chicago's Little India. Susan created and managed the "Kitchen Basics" column for Whole Foods Market.