Urban Pantry, an upscale convenience store in the South Loop, is just like 7-Eleven, with all the same essentials of modern living (canned soup, vitaminwater, cold beer and drink mixers) but with none of the weird smells of pancake-wrapped hot-dog bites (real thing) or cluttered shelves.
BONUS Baguettes from Red Hen Bakery, a nicely arranged wine selection and two tables with colorful chairs up the comfort quotient considerably. 730 S Clark St (224-578-4295, urbanpantrychicago.com).
Mariano’s Fresh Market, a supermarket chain that opened its first location last year in Arlington Heights, is just like a fancy Dominick’s, with all the same common grocery items (Pillsbury cake mix, etc), wood paneling, wide aisles, impressive bread bakery and a major cheese counter (though not a lot of artisan cheese, somehow), but with none of the Starbucks annexes (at least not yet).
BONUS This place has a piano player! 3350 N Western Ave (773-327-2093, marianosfreshmarket.com).
Urban Orchard, a small organic-minded grocery in Andersonville, is just like Whole Foods, with all the same hippie brands (Annie’s, etc.), earnest employees and precious customers who mill around asking about the heritage of the lamb shoulder they’re buying, but with none of the guilt that comes with shopping at a chain that may or may not be anti-union.
BONUS Unlike at Whole Foods, the meats here (though frozen) are truly local (they come from Circle Q7 Ranch in Marengo), as are the fruit, vegetables, baked goods and coffee. 5212 N Clark St (773-754-7235, myurbanorchard.com).
New England Sea Food, a small retail outpost of the wholesale operation of the same name, is just like Dirk’s, with all the same lobsters, haddock, fish seasonings, etc., but with none of the vast selection that has made Dirk’s so indispensable.
BONUS This bare-bones shop is really more of a restaurant, with checker-tableclothed tables where you can sit down and eat a bowl of lobster bisque, a hefty lobster roll or—and trust us, this is the way to go—an order of fish-and-chips. 3341 N Lincoln Ave (773-871-3474).