At first Dr. Ian K. Smith wanted to take us shopping at his favorite Whole Foods location in the South Loop. We asked the TV personality (Celebrity Fit Club) and author (his new book, Shred: The Revolutionary Diet, is out this week) to pick a store where we could find items featured in the recipes in his latest book. And nothing against Whole Foods, but we’re always in favor of a local option. That’s why we decided to introduce Dr. Ian to Kramer’s Health Foods.
Kramer’s is one of those Loop shops that seem as if they’ve been around forever. And that’s because it kind of has. In business since 1939, the shop (which has seen a couple of locations and owners) has always been about health and food-based supplements. Over the years, the store expanded to include programs (such as classes every second Thursday and a weight-loss challenge every January) and an upstairs café, which assistant manager Blake Adams says is one of the few spots in the Loop where you can get from-scratch vegetarian food.
The lingering smell of the café is one of the first things Dr. Ian notices about the place. “It just smells tasty,” he says. “It’s so attractive when you know a place is making things from scratch and using fresh ingredients.”
Adams says the café draws a lot of people to the store. Kramer’s busiest time is during the lunch rush, where you’ll see a line of businesspeople, art students and older customers waiting to order healthy shakes, vegan tacos (a special on Fridays) and wraps. “The common characteristic about our customer is that everyone wants to improve their health,” Adams says.
The same can be said about Dr. Ian’s readers. Shred was written after the doctor tweeted detox tips and his followers kept asking for more. “I was done writing diet books,” he says. “But these tips were really working for people, so I had to write it.” (He says his next book will be a novel.)
As Adams takes us on a tour of the shop’s no-frills street-level retail area, Dr. Ian finds many items (to-go soup, banana chips) that he recommends in his book. He also offers opinions on much of the merch. As we tour the supplement displays (which take up about a quarter of the store), the doctor raises some concern. “I’m going to be candid here: I think the supplement industry is unclear and uncertain,” he says. “There are good supplements, but it’s sometimes hard to find them.” He has a similar opinion about energy bars. “If you’re not eating an energy bar for performance, make sure it’s 200 calories or less,” he says.
But despite those warnings, Dr. Ian seems impressed with Kramer’s. “These kind of mom-and-pop stores do it well,” he says. “It’s like being in someone’s house.”
Kramer’s Health Foods is located at 230 S Wabash Ave (312-922-0077).