Several weeks ago, while I was downtown, I took the opportunity to visit the Chicago French Market, Chicago's first and only year-round, indoor marketplace. The Bensidoun family, the largest market operator in and around Paris since 1953, co-developed the market with Chicago-based U.S. Equities Realty, and operates and manages Chicago French Market. The Market is located in the Ogilvie Transportation Center, making it a convenient location for commuters and workers alike.
"Featuring nearly 30 individual specialty vendors, Chicago French Market offers fresh ingredients for cooking at home, delicious grab-and-go options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, light snacks, picnics, easy party planning for home and office settings, plus meaningful gift ideas, all in one convenient location."
It has been a while since I visited the Market, and over the years I've seen it full of interesting vendors and also struggling, seemingly empty of wares or customers. This time I was happy to see all stalls in use, with people wandering most of the aisles. Besides a fresh grocer, artisanal cheese, flowers and more hard goods, most people go to the Market to eat. Breakfast, lunch, a casual dinner or snacks, the Chicago French Market has plenty of options. From the must-try Saigon Sisters to Stephanie Izard's (James Beard "Best Chef: Great Lakes," Food and Wine "Best New Chef 2011") Little Goat Bread, the food offerings run the gamut from starters to entrees to desserts, with everything in between. It's a nice mix of offerings, with something for every taste and dietary restriction.
I still think their set-up works against them, with the seating area sequestered at one end, making it feel as a separate entity from the Market. If it were me, I'd move the tables and chairs to the center, and run the booths around the perimeter, making it more cohesive, livelier, and easier to navigate.
If you're in the downtown Chicago area and are looking for a different, casual place to visit (or more importantly) eat, head over to the Market. More information can be found on the Chicago French Market website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
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