Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: Michael's Fresh Market on 47th Street

posted by Elizabeth Fama

The new Michael's Fresh Market on 47th Street (between Woodlawn and Lake Park) is finally open. It takes the place of the ill-fated Co-Op Supermarket in the Lake Pointe Park Shopping Center.

The space is cavernous. The product selection is something between Village Foods and Treasure Island, and the prices for what I purchased weren't much lower than those at Treasure Island. There are lots of non-perishable aisles, but not much variety in produce, meats, or fish. Some aisles are mysteriously small, with little diversity given the space, like the cold cereal aisle, the bread aisle, and the selection of baby diapers and wipes. There are no upscale imported cheeses, there is no "unusual" fresh produce like rapini, and there are only a couple of brands of yogurt. But it's not all Target stock: you can find some common import brands like Bonne Maman jams, and Mestemacher German pumpernickel (near the deli).

The barbecue sauce, steak sauce, and condiments aisle.

The produce left something to be desired.

I'm not an expert in Asian foods, but that aisle is relatively big, with large bags of rice (Calrose, Thai) and bottled sauces (mostly Asian-American brands, though). There's an Indian section with bulk spices that seems more substantial than that of any of our existing Hyde Park-Kenwood stores.

A portion of the Indian aisle.

There's a taqueria just inside the front door.

By and large this is the sort of store where even the frozen pizzas tend to be Connie's and Stouffers, not Annie's or Puck's or even California Pizza Kitchen. But in a neighborhood verging on a food desert, Michael's is a welcome addition.

**Addendum, 8/2/2010: I revisited Michael's today, and had a much better experience. I think in the week since I've been there they have continued stocking, and there were noticeable improvements. There are still things missing, like fresh-baked loaves of bread, but perhaps those, too, are gradually on their way.**


rdb said...

I had a more positive experience than you did. I thought the produce was great--it's good, and favorably priced. My bellwether in produce is zucchini. At too many stores in Chicago (Jewel and Dominicks), it's bad and expensive, even at the height of summer. The zucchini at Michael's was abundant, fresh and affordable. And COME ON, any store you can get a fresh daikon in has a good selection.The store also had the full selection of frozen goods that my 8-year old eats for breakfast, especially the sacred chocolate vita-muffin-tops, at prices better than the chain stores and Treasure Island. The meat selection is IMPRESSIVE, and again, the bellwether is skirt steak. Jewel and Dominick's don't always have and charge a lot for it. At Michael's, less expensive cuts like skirt steak and short ribs ARE less expensive, and very fresh. The prices on all the meat cuts I examined were MUCH lower than Treasure Island and beat the sales prices at Dominicks and Jewel. Finally, the selection of "ethnic" foods (which are just "food" for many people) is truly outstanding. If you want to cook Middle Eastern, East Indian, Chinese, Thai or Hispanic recipes, this is a GREAT place to get both raw ingredients (e.g., bulk spices) and already prepared shortcut items (e.g., frozen samosas or potstickers). Their selections in this area are OUTSTANDING, easily THE best I've seen at a full-service grocery in Chicago. I live only a few blocks from Michael's, and I'm very happy it's here.

David Farley said...

The produce I looked at was just as expensive as Treasure Island.

jmogs said...

Props to them for the taqueria. Is there a neighborhood in Chicago with less Mexican fare than Bronzeville, Grand Boulevard and Hyde Park combined? Its shocking. A real taqueria, which this looks to be---though I have not sampled it yet---is a very smart move in the neighborhood. If it is even OK, they will rake it in...

Otto said...

If they don't sell rapini out of season, more power to them, I'd say. I'm just hoping the Indian section is a bit better fleshed out than the photo suggests. Open Produce has helped with the incredibly bad local spice situation--and bless their hearts for the curry leaves--but space is space. Then again, when the Third World Cafe space briefly turned into a hookah store and Swad distributor (connected to University Gardens?), it didn't seem to go well. Indeed, I sometimes wonder about the psychic geology that might underlie the land where White Castle and the Spice House are mirror images, antipodes unreachable by virtue of the tectonics of the fossae. Then I remember that the Swedenborgians got out of here a while ago.

But I digress. I'm strangely optimistic about the place. Thanks for the heads-up.

(Just by the by, does anyone know what's up with the Grog Locker, or whatever T.I. is calling the yet shuttered lower liquor department? They still have a sign up touting the "expanded selection downstairs" over the cheese aisle, and I actually fell for this a couple of weeks ago.)

Unknown said...

Produce: similar in price and quality to TI.

Meat section: superior to TI.

"Middle aisle section"- definitely more standard brands than TI. While this makes it somewhat less interesting, it also makes it more "user friendly" with less of a need to head to Dominicks or Target.

Not perfect, but definitely a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Richard Gill said...

"Not perfect, but definitely a welcome addition to the neighborhood."

Yup! I pinched myself to make sure it's real: significant, quality, retail grocery competition in HP-K. Imagine the fix we'd be in if the Co-op had been "saved".

SR said...

I was pretty happy with the Indian aisle. Admittedly the spice collection is quite limited (and mostly pre-ground), but prices are not much higher than Patel's, and they do have a few of the staples that I can't seem to keep in the pantry between one trip to the North side and the next (most importantly ata flour and split mung beans). It will also be nice to have frozen samosas available less than 1 1/2 hours away from my house.

The Asian aisle had the kind of rice noodles we usually have to leave the neighborhood to get, too, so that's a score.

Matt said...

The prices are definitely better than Treasure Island. $.99 strawberrys and $1.50 blueberries on the day I went... Not a ton of organics or hard to find produce, but most people in the neighborhood want something more affordable than Treasure Island and Hyde Park Produce's inflated prices. The meat department had very good prices and the employees were very friendly and helpful. The quality isn't at the level of a whole foods but neither is T.I.'s. It seems more in line with Jewel than Treasure Island. I really also like how wide the aisles are. The store has a nice open feel to it. The asian section has a ton of stuff, even items from the Philippines that you can't get anywhere on the southside. Having another solid grocery option in the neighborhood is a very welcome change. This store is a huge improvement over what used to be there (an abandoned store and a failed co-op). The only negative thing about the store is the strange faux stone floor. It makes things really loud when the grocery carts roll over it. Oh well, I can deal with it. Let's try to be a little more positive about this place!

Elizabeth Fama said...

Gentle readers: please see my addendum (at the bottom of the original post).

David Farley said...

Speaking of food, anybody know what happened to Florian?

chicago pop said...

Florian? Haven't been by recently. Do share?

David Farley said...

Florian closed on July 31.

Unknown said...

My family lives only a few blocks away from Michael's and we find it super convenient. They do not stock the shelves with all the products we usually buy. No baby yo, no fiber one cereal, no prime meats - only choice. I usually shop with my two children and have a pleasant family experience. However today, I ran in by myself, and attracted the wrong kind of attention. "How you doin" and "I would want to see you get lost down the aisle" quickly reminded me that we live in North Kenwood. Then I cam home tonight and read the front page of the Lakefront Outlook. Please do NOT support the license to serve beer and wine at the taqueria. I don't think I could go down the milk and juice aisle and then make it to the checkout line without hearing more inappropriate remarks. I want to love this grocery store and want it to succeed!

Will said...

Michaels sells stale foods.

I just got finished searching online about grocery stores that sell stale foods because of an incident I had this weekend with Michael's.

I purchased taco shells from them on Saturday evening. After preparing the tacos on the dinner plates and taking a bite my family realized that the shells were stale. It was 8:42 pm. I decided to return them after church on Sunday. They allowed me to exchange them. I asked about the date on them and it clearly said Best by: July 2011 but the shells were stale. I grabbed another brand of shells and just finished taking a bite of a stale taco shell.

I checked the sell by dates on this and it also had July 2011.

This store sells stale shells. Also---what's up with the security guard. I don't like Micahel's at all.

dalamander said...

Stale taco shells? C'mon. A major new investment in North Kenwood -- and the jobs that come with it -- is a huge plus. I think Michael's is a fabulous new addition to the neighborhood