The local and sustainable food movement is slowly building across the country, and a small part of it seems to have found a home in a commuter train station in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood.
The Chicago French Market is an indoor marketplace inside the city's MetraMarket station. It features about 30 vendors who are a mix of farmers, merchants, specialty food purveyors and food booths. The market is a modest space, but it's an interesting place to find unique items like candied popcorn to French macarons to local cheese.
I'm not exactly sure how old the market is, but it feels like it's maybe just a year old because some vendor spaces still need to fill out. Also, it didn't seem that busy when I was there, almost like many local people still don't know it exists.
The French Market does appear to be a popular place for the business lunch crowd. The West Loop neighborhood is west of City Hall and the financial district, so it looks like a few people come here during their lunch hour to eat at the mini food court. There were a few French-related food booths, but there were also several ethnic spots selling Korean and Vietnamese food (I was shocked to see a banh mi sandwich for sale for $7).
I ended up getting lunch at FLiP Crepes because I wanted to stick to the French theme. I got a Provencal crepe that was filled with ham, arugula and tomato. It was pretty good, and I also got a cup of beef barley soup that was also satisfying. Other people munch on sandwiches and salads from other vendors. One vendor called RAW served up vegan dishes and I actually tried a sample of their hummus that was really thick and tasty.
Of course, there were lots of options for dessert, from chocolates to gelato to these colorful macarons from Vanille Patisserie. I was about to purchase a couple to take with me on my plane ride (I was leaving that afternoon) but the girl at the counter was so slow helping people before me, so I guess I just have to come back another time to Chicago and the French Market.
Chicago French Market, 131 North Clinton (at Randolph). www.frenchmarketchicago.com
Sunday, May 23, 2010