What has disappeared from the American fabric these days is the old mom and pop grocery store. Those stores that were always a little cramped and jammed full of products on shelves that were always dangerously close to collapse. Yes, it lacked some flash and bang but you knew that the product was fresh, the meat was tender and excellent and the products were stocked with a kind of tender-loving care you could only find in a place integral to a neighborhood.
Such a place still exists in and around Chicago. The one nearest me is located on Lake Street in Hanover Park and is called Caputo's Fresh Market.
Be warned. You should only go to this store during daytime hours, preferrably during the week. Going on the weekend? Be prepared to walk a long way and for the store to be so crowded that getting the over-sized carts down the aisles requires a kind of degree in physics.
Still, the first thing that will greet your eyes is the humongous produce department. It is this that Caputo's is famous. Every kind of vegetable and fruit you could ever want and a few you have probably never heard of is available. This is where you had better learn a few self-defense moves however because this is the place where people clambor over each other to grab the freshest tomato and apple.
The selection maybe what brings you in but it's the prices that will keep you back. I have gone in there and bought half a pound of tomatoes, a bag of grapes and four apples and paid less than $5. Of course, the prices vary based on season and the market, but generally, you can't go wrong.
Caputo's also has a legendary dairy and meat section, but I have never tried ordering from there. Generally the lines are so long I would probably have to bring a tent and camping gear just to get half a pound of ham.
So, if you can stand the crowds and don't mind an occasional elbow while reaching for a head of lettuce, you can't go wrong with Caputo's selection, freshness or prices.