Nobody can pass up a cheese and cracker tray, and nobody ever should. Plus if you actually need an excuse to indulge, Jan. 20 is National Cheese Lovers Day. So skip the plain cheddar and check out one of the amazing specialty cheese shops in Chicago and the suburbs that are begging to be explored and paired with your favorite wine or beers.
The small Lakeview cheese shop has expanded to the Loop, Chicago French Market and Andersonville, as well as being featured in the restaurants Bar Pastoral and Appellation. Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine is an European-inspired neighborhood cheese shop that carries specialty food and freshly baked breads and wines, with cut-to-order domestic and international speciality cheeses. Pastoral offers classes on how to choose the right cheese for any occasion. You can also join their monthly clubs to taste a variety of cheese and charcuterie. Their wide selection, and their passion and knowledge for cheese is evident from the moment to step in the door. Try one of their delicious sandwiches, have them create a catering tray for your next holiday, or just treat yourself to come cheesy goodness.
Chicago locations: 2945 N. Broadway Ave., 53 E. Lake St., 131 N. Clinton St., 5212 N. Clark St.
Get yourself to either the Naperville or Westmont Standard Market to experience a grocery market like no other, complete with its own humidity controlled “cave” where small batches of cheese are aged. With Fromager David Rogers’ expertise, Standard Market’s cheese department carries 200 to 300 selections of artisan cheese. Their cheesemongers can help guide your selection or try their award-winning Standard Market Cave-Aged Chandoka, the recipient of the prestigious American Cheese Society 1st place in American Originals and 2nd place Overall Best of Show. If you can’t wait to get it home, take a seat at The CUBE, their wine, beer and cheese bar located inside. Even if you aren’t local, a trip to the Standard Market cheese shop with live up to expectations with their quality selection of American artisan cheeses and some of the best classes of cheese from around the world.
333 East Ogden Ave., Westmont1508 Aurora Ave., Naperville
Lincoln Square residents are already well aware of their little local gem not far from the brown line stop. The former Provenance Food and Wine is now known as Augusta Food and Wine under owner Shad Martin. They claim to be the one-stop shop for wine, food and fun that “makes life worthwhile.” Augusta Food and Wine offers cheese, baguettes, artisan sweets, spirits, craft beers, specialty oils and vinegars, snacks and much more. Their extensive wine and cheese knowledge will let you be the star of an impressive evening gathering with friends or a cozy night at home. Stop in for wine tastings every Thursday from 6-8 p.m. or have them create custom gift baskets for the wine and cheese lovers in your life.
2312 West Leland Ave., Chicago
A visit to Chicago’s Eataly cannot be complete with a stop at the Italian superstore’s Salumi & Formaggi market. Eataly’s cheese counter has the best selection of cheese from Italy and America, where the well-educated cheesemongers can give you the backstory of who produced each item, the people who crafted it and the land it came from. Whether you are staying downtown or want to take something home, the cheese and charcuterie selections are remarkable. Make sure to pick up some of their in-house freshly made burrata as well. And if you are looking to learn, Eataly offers a variety of cheese classes that are worth every penny and will leave you feeling like a fromager yourself.
43 East Ohio St., Chicago
Located in Chicago’s meatpacking district, Publican Quality Meats is the place in the West loop for cheese, and obviously meats. Chef Paul Kahan’s spot is part butcher shop, part cafe, part bakery and gourmet market, with carefully selected artisanal cheeses, house-made charcuterie, freshly baked breads and specialty coffee drinks. While picking up cheese, don’t miss their seasonal rustic soups and sandwiches to tide you over until it’s time for cocktails and cheese. Publican Quality Meats’ market carries more than 200 retail items, including artisanal olive oils, preserved tomatoes, spice blends, small production cheeses, seasonal produce, craft beer and old world wines. Make a stop in on the way home from work.
825 W. Fulton Market St., Chicago