Market Tour: Joong Boo Market in Chicago

[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger]

Located on the northwest side on a sliver of land between the Kennedy Expressway and the Union Pacific Metra Line is Joong Boo Market, one of the most respected, and conveniently located, Korean markets in Chicago. For those reasons, it's also one of the busiest. Cars pack the tiny parking lot, often idling for minutes as shoppers rush in and out of the front door. Because there is no room for expansion, products are stacked high and crammed into whatever space is available. That means that delicious finds are everywhere, even if the experience is slightly overwhelming.

Joong Boo is one of my favorite places to shop, but even after visiting for four years I feel like I haven't quite figured it out. I decided to find some help. I emailed the market to see if someone could give me a tour, and faster than I could have imagined, Chong Suh, the Marketing Director, replied. I had my in.

Mr. Suh is young and is totally aware of how popular Korean food has gotten over the past few years. He talked proudly about Andrew Zimmern's recent visit for Bizarre Foods America (which will air in a month), though he did seem to worry that the already busy cafe in the back would get even more so. But he also knows that Korean families shop in a particular way, and wants to keep the market focused on serving the best Korean products it can.

Suh walked with me through the whole market, pointing out particular specialties and finds that I had never noticed before. This guide won't make parking any less of an ordeal, but it should give you a few more delicious ideas about what to pick up next time you set foot in Joong Boo.

Take a tour in the slideshow »

Joong Boo Market

3333 North Kimball Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618 (map)