Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Foods of Chicago!

Several weeks back I was contacted by members of the production team at WTTW, Chicago’s PBS affiliate, who had seen a post I did early on about Dominick’s Finer Foods, a major Chicago grocery chain with a rich ethnic history. They contacted me with regard to a new special they’ve produced called “Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History”, which will be premiering this coming Tuesday, November 27, 2007 at 7:30 pm central on WTTW (Channel 11 in most Chicago-area locations). The show will cover a variety of topics, including Chicago’s great, enduring ethnic food traditions, its history as the candy capital of the US (it really was!), local favorites such as Jay’s Potato Chips and Chicago-born legends such as McDonald’s (the corporation, not the first store). They will also feature the Billy Goat Tavern, inspiration for the famous Saturday Night Live “Cheezborger, cheezborger” skit, which would be reason enough alone for me to watch.

Growing up in Chicago way back when, Channel 11 was the source of my daily “Electric Company” and “Zoom” fixes. They have always had a fine tradition of locally produced programs in addition to our PBS favorites. Don’t miss this show if you live in the area.

Just for fun, here’s a photo of that other Chicago legend, a Dominick's store from 1972.


  1. I like this picture, Dave. Do you know if the location is the same one that I had on my site that you said was in Evanston.

    The PBS special sounds great. Can't wait to see it.

  2. It's not the same store, Didi, although I don't know the location of this one. There's a good chance it could be one of the many stores Dominick's took over from Kroger in 1968-70.

    The Evanston store was a special design. I've got a few daytime photos (similar angle to the great night photo you posted) and interiors of that one that I'll need to post one of these days.

  3. After I made that comment I actually looked at the photo and realized from the design that it was not the same. One store that could be a possibility that was inherited through Kroger could be the one that was on Damen and Ridge.

  4. This looks like an old Kroger. there seems to be a label scar near the entrance.

  5. It definitely looks like a label scar, thanks for pointing that out! I'm pretty sure it's an ex-Kroger in light of that and the fact that Kroger stores seemed to have a "plainer" appearance than the stores Dominick's built themselves. Interesting how narrow the glass panels appear to be.

  6. I'm just curious Dave How Come You're not certain the location of this Dominick's?

    Where did this and so many of these old pictures come from?

    I would think if this photo was courtesey of Dominick's themselves they would know.

    Wonder if they would reply if I e-mailed them?

  7. Mike - I got this particular photo from an old Fisher Foods annual report, Dominick's former parent company,which is now defunct. The location was not identified.

    Most of the photos I use come from old trade magazine articles, advertisements or company publications, and frequently the locations aren't listed. That's why I'm always thrilled when someone recognizes a location and lets us know.

    I've found that the companies themselves are often the worst custodians of their own history and long ago "broomed" their old files, so I generally don't even bother to ask them for anything.


  8. I was wondering what was unnique about the Evanston Dominick's?

    The building still exists today though is now and Osco-Drugstore without the Jewel.

    Here's some more about the food store.

    A lot of Dominick's locations now have signs posted saying serving so and so since 1964.

    Matter of fact there's a more modern Dominick's or Green Bay Rd.
    In Wilmette saying serving Wilmette since 1964 but it's probably the same Evanston location.

    Also believe it or not,Up until early this decade, there was 1 older Dominick's in the West Ridge neighborhood of Chicago that still had the orange cursive logo.

    It's since moved but I remember driving though the area ofr the first time and was suprised to still see a Dominick's with the old writing since I hadn't see those in years.

  9. Mike - The Evanston store was intended to be a bit more upscale and had some special design elements - a cylindrical "tower" of orange glazed brick (still there), and some "cutouts" of stylized human figures adjacent to the entrance of the store (which may be gone by now). The store dimensions are also unusual, but I assume that may have been done in order to fit the corner lot.

    I think it's now a CVS since they took over all of the standalone Oscos.

    I have pictures of it when it was a Dominick's that I hope to post as part of a full write-up on that location's history soon.

    I miss the cursive Dominick's logo. I'm surprised to read that it was around as late as a few years ago!

  10. Ah, yes, the West Ridge location. It was at Pratt/Kedzie, the building is still there, though it has been completely refaced and turned into some sort of Jewish center. I remember when it was still open -- I went to it once or twice in the late 90s. It definitely had the cursive logo, and the interior was ancient, with extremely narrow aisles. It was a true time machine.

    There is a tiny Dominicks in RIver Forest on North Avenue west of Harlem. It has to be one of the originals; when going to the bathroom in the backroom, I noticed that it still has an ancient looking wood ceiling back there. Is this their oldest location still open?

  11. JacobK - Thanks for the info on the West Ridge location. I looked at the current Windows Live Local aerial view, and one would certainly never recognize the building now.

    The River Forest location dates back at least as far as 1960 (it's mentioned in the oldest Dominick's ad I have), so I think there's a strong possibility it could be their oldest existing store.

  12. I just found a Chicago Tribune article from 1959 announcing the grand opening of the River Forest Dominick's, so that solves it. It must be the oldest still operating; the only other two stores they operated at the time were Devon/Central (now Happy Foods), and 6900 W. North Ave, just down the street from the River Forest location. Which was their first store? I'm guessing it's the other North Avenue location.

  13. I wonder if the Devon & Central location might be the same one now located at Devon, Milwaukee & Nagle Aves?

    1. Sorry for digging up an old post. The Devon, Milwaukee, and Nagle Dominick's replaced the Higgins and Foster Dominick's that was formerly a Kroger. Devon and Central was converted to a Happy Foods long before the Devon, Milwaukee, and Nagle store opened.

  14. Jacob - Sorry it took so long to respond on this. The North Ave store was opened around 1950 and is not actually their "oldest" store (which opened in the mid-1920's on W. Ohio Street)- they had a couple of small stores prior to that, but it can be considered the beginning of Dominick's as a "chain". They added just a few more in the 50's - Devon and Central and River Forest - before really taking off growth-wise in the 1960's.

  15. I know I am digging up an old post, but did anyone every figure out whetehr the location pictured is either of the old West Ridge locations: Pratt and Ridge and/or Pratt/Kedzie. I grew up with the former and I can say it looks very much like it but I have no idea. With regards to the River Forest, I know it goes back to at least 1957. I have been to that location a few times in recent months and my husband and I actually used the bathroom that they have through teh stock rooms and up the stairs. Positively an ancient, tiny store. I am surpised it is still open and has not been remodeled.