I love candy. It satisfies my sweet tooth like nothing else. Not surprisingly, my sons love it, too. As we tour ethnic neighborhoods across Chicago, we always stop in at the local candy store (or check out the candy aisle in a grocery store) to sample and savor plenty of sweet ethnic delicacies. With each taste, we're exposed to a new culture, a new flavor and sometimes even a new tradition. It helps make every visit a more complete, unique and enjoyable one. That's why you can often find me being the one to impatiently pulling my sons into the stores instead of the other way around.
With Valentine's Day almost here, I just had to share my current picks for the best global candy stores (and grocery story candy aisles) in and around Chicago. Here is the current list of my seven favorite ones:
1) Aji Ichiban
2117-A S. China Place, Chicago (Chinatown)
No trip to Chicago's Chinatown is complete without a stop into Aji Ichiban. Located in the Chinatown shopping center along Archer Ave., the shop offers more than 500 choices of candies, chocolate, snacks, dried fish, and dried fruit. Just grab a small plastic bag and fill it up with your favorite goodies - most of which you pay for by the pound at the register. On most days, you can usually find small-sized pieces of several items out for you to sample, which always makes for a fun, easy way to try new flavors.
3435 W. 26th St., Chicago (Pilsen)
3855 W. Fullerton, Chicago (Logan Square)
I always love stopping into Dulcelandia to browse its huge array of candies and party supplies. The shop, which has several locations across the Chicago area, offers an amazing selection of piñata that would make any child scream with delight. It's the best one-stop shopping for anyone who wants to buy a piñata, fill it with candy, and then be ready to party. My sons always love to browse the bins of gum, sweet and spicy candy, chocolate and more. We can never walk out of the store without at least one big box of chocolate-covered marshmallows - on a stick!
3) Dulceria Lupitas
1730 W. 18th St., Chicago (Pilsen)
Whenever we walk around Pilsen, we always stop into Dulceria Lupitas. The Mexican candy store offers a wide selection of suckers, gummie candies, sweet and spicy confections, gum and more. I love to check out the brightly colored decorations hung throughout the store while my sons choose their favorite treats to enjoy as we finish strolling past the stores and murals along 18th Street.
43 E. Ohio St., Chicago (Streeterville)
The doors of the 63,000-square-foot Italian gourmet food emporium opened in Chicago almost three months ago. Since that time, locals and visitors have descended upon Eataly in record numbers to dine on Italian food, wine and sweet treats. But, on my first trip there, I couldn't get past the candy aisle near the front of the store. I love the black licorice (or aniseed) flavor that isn't that appealing to most American palates. But, lucky for me, it's a popular flavor in many European countries - like Italy. I was drawn to the huge selection of aniseed-flavored, brightly wrapped candies and quickly grabbed some to bring up to the nearby register. Not a black licorice fan? Not to worry. You'll love the huge selection of other Italian candies and chocolates for you choose from as well.
5) Katherine Anne Confections
2745 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago (Logan Square)
I first "met" Katherine Anne Confections at the Logan Square Farmers Market. I could never resist sampling their hand-dipped truffles in tantalizing flavors like goat cheese walnut, Oaxacan mole, peanut butter banana, and passionfruit ginger. That's why I was thrilled to find out that Katherine Anne Confections recently opened a confiserie (sweet shop) in Logan Square, bringing its chocolates to people six days a week (it's closed on Monday for "confection creation"). At the store, you can find truffles, caramels, marshmallows and hot chocolate. You also can grab a table and enjoy coffee and a pastry or a salad and sandwich.
100 E. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights (Northwest suburbs)
Out in northwest suburban Arlington Heights lies the largest Japanese supermarket in the midwest. Within its walls, you can find a host of retail stores selling books, housewares, cosmetics and more. But, the true draw for me is the large grocery store packed with Japanese produce, seafood, dry goods, bread and candy. Whenever we walk into the grocery store, my sons beeline to the candy aisles to pick out treats emblazoned with their favorite cartoon characters, which have evolved throughout the years. While they once loved Thomas the Train, they'll now buy any confection that has a Pokemon on its wrapper. Personally, I love to stock up on the large packs of mochi and the popular Kasugai brand of Japanese fruit-flavored gummy candies.
7) Super H-Mart
801 Civic Center Dr., Niles (Northern suburbs)
1295 E. Ogden Ave., Naperville (Far west suburbs)
Super H-Mart is one of my favorite grocery store/shopping mall mashups - I'd put Mitsuwa up there, too. At the Korean marketplace, you can dine at the food court, buy bread at the bakery, purchase household items in the mall, and stock up on foods and candies in the grocery store. There are multiple aisles packed with a wide array of gummy candies, hard candies and other treats in familiar and exotic flavors. Last time we were there, I purchased a wide array of cola-flavored gummy and hard candies, and my youngest son picked out delicious honey-flavored hard candies called Black Candy.
What are your favorite globally inspired candy stores (or grocery store candy aisles) in Chicago? Share your favorite ones in the comments below. I'm always looking for new ones to add to my current list.
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