Changing tastes changing accents
Naperville’s secret sauce has merged from humble farm beginnings into a melting pot of exotic foodstuffs and locally-sourced specialties. The selection of grocers and specialty markets has evolved from roadside farmstands to supermarkets and gourmet food shops.
Local markets have emerged to reflect the growing demands of ethnic populations and shifting demographics. Organic ingredients, exotic tropical fruits and seasonal farmers’ markets make Naperville a hub for foodies who enjoy mixing the fixings.
Central to Naperville’s market past is Kreger’s Central Foods. Depending how one defines continuous operation, it’s DuPage County’s oldest market in continuous operation since 1893.
Abe Froman may be the fictitious Sausage King of Chicago, but 4th generation sausage-maker Bill Kreger is Naperville’s Wurst King just north of the train tracks.
Kreger’s Central Market closed in 2012 and reopened a year later as Kreger’s Brat and Sausage Haus. Kreger consolidated many store offerings and now solely focuses on sausage making. His secret family brat recipe has a cult following throughout the western suburbs.
Only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, a trip to Kreger’s at 6th and Ellsworth instantly gives visitors a sense of nostalgia. The Haus is filled with century-old butcher relics, vintage newspaper advertisements and Naperville memorabilia, including signs from the 1931 Centennial. (Positively Naperville published their original deed in December 2013.)
Kreger, with the help of family, including his sister, Susan, who also makes baked goods and cookies, offers a rotating selection of freshly-made sausages and brats.
The wurst king
From the Blackhawks pork brat seasoned with jalapeños, onions, and Chief Black Hawk Porter; to the Buffalo Bill Brat with chicken, blue cheese, Crystal Hot Sauce, and cayenne; to the Chicago Bears Brat with beef, garlic, oregano, basil, worcestershire, and onion; the rotating seasonal brat selection is diverse and flavorful. Kreger also offers traditional sausages including Irish, Hungarian and hot Italian.
Many grilling recipes call for boiling brats in beer and onions, and then finishing them on a piping hot grill. Kreger rarely gives some insights into his wurst-meister tactics.
“First, grill the brats for 20 to 25 minutes over a low to medium heat until golden brown,” he suggests. “Then hold them in a simmering pot of warm beer until service. Onions are optional. I’m a firm believer in drinking beer … and you should never boil anything (brats) in beer. It should be at a gentle simmer.”
Kreger’s is open from 9AM to 6PM Thursday and Friday, and 8PM to 5PM on Saturday at 605 N. Ellsworth St. For more info, visit www.kregersbrats.com or call (630) 355-4418.
A sense of community
Casey’s Foods fires up its grill every Saturday and Sunday from 11AM to 2PM through October and patrons can gain a true sense of the Naperville community. Patrons often wait 30 deep in line to purchase the reliable stand-bys — burgers, brats, steak and chicken tacos, etc. — as well as grilled specials that can change every weekend. Picnic tables provide seating under cover, too.
Casey’s has been an independent grocer in the western suburbs since 1969 and Dan Casey opened the Naperville Plaza location in 1991. They also continually contribute to local non-profits, local festivals and service organizations, including the annual Jaycees Lobster Day.
Undoubtedly argued to offer the best traditional full-service butcher case in the burbs, Casey’s has everything you need for seasonal grilling at its butcher counter. Delicious gourmet choices in Casey’s deli section complement choices for backyard barbecues and summer parties. They offer a unique selection of locally-sourced meats, house-made sausages, proprietary sauces and seasonings and fresh seasonal seafood.
One of Casey’s special offerings in late May and June is Copper River Salmon. Flown in from Alaska, the wild salmon is often 36 hours out of water and great for the grill. Its fatty flesh is incredibly “salmon” in color and loaded with Omega-3s.
Casey’s also is a great resource for recipes and grilling tips. Their team of butchers is impeccably knowledgeable about the meat they procure and how to prepare it. Casey’s website also has many tasty recipes and tips.
Casey’s is open seven days a week, 8AM – 8PM Monday through Friday, 8AM – 7PM Saturday, and 9AM – 6PM Sunday.
For more info on Casey’s including recipes and tips, visit www.caseysfoods.com or call (630) 369-1686.
Tomatoes and pasta
Located at the southwest corner of Naperville, Angelo Caputos Fresh Market opened here in 2006. With six Chicagoland locations and 56-year history, Caputo’s offers many proprietary Italian specialties in addition to a vast selection of produce and traditional groceries.
Its deli is loaded with Italian specialties including fresh mozzarella, ricotta, olives, Italian hams and Parmesan as well as all your homemade pizza-making needs.
Caputo’s is the place to stock up on tomato sauce and pasta. With a vast selection of canned tomatoes, shoppers can find Italian varieties such as the highly regarded San Marzano DOP in addition to traditional domestic brands which procure most of their tomatoes from California and Florida.
If you’re going to make your own marinara sauce, it’s well worth a trip to Caputo’s to purchase a few large cans of San Marzano tomatoes and their proprietary Italian seasoning.
The selection of pasta is the largest around. Spaghetti, fettuccini, cavatelli, penne and rigatoni are just several selections shoppers will discover.
Caputo’s is located at the corner northwest corner of 111th St. and Rt. 59. The store is open 7AM to 10PM daily. For more info, visit caputomarkets.com or call (630) 579-3300.
Naperville’s increasing Asian population has led to an increased demand for Asian ingredients. The Korean grocer Super H-Mart offers many once hard-to-get Asian ingredients within the City’s boundaries.
Shelves are stocked with noodles, rice, and kimchi – spicy fermented cabbage which is the national dish of Korea. Asian condiments dominant isles including Korean BBQ sauce, ponzu and several dozen styles of soy sauce.
Exotic fruits and vegetables include lychee nuts, jack fruit and white fleshed Korean sweet potatoes which are incredibly nutritious.
The fish is so fresh it’s alive. Live tilapia, fluke, lobsters and other seafood are mongered straight from the tanks in traditional Asian fashion to keep it as fresh as possible.
Super H-Mart is located at 1295 E. Ogden Ave and is open daily 8AM to 10PM. For more info, visit www.hmart.com or call (630) 778-9800.
The national organic powerhouse Whole Foods opened its doors to Naperville in 2008. With an immense selection of certified organic foods, it has advanced the conversation of what’s in the national food supply.
Often dubbed as whole paycheck for offering organic items which often cost more, area foodies flock to the store on 75th St, just east of Rt. 59, for specialty items and produce. Yet, Whole Foods features a reasonably-priced proprietary brand, 365 Everyday Value, in addition to some conventionally produced products.
Whole Foods is one of the few markets offering hand-foraged specialty produce, including wild ramps. The wild leak grows throughout Illinois and is highly prized by chefs and gourmets. It also helped to name Chicago. Shikako is the Indian name for stinky place in reference to the ramps that once grew along the Chicago River. (And that’s how Chicago got its name!)
Whole Foods is located at 2607 W. 75th St. and is open 8AM to 10PM daily.
The latest entry to the scene is Standard Market and is now open for business at 1508 Aurora Ave. The 40,000 square foot facility offers fresh and prepared foods as well as Standard Market Grill, a casual restaurant featuring fresh ingredients from the Market.
The chef-driven market features several stations and food including a coffee and tea shop, cheese cave, bakery and gelato bar – most of which is produced daily on site by a brigade of chefs. In addition, the market offers specialty foodstuffs and hard-to-find ingredients – such as exotic fruits, pheasant, skate-wing and squab.
Standard Market’s is open daily from 8AM to 9PM. The Grill is open daily from 11AM to 9PM, with special weekend breakfast hours from 8 to 11AM. The Coffee Shop opens at 7AM. For more info, visit www.standardmarket.com.
Back to the Farm
Dwarfed by the bricks and siding of subdivision homes, a long and narrow driveway guides visitors to McDonald Farm off Knoch Knolls Rd. in south Naperville. It’s a refreshing route to remember Naperville’s agrarian past.
The Green Earth Institute began operation in 2002 promoting nutrition and sustainability at McDonald Farm.
The Institute grows vegetables and sells them as part of a CSA program – community supported agriculture.
Residents can purchase a share for the season and pick up a box of fresh vegetables once a week. They currently grow more than 40 varieties throughout the year on nearly 60 acres.
For more info, visit www.greenearthinstitute.org.
As an integral part of Naperville’s farming heritage, The Kellers have operated several farms throughout Naperville dating back to the mid 19th century. They now operate Keller’s Farmstand at 516 Knoch Knolls Rd. that sells seasonal produce from late April through October. Look for a few satellite “popup” locations when sweet corn season is in full swing beginning in late July.
Keller’s is open Monday through Friday, 9AM to 6PM, Saturday and Sunday 9AM to 5PM through October. For more info, visit www.kellersfarmstand.com or call (630) 369-5319.
Located in south Naperville, the Wagner Family Farm operates a farmstand at 9937 S. Route 59 and has been supplying the region with produce for over 50 years with much of the produce is grown on site. The
Farmstand generally opens in mid July and runs daily through October. For more info, visit www.wagnerfarmstand.com.
Farmers’ markets return
St. John’s Episcopal Church, located at 750 Aurora Ave., will host its farmers market for the second year this summer. The Market runs from 3PM to 7PM every Wednesday, beginning June 4 through September 24 (closed July 2).
Featuring more vendors this year, the Market will offer a wider variety of seasonally fresh vegetables and fruits. Shoppers will find fresh meats, eggs, smoked fish, cheese, breads, baked goods, honey, fresh cut flowers, plants, herbs, teas, spices, oils and vinegars, sauces, table linens, jewelry, soaps and other fine offerings from local vendors.
“We are excited to build upon the success of last year’s farmers market,” said Rev. Verna Fair, pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church. “Being able to expand the market allows St. John’s to make a bigger impact on our outreach initiatives while supporting local businesses and offering a service to the community at-large.”
For more information about the farmer’s market at St. John’s, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit stjohns-episcopal.com.
Once again, the Naperville Farmers’ Market at 5th Ave. Station begins the first Saturday in June and runs every from 7AM to noon every Saturday through October. The Fifth Avenue Station parking lot is located just north of the Naperville Train station. Nearly 30 vendors offer locally-produced foodstuffs from honey, vegetables and local specialties. For more information, call (630) 369-5638.