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Feature Fri Jun 19 2009

Time To Shop? Go To HarvesTime

HarvesTime Foods could be one of the best kept secrets on the north side. It's like the Millennium Falcon. From the outside it doesn't look like much. The awning is torn and a bit sun-faded. The LCD sign's functionality is sometimes spotty. The building is coated in a stark whitewash in a neighborhood where one side of the street is rundown and the other is neo-gentrified. So at first glance, purchasing even canned food from this market may make you cringe a bit and wonder if you're taking your life into your own hands.

HarvesTime Outside for Web.jpg

But as you enter, passing the requisite bubblegum and novelty toy machines (yes, they do have Homies. Ironic perhaps. Perhaps not.), you smell that fresh clean store smell; a mélange of bleach and softer cleansers, and every surface is spotless.

The produce at HarvesTime is probably fresher and cheaper than almost any other place in the city (save for perhaps their sister store, Edgewater Produce). And when I say fresh, I'm not exaggerating. It's really at the peak of its ripeness. Their produce isn't the kind that you can allow to languish on the countertop and ripen.

Produce 2.jpg

This stuff is ready to go right now! Trust me, I've made the mistake of purchasing too much and thinking that it will keep in the crisper. It doesn't. This is the double-edged sword. Their tomatoes are full, plump and tangy. Their greens are crisp and bright. Even the peaches I've purchased here smell sweet and are ready to be taken home and made into a cobbler.

Produce 1.jpg

No paper bags or bananas are necessary to assist with the ripening. So no stocking up thinking you'll use the extra later in the week. Later in the week will be too late! About the only thing I've ever picked up at HarvesTime that needed a little time are avocados, but never more than about 24 hours.

The meat department is a carnivore's dream come true. I've never seen less than three folks behind the counter, and they're quick to take your order. In addition, the prices at the meat counter are lower than just about anywhere in the city. And since they serve a lot of the immigrant community, it is cheaper to get more esoteric (at least from the point of view of the western palate) cuts.

Meat Counter 1.jpg

Want some pork belly to make into your own pancetta? No prob. Need some honeycomb or bible tripe for a bit of Larb or Pho? They've got you covered in spades. Need three fryers for a brunch of pan-fried chicken and waffles? Fifteen dollars later, I was out of there with 3 whole birds ready for a 24 hour buttermilk bath!

Meat Counter 2.jpg

In all honesty, I probably only saved a buck or two when you compare the price to the big markets here in the city, but at least I feel happy about supporting a local business. And I've yet to see a Dominick's or Jewel-Osco where I could also stroll out with a pound of chicaronnes and a pound of mixta carnitas. Add some warm corn tortillas, lime and kosher salt, and you've got a great lunch.

Huy Fong's.jpg

Another great reason to shop at HarvesTime is the spices. Not only do they have a pretty extensive selection of delicious hot sauces (I've recently fallen in love with Huy Fong's Chili Garlic Sauce, see left), but their spices come in large shaker containers ranging in weight/volume from 6 ounces (for things like rosemary, basil, or oregano) to 16 ounces (for spices like mustard or cumin powders). And the cost is about half of what you'd pay for the small plastic jars of spices at the bigger markets. Need an unusual spice like annatto or ammonia (wtf)? They've got it.

Spice Aisle.jpg

But perhaps one of my favorite things from the store is Coca-Cola. And, yeah, you can get Coca-Cola just about anywhere, but this is Hecho en Mexico (or Coca-Cola Mexicana). No high fructose corn syrup, just cane sugar. And if you haven't had Coke with sugar since you were a kid, treat yourself. Lighter in body and less sweet (funny how that happens), it's the Coke from our childhood! Original formula, my ass.

Coke Mexican.jpg

Notice the one product that they're low on?

HarvesTime shows that the independent neighborhood market is still alive, vibrant, and defiant, though quietly so, in the face of corporate supermarket chains. So if supporting local business, finding the freshest produce and meats, and getting a good deal for it all are important to you, start shopping at HarvesTime.

HarvesTime Market is located at 2632 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago IL 60625. Their phone number is (773) 989-4400, and you can find them online at which has electronic copies of their weekly flyer and specials.

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Dave S / June 19, 2009 12:48 AM

Right on. HarvesTime is one of the best parts about living in the Ravenswood area. They have the juiciest chicken in Chicago, and delicious salmon. I regularly walk out of there with enough food for two people for a week for less than $30.

But everyone, please, learn how to properly use the parking lot. Enter from Talman, exit onto Lawrence. If you happen to enter from Lawrence, go straight. Don't turn right. There's arrows on the ground. Follow them and we won't have to sit in the parking lot staring at each other waiting for someone to back up.

Marc / June 19, 2009 2:44 AM

Is it more expensive than its sister store Edgewater Produce?
Because the savings between Edgewater and the Jewel across the street is more than just a few bucks, its rather substantial especially when it comes to meat and produce.

Jessica / June 19, 2009 8:48 AM

I couldn't agree with you more. I am lucky enough to live across the street and am able to purchase my grocieries nightly after work if I so choose. Major chain stores can't compete on price of produce and meats and the quality is top notch. The only thing I buy anywhere else is cat litter/food (fancy because my cat is spoiled) and cereal (because I like generic). The only thing that could make it the ultimate spot is to add a beer and wine department like Andy's down the street on Kedzie. I heart Harvestime!

Roderick / June 19, 2009 9:00 AM

The savings on produce is significant compared with Jewel or Dominick's.

I thought that the same people owned HarvestTime and Edgewater produce. Their produce bags have both of the locations on it.

One of the reasons I love the store is that they have a lot of Greek food ingredients. On my honeymoon in Greece I brought some stuff home only to find that I could get the same stuff at HarvestTime.

Michael / June 19, 2009 9:38 AM

This is a great place and living so close is one reason I haven't moved out of this neighborhood in 6 years.

Cliff, you explained what is going on in the store but I would have liked an interview with the owner. Find out about serving such a diverse community w/ organic eggs for the yuppies plus all the great ethnic foods you describe. Everyday you can hear greek, korean, spanish and a host of eastern european languages in that place.

jocelyn / June 19, 2009 12:36 PM

YAY! HarvesTime. I love it living over here and I loved Edgewater Produce when I lived over on Bryn Mawr. This place rocks.

Go produce! (Oh, and it makes me feel better because after nearly 12 years of living in the city, I STILL haven't made it to Stanleys. :( )

Megan / June 19, 2009 1:22 PM

My boyfriend mistakenly called this place Happy Time, and that's what it should be called. It makes me really happy to shop here!

My HT finds:
-Bulagarian Goat Feta from the deli counter (their cheese selection is awesome and reasonably priced)
-Rachel's Organic Yogurt (there's a yummy lavender plum flavor)
-Triangle shaped rolls (in the case by the check out) packed with seeds and grains. I love all the local, fresh breads/pitas/tortillas you can get here.
-Interesting seasonal produce like fava beans, fresh garbanzo beans, every type of greens (beet greens are the best)
-Huge jars of roasted red peppers with garlic
-Multiple shelves of phyllo dough (what's the deal with that?)

I can't believe how cheap everything is! This place makes me cringe when I have to pay for mediocre/crappy produce at Jewel.

Mike B. / June 19, 2009 1:40 PM

My friend/coworker, Megan, forgot to mention how they have created sheer perfection in the form of Guacamole (and arguably the Spinach Pie) All hail HT. Though watch out for those crotch-level bars when you're rushing in there. Youch.

Andrew / June 19, 2009 3:57 PM

Yeah, HarvesTime is great. I've been shopping there for 6 years (since it was half the size it is now). My only complaint is that it's tough to get around in the parking lot now...

gena / June 19, 2009 4:00 PM

shaddddup. don't tell the internet about harvesttime! you will ruin the harvesting for all of us.

everyone already commented with what i intended on commenting. that being said, their guacamole is serious business. and next door is the most wonderful vietnamese bakery.

laprof / June 21, 2009 10:19 PM

Love this place! They also often play music from Mexico, Greece, etc., and that adds a fun element to shopping.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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