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Reviews - 2 food and shopping spots on Ohio St. downtown Chicago

Shiny coffee vending area at Eataly Chicago
Shiny coffee vending area at Eataly Chicago
Barbara Payne

Eataly, located at 43 E. Ohio, is the fancy new Italian grocery cum wine shop cum kitchen gadget, book and candy purveyor that also offers a selection of restaurant areas. I did my first exploration recently – it’s the kind of place you’ll want to visit more than once.

Well, I stumbled on this shopping cart – it was a blaze of brilliance in cart design. Plastic, light, sturdy and well-balanced, I could move it with hardly any effort and without having to lean it over to get it rolling. The handle section was big enough that I could hang my jacket on it, and the basket allowed me to deposit my purse and bags, leaving my hands free for browsing items of interest. On the main floor that included, for me, the mesmerizing shiny kitchen gadgets, some of which I’d seen appearing recently on cooking shows.

You can buy produce, cheeses, cured meats, wine, scads of different imported olive oils, fancy sweets and dozens of other items. The whole effect was a combination of Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods - but with some notable exceptions.

You can eat here! Different sections offer pasta, cheeses, pastries, seafood and so on – some at bar-height counters and others as sit-down dining. Prices vary, but the Meat place we ate (the only place that did not have an hour-long wait on a Sunday afternoon) was definitely in the upper ranges ($15 for appetizers, $22 and up for main courses).

One of the most striking and happy things I noticed is – you can drink here! I smiled happily when I saw people walking around shopping with wineglasses in their hands – glass, folks, none of those cheap plastic things. So I nosed out the wine shop (second floor by the escalator) and got myself a glass of nice red ($12). These people clearly understand the loosening of shoppers’ inhibitions that is bound to happen when enjoying the pleasures of the grape while wandering among handsome displays of enticing goods.

Come prepared to indulge yourself – to eat and drink heartily in the store and again with the delicious items you’ll undoubtedly bring home with you.


Keep going on Ohio past State Street and you’ll run into the Old Chicago Grill, 29 w. Ohio. It’s a fooler. The street frontage is unassuming plate glass (and partially obscured with construction scaffolding at the time of this writing), but the place has considerable presence when you get inside.

The foyer is two stories tall and features a couple of stone-look arches. The next area, lined on either side with red and white striped awnings, soars to three stories. The first two look like charming windows in (presumably) a Greek village. You see the roofline on the "third" floor and then the space rises another whole story that’s painted a pale lovely baby sky blue, complete with fluffy clouds.

And then you notice the comfy-looking upholstered wooden chairs - everything in rich Moroccan-leather colors. The menu is unpretentious with enough variety to satisfy almost any taste - from plain old American to Greek standbys like gyros, keftedes, souvlaki, etc. Free wi-fi, friendly service, nicer lighting, very reasonable prices (sandwiches from $2.59 for a hot dog to 5.95 for a Reuben). I had a grilled cheese (the two cheese choices are American and Swiss) that was cheesy enough and served with a delicious dill pickle. Can’t wait to come back and work on my computer and sample more food items. Think this is my new go to place whenever I’m nearby.

My next check-out is going to be the NYC Bagel shop around the corner from Old Chicago Grill. I hear they’re the only place in town that actually boils the bagels first. I’ll let you know..

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