Michael's is coming to the South Side!

June 25, 2010


(photo by Achy Obejas)

It’s become a ritual: The cars at the 47th Street shopping plaza complete their business at the Walgreen’s, Citibank, dry cleaner or shoe store then cruise ever so slowly, practically stopping in front of the doors of the new still-to-open Michael’s Fresh Market on the west side of the plaza.

We – and I include my eager self – have spied the chalky, deserted remnants of the old Hyde Park Co-Op as they’ve come clean and sprouted new lights, new shelves, new freezers, new cash registers. A huge chunk of room has been given over to produce tables.

We do, yes, have other grocery stores in Kenwood. I’m fond of the One Stop at 43rd and Lake Park for quick buys: cream for coffee, an onion, a head of iceberg. The One-Stop also has its own brand of mouth watering hash browns. And you can’t find friendlier or more efficient folks. But, for all its customer service, if you want arugula or fat-free cream or anything other than the most commercial brands, this won’t do.

And I love Z&H, but more for their sandwiches and soups. The Marty — grilled eggplant, tomato, red pepper spread, muenster cheese and mixed greens grilled on panini – has become one of my faves. These guys did turn me on to an incredible soyrizo, though, and I bought the healthiest, tastiest and most expensive flour in the world here. But the small, super-healthy gourmet selection, as yummy as it all is, won’t do for everyday shopping.

Sure, there’s Hyde Park Produce a bit further south. But it’s unimpressive after you get past the produce. And even that can be iffy: Last week’s morels were delish, but those ears of corn were on the verge.

And, finally, of course, there’s Treasure Island in the old original co-op space on 55th. But kill me now – sure, great cheese selection, the tastiest and weirdest chicken salsa spread on the planet. But just how expensive is this place? Last week, they had sockeye salmon at $24.99 a pound – a full $10 more than – are you ready? — Whole Foods on Roosevelt.

The old co-op was around since 1933 but shut its doors, first on 47th in 2005, and then on 55th in 2008, after disastrous business decision after disastrous business decision. In Kenwood, Hyde Park and Bronzeville, we’ve been left bereft of a full-service grocery store with reasonable prices, an eye on health and a decent produce section.

We don’t know squat about Michael’s, a suburban family-owned chain. It was supposed to open in March of this year but now workers tell us it’s July 7th. So we circle the parking lot at the 47th Street Plaza, eye the new signage with hope, and mark the date on our calendars.