It’s no secret that I love food, and that I love to cook. Despite this, I don’t enjoy grocery shopping. The fluorescent lighting, kids screaming over cereal choices, the aisles upon aisles of preservative-laden food…it’s enough to make me open a Peapod account! In a perfect world, I’d have a small neighborhood grocery store that specializes in high-quality, in-season ingredients, and maybe does to-go meals and cooking classes.
Lucky for me – and you- such a place exists!
Located in Noble Square near the Division/Ashland/Milwaukee intersection, August has been my epicurean lifeboat since it opened in early 2007. Co-owners and siblings Angie Kongabel and George Djurovic had made careers out of food (Angie as a catering manager at the Four Seasons and George as a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef) but eventually decided what they really love about the culinary industry was the food itself. Specifically cooking…ok, make that cooking at home.
The emphasis on home cooking is what sets August apart from the competition. Stacks of well-worn cookbooks adorn their countertops and tables. Customers are encouraged to come with a rough idea of what they’d like to make, and firm up their menu with suggestions from the staff plus that day’s inventory. If you see something on the shelves and want to know how to cook it – just ask!
Their inventory is edited by flavor profile, quality, and seasonality. This isn’t the type of store where you’ll find both broccoli AND brocollini. August believes in one item per flavor profile, and their picky buyers only select the best of what’s available. So if the fishmonger’s salmon looks so-so but that day’s artic char is divine, only the artic char makes it into August’s case. Much of their meat and produce is locally obtained, and they even scour the city farmers’ markets for the best fruit and veggies.
If you’re not in the mood to cook, August creates complete meals to-go. Last night in fact, I took them up on some mashed potatoes and pot roast. It was heavenly, and in portion sizes large enough for lunch the next day. The menu changes daily, so call to find out what’s cooking for lunch and dinner. Special orders and custom catering are available, too.
Want to eat, drink, and learn? Attend an August cooking class! Held Mon-Fri, these are private classes for 6 people. Cost is $75 per person for a custom menu of 3-4 courses. Classes are demonstration style, BYOB, and last about 3.5 hours.
And as if that weren’t enough, August can also be transformed into a private party space! They can provide up to 10 courses and again, it’s completely customizable. In addition to the private dinners, once a month, they hold a BYOB after-hours dinner. 6 courses for $75 each, and 25-30 spots available. The next dinner will be during the 3rd week of Nov. As with most things at August, call for details. Rather than sticking to a set schedule or menu, August prefers to let the customers – and the available food – dictate things.
August is located at 1500 W Division St in Chicago. 773-252-9560 or www.augustgrocerystore.com
About the Author: Jennifer Dunham Luby is a Chicago area native and hostess extraordinaire. When she's not out exploring the social scene, Jen and her husband love to entertain in their Wicker Park home. She writes SecondCitySoiree.com, a blog featuring advice, ideas, and inspiration for home entertaining. Follow her on Twitter @SecndCitySoiree