Elea: New Greek Market in Greektown
Starting back in pre-LTH (Chowhound) days, I've had occasion to do write-ups of a number of Greek food shops in the Chicago area. The first one was my beloved but now defunct Athens Market on Halsted in Greektown; two others are, at least from my perspective, rather far-flung, namely, the old Ellinikon Pandopoleion on the far southeast side of town (I would presume also defunct now) and the west-suburban Minos, a fine shop but not conveniently located for city dwellers. Well, some two years since the sad news of the demise of Athens Market, there is finally some good news on the Greek-grocery front and very good news it is indeed. A few months ago, a new Greek shop opened up on the east side of Halsted in the heart of Greektown, just across from where the Athens Market was and just a short ways north of the new National Hellenic Museum.
The new shop bears the noble name Elea, the Greek word for 'olive' (and a word near and dear to my heart, since I spent a very long time working out a new etymology for that word*). A more appropriate name for this shop would be hard to think of, for one of the truly outstanding features of Elea is their selection of supremely fresh, delicious Greek olives. Now, as things turn out, that was also one of the great virtues of the old Athens Market but it seems that the olive supplier to that shop, George Tsamis, is the supplier for Elea, which is run by his daughter, Nia.
In addition to pristine olives, Elea also offers a variety of feta cheeses, among which there are two varieties of barrel feta from Greece, one which is excellent and another, the Kalavriton, which is even better. This latter feta is absolutely beautifully balanced with a texture to match.
Below are some pictures of the shop in which I try to show as many of the items they offer as I can. Alas, I somehow forgot to take one focussing on the feta cheeses but that was likely because I was busy scarfing down some samples I was offered.
Here's the main section of the shop, which is small but nicely organised and attractive:
Olives and some of the cheeses:
A nice selection of Greek pasta and trahanas, dried legumes:
Paximadia, biscuits, cookies:
Coffee, honey, etc.:
Titan brand olive oil (and some other products, such as pasta), are part of the Tsamis family business. Their olive oil (extra virgin) is from Skilloudia Olympias and it's a very fine product at a good price ($9 for 750ml):
The shop offers a small range of Greek wines and spirits:
They also sell their own brand of myzithra cheese, balls of which can be seen in the cooler. A small freezer with frozen phyllo dough and other products can be seen here as well:
I should add that they carry Boar's Head cold cuts and make sandwiches but so far, I have not had occasion to get one. Here are the hours:
I'll post again soon with a few pictures of products from the shop from my kitchen, including the house-made tamarosalata, which is very much worth trying out — it's a really good version.
All of the folks I've met working there — Nia, George, Kosta and Dimitra — have been extremely friendly and helpful and, given the high quality of the products that they offer and their central location in the city, I really hope their shop thrives!
*The etymology is presented in an article in the proceedings volume from the Oxford Symposium 2009, Food and Language.
Mediterranean Food Market
309 South Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60661