Whether Chicago cooks need a rice cooker or stockpot; a special ramen, nori, or kimchi; or fresh fruits and vegetables such as Asian greens, pears, and bean sprouts, the meticulously stocked Joong Boo Market, in the Avondale neighborhood, is the place they go. Launched in 1980 as Chicago Food Corp., a wholesaler of Asian foods, the company opened its first retail supermarket as Joong Boo Mart in 1992. Now, in addition to the fresh and frozen seafood and meats, aisle after aisle of fresh and dried noodles, and Korean teas, among thousands of other products, there is a snack bar where you can grab a bowl of bibimbap or dduk gook (rice cake soup), or a generous helping of bulgogi (grilled marinated beef), among more than 20 menu options. There’s also a wang mandoo (dumpling) stand to keep customers munching while they shop.
The accent at Joong Boo is on Korean products, but there are countless other Asian specialties on offer, such as Chinese vegetables, a Japanese mandoline, udon, and many different types of miso.
Joong Boo has its share of admirers, including Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmerman, who called out the market as one of his Chicago favorites, and Chicago Magazine, which listed the wang mandoo stand in the market as one of 2014’s top openings.