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Living in a world-class food city like Chicago might be a gift unto itself, but the time of year for exchanging tangible — and ideally, delicious — presents with loved ones is fast approaching. Locals are spoiled for choice when it comes to thoughtful and unique items, which can make digging through them an overwhelming task. This gift guide cuts through the noise to touch on a little bit of everything, from handmade porcelain dishes to special sausages from a Windy City barbecue queen. For additional inspiration, explore our 2022 gift guide.
Nam Prik Pao Thai Roasted Chili Jam
Palita Sriratana, the Chicago chef behind prolific Thai pop-up Pink Salt, has done the city an enormous service by giving diners a chance to bask in the smoky, tangy, umami flavors of her chile jam from the comfort of home. Nam Prik Pao is a kind of all-purpose star — smear it on toast or inside a grilled cheese, mix it into a dressing, or doctor up a plate of linguini and clam sauce.
Konbini & Kanpai Sake Club Membership
There’s nothing wrong with a great wine club, but those seeking to up the ante on gifting this year can riff on the concept thanks to Konbini & Kanpai, a self-described Japanese American slashie in Lakeview. The cozy shop offers several types of sake club memberships, all of which include select bottles for pickup or delivery, discount pours and flights in store, and access to its exclusive sake cabinet, a collection of rare and high-end whiskies, shochu, and more, that are only available to members.
Customized Gift Box at Andale Market
Those who find a special joy in selecting hyper-personalized (and edible!) delights for their nearest and dearest can find a helping hand at Andersonville’s adorable Andale Market. Gift givers can assemble a customized box by choosing five items — think gourmet pancake mix, trendy conservas, or jamon iberico potato chips — that the team will gift wrap for that special someone.
A Seven-Pound Case of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
Sometimes in life, more is more. Show how much you care about the mycelium afficionado in your life — pound for pound — with a case of mushrooms from local purveyor Four Star Mushrooms, which supplies high-profile Chicago restaurants including three-Michelin-star destinations Alinea and Smyth. Aesthetically pleasing and a popular protein alternative, Lion’s Mane mushrooms are a toothsome treat with a subtle nutty flavor and chewy texture.
A Sassy Sausage Sticker
Chicago’s culinary reputation has come a long way from tired tropes about deep dish, but when it comes to a local fascination with hot dogs dragged through the garden, acknowledging the city’s admiration is simply stating facts. Slapped on a water bottle or affixed to a laptop cover, these die cut stickers will serve as a beacon of Windy City pride.
Porcelain Chrysanthemum Platter
Chicago artist and potter Danielle Chutinthranond has a particular affinity for Chinatowns around the world, finding inspiration in past and present of these unique cultural enclaves. That’s the impetus around her Chinatown collection of delicate porcelain dishes, including a show-stopping platter that bears a hand-etched chrysanthemum motif that symbolizes “the possibility of triumph in tough times” and seeks to remind its owner to embrace bravery, even in the face of adversity.
A Variety Pack of Tony B’s Steak Chips
Tony B’s Steak Chips, an accidental invention by Wisconsin-born chef Tony Balestreri (formerly of Marz Brewing and Kimski), offer a playful twist on run-of-the-mill beef jerky. Gluten-free and pleasingly crunchy, the chips come in four flavors: teriyaki, Sichuan peppercorn, Gochu Bang!, and coconut curry. Keep things interesting with a variety pack for all the zippy, spicy, meaty goodness.
A Transportive Scented Candle
Despite the potential for relaxation and luxury, travel also inevitably comes with financial and logistical stressors that can end up canceling out the restorative properties of a vacation. A mellow self-care evening at home, however, is always sure to deliver. Chicago candle maker TEN|4 Candle Co and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises aim to bring a transportive experience to a night in with a Mediterranean Summer candle (inspired by LEYE restaurant Aba) infused with notes of sandalwood, cedar, orange, patchouli, and coconut milk.
An Assortment of Eight Enormous Levain Cookies
New York-based cult cookie brand Levain made a major splash with its 2022 debut in Chicago, luring locals out to form lines in 16-degree temperatures with its gooey, mountainous sweets. The company has created a Winder Wonderland holiday assortment of eight cookies (conveniently, one for each night of Hanukkah): seasonal dark chocolate peppermint, chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, and oatmeal raisin. Levain launched a second Chicago outpost in September, so there are options for buyers who’d like to check out the goods in person.
A Meaty Holiday Box from Lexington Betty Smokehouse
Chicago chef Dominique Leach has risen to national fame on cooking shows and through the success of Lexington Betty Smokehouse, her top-notch barbecue restaurant in Pullman. Surprise the griller in your circle with a holiday package featuring Leach’s best-selling Spicy Betty BBQ Sauce, Tete’s BBQ Seasoning, two packs each of her wagyu beef franks and wagyu andouille sausages.
A T-Shirt Tribute to Six Decades of Portillo’s
As any Chicagoan knows by now, Portillo’s fans are passionate folks. The ever-expanding street food chain is ubiquitous in the city and ex-locals love to wax nostalgic about its Italian beefs, Chicago-style hot dogs, and mammoth slices of chocolate cake. The adored brand celebrated its 60th birthday this year and marked the occasion with a groovy t-shirt collaboration with Relish Brand.
A Super-Splurgy Dining Pass at Michelin-Starred Esme
There is, perhaps, no gifting task more challenging than shopping for someone who has everything. For a truly memorable and frankly hard-to-top present, one need only turn to Michelin-starred restaurant Esme in Lincoln Park, where big spenders can snag an “elite dining pass.” Available in three tiers, the passes range in price and opulence, but all will give diners a special look inside former Next Restaurant chef Jenner Tomaska’s unusual art-driven destination.