Updated May 23, 2024 - Business

Jewel-Osco crowned Chicago's best all-time supermarket

The bracket visualization shows the results of a survey conducted among 3,190 Axios Chicago readers from May 20-23, 2024, to determine the city's all-time favorite grocery store. Jewel-Osco emerged as the winner, beating out competitors like Mariano's, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods in successive rounds.

Jewel-Osco was voted the best grocery store in Chicago history by Axios Chicago readers.

  • And it wasn't even close.

Flashback: Jewel was founded in 1899 as a tea and coffee company that sold its products off the back of a wagon and has weathered competition, mergers, closings and more mergers since.

  • Take a (new) look at this corny 1990s commercial to remember why we harbor a soft spot for the store.

State of play: We ran a grocery store tournament to crown the best of all-time.

Methodology: It was up to readers. They chose what mattered: size, cost, selection, nostalgia, and hometown pride all count.

  • We know there are more than 16 great shops but we had to cull and decided to leave out some national behemoths like Walmart and Target.
  • Some of these are not from Chicago but made an impact in town.

First-round matchups:

Jewel-Osco vs. Piggly Wiggly

  • Our top seed is Jewel-Osco, which firmly has its roots in the Chicago area. It may not be owned locally anymore, but it was founded here in 1899 as a tea and coffee company that sold its products off the back of a wagon.
  • Piggly Wiggly was founded in Memphis but had most of its success in Chicago in the 1950s. It can still be found in the suburbs and Wisconsin.

Winner: Jewel-Osco

Eagle vs. The A&P

  • Eagle Foods was a mainstay in Illinois for years before going bankrupt in 2003.
  • A&P was once the biggest grocery store chain in the country. It had a huge Chicago presence which disappeared when it collapsed in the '70s.

Winner: The A&P

Aldi vs. Happy Foods

  • Aldi was founded in Germany but is based in the western suburbs, and is Monica's favorite grocery store. The company has kept pace with the other stores, staying relevant in the Chicago market.
  • Happy Foods is Chicago. The family-run grocery store was a mainstay in Edison Park for years until it closed shop in 2022. The one in Edgebrook is still open.

Winner: Aldi

Trader Joe's vs. County Fair

  • Trader Joe's is a heavyweight in this tournament just because it's currently raking in the cash in Chicago.
  • County Fair is a South Side staple, serving Morgan Park and Beverly for 75 years.

Winner: Trader Joe's

Treasure Island vs. Fairplay

  • Treasure Island left a big hole in the market when it closed all its stores in 2018. It had been here for 55 years.
  • Fairplay Finer Foods is one of the grocery store chains that primarily serves the South Side. It first opened in Bridgeport in 1975 as Halsted Foods.

Winner: Treasure Island

Whole Foods vs. Stanley's

  • Whole Foods is not local, but it has felt local since its North Avenue store provided healthier options in the 1990s. Now, it's everywhere.
  • Stanley's Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Market is definitely the underdog since it was just one store, plus it mainly just sold fruits and vegetables. Yet, it's iconic! It closed after 52 years in 2019.

Winner: Whole Foods

Mariano's vs. Hyde Park Co-Op

  • Mariano's surged into the market to fill the void when Dominick's closed. It started out independent but was recently sold to Kroger and may not be long for the Chicago market. The rumor is its locations may just become Jewel stores.
  • Hyde Park Co-Op was an alternative to the big chains. It started in 1932 and closed in 2008. It's a wildcard in this tournament since it was beloved.

Winner: Mariano's

Dominick's vs. Butera

  • Dominick's is back! Well, just for this tournament. The iconic grocery store dominated Chicago in the 1980s but fell on hard times and ultimately closed in 2013.
  • Butera was founded in Chicago in 1963 as the low-price chain, but only 10 stores remain in the suburbs.

Winner: Dominick's

Second-round matchups:

Jewel-Osco vs. The A&P

  • Jewel has deep Chicago roots dating back to the late 19th century, even though it is no longer owned locally.
  • The A&P was a national chain but fought Jewel for grocery store supremacy for decades before closing up in the 1970s.

Winner: Jewel-Osco

Aldi vs. Trader Joe's

  • These two stores are connected, even if the companies aren't the same. They both offer good frozen options and viral swag.

Winner: Trader Joe's

Whole Foods vs. Treasure Island

  • It feels like Treasure Island was Whole Foods before Whole Foods came to town. Yet, Whole Foods still stands and has expanded in neighborhoods that Treasure Island left.

Winner: Whole Foods

Dominick's vs. Mariano's

  • Dominick's represents the nostalgic favorite in this tournament, but that doesn't mean it can't be upset by Mariano's, which was born from the ashes of the late grocery chain.

Winner: Mariano's

Third-round matchups:

Jewel-Osco vs. Trader Joe's

These are definitely two of Chicago's favorite current supermarkets. Jewel has the advantage of a long history in town, but Trader Joe's has breezed through this competition so far.

Winner: Jewel-Osco

Whole Foods vs. Mariano's

Fresh off the stunning upset of Dominick's, Mariano's tries their luck with defeating Whole Foods next. Whole Foods has expanded around Chicago and the suburbs, while Mariano's filled some of the void left when Dominick's closed up shop.

Winner: Mariano's

Final round:

Jewel-Osco vs. Mariano's

The intrigue: It's fitting that the final matchup pits two stores that currently go head to head in our market, but maybe not for long if a merger goes through.

  • Both these stores have Chicago roots. Jewel goes back centuries while Mariano's was founded by big wigs at Dominick's.

Winner: Jewel-Osco


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