I’m not usually in the business of writing about prepared food options at grocery stores, but Dom’s Kitchen & Market (2730 N. Halsted St.) isn’t like most.
Sure, this new shop on the border of Lakeview and Lincoln Park sells lots of produce, meat and wine, but it’s clear within seconds of walking in the front door that the owners hope while you’re scoping out Brussels sprouts for dinner, you’ll stay for lunch.
Instead of endless aisles of canned goods, you’ll find six different food stations spread around the space, where you can score everything from sushi and salads to pizza and sandwiches. While most grocery stores have counters like this, quality varies wildly, and the atmosphere is usually less than a priority.
At Dom’s, which opened Tuesday, the eating area is flooded with light, and the chairs are actually comfortable. Honestly, it feels close in spirit to a place like Eataly, albeit without the singular culinary focus.
But Dom’s does come from a grocery store veteran. It’s the brain child of Bob Mariano, who worked for years at the now-closed chain Dominick’s, before he became the CEO of Roundy’s, a Wisconsin supermarket chain, in 2002. He founded the Mariano’s grocery store chain in 2010, then orchestrated Kroger’s acquisition of both chains in 2015 before retiring in 2016.
He partnered on the new store with Don Fitzgerald, 59, a former executive at Dominick’s, Roundy’s and Mariano’s, and Jay Owen, 48, a descendant of Dominick’s founder Dominick DiMatteo and managing partner at DOM Capital Group.
They seem to be betting that customers want to order basics like paper towels and cereal online, but also have an inviting local market for their meals.
The biggest draw at Dom’s is definitely Bonci. You may recognize this excellent Italian pizzeria export thanks to its location in the West Loop, which was the first outlet in North America. (Sadly, a second location in Wicker Park closed during the pandemic.)
Created by Gabriele Bonci in Rome, Bonci offers pizza al taglio, a style cooked in large rectangular pans featuring a crust that’s mostly light and airy, yet comes with a delicately crisp bottom that crackles when you bite in. Toppings tend to be light, seasonal and judiciously applied. Instead of slices, each pizza is cut with a pair of scissors into wide strips and sold by the weight.
It’s exceptional stuff, making Dom’s a must-visit for Bonci alone. What’s strange is that Dom’s doesn’t make a bigger deal about it. Instead of having its own station, you’ll find Bonci in the The Hearth station, where you can also select merely decent roasted salmon ($13), both served with your option of two sides. I’d pick Bonci every time.
The five remaining stations are original concepts, and while none approaches the highs of Bonci, there are some intriguing options.
My second-favorite station is The Stackup, which offers both regular and pressed sandwiches. The Mediterranean tuna ($9.50) adds a slightly spicy red pepper kick to each bite, along with briny olives and fresh mint.
Also worth trying is the rotisserie porchetta ($12.50), where paper-thin slices of house-roasted porchetta are layered with sharp pickled onions, bitter arugula, creamy herb mayo, and a bright charred broccolini pesto.
Gohan’s menu focuses mostly on poke and premade sushi. More interesting are the dishes like gyudon ($12.50), featuring grilled skirt steak over rice with loads of toppings, and the katsu sando ($9.50), where a panko-crusted chicken breast is placed on supremely soft milk bread with shredded cabbage and two sauces.
The Brew station offers both Intelligentsia and Metropolis coffee. To eat, there are a few breakfast sandwiches and grain bowls, and nearby is a counter with loads of pastries and desserts, including flaky croissants and doughnuts.
As you could probably guess by the name, the Plant Butcher station offers a collection of freshly tossed salads. Nona Ethel’s Chop ($10.50) features a wild assortment of toppings atop a mound of kale, including charred mortadella and crispy chickpeas. This one didn’t quite work for me, but other options look promising. You can also get juices here, many of which are named after Chicago “L” lines.
The last station is the Chef’s Table, which isn’t open yet. But it promises to be a place for chef demos, cooking classes and other special events.
While a great addition to the neighborhood, only the food at Bonci would qualify as destination-worthy for people who live further away. But I suppose that’s also kind of the point; Bob Mariano hopes to open many more locations of Dom’s, so one could open close to you sooner than you think.
2730 N. Halsted St., 773-389-3667, domschicago.com. Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, but individual counter kitchen hours vary.
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