Supermarket Sweep—Your Naperville grocery guide for the perfect holiday meal

November 2013 View more


Diehard devotees of daytime  television might recognize the title of this story as the shared name of a minor syndicated game show that aired in fits and starts throughout the mid-1990s and early aughts. In addition to a number of product-related trivia questions and ancillary games, the centerpiece challenge of the show—and the path to the grand prize of $5,000—was a manic race through a made-for-TV grocery store, with the objective of amassing the highest bill possible by loading one’s cart down with the most expensive stuff available regardless of quality.

All too often, however, many shoppers can relate to this mercenary mission through the aisles in their regular grocery trips—not in pursuit of a fabulous cash prize, but rather in an effort to simply get in and get out as quickly as possible. Just fill it up, move it out and stay on schedule. But at Thanksgiving, especially, even with its more elaborate feast to prepare and often larger crowds to feed, maybe it’s worth slowing down to put a little more thought into the shopping. After all, if one is going to invest such time and effort into assembling the perfect holiday meal, it only makes sense to start putting in that effort right from the start and focusing on where to get the best ingredients and components. It’s almost a lost art in this day and age of tires, diapers, and dentistry all under one aircraft carrier-sized warehouse roof, but going back to the basics is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Naperville shoppers have a wealth of supermarket options at their disposable, which can be both a blessing and a curse—so many places from which to choose, but which places are worth the special trip to find just the right missing piece for your Thanksgiving puzzle? Thank goodness for this handy guide which, it should be noted, bypasses the two dominant regional chains.


N2013_11_01_022SMALLWhether your holiday meal revolves around a traditional turkey or ventures down the road less traveled of a beef or pork roast, there’s little doubt that the spotlight for most Thanksgivings shines directly on the platter of meat at the center of the table. When it comes to a discussion of Naperville supermarkets with the best butchers in town, few longtime residents will stray from the quality, exceptional service, and seeming endless selection of the mile-long meat counter at Casey’s Foods. Proponents laud the store’s overall “hometown” charm as much as its high-quality turkeys, chops and steaks.


Considering the curveball of a seafood entrée for this year’s holiday buffet? For sheer presentation and depth of variety, it’s hard to top the mammoth spreads of fresh fish at both Angel Caputo’s and Whole Foods. From clams, mussels, crawfish, and octopus to whole snapper, sea bass, and butterfish, these two cover the waterfront. It probably goes without saying that seafood shoppers are already resigned to digging deep to pay for the freshest catches. It’s also worth noting that the blanket warning for a general trip to Whole Foods most certainly applies to this department in particular—market prices here tend to live in their own exclusive zip code.


N2013_11_01_024SMALLAn old-fashioned Thanksgiving is generally considered a made-from-scratch sort of endeavor, but given the myriad and labor-intensive preparations that can go into the actual meal itself, there’s certainly no shame in outsourcing the appetizers or even some of the side dishes. This is where a good deli comes in handy, setting up your party with everything from cold cuts, cheese and gourmet olives to fully-prepared salads and sides. Here again, Angel Caputo’s impresses with a massive U-shaped deli counter whose selection of items is outnumbered only by the number of customers crowded around it, waving ticket numbers like traders in a commodities pit. The long deli case at Garden Fresh Market, meanwhile, features a deep array of sausages, cold cuts, cheeses and olives that bear a decided European influence, though prepared dishes and salads are in shorter supply.


N2013_11_01_025SMALLFrom fresh herbs to root vegetables, Thanksgiving is all about the flavors and scents of the garden. Situated as it is in the latter half of November, the notion of tracking down the freshest items can be a challenge. But produce—a notoriously tricky category here in the Midwest—seems to be where several Naperville supermarkets really shine. Both Cermak Fresh Market and Angel Caputo’s feature impressive displays of fruits and vegetables, appealing, not only in their expansiveness but in their attractive layouts—like farmers’ markets writ (very) large. Garden Fresh Market merits a mention as well, thanks in large measure to the depth of selection in its produce showroom, with everything from daikon root to yucca to papayas and a dozen varieties of fresh peppers on display.


N2013_11_01_026SMALLWhile almost every supermarket makes at least an attempt to cater to the wide array of cultures and ethnicities in and around Naperville, most of the half-hearted half-aisles devoted to foods and ingredients from other countries only serve to drive those truly interested in these cuisines to move along to smaller specialty grocers to get what they really want. But among the large-scale emporiums, Garden Fresh Market seems to see global foods and products as an integral part of its mission. With full sections devoted to the foods of India, Russia, Poland, Mexico and more, along with plenty of international representation in both its aforementioned produce and deli areas, it’s the Model U.N. of Naperville supermarkets.


N2013_11_01_027SMALLYour Thanksgiving guests may push away from the dinner table with a moan after the main meal, headed for the sofa with thoughts of football and napping, but no holiday meal is complete without a great dessert. Naperville’s baffling dearth of freestanding bakeries means that many local shoppers are forced to do their bread and sweets shopping at the supermarket, which is generally unobjectionable. But in many cases that little pocket of the store is clearly an afterthought, a hodgepodge of baked-on-site and prepackaged items that doesn’t show any sign of the one thing that every good bakery simply must deliver amid all of the flour and sugar—love. Perhaps Angel Caputo’s comes closest to the ideal in this regard, with a large, separate bakery that feels like its own place, and a case teeming with all sorts of cookies, pastries and, of course, pumpkin pies.

A Pocket Guide to Naperville Supermarkets

Cermak Fresh Market
856 S. Route 59
Go for: Produce

Whole Foods
2607 W. 75th
Go for: Seafood

Garden Fresh Market
955 W. 75th
Go for: Ethnic / Produce

Casey’s Foods
124 W. Gartner
Go for: Meat

Angel Caputo’s Fresh Market
3115 111th
Go for: Seafood / Deli / Produce / Bakery