Though Chicago’s first Jollibee won’t be open yet, expect big lines on Wednesday when Filipino supermarket Seafood City opens its doors to its first Chicago location. While the sweet spaghetti, fried chicken and halo-halo will be available later in September, a trio of Seafood City’s quick-service restaurants—Crispy Town, Grill City and the new Noodles Street—will be serving on opening day.
‘‘I think Filipinos will gain an average of 5 pounds," Seafood City’s marketing manager Mildred Smith said.
Crispy pork butt, lumpia and other "good finger foods you’d want with beer" will contribute to that. As will the beer, which will be served. Party platters for special events will also be available for order. Fans of Longanisa (Filipino sweet sausage) are in luck in the morning, thanks to Crispy Town’s breakfast selections.
The new Jollibee will be located inside, to the left of the main entrance. There’s also the Red Ribbon Bakeshop for cakes and Valerio’s Tropical Bakeshop for bread. They hope to be open sometime this month, but not quite in time for opening day.
Smith described this Chicago location as a gateway to the east for the company, as they plan on opening stores in Toronto and in the New York area. Opening day should be chaotic with giveaways and specials—a 25-pound bag of rice will cost $1 for the first 500 customers. When things settle down, the market will offer cooking classes and host meetings for Filipino cultural groups.
The layout inside the former K-mart at 5033 N. Elston Ave. is similar to Super H Mart, the Korean market in suburban Niles which also meshes a grocer with quick-serve restaurants. The highlight from a grocery standpoint is the selection of fresh seafood, which staff will clean and fry for free for home consumption. That way homes won’t have to stink of fish during winters, Smith mentioned.
Customers can also make special requests like ordering a whole hog for a traditional Filipino pig roast. Seafood City draws more than Pinoys. It’s a Pan-Asian market selling Korean and Japanese goods, too. The produce section features hard-to-find fruits and vegetables. There’s also cereals, drinks and other goods and brands found at traditional Western markets.
"You don’t have to be Asian," Smith said.
And that includes the subcontinent. Seafood City stocks South Asian goods such as Parle-G biscuits and frozen dhokla. But in the same vein, Seafood City will compete with other Pan-Asian markets such as Mitsuwa Marketplace in suburban Arlington Heights and Joong Boo Market in Avondale.
"There’s room for everyone," Smith said.