Eataly proudly sits among the upscale shops, boutiques, and restaurants along East Ohio Street in Chicago’s affluent Gold Coast district. My husband and I were immediately drawn to the store because we’re in love with food, especial high quality. After reading that the company wants to ‘offer the best food and drink as well as the best environment in which to discover and expand your tastes’, only makes it more appealing.
When you enter the store through the double doors you are met with a bright open concept space. There is a guest relations desk to direct you and answer any questions you might have, like me where to begin.
On the first floor there are areas with books, housewares, and beauty products alongside normal grocery store offerings such as fruits and vegetables and sweets. There is a Panini station, a coffee bar, a gelato and Nutella stand, and pastry section that all feel like mini shops. On the second floor you will find several differently themed restaurants, a working brewery, a large selection devoted to pasta, and a cheese lovers dream counter with every conceivable type of cheese possible all displayed beautifully. The smells are intoxicating and it is hard not to let your taste buds get just a little bit excited.
If all those offerings are not sufficient to entice you to visit, the store also offers a cooking school, areas where you can watch fresh mozzarella being made or a fishmonger preparing a lobster for a guest’s dinner party. There is also a private events space that can be booked for parties.
There is an eclectic mix of seating arrangements throughout the store. Scattered around the main sections you’ll find high tables designed for leaning against as well as regular tables and chairs. There are sections with bar stools next to glass divides for watching the chefs prepare food. Some of the restaurants you can simply grab any available free chair or find a spot to lean against. Others require a host to seat you. These restaurants have a wait time since reservations are not taken. Every inch of space has been maximized to accommodate a large number of visitors.
The store is an ideal place to enjoy a cold or hot beverage while people watching. There are tourists as well as local residents enjoying pizza or a bowl of fresh pasta. In the late afternoon you’ll find office workers enjoying a glass of wine or two after a long days works. Prices are not cheap so the clientele that frequent the store are reasonably affluent.
The dress code is relaxed and informal. There is a separate restaurant section called Baffo that is described as fine dining. They do accept reservations and appears to be a little fancier than the other restaurants. The large staff ensures the continued turnover of the tables, but you do not feel rushed when you are eating.
Company History and Locations
I did some research after our first visit and discovered that Eataly began in Italy. They have 11 stores in total there. Stores can also be found in the following countries: Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. They promote themselves as a ‘marketplace’ store where consumers can – be active participants in an innovative food and beverage experience where they shop, taste and savor high quality traditional Italian food products and beverages.
I love the store for all their different restaurant offerings, the Italian marketplace vibe and the multitude of artisanal products. The unique wine and olive oil selections are hard to beat. I will definitely return on any future visits to Chicago.