Browsing Chicago’s trendy, unique neighborhood stores and boutiques: The Wooden Spoon, In Fine Spirits and Strange Cargo
By Cheryl Mosley
The Wooden Spoon
5047 N. Clark in Andersonville
The Wooden Spoon is a friendly and unique cookware shop that offers top-quality kitchenware at reasonable prices. The store is loaded down with an assortment of pots and pans, gadgets, dishware and oversized moon- and poodle-shaped cookie cutters, among other things.
With its welcoming atmosphere, The Wooden Spoon offers on-site cooking classes where novice chefs can improve their culinary skills by working with trained professionals. The cooking school features state-of-the-art Viking appliances and a custom-designed oval countertop that allows seating for up to 20 students. With varying cooking topics like Italian, Spanish, Mexican, sushi, couples cooking and life skills, there truly is something for everyone.
“Cookware and cooking go hand and hand,” owner Trina Sheridan says. “Everything we use in the kitchen we sell in the store, and it is all stuff that we believe in. Using it gives us and customers an opportunity to test it out, see how it works, and if they like it, they can buy it on site.”
Equipped with an outside garden, wood-burning pizza oven and wood floors and fixtures, The Wooden Spoon definitely exudes a homey feel. The garden is used for grilling classes during the warmer months.
In Fine Spirits
5418-5420 N. Clark in Andersonville
In Fine Spirits is a wine shop that specializes in New World wines and unusual varieties that represent the cutting edge of quality and value. In Fine Spirits focuses on hand-selected wines, craft beers from the Midwest and small-batch, artisan craft spirits. With more than half of their inventory of boutique wines priced under $20 and at least 75 bottles listed under $12, they believe that quality is a function of value rather than cost.
“Good wine doesn’t have to be expensive,” says the store’s Jarran Conger. “We’re unpretentious and not intimidating at all. We want people to be comfortable asking questions and be as relaxed with us as possible.”
“We taste everything that comes into the store, and we listen to our customers and what they are looking for particularly to drink,” Conger adds. “We fulfill that need, while also trying to push the envelope a little bit and have them try something different.”
Just next door is Premise, formerly known as the In Fine Spirits Lounge. Decorated with warm, neutral colors and comfortable fabrics, the bar is a casually elegant venue where guests can enjoy drinks and food inside or on the patio. Free tastings are offered in the store every Saturday from 3-6 p.m. Check the website for weekday deals and other tasting events.
3448 N. Clark in Wrigleyville
Strange Cargo is the go-to place for custom-made t-shirts, retro or otherwise, where each customer has the opportunity to choose their particular shirt image, size, color and style.
“How it works is the t-shirt images are originally made from screen prints, and are then made onto heat transferable paper,” says the store’s Chris Corbalis. “The whole base of the business is to make sure it is (made) while you wait. Customers’ shirts are ready within five minutes.”
But it’s not all t-shirts. With items ranging from sports paraphernalia, shoes and leather jackets to flip flops, wigs and throwback items from the 1970s and ’80s, they definitely cater to a lot of unique styles that have come and gone — and perhaps made their way back into the mainstream again.
“We have vintage transfers starting anywhere from the early to mid-1970s up to now,” Corbalis says. “In a sense, we span like three decades.”
Strange Cargo has evolved over the years, focusing on vintage items like rental tuxedos from the ’70s, bellbottoms and big sunglasses to now custom t-shirts and women’s clothing. The store’s location makes it a fun stopover before or after a visit to Wrigley Field.