New Eastside Iconic Chicago souvenir shops

By Taylor Hartz

If you’re looking for a little piece of Chicago to take with you on your next trip to visit friends and family, look no further than New Eastside. From pizza pies to miniature Chicago Bean replicas, New Eastside is Chicago’s hub for touristy souvenirs and Illinois themed gifts.

Many native Chicagoans will agree that the most recommended gift is to bring a deep dish pizza. While stopping into Giordano’s at 130 East Randolph Street to enjoy a piping hot deep dish is the norm, you can also purchase frozen pizzas to go.

Frozen Giordano’s deep dish displayed in a freezer at a Giordano’s restaurant. Pizzas are ready-to-cook Giordano’s classics all boxed up and sealed in a freezer bag that will keep your pizza cold long enough for you to get as far as California. 

Inside the New Eastside Giordano’s restaurant, a refrigerator by the register stays stacked with frozen pizzas in the three most popular flavors – plain cheese, pepperoni, and sausage. The classic deep dish pizzas, which were first cooked up on Chicago’s South Side back in 1974, are ready to fly.

“We offer travel bags that hold up to six pizzas, and keep them frozen for over five hours,” said General Manager Nerius Jankauskas.

The bright red Giordano’s bags are thermal insulated, and most importantly, are carry-on size. That’s right, your pizzas will fit perfectly in an airplane’s overhead compartment.

So if you’re headed out of state to visit friends or family, you can let them know that you’ll be bringing dinner, all the way from Chicago. 

Jankauskas said the take-home pizzas are nearly as popular as dine-in pizzas.

“We’re in a very touristy area,” said Jankauskas, “So on weekends when big events are happening, like the recent Cubs convention, we sell hundreds and hundreds a day.” 

Take-home pizzas carry a price tag of $17.95 per pie, for a medium size deep dish, and the insulated carrying cases run $7.95 each. But if you buy two pizzas, you get your bag for free.

Souvenirs at Giordano’s. Photo by Taylor Hartz.

For those who don’t want to carry an extra bag, Giordano’s offers the option to order online at at girodanos.com and have your favorite pie shipped right to you.

The restaurant has other souvenirs like mugs and t-shirt with the words “I got stuffed at Giordano’s”.

Chicago themed tins for popcorn at Garrett Popcorn Shop on West Randolph Street. Photo by Taylor Hartz.

If lugging frozen pizzas interstate is not your cup of tea, a blend of cheese and caramel popcorn dubbed the ‘Chicago mix’ at Garrett Popcorn, offers a less weighty alternative.

Tempting passersby with the smell of warm caramel popcorn, Garrett Popcorn, 26 West Randolph Street, has been a Chicago staple since 1949, when the first shop opened at 10 West Madison Street. Garrett’s air pops their signature blend of kernels daily, and mixes in their secret family ingredients to create a menu full of flavors.

At their Randolph Street store, they offer their signature CheeseCorn, CaramelCrisp, and Garrett Mix – a blend of the two.

 

Special flavors at Garrett Popcorn – chocolate covered strawberry and hickory bacon. Photo by Taylor Hartz.

Popcorn lovers who are feeling a bit more adventurous can try out the specialty flavors like hickory bacon and chocolate covered strawberry.

Popcorn orders can be purchased in bags or in tins, which come in a plethora of Chicago themes – tins feature images of the Chicago skyline, Wrigley field, and the icons of the Cubs, Bulls, Bears White Sox and Blackhawks.

If you’re looking for a souvenir that won’t be eaten, check out the “My Chicago” store.

At the souvenir gift shop at 28 South Michigan Avenue, an array of miniature Cloud Gates, tiny Willis Towers and Chicago skyline snow globes decorate the windows.

Souvenirs on display at the “My Chicago” gift shop. Photo by Taylor Hartz.

According to Andrew Grants, a sales assistant at the store,  the novelty t-shirts that are hung in the doorway are a big hit. Many people favor the “Save Ferris” t-shirts – an homage to the 1986 cult classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in which three high school kids play hookie and have adventures around Chicago.

“It’s one of the shirts we always make sure we keep in stock in the window,” said Grants.

“Save Ferris” shirts are the most popular at the “My Chicago” gift shop.

 

 

In fact Ferris Bueller themed merchandise is so popular that the store has dedicated an entire wall to it. Three different styles of “Save Ferris” t-shirts and bobbleheads of Matthew Broderick’s beloved character in his signature leopard print vest are stocked.

Another favorite, said Grants, are Chicago Cubs Christmas tree ornaments. Whether it’s during

Souvenirs on display at the “My Chicago” gift shop. Photo by Taylor Hartz.

the holiday season or in the heat of summer, Grants said many tourists and locals stop in to get a decoration honoring the 2016 World Series winners.

When all else fails, nothings says it better than a box of chocolates from Illinois based Fannie May Chocolates.

In addition to an iconic box of “Pixie” chocolates, or the shop’s specialty meltaways, guests can feast on a wide array of chocolate covered strawberries.

Fannie May launched its line of chocolate covered strawberries in 2009 and has sold close to 2 million strawberries since. The strawberries come covered in 100 percent real chocolate, in colors ranging from familiar dark and white chocolates, to pink, blue and green, or decorative and nut covered fruits.

To put a local spin on your favorite dessert, Fannie May offers a “Chicago Collection” – a series of items that come in city themed packaging; such as a pound of mini pixie chocolates in a Chicago Lakefront decorated tin for $29.95.

Whether you’re looking to ship your friends and family some iconic Chicago treats, bring your favorites with you on your next trip, or point visitors in the right direction for the best souvenirs, New Eastside is a one-stop shop for cheesy pizza lovers, novelty t-shirt collectors, snow globe enthusiasts, sweet tooth strawberry seekers or popcorn connoisseurs.

Published Feb 5, 2018

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