In Europe, train stations often feature small markets with stands where travelers can buy fresh fruits, produce, flowers, baked goods, cheese and other foods. After years of planning, the Windy City has its own such place in the form of the Chicago French Market.

The market is in the Ogilvie Transportation Center, 131 Clinton St., the West Loop station for Chicago's Metra Rail train lines. And it's definitely not a food court full of fast-food joints.

During a visit there last month, my family and I sampled cheese, got sodas from Latin America and munched on crepe s'mores (yes, s'mores) from the Flip shop. They were delicious.

Each day, more than 115,000 commuters flow by the market as they travel between downtown jobs and their homes in Chicago's northern and western suburbs.

In addition, added Greg O'Neil, co-owner of Pastoral -- one of the market's anchor shops -- more than 500,000 people work within a half mile of the Metra station and 45,000 live nearby.

"It's meant to be an urban, indoor open-air market," O'Neil said, "with reliably good grocery items, all different price levels, all year-round."

The French-style market (it also has Vietnamese, Belgian and Mexican food) was the brainchild of the father-son team of Rolland and Sebastien Bensidoun, who own numerous markets in France and around the United States. In the Chicago area alone, they have 13 open-air French markets, including the 12-year-old Wheaton market.

The market's other major backer is Bob Wislow, CEO of U.S. Equities Realty and a foodie who developed Chicago's Millennium Park. He and the Bensidouns turned storage space beneath elevated railroad tracks into what is becoming a popular stop for commuters and West Loop residents.

"We're in the launch stage and still getting the word out," Wislow said. "But I think down the road, this eclectic market will become a classic fixture in the Chicago food scene."

 

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