Cuisine - American, Cuisine - Desserts, Places - Chicago

Destination Chicago: Garrett’s Popcorn

Garrett's Popcorn: Oprah special tin

Limited edition tin for Oprah's last season.

Oprah just placed it on her Ultimate Favorite Things List for 2010. No, not the iPad. No, not the 2011 VW Beetle. No, not the mini-croissants from Williams-Sonoma.

I’m talking about Garrett’s Popcorn from Chicago.

“It’s the best popcorn on the planet,” said Oprah as she gifted the $135 tin filled with heavenly caramel and cheese corn to audience members.

So, what’s better than starting off the holiday season than with a trip to Garrett’s location in Chicago’s Theatre District.

With nine locations in Chicago (and one in New York City), Garrett’s Popcorn fits in the same category as other iconic food staples from the Windy City like deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs.

When my husband and I were in Chicago to see “The Lion King” at the Cadillac Palace Theater this fall, we stayed just next door at Hotel Allegro. As we walked around downtown Chicago and returned to our hotel, the wafting smells of freshly popped popcorn and luscious caramel filled the streets. People line out of the door to grab bags and tins of this fabulous treat.

Garrett's MenuThe menu at Garrett’s Popcorn.

Garrett’s has been popping up fresh treats for Chicago since 1949. They use their own blend of popcorn kernels and pop using hot air right in the store front where you can see. You can get your choice of plain, butter, CheeseCorn, CaramelCrisp, Chicago Mix (a blend of cheese and caramel that is a fabulous delight!), and CaramelCrisp with nuts.

Blending the CheeseCorn at Garrett's.CheeseCorn is being made in the store.

Garrett’s CheeseCorn is made with melted sharp cheddar cheese, not the powdery stuff you can often find in your grocery store’s snack aisle. I’ve never been one to like cheese corn until I tried Garrett’s. Now, I’m happily addicted to the stuff, but only if it’s real. The sharp cheddar cheese blended with the popcorn is a savory treat that pairs so perfectly with the caramel corn. I dare you to try and eat just one handful!

Bagging the popcorn at Garrett's.Employees bag your order in front of you.

One of the great things about Garrett’s is that your popcorn hasn’t been pre-bagged for hours or days. Once you order, your popcorn is then hand-bagged by employees right in front of your eyes. It may make the line move a little more slowly, but it’s well worth the wait. Your popcorn is still warm from the popper!

Display of popcorn.Cheese popcorn tempts you in the display case.

CaramelCrisp popcorn from Garrett's.CaramelCrisp popcorn at Garrett’s.

Garrett’s CaramelCrisp popcorn has a deep toffee flavor. I had a box of Cracker Jack shortly after eating some CaramelCrisp and there’s just no comparison. I can’t believe that as a child I actually thought Cracker Jack was real caramel corn. There’s just no substitute for the thick, candy-like coating that Garrett’s imparts on its signature flavor. To take it even further over the top, add cashews, almonds, macadamias or pecans to your CaramelCrisp.

If you can’t make a trip to Chicago, fear not! You can order this awesome treat online on Garrett’s website: What makes a better holiday gift than something you can nibble on!?

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