Best Place to Buy Secret Ingredients

Critics' Picks

The Spice House

1512 N. Wells

One trip to this emporium of high-quality spices and somehow the peanut butter some people slip into chili doesn’t seem to qualify as a “secret ingredient” anymore. Save that for something like Saigon cinnamon—ground on-site, it’s more than twice as strong as the stuff sold at Jewel—or the house-blended Back of the Yards Garlic Pepper Butcher’s Rub meat seasoning, made with both finely and coarsely cut pepper so as to stagger the flavor release. This is also the place to find the powdered sumac called for in Middle Eastern cooking, molecular gastronomy necessities such as agar agar and calcium citrate, and a handsome lineup of salts, including black lava salt from Hawaii and a Portuguese version of fleur de sel. “Every high-end chef in Chicago has been in,” says co-owner Tom Erd, though he prefers not to name names: “I don’t know if the big guys want everybody to know where they get their secret ingredients.”