I’ve mentioned here before that if I could have only one snack food for the rest of my life, it would be cheese popcorn. But not just any cheese popcorn. The supermarket stuff won’t do. It must be super cheesy, the kind you can only find in a gourmet popcorn shop. So every time I stumble upon a popcorn shop in my travels, I must go in and buy some. Here are 11 Midwest popcorn shops I’ve come across in the past few years that offer rich gourmet cheese popcorn—and caramel corn in lots of flavors if you prefer your popcorn sweet.
592 William R. Latham Senior Drive
I’m lucky to have this shop not far from where I live. If I’m craving cheese popcorn but don’t have any on hand, I can travel just five minutes to get my fix. Mike Shimkus, one of Sweet Street’s co-owners, once told me that they tasted cheese popcorn from a large geographical area, including a popular Chicago popcorn shop, and made sure theirs was cheesier.
Besides regular cheese popcorn, Sweet Street offers several other cheese popcorn varieties, including both mild and hot spicy. There’s also kettle corn, caramel corn, caramel cheese corn, caramel pecan, white chocolate caramel corn, and lots more flavors, around 25 in all. That’s just the popcorn section of the store. Sweet Street, in business for over 20 years, is also the place to go for candy, including bulk and packaged nostalgic candies.
1108 E Markland Avenue
Grace Jones is a relative newcomer to the popcorn store business, but it hasn’t taken her long to develop some unique popcorn flavors like strawberry cheesecake and mac & cheese. Popcorn Cafe’s signature popcorn, Kokomo Krunch, is a mix that includes caramel corn, candy-coated chocolate pieces, pretzels and a chocolate drizzle. When I visited, Grace told me she had been working on a peanut butter/chocolate version. I tasted a sample of her latest try at it and knew it would be a winner. You’ll also find nostalgic candy and retro sodas at the Popcorn Cafe.
110 S Main Street
A popcorn aroma wafting onto the sidewalk drew me into the Great American Popcorn Company when I was in Galena a couple of weeks ago. I tasted several different cheese popcorn flavors, including Louisiana BBQ and Border Grill. My favorite, though, was Bacon & Cheddar, cheese popcorn with a smoky bacon flavor.
5470 W Lincoln Highway
I’ve never seen as many popcorn flavors in one place as in Chicagoland Popcorn—over a hundred flavors offered at any one time. Candied popcorn in flavors like banana, cinnamon or root beer; caramel corn mixes like caramel sea salt or caramel cashew; and cheese flavors as unusual as crab legs and dill pickle. My favorite was Indiana mix, a combination of cheddar and white cheddar.
1100 3rd Street SE (Located in the NewBo City Market)
1121 3rd Street SE
1701 South State
The Pease family has been in the candy business for five generations. Now, besides fine chocolates, they also offer gourmet cheese popcorn.
147 E Front Street
10546 Main Street
723 S Clark Street
2 W Market Street
What is your favorite gourmet popcorn shop and/or your favorite flavor? Answer in the Comments section below.
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