No, it's not a smaller version of a Mariano's store: The new Dom's Kitchen & Market in Chicago, from former Roundy's CEO and Mariano's founder Bob Mariano, doesn't want to be just a place where neighborhood shoppers stop when they need to replenish their refrigerator and pantry staples.
But neither is the store, which opened June 8 in the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood, meant to be so niche and specialty-focused that customers won't find brands they recognize—or will have to go elsewhere to get everything on their ingredient list for dinner. Not unlike Target and the experiential sweet spot it seeks to hit in the mass-merchandise space, the emphasis at Dom's is on discovery and creating a friendly, colorful, easy-to-shop in-store experience that highlights items customers didn't know they needed to make their next meal stand out.
Fresh chicken at the meat counter? Yes, but also sliced and marinated street tacos chicken and chicken tinga. Freshly made doughnuts at breakfast—the store is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily—and freshly prepared Roman-style pizza for lunch or dinner in the store's light-filled indoor dining area or fenced-in outdoor dining patio. There's a rotisserie, a sushi station, a beverages bar (coffee/espresso drinks, juices and beer/wine/cocktails) and a "plant butcher" serving freshly prepared salads.
Dom's aims to be a "destination for sharing, exploring, supporting, experimenting, learning and relaxing," the new concept's website states. The 10-person-deep line at the coffee bar at 8 a.m. Saturday and the crowd of runners chatting on the fenced-in outdoor seating patio suggests that, early on, at least, the message might be resonating.
Dom's Kitchen & Market opened June 8 at the corner of Halsted and Diversey in Chicago's affluent Lincoln Park neighborhood. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot attended the store's ribbon-cutting and said the store will become the city's "newest next-generation local food emporium."
Dom's is the brainchild of Mariano, who developed the concept with two other veterans of the now-defunct Dominick's supermarket chain. Jay Owen, grandson of Dominick's founder Dominick DiMatteo (a mentor of Mariano's), serves as Dom's chairman. Don Fitzgerald, who helped Mariano launch the Mariano's banner in 2010 as chief merchandising and marketing officer of Roundy's (acquired by Kroger in 2015), is Dom's co-CEO.
The concept, announced in May 2020, raised a total of $25 million in seed funding—including $15 million from Cleveland Ventures, founded by former McDonald's CEO Don Thompson. Dom's opened its doors a few months behind the original target of March 2021—but with COVID-19 vaccinations having accelerated rapidly during spring and Chicago reopening fully on June 11, the timing may have proved fortuitous.
"Dom’s started as a vision almost three years ago, based on the belief consumers wanted a different type of meal shopping experience," Owen said at the store's opening, as reported by CBS 2 Chicago. "They wanted a place where they could learn, see, touch and enjoy great food from the kitchen to the market."
"Sharing the experience of creating and enjoying well-crafted meals is central to our commitment to service and hospitality," Dom's Kitchen & Market states on its website.
That includes a focus on having knowledgeable staff at the ready—at the meat and seafood counter and throughout the store—to answer questions and provide preparation suggestions.
A light-filled interior seating area at Dom's Kitchen & Market is designed to offer a distinct space for eating—or staring at a laptop while sipping on a drink from The Brew, the store's beverages bar and cafe. The effect is more of a library-reading-room feel than a cafe-tables-10-feet-from-the-cashier-stand vibe.
Beverage offerings at The Brew include coffees from local roasters (Big Shoulders, Brewpoint, Hexe, Intelligentsia, Metropolis), teas, nonalcohol seasonal drinks ($7-$9); and beer, wine and cocktails ($9-$12).
Organic, responsibly farmed and locally produced items, including those from women-owned and BIPOC-owned businesses, are sourcing priorities for Dom's, the company states, as it strives "to build an assortment that celebrates the rich diversity around us."
At Dom's "Plant Butcher" made-to-order salads station, customers will find standards such as Caesar and caprese as well as more out-of-the-ordinary selections—e.g., churrascaria steak (grilled skirt steak, piquillo peppers, marinated potatoes, pickled red onions, romaine and radicchio blend, chimichurri dressing, aioli drizzle and fried capers, $14.50) and peanut-tofu crunch (sesame-marinated grilled tofu, shaved cabbage, bell peppers, mango, pickled daikon and carrot, mint, cilantro, peanut sauce, $8.50).
Chicago is fully reopened as of June 11, and Dom's guest-chef demo series is up and running.
On June 19, Chicago-born chef Lamar Moore, who previously was head chef at Bugsy & Meyer's Steakhouse in Las Vegas (and who has cooked for fellow hometown favorites Barack and Michelle Obama), flipped the script on a traditional Father's Day steak dinner by demonstrating how to grill cauliflower steaks. The demonstration also was live streamed and is available for on-demand viewing on Dom's website.
At right, praise cheeses: While local and regional selections for fresh cheeses, produce and center-store items are a top priority, "our search for the finest flavor and character takes us around the world and back," Dom's website states.
When you're open early (6 a.m. seven days a week), you can attract the habit-focused early risers. Runners and cyclists grab a post-workout bite and drink on Dom's fenced-off outdoor patio on Saturday morning.
Dom's mission, as stated on the concept's website: "We offer well-crafted, locally-sourced, globally-inspired food in a warm environment of discovery and hospitality that connects people to each other and their community."