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Chicago: inside popcorn legend Garrett

In case you are not au fait with the importance of popcorn in Chicago, it’s a pretty big deal. And the reason is Garrett Popcorn, a family-owned institution who came up with the original “Chicago Mix” combining cheese-coated popcorn with caramel-coated popcorn.

Don’t be aghast! It’s actually so delicious that I made a beeline to their HQ in Chicago to find out all about the story behind the legend.

Garretts Chicago

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In 1949 Garrett first opened their doors in Chicago selling their unique air-popped popcorn. It was a hit immediately and today they still only produce seven different flavours, all made fresh in each store throughout the day.

I popped (see what I did there?) down into the basement kitchen of the flagship store off Michigan Avenue and had a look around.

The smell was ridiculously divine! Brown sugar and butter was simmering in a huge pan on the stove then poured into this mixer of air-popped corn.

Garrett's caramel popcorn

The making of caramel corn

But it’s the cheese coated popcorn they’re most famous for. Especially when you mix it into a bag with the caramel corn and eat them at the same time. Sooo good!

Garrett's cheese popcorn

Garrett’s secret recipe of hot cheese is mixed into these pots of popcorn. Each batch is made and sold on the same day.

Then when the mixing is complete, it’s time to cool it down by flinging it around and breaking it up so you don’t end up with a bag of clumps.

Note the ‘Taste Every Batch’ sign. Yes please!

Garrett's cashew caramel popcorn

The cashew caramel popcorn comes out piping hot and is cooled here before going into a large bin for sending up to the shop.

Popcorn is not bagged down here in the kitchen but poured into giant bins in the shop and bagged only when sold.

Garrett's popcorn

Bins of fresh flavoured popcorn hide under the glass counter top

Cheese popcorn Chicago

The bin of cheesy delight!

And at various times of the year they add festive flavours. It was November when I visited so I came out of the store with a tin of pumpkin spiced caramel popcorn and another of their famous Garrett mix: cheese and caramel. I’m saving that one up for a special occasion!


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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!