For most of us, celebrating Halloween as adults has little to do with trick-or-treating and candy-scoring and more to do with pumpkin beer hangovers and regretful costumes (naughty nurse or swashbuckling pirate pimp, anyone?). At best, you might make a shameful visit to Target to score a few bags of peppermint patties and mini peanut butter cups. Short of throwing on a Martha Stewart bed sheet, poking out a few holes and trying to pass as an oversize junior high school kid, it's tough to recapture the treats-filled glory of Octobers past. But we're convinced there are still a few ways to perk up your spirits with sweets. After reading our guide to Chicago's creative candy emporiums, we guarantee you'll forget all about last night's Ghost Peeps binge.
Find truly frightful sweets at Chinatown's Aji Ichiban
Sandwiched between restaurants with hanging carcasses of barbecue duck and grocery stores selling live bullfrogs, this Asian "sweets" shop, located in the bowels of the Chinatown mall, carries the most frightful assortment. In addition to ubiquitous shiny-wrapped fruit-flavor gummies, you'll find lobster chips, shredded squid, crab candy and salted plums. More mainstream fare includes the "pudding marshmallow," packed with creamy dulce de leche filling, stinky durian custard and coconut milk candies. You can purchase the mix-and-match selection by the pound, so you can sample the fishy treats without committing to a whole bag of seafood-inspired sweets.
Go directly to the factory at Ferrara Pan Candy Co.
The air wafting over the Eisenhower freeway near this Forest Park factory always smells of Atomic Fireball cinnamon or Lemonhead citrus. Ferrara Pan is Chicagoland's very own Wonka factory, and around back there's a small factory store, where you can score all of your childhood favorites, like Boston Baked Beans, Black Forest Gummy Bears and Jawbuster jawbreakers. Discerning candy collectors can scoop up the slightly more-rare Appleheads, Grapeheads, Orange Heads and Cherryheads, and folks looking for a deal can score most of the standard candies in bulk for about $1.20 a pound (almost three times less than what you'd pay for the packaged version).
If you like it hot, check out Dulcelandia
Featuring a wall-to-wall barrage of fringed, rainbow-color piņatas wrapped in crepe paper, this Mexican-inspired candy store has plenty of options to fill the bellies of the hollow paper beasts. Seasonal options include ornate sugar skulls for El Dia de Los Muertos or "Day of the Dead" celebrations, ghost- and mummy-shaped lollipops, and vampire and witch piņatas. Traditional Mexican treats, like sugar-coated peanuts, hard candies flavored with tamarind pulp, chili lollipops and hot fruit chews, will set your tongue on fire and spice up that dull assortment of tootsie rolls.
Indulge in a bit of nostalgia at Suckers Candy
A trip through the door of this Roscoe Village store with a cotton candy-color vinyl awning is guaranteed to set you back at least 20 years in terms of mental maturity. Standing amidst iconic windup toys, pop guns, Speed Racer merchandise, whoopee cushions and foil-covered packs of astronaut ice cream will raise even the most stubborn of inner children. From bulk cases filled with neon tendrils of gummi worms and sugar-studded Sour Patch Kids to maple shelves stuffed with Canadian Aero bars, you'll find literally everything your sweet tooth desires. Budding molecular gastronomists can stock up on Pop Rocks and Pez, while old-timey sorts will find a selection of flying saucer wafers, root beer barrel candies and wax-wrapped rolls of dusty Necco wafers.
Kick it old school at Windy City Sweets
With its utilitarian tile floor, laminate tables and commercial display cases, this ain't some modern trendoid candy boutique. Rather, it's a shop with a 24-year-old tradition of churning out homemade fare, like creamy peanut butter cups that would put Reese's out of business if the recipe went commercial, indulgent rich fudge and a selection of bejeweled and cocoa-dusted truffles. While you peruse the dry goods section for Jelly Belly jelly beans, candy striped mints and yellow cellophane-wrapped butterscotches, there's no better way to fill your gullet than with a scoop or two of its chocolate-chip ice cream.
Looking for more ways to celebrate the season? We've got you covered with scarily accurate info on:
House Party Essentials
Creepy Chicago Tours