Behind the Scenes at Garrett’s Caramel Corn

Garrett's caramel corn

I don’t recall the first time I had Garrett’s caramel corn, but a few years ago I was in Chicago just before Christmas and walked over to the Michigan Avenue store. There was quite a line, and I was told the wait was two hours. “That’s just not possible!” I thought to myself. The line just didn’t seem all that long. But after twenty minutes of standing out in the frosty cold Chicago air, as the wind whipped off the lake and my face felt like it was being pelted with ice water, I’d moved forward perhaps nine inches, so I left, thinking, “No caramel corn is worth this.”

But then the next day I woke up, craving caramel corn, and had no choice but to give it another try, thinking that if I hit it first thing in the morning, I’d have a much better shot. When I got there, the line was already snaking out the door and down the block, and I went home – again – empty-handed.

making caramel corn caramel corn

Luckily the lines aren’t so massive the rest of the year (and the other locations are far less crowded) and on my recent trip to Chicago, I walked by one of the other stores and hesitated for the briefest of moments – perhaps a fraction of a second – and a woman passing by said to me, “Honey.. you know you want it. Go in and get it!” So I listened to her sage advice, with her following me in the shop.

I emerged with a big bag of Chicago Mix, the blend of caramel corn and cheese corn which sounds odd, but is one of the best things you’ll ever eat. Man, is that stuff good. So good that the towels at my hotel had these strange orange stains on them which I later realized were from the dust on my hand, from washing them repeatedly after diving in to my bag.

(I actually pre-washed the towels before the maids came in so they wouldn’t think I was up to something weird. Until a friend from Chicago assured me, “Don’t worry. They’re used to that.”)

scott Garrett's caramel corn

Scott Schroeder defines the word “affable” and is like a boy in a suit, just as excited about the popcorn as any customer. And he’s one of the people in charge of overseeing operations at Garrett’s. He kindly invited me and my friend Louisa to visit where the popcorn is made, which was a first for them.

“Even Oprah hasn’t been in here!” he told me, excitedly. Which was true: even though Garrett’s popcorn was named Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2002 and 2005 (and subsequently they were inundated with orders from around the world), he was gracious enough to give me a peek behind the scenes.

He told me that just after she announced it as her favorite, they were swamped for months (or more likely—years) afterward. So much so that they went on full-tilt popcorn production 24/7, with lines of tins and boxes snaking around every available free space in the production kitchen and offices, waiting for the delivery trucks to arrive.

Garrett machine

Each batch of Garrett’s starts with air-popped popcorn. Interestingly, a lot of the ingredients are locally sourced, especially the corn, which is their own special hybrid. As Scott says, “All the ingredients are completely pronounceable.” The corn is not genetically modified, the cheese is local, and the butter is from Wisconsin.

The exact recipe, of course, is a secret (I would have tried to scribble it down, but my hands were too busy trying to swipe clusters that passed before my eyes, and nose), but basically Garrett’s is made the old-fashioned way; the few machines that are used are no bigger than what a corner bakery would use, production is done by hand, and once the caramel corn is finished cooking, a few strong women give the caramel corn a good mixing by hand to make sure everything is quickly cooled and all the ingredients are evenly dispersed.

Garrett's caramel corn caramel crisp sign

Less than a dozen machines with gleaming copper bowls are lined up against the wall, and some of the popcorn is made in the shops, too. But because they’re so popular, the kitchen here has to handle the overload and the popcorn that’s shipped to various places.

Garrett's popcorn popper Garrett's caramel corn

Scott explained there are two types of popcorn: “mushroom” and “butterfly.” The mushroom has a rounded head, and he told me that movie theatres like to use that kind because it takes up more space. (Next time you go to the movie, check and see. And thinking about it now, I think those boxed caramel corn that don’t have all that much flavor must use that mushroom-shaped popcorn.)

caramel corn caramel corn

The butterfly popcorn has lots of divots and crannies, which provide places for the caramelized sugar and butter to rest and harden in. The combination of both gives each handful an interesting lightness along with the full-on buttery caramel flavor.

making caramel corn making caramel corn

Once the caramel is finished, the popcorn is added and everything is stirred up. Some of the blends include pecans, cashews, and almonds.

mixing caramel corn mixing up caramel corn

Scott, who isn’t just the vice-president of the company but one of its biggest fans (after me), said that the cashew blend is really good with Champagne (which I’ll have to try) and he puts the cheese corn on tomato soup!

Once everything is all mixed up, it’s quickly poured out onto a big table and stirred madly to separate the sticky kernels before then harden. I was tempted to dive into the mosh pit of caramel corn on the table, but didn’t want to get asked to leave.

more caramel corn cheese corn

In the stores, popcorn is popped as well, and the mixtures are made fresh throughout the day. Which is also a great marketing tool because as you walk down certain streets in Chicago, the buttery caramel fragrance draws you in, similar to the smell of butter cooked in croissants coming out of bakeries in Paris every morning. And unless you’re stronger than me (or susceptible to the suggestion of passing strangers), you are powerless to resist.

Scott took me over to the flagship Michigan Avenue store after lunch at Blackbird, and he was behind the counter, where things were in full swing. I sidestepped the long line (because I live in Paris, I’m pretty fluent as sliding in front of others without giving it a second thought) and went behind the counter where they were packing up popcorn that people were ordering by their own blend.

almond caramel corn

A customer leaned over while I was talking to Scott, and taking pictures, and said, “Did you win some sort of contest of something?” And I felt like I did.

bagging popcorn Garrett's cheddar corn

Getting back to what fans have dubbed Chicago Mix, it’s an intriguing blend of caramel corn and cheese. (They use real cheese to coat the popcorn.) If it sounds odd, imagine the salty-sweet combination, light kernels of popcorn covered with tangy cheese and other kernels, crisp with buttery caramel, mingling as you snack on both.

Okay, maybe it’s impossible to describe. But just you can’t stop eating it. It was actually something invented by customers. People used to buy bags of regular caramel corn and cheese corn, then mix the two together. So they finally decided to do the blending in the shop themselves. And to get over the tell-tale “orange dust” problem, Louisa said eats her Garrett’s with chopsticks, which prompted me to tell them to create an Asian spiced mix that could be sold with a pair of chopsticks, called “Louisa-Mix.”

bag of caramel corn at Garrett's caramel corn at Garrett's

I also proposed creating my own flavor for them, which would mean I’d have to come back and oversee the production of.

tub of Garrett's caramel corn cashew caramel corn

When do I start?

1-888-4-POPCORN (888-476-7267)

9 Stores in the Chicago area, including O’Hare Airport, and in New York City (242 W. 34th Street, between 7th and 8th)

Related Posts

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Caramel Corn Recipe

Babycakes NYC

Momofuku Milk Bar

Valrhona Chocolate School


  • April 4, 2011 7:07am

    Behind the scenes at Garrett’s?? Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from those tables filled with delicious popped goodness of every kind. Loved this insight, David!

  • Deborah
    April 4, 2011 7:08am

    A heap of pre-washed towels is probably more unnerving than cheese-dust-smeared ones. Just saying.

  • Mandakini
    April 4, 2011 8:03am

    Ooooh! That sound like heaven! Cheesy and caramel-y popcorn!! Tangy, salty, sweet… the best combination! Wish I could go to Chicago :-(
    But I see they are in new york city, I am going there to study in a week! YAAY!

  • Tania
    April 4, 2011 8:09am

    oh my gosh I LOVE Garrett so much. This must have been so much fun to do! I was so excited when they finally opened a store in New York. When I used to go in Chicago more than a decade ago, the Chicago mix was not a “thing” – you had to ask them to do it!

  • April 4, 2011 8:13am

    This is truly the stuff dreams are made of. I’m salivating at the mere thought of the crunch of that awesome popcorn!

  • April 4, 2011 8:32am

    oh boy, did i discover your blog just in time…i have a day trip to chicago next week! no time to visit your other discoveries, but i’m definitely heading home with some chicago mix for me and some straight-up caramel for the kids. boringly, i’m off grains for an elimination diet (pesky skin condition), but i’m going to declare corn a vegetable for the day.

    thanks, david – it’s an amazing place you have here.

  • stephanie
    April 4, 2011 8:45am

    I always put parmesan cheese on popcorn and hate getting my fingers all cheesy, but you have solved my dilemna !
    Eating cheese popcorn with chopsticks is a brilliant idea !!! Not only does it keep your hands clean, but it slows down intake :)

  • April 4, 2011 8:50am

    Caramel corn is yet another magical, magical creation that Australia simply refuses to go in for (like frozen yoghurt, and peanut butter desserts in restaurants, and key lime pie). I just finished my container of Poppycock from the one Costco in Australia, and am bereft because I can’t get more!

  • April 4, 2011 8:54am
    David Lebovitz

    Deborah: I actually wash, then dry them over the heaters. Just because I want to be sure of removing any and all evidence!

    Hannah: There’s caramel corn sold in some French supermarkets, but it doesn’t look all that appealing so I don’t get it. I’ll stick with getting my fix on my infrequent trips to Chicago (and New York.)

    stephanie: I actually put it in a glass and “drink” the Chicago mix, which keeps my hands clean as well : )

    Tania: It was quite amazing. As mentioned, they don’t usually let folks into the facility so I was glad they made an exception this once. I love seeing how food is produced.

  • April 4, 2011 10:36am

    That was fascinating, David! I knew Garrett’s is really good, but had always assumed it was mostly made in a factory somewhere. Something to be really proud of about my home town! Problem is that it is 9:235 in the morning and I am here in the UK, craving caramel corn now!!

  • April 4, 2011 10:53am

    I am glad they made an exception and allowed you to tour so we could all share! The pictures made me feel like I was touring with you!

  • April 4, 2011 11:02am

    Great example of how something so simple can be so good if done well. Surprised that there are not many out there replicating it but its probably easier said than done, plus Garrett’s has the media behind him now

  • April 4, 2011 11:03am

    Oooh. What an amazing experience! This is the first time I’ve heard of Garrett’s but boy do I want to try some of these….

  • Kathy
    April 4, 2011 12:33pm

    On popcorn on soup: over the Wisconsin border, it’s common to see plain popcorn used to garnish cheese soup. I first encountered this at The Old Fashioned, a restaurant you’ll have to put on your list when you get to Madison, WI. It’s kind of a loving tribute to the food and supper clubs of the dairy state.

  • Laurie Jean Lyckholm
    April 4, 2011 12:51pm

    THANK YOU! I love Garrett’s. So glad they are at O’Hare now!!!
    NOM NOM NOM!!!

  • Elaine
    April 4, 2011 1:11pm

    You have got to be the most charismatic guy to get into this place!

  • Margaret
    April 4, 2011 1:31pm

    We have a caramel corn shop in San Antonio that has a chicago blend, but it doesn’t
    leave cheese dust on my fingers — must not be the real deal…:( but it is still my fave!

  • Lillian Del Pilar
    April 4, 2011 2:03pm

    Garrett’s popcorn was one of the first local treats I came to love upon moving to Chicago. It’s like popcorn crack. I love that (as with good toffee) the caramel is buttery but not the crystalline-stick-in-your-molars kind. Although you didn’t jump in the ‘mosh pit’ — you’re truly a rockstar for getting in :)

  • Mila
    April 4, 2011 2:14pm

    I bought a big bag of chicago mix for my train trip from Chicago to Portland (Oregon), 3 years ago. Since the ride lasted two days or so, I thought I’d try to be ladylike and nibble on the kernels, but by the next morning I noticed they were getting a bit soft, so I wolfed the rest down. Didn’t want to waste that deliciousness! I wish we could get the same buttery salty mix over here (I’m in China), but that’ll have to wait till my next trip to Chicago.

  • April 4, 2011 2:37pm

    We have been making our own caramel popcorn lately and it is just the best (since we don’t live in Chicago). I have to try to mix some nuts in the next time. I like this idea. I don’t know if I would be up for the cheese addition.
    Here is my recipe for homemade caramel popcorn:

  • Kelly
    April 4, 2011 2:56pm

    Hi David-

    Loved this post! I’m a native Chicagoan, and still flock to Garrett’s like a crazy tourist! I even braved the line one Christmas Eve. As we got closer to the counter, the staff would announce, “We’re all out of caramel!” Then a little while later, “We’re all out of cheese!” And then, the final gauntlet, “We’re all out of popcorn!” We walked out of there depressed. No Garrett’s (and orange fingers) that day. Sigh.

    I’ve been loving your Chicago posts. Glad you enjoyed the city!

  • April 4, 2011 3:05pm
    David Lebovitz

    Kelly: Ouch! Would have cried. I waited at the Michigan Avenue store (which is still called that even though they moved to just around the corner, off Michigan Avenue) and folks told me to just go to the other stores. There’s one on Randolph as well as another in the Merchandise Mart. I think they strategically put them too-conveniently close to wherever I am – I detect a conspiracy theory!?

    Lillian: I know. It’s just the right consistency with a nice crunch but without sticking to your teeth. Scott told me that they have to use precisely the same ingredients with each batch; when they’ve tried switching brands (such as if they run out of something), it’s just not the same.

    Laurie: I think they even hand out moist towelettes to buyers at O’Hare airports. Perhaps to keep the airplanes Chicago Mix-dust free!

    Elaine: It was really a treat to go in there. And another treat to meet Scott. What a day : )

  • April 4, 2011 3:05pm

    Oh my goodness! This popcorn looks just heavenly! I have only done caramel popcorn in the microwave before–I have got to try another method sometime.
    I am having a cookbook giveaway on my blog if you are interested.

  • April 4, 2011 3:19pm

    I was taking a continuing education class at The French Pastry school earlier in March, and my hotel was a block away from one of these places. I was SO busy and exhausted hustling back and forth to class that I just passed the HUGE line outside of the door every day, and never had the time to get into it. But I heard from some of my classmates who live in Chicago that it was awesome. I was pretty “sugared out” though, actually, after 8 hours in a chocolate classroom.

    Next time….

  • April 4, 2011 3:45pm

    This makes my day! Any Chicagoan would beam with pride at Garrett’s and to think that it’s being highlighted here on the blog of a foodie makes me so happy! I feel lucky that I work only a couple of blocks away from a Garrett’s but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. For my behind anyway. The rest of me loves it just fine.

  • Kamilah
    April 4, 2011 4:00pm

    You are so lucky! Thanks for sharing your inside view of the production of one of my all-time favorite indulgences. I lived in Chicago for a few years, and when I first discovered Garrett’s I would just keep popping that sweet/salty combo in my mouth until nausea set in. Dangerous stuff. We now have one in NY–nowhere near the mania of the Chicago locations, though. In fact, there’s rarely a line.

  • April 4, 2011 4:29pm

    We Europeans are real beginners when it comes to popcorn. I’m just tarting to tackle home made caramel ones, which sound doable, but cheese? You see, I need to try the mix, and I’m not planning to go to Chicago any time soon.

  • Ronelle
    April 4, 2011 4:50pm

    It’s always available – with a reasonable line at O’Hare — Terminal 1 – “B” gates, just down from dinosaur …. (maybe in other terminals as well — but, I always buy it on the United side)

    People just don’t get how wonderful this is —

  • Kay@chopstix2steaknives
    April 4, 2011 4:57pm

    Wow.. Who would have thought that there will be queues for popcorn and that is so amazing to get a behind the scenes tour. I really have to try this when I get the chance.

  • April 4, 2011 5:01pm

    One of my favorite childhood memories is coming back from a visit to Chicago on the South Shore train with a bag of Garrett’s popcorn.

  • April 4, 2011 5:02pm

    We’re doing them homemade at work, but they’re nothing like Garrett’s one!
    Thanks for the visit… it remind me so much of my apprenticeship when we were doing tons of caramelized nuts – but for us, pop corn was the American dream and we only had while going to the cinema :)

  • April 4, 2011 5:10pm

    My friends brought me back some from their last trip to Chicago and I was hooked! Anyone who might have mentioned going to Chicago around me for the last 6 months was met by me shouting, “Go to Garrett’s! Get some popcorn!”

  • Andrea
    April 4, 2011 5:10pm

    Oh my, Chicago Mix. Now that I live on the East Coast, no one here seems to understand how amazing Chicago Mix is, or they think it’s gross. I will never forget the way you could smell the popcorn halfway down the block on cold days, and how the caramel left a little salty, buttery residue on your fingers, which then made a great medium for the cheese dust that collected there. Mmmm. Tasty business, indeed.

  • April 4, 2011 5:15pm

    Great article, David – and great photos.I first experienced Garrett’s in 1999 when I was in Chicago as a guest on the “Oprah” show. Eli was just one and cranky so my dad decided to take him for a walk. He came back to the hotel with a HUGE bag of caramel corn. Eli was no longer cranky and neither was I. Each year, on the anniversary of me being on the show, we would order a huge vat of popcorn, eat it together and toast to fun times and a huge accomplishment. My dad passed away 4 years ago and we seized that tradition. You have reminded me of a really wonderful time in my life, as well as amazing memories with my dad.

    You are such a great story teller, David. And as I read this, I am grateful to know you, personally. Let us all know when you create that new flavor. It is sure to be a winner!

  • April 4, 2011 5:39pm

    Hi David-

    I am loving your Chicago posts! Having grown up there, I eat my way through the city each time I go home. Your perspective is so fun and refreshing and makes me feel a little less guilty knowing that you are appreciative of the midwestern cuisine. Sometimes I feel food writers (and people) get ‘stuck’ in a certain type of food, technique, etc; but you find the joy in all types of cuisines and I am having a great time going along on the vicarious ride!

  • Mark Guncheon
    April 4, 2011 5:40pm

    Having moved to Virginia from Chicago years ago, Garrett’s is a must visit whenever we return. Even on a layover at O’hare, the Garrett’s spot at the airport is a must visit. And I’ll admit, I always get the cheese caramel mix. Now I’m hungry and months away from a visit……

  • Natalie
    April 4, 2011 5:58pm

    I love love love Garrett’s caramel crunch! my family makes me bring it back to them in MIchigan – my dad can even eat entire gallons over the span of a day, a hero in my eyes. Love the post, so jealous of your behind the scenes trip!

  • Darlynne
    April 4, 2011 6:01pm

    Typically, the lines at the Randolph Street store are more manageable and no self-respecting native is going to wait two hours on Michigan, sorry. For visitors, Nuts on Clark is a reasonable popcorn alternative if you absolutely can’t get in(to) Garrett’s, and they also have a location at O’hare.

    David, since you now have an “in” with Garrett’s, what do you think of suggesting they create a white cheddar cheese instead of, or in addition to, the orange? I’m not hung up about dyes, but white would certainly make everything easier. Think about the time you’d save not having to wash the hotel towels.

  • April 4, 2011 6:09pm

    Very, very few things are as fabulous as homemade caramel corn, and I put this in the category of homemade! I have had Garrett’s and yes, it’s as good as you say!! So glad you tried it!!

  • April 4, 2011 6:21pm

    oh, nom. nom, nom, nom.

  • Vivian
    April 4, 2011 6:24pm

    Just as macaroons may be replacing cupcakes as “the” next must-consume…maybe popcorn will be the new macaroon? Afterall it is just a starch and as such a vehicle for other flavors. I am curious about the “cheese dust”…is it something like the contents of the cheese pouch that comes with KD? (Yikes…I would hope not!) Living far, far away from any source of Garrett’s wares, I must try to create a facsimile. As always, thanks for the great post, David.

  • April 4, 2011 6:46pm

    Dammit David, now you have me thinking about caramel corn…..mmmmm. Sadly, there are no such caramel-corn-eries on the west coast that I know of, so I may have another project on my hands!

  • April 4, 2011 6:47pm

    The Key to Garretts is to go on the week days. I NEVER EVER go to Garretts on the wknd too crowded.It really helps that I work across the water from a Garretts! The Chicago mix is my fav tho.

  • April 4, 2011 7:11pm

    Very fun! My brother lived in Chicago for 12 years so I’ve had that Chicago mix many times. Definitely worth waiting in line for!

  • Gina
    April 4, 2011 7:21pm

    Oh how I LOVE Garrett’s popcorn! The Chicago Mix is to die for. I used to go to Chicago quite regularly on business, and a stop at Garrett’s was a must. Hmmm…wondering if they deliver to Paris. It would be worth paying whatever shipping might cost. Thanks for this post…I can almost taste it!

  • Kelsey
    April 4, 2011 7:31pm

    I’m a Texas native and have never been lucky enough to get some Garrett’s, but homemade caramel corn is a longstanding tradition in my husband’s family. Who am I to monkey with tradition? :) There is usually an entire Sunday in the fall devoted to the making of his great-grandmother’s recipe. I make 2 12-quart batches and it goes disturbingly fast. Thanks, as always, for you wit and passion!

  • April 4, 2011 8:28pm

    I knew I shouldn’t have read this right before getting on the train to go downtown. Now I need popcorn… damn you!

    When do we get to hear about the lunch at Blackbird??

    I put the pictures on my Flickr page, but because I’m not really a restaurant reviewer, it’s more fun to tell stories of places and Blackbird is a very good Chicago restaurant, but there’s probably not much else I could add to what’s already been said. -dl

  • Caity
    April 4, 2011 8:33pm

    Cheese and caramel– two of my favorite things!
    On a different note, though, I’ve been wanting to order Parisians chocolates for a while now. They’re all great in their own way, I’m sure, but out of the shops you’ve talked about on your blog, which do you think would have the most economical options for the most delcious candy? I love the idea of old-fashioned French candy from Fouquet and I’m itching to get my hands on some of those caramels, but I wouldn’t want to miss out on anything spectacular from Patrick Roger or La Maison du Chocolat.I may just have to order from more than one place but is the chocolate from Fouquet comparable with that of other chocolatiers? Thank you!

    It’s pretty impossible to mention the words “economical” and “overnight FedEx shipping” in the same sentence. I was recently planning to send a simple one-page letter via that method and it was – yikes, €80! So that’s your first hurdle. La Maison du Chocolat has stores in New York so their shipping is likely gentler on the wallet. But check the site of the other places. However if you’re looking to save money, perhaps try a local chocolatier or one in America. There’s lots of goods ones. -dl

  • Joanna V
    April 4, 2011 9:05pm

    Thank you David for highlighting another great Chicago food spot – and for the great photos and info. I have never had any caramel corn that comes close to Garretts it is that amazing – and it is really best to eat it within a day or two of buying it as it does go soft. My husband has been known to bring it to client meetings to get everyone in a good mood.- and it works!

  • I’ve never had Garett’s caramel corn, but it looks amazing!

  • April 4, 2011 10:43pm

    I have heard of the line ups from a friend who was in Chicago. She said the line ups were due to Oprah saying it was one of her favourites. I wondered how good could it be that people line up like that…I’m starting to understand! Thanks for the great post, I’ll try it if I ever make it to Chicago or New York:)

  • Cynth
    April 4, 2011 11:17pm

    I have some pretty great mango’s on my counter at home, that are just about ripe. Since I am sitting at my desk (don’t tell) at work right now, I don’t have access to your book. Is there a recipe in there for a mango ice cream? Sorry this has nothing to do with popcorn, but as I sit here dreaming of my sweet mango’s, I am saying a little prayer to you, the ice cream god…Show me the way to make an awesome mango ice cream.

  • April 4, 2011 11:51pm

    I just read one of your books and I love it. I’m new to France, and am loving Bordeaux… Not only the food, but the wine. OH: The wine Château’s!!

    I’ve started cooking more and more here, and I’ve really started to enjoy the art of cooking. Your blog is really interesting, thanks for always publishing interesting things.

    I don’t recommend your blog to my friends (if they haven’t eaten yet, though) – or my self… I know not to long in here in the mornings if all I have had is a coffee, because your food photos are visually delicious!

    Have a good week,


  • April 5, 2011 1:28am


    There’s nothing like showing Chicago to the world through the lens of someone who gets it! Your food finds remind me of all the reasons I still find to explore this great place.

    Now, I wonder if I have to get a Mix tomorrow when I’m in court, just across the street from one of the Garretts’ shops.

  • Machelle
    April 5, 2011 2:31am

    I totally agree…the Chicago mix sounds not too appealing, but it is dee-lish! They should call Garrett’s pop-crack and not pop-corn…I’m addicted and live in TX! BTW, they now sell it at O’Hare….nice to be able to get some there w/o the line to snack on during the flight home! :D

  • April 5, 2011 2:41am

    I don’t understand the Garretts attraction at all. It’s caramel corn, good but not mind blowing. I’ve always had access to a supply of accessable cc via my mom’s homemade and Kansas City’s Topsy’s both of which I think are on parr with Garretts.

  • April 5, 2011 2:59am

    It’s morning here in South Australia. I’ve just returned from my morning walk and have virtuously eaten my yoghurt.
    Now I really want to eat this popcorn. This would be the popcorn that, not only should I not be wanting, but I just can’t get anyway!!
    I was hoping for a recipe that approximated the flavours, at least. Bum.
    Now have unrequited sugar cravings. :-(

  • April 5, 2011 3:27am

    Great post, David, and a nostalgia trip for me. I grew up in Dayton, Ohio at a time when downtown featured a string of various 5 and ten cent stores. One, in particular, McCrory’s, sold freshly made caramel corn. The intoxicating aroma that wafted even onto the street drew in more customers than the store’s competition. Thanks for bringing it all back.

  • April 5, 2011 4:00am

    I’m so envious you got to see the popcorn production! I love love love Garretts. Not a big of the cheese popcorn but a huge huge huge fan of the caramel popcorn.

  • charsiew
    April 5, 2011 4:38am

    I first read about your mention of Garretts being available in NY city when I was there a year and a half ago..but I didn’t make it to Garretts unfortunately…Then I returned back to Singapore and found to my absolute delight, taht Garretts has opened in Singapore!! Have been telling everyone I know about the best caramel popcorn ever! You’ll never want to eat regular popcorn after you’ve had Garrett’s buttery salty sweet caramal :)

  • John Verville
    April 5, 2011 4:46am

    My sister just came home from Chicago and called me from O’Hare where she was standing in front of the Garretts stand. She asked me if I wanted any and I asked her, well, you don’t to know what I said. She brought me home a mixed bag. It was heaven!

  • Crystal
    April 5, 2011 5:12am

    Sneaked the “Chicago mix” in the theater tonight to see an advanced movie screening of “Arthur”.

    No longer my city’s best kept secret!

  • lizzie
    April 5, 2011 5:17am

    Chicago Mix with nuts mixed in — whatever looks good. Garrett’s is the pride of Chicago — miss it as I do my hometown! Thanks for the profile.

  • April 5, 2011 5:28am

    But does it come with a prize?

  • April 5, 2011 6:18am
    David Lebovitz

    Janice: Yes…Scott!

  • April 5, 2011 8:56am

    I love everything about this post! That is all.

  • Juana Maria
    April 5, 2011 9:53am

    I´ve never been to Garrett´s, but as I love popcorn oh so much I want to try it right now! Unfortunately, France is a little too far from Chicago so I´ll just have to make due with my home popped popcorn with olive oil, sprinkled with garlic salt version.

    Since they´ve asked you for a new recipie you should suggest they do popcorn from around the world…on certain days they should pick a country and a regional flavor and go with it. It could be fun, France could be a butter with herbs from provence, India could be popcorn with a touch of curry, Spain- garlic and olive oil (hence, my version), Mexico-lime and chili pepper, etc…

    As you can see the thought of popcorn makes me get carried away…Lucky you for being able to get a behind the scenes view.


  • April 5, 2011 7:26pm

    David, what a great set of memories this brings back. You really are the man, getting to go behind the scenes here. I lived in Chicago for fifteen years. There are other popcorn shops. But there’s only one Garrett’s. My hubby knows to pick up a bag of the Chicago Mix if he’s flying through O’Hare. Thanks!

  • nancy
    April 5, 2011 8:23pm

    There is nothing like the Michigan Ave store – I was smitten years ago, on an off-chance trip to Chicago. The store in NY doesn’t really come close, I’ve tried – but Walgreens used to make their own brand of Chicago popcorn (as well as their own brand of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies!) – $1/per box or bag – which was only available in Chicago. I live in NY, my son went to school in Chicago, I’ve been searching for the popcorn/cookies for years now in NYC – nothing. And we don’t have Chicago hot dogs, either!! (But we do have the best pizza in the world…and every other cuisine imaginable, so I can’t really complain). But, I still dream about my first taste of Chicago popcorn…

  • April 6, 2011 12:53am

    We call them “Garrett fingers,” the yellow-stained sign of the Garrett’s addict. I can’t imagine the restraint it took to watch all that corn traveling past on a conveyor belt without diving in.

    Thanks for the fine report. I’m writing this about 19 blocks away from Garrett’s and feeling a magnetic pull …

  • April 6, 2011 1:44am

    oh my goodness – that popcorn is so damn tasty. my mother-in-law used to make us stand in that line when they visited us. the chicago mix is my favorite too, but i find myself eating a lot more of the cheddar than the others :).

  • Lisa
    April 7, 2011 8:53pm

    That Michigan Ave store is quite crowded. Try one of the other locations. There’s one in the Ogilvie (formerly Northwestern) train station that not crowded during the off-rush hours. I’m almost glad that I don’t commute anymore because I can’t resist getting a bag for the trip home.

  • April 8, 2011 7:39pm

    Hi David- I’m a little late to the comment part about Garrett’s but had to describe one of my all time favorite visits.
    So my family and I are in line at the Michigan store. As usual the line is long and snaking out the door. After an hour or so we finally get into the door. Right then a fire had started somewhere in the store. The smoke was thick, people were coughing and get this NOBODY LEFT THERE PLACE IN LINE! The manager was trying to shoo us all out of the store and nobody would go. Hilarious.
    I make my husband bring me home bags when he’s in Chicago for business. Usually the bag is all that gets home.

  • CJ
    April 8, 2011 9:24pm

    Sounds even better than the caramel corn from The Newport Candy Store,
    in Newport Oregon that I enjoy when I have vacationed.

    Does Garrett’s ship their products?

  • Carol
    April 9, 2011 2:56am

    OH baby do I miss that popcorn ! Having moved to the east coast 11 years ago after being a born and bred Chi-town girl I can honestly say that Garrett’s popcorn is the one thing I miss the most. I would stop first thing in the morning and get the cashew carmel/ cheese mix. B-E-T-T-E-R than sex…ah-ha, oh yeah.

  • April 9, 2011 6:26pm

    I lived in Chicago for 6 years when I was a kid. It’s a long story but to make it short our family was undocumented and we had very little money (no news there). Every Christmas we would get gifts from our church, usually money and clothes. There was one family who gave us a big tin of Garretts popcorn. It was so indulgent. It was the perfect gift.

    Now, when Christmas time rolls around and we “adopt” a family to give gifts to I always give them something indulgent like candy from our local candy store, or chocolates from the chocolate shop down the street.

    With that said I am going to Chicago this summer and I am totally going to make my family wait in line for some Garrett popcorn. Have you been to Chicago in the summer? I think the sweltering heat is almost as bad as the freezing cold wind you experienced.

  • April 10, 2011 11:14pm

    Yes, Garrett’s popcorn is SO delicious, especially when fresh. And you have to have the cheese and caramel together, it’s so good! I’m amazed I don’t eat it more often (as a Chicago native), but that’s probably a good thing… I can’t imagine it’s too wardrobe friendly.

  • Mandakini
    April 17, 2011 2:27am

    Studying at the FCI , had a day off, went and got myself a bag of chicago mix! Oooooh! NICE!! Now searching your blog for more NYC food stuff. Joy!

  • Ramona
    May 1, 2011 3:58pm

    Was this a paid post?

  • May 1, 2011 4:40pm
    David Lebovitz

    Nope. I’m just a big fan. There are no paid posts on this site.

    For more information, read my Disclosure Statement.

  • March 19, 2021 5:46pm

    I would love the recipe to Garrett’s popcorn I heard it is so . Delicious and I would love to make it at home do anyone know the recipe.


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