Popcorn Asylum | Chicago

Popcorn Asylum will change the way you look at popcorn

Ben Zion never intended to become a popcorn impresario.

The caramel corn he brought to his law office got so popular that he had to start charging for it. "It got to the point where I realized I was cooking as soon as I got home because I liked it and the lawyering because I had to," explained Zion.

And thus, Popcorn Asylum was born. Zion's new Lakeview snack shop specializes in wacky flavors of popcorn made from all-natural ingredients.

We're not talking about those creepy commercial powders reminiscent of salty sawdust. Zion mixes up flavors like beer, PBJ and Poblano cheddar. He pops in coconut oil, just like your favorite movie theater, but "they incorporate lots of gross things–that's why it's orange."

There's no grossness here: Zion makes everything from scratch. The beer caramel is made from Temperance Beer Company Porter boiled down with brown sugar and butter. The flavor is subtle, but you can't miss that unmistakable bitter beer taste.

PBJ popcorn from Popcorn Asylum

For the PBJ, Zion pairs bits of strawberries, dehydrated and ground in-house, with a peanut butter and maple caramel. Its spot-on flavor is like a crispy bite of your childhood.

Zion is even making his own chile-cheese powder by combining dehydrated peppers with King Arthur Vermont Cheddar powder. "We tasted more than 100 cheese powders before we found the right one," he explains.

And, if you're an avid home popper, Zion has a tip: Grind kosher salt in a spice grinder, the finer the better. It's the perfect topping for fresh, hot corn.

Now that's a kernel of wisdom.