Lloyd Center, 1053 Lloyd Center, 287-2143. Mall hours daily.
Joe Brown's Carmel Corn is the only store in Lloyd Center to survive unscathed and unmoved since Lloyd began as an open-air mall in 1960. Below its striped awning, the shop serves up glistening caramel apples and three kinds of fresh-made popcorn. Every year when I was a kid, we'd get a tin of Joe Brown's as big as my torso as a Christmas gift from a family friend—kettle corn, caramel corn and butter corn, each in its own compartment that would slowly intermix during the week or so we spent covering my parents' carpet with crumbs. Sure, you can also get Swedish fish and mint truffles by the quarter-pound, red licorice ropes from a hook on the wall, or three flavors of Icee in sizes from large to decadent. But you can get those anywhere. At Joe Brown's it's all about the corn, which you can mix with nuts for a slight premium. The caramel is rich and thick and sweet and beautifully crisp, but also a bit variable—in the way of all things homestyle—one kernel a little browner and crisper than the other. Weirdos and Midwesterners go for the Chicago corn—caramel and cheese mixed together—but the masterpiece is the near-perfect kettle corn, which comes salty and just barely crisped, with little pockets of sugary sweetness.