Taylor-Made: Mall pretzel

Earlier this year, Leddin went back to her roots with an original salted pretzel from Auntie Anne's at Northfield Square.

As far back as I can remember, I always have been a mall pretzel enthusiast. Being that I lived only 20 minutes away from Orland Square Mall, many weekends during my youth featured a trip to the Cook County shopping center.

If there was a way to audit all of the receipts I’ve procured there during the years, I would be willing to bet most of my money has been spent on pretzels. I even would make trips to the mall for the sole purpose of a pretzel.

I still do this today at Northfield Square. I’m a bigger fan of Wetzel’s Pretzels, but I never will say no to an Auntie Anne’s. I see them as the Cubs and the Sox. If playing each other, I would root for the Cubs (Wetzel’s), but in any other instance, I never hate on the Sox (Auntie).

As a youngin, I was all about Auntie Anne’s. Depending on my mood for either savory or sweet, my order would bounce between an original salted pretzel with a side of cheese sauce or a cinnamon pretzel.

On days I was feeling especially fancy, I also would order a lemonade. If I was with my mom, we usually would take our pretzels and sit near the large planter outside of Macy’s (then Marshall Fields). This would be between hitting various stores.

With my dad, we would take the pretzels home (usually along with an order of chicken teriyaki from Sarku Japan), give them a quick run in the microwave and then enjoy them on the couch while watching “Beverly Hills, 90210” or “Friday Night Lights.”

One day, my whole life changed during an otherwise standard visit to Auntie Anne’s. I got my original salted with cheese, sat down, dipped and took a bite. The recipe for the cheese sauce had changed — and not for the better.

After a couple of years of hoping things would go back to normal, I was faced with the reality this was now Auntie Anne’s cheese. The good days were behind me.

Finally having this realization forced me to venture to the complete opposite side of the mall and try Wetzel’s for the very first time. In an attempt to not fall in love and get burned again, I started with the original salted and cheese to see everything at face value.

That was the day my life changed.

Wetzel’s, in all of its fresh, buttery and doughy glory, almost erased the recent years of bad cheese and somewhat stale bread from Auntie’s. This is when I officially planted my flag on Mount Wetzel’s.

On my next visit, I tried their Sinful Cinnamon and was equally delighted. I wish I had written down the day, but it was sometime during high school.

When I went away to college at ISU, I visited Eastland Mall in Bloomington. I was pleased they had Great Steak and Potato (amazing French fries), but I didn’t recognize any of the pretzel stands.

They were all decorated similar to a food stand from an ‘80s mall (which I’m all for), but the pretzels tasted like they had been sitting there for that long. Needless to say, outside of my visits back home, it was a long two years in Bloomington.

If you can’t guess, I talk about mall pretzels a lot and think about them even more. I once reached out to Wetzel’s and asked if I could be a brand ambassador. They sent me some coupons and custom headphones and sunglasses. It was a special day.

If you’re looking for an excuse to get a mall pretzel, this is it. You can thank me later.

Taylor Leddin is the Life editor at the Daily Journal and is the editor of Lifestyles of Kankakee County. Her column, “A Taylor-Made Life,” publishes every Saturday in the Life section. She can be contacted by phone 815-937-3369, email tleddin@daily-journal.com or via Twitter @leddinlife.