Wentworth Ave, Chinatown's main street
Bridgeport-Chinatown is the South Side at its most dynamic, as the old South Side Irish neighborhood of the Daleys increasingly blends with the old Chinese immigrant community to the north. Enormous cathedrals now stand next to Buddhist temples, and Old Style washes down lo mein. If you are a visitor, though, you only need to keep in mind two things: Chinese food and baseball.
Chicago's Chinatown is pleasantly authentic. At the many restaurants in the area, local Chinese customers are joined by Chicagoans from all over the city "going Chinese" for the night. Chicago's Chinatown is the third largest in the United States, the Midwestern business center for Chinese-Americans, and home to large populations of Cantonese and Taiwanese. The main street, Wentworth Ave, is a great place for dining out and rummaging through eccentric stores, looking for gifts. US Cellular Field, better known as Comiskey Park, is several blocks south of Chinatown and is home to the South Side's favorite baseball team, the Chicago White Sox.
Bridgeport is a large Irish-American enclave that has produced some of Chicago's most famous South Side Irish, such as Finley Peter Dunne and the two mayors Daley. Being the birthplace of the city's power brokers has been good to Bridgeport. The first Daley remembered playing in the streets as a child, dodging fetid puddles filled with carcasses from the local slaughterhouses. Bungalows and other single-family homes are more the norm these days. Bridgeport is now seeing a large influx of Mexican immigrants, which means more good food options are springing up left and right, and has even seen a wave of North Siders priced out of hip neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Lincoln Park. The most interesting "immigrants" of late are certainly the Zhou brothers Da Huang and Shan Zuo, who are both internationally acclaimed painters, and who have bought five large buildings along Morgan Street for the ostensible purpose of building a serious artist colony in Bridgeport. Regardless of what brings you to the neighborhood, it is full of gritty character (and characters) and is quite possibly haunted — Bridgeport is always an interesting place for a walk.
The main L stations are on the CTA Red Line at Cermak-Chinatown and Sox-35th for visiting Chinatown and US Cellular Field respectively. Other options include Halsted and Ashland on the Orange Line, which are on the northern and western outskirts of Bridgeport, and 35-Bronzeville-IIT on the Green Line, which is a block and a half east of the Sox-35th station.
The main routes into Bridgeport-Chinatown from the Loop are #62, which runs the length of Archer Ave from State St, and the #24, which runs from Clark St to Wentworth Ave through the center of Chinatown and next to US Cellular Field. Route #8 is also useful, as it runs north-south along Halsted St, which runs through the Near West Side and Near North neighborhoods as well as the middle of Bridgeport.
Parking is always plentiful in Bridgeport, and you can usually find spaces right by your destination, though you should check to make sure you're not on a permit parking only residential street. On game days, however, watch out — though no signs go up, you can be ticketed for parking in the neighborhood. Take the L instead to avoid the bad game day traffic and pricey parking lots. Chinatown is more crowded, but you should still have little trouble finding on-street metered parking around Cermak/Archer on weekdays or on off-hours.
The Dan Ryan and Stevenson Expressway cut across the east and north of the district. From the Dan Ryan, take either of the 31st or 35th Street exits; from the Stevenson, take the Cermak Avenue/Chinatown exit for Chinatown and the Damen Avenue exit via Archer or 35th Street for Bridgeport. The main city streets are Halsted Street (north-south), and 31st St, 35th St, and Pershing Rd (east-west).
The easiest way to get around Bridgeport by public transport is on the two main east-west bus routes #35 and #39, which run along 35th St and Pershing Rd, as well as the aforementioned #8 running north-south on Halsted St. Bus routes are not terribly convenient between the two neighborhoods, but #62 Archer does run along the north of Bridgeport from the Chinatown L stop, from which you can hop on the Halsted route. Chinatown itself is very compact and easily covered on foot.
You can cover Chinatown's sites easily in an hour or two on foot, but if you are interested in art, set aside some real time to explore the new Bridgeport galleries that fly under the popular radar, but are quite important to the contemporary art world in Chicago.
- Chinatown Square, 2100 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 225-0088. This main square is a Chinatown landmark, with some cheesy pagoda-like structures as well as animal sculptures of the Chinese zodiac. Be sure to check out the Chinatown Mural — a mosaic of painted tiles depicting the migration of Chinese-Americans from China to, ultimately, Chicago's Chinatown. Ultimately, though, the reason to come here is to wander into the surrounding Chinatown Marketplace, full of narrow alleys packed with shops and restaurants, which occasionally threaten to transport you back to Taipei.
- Chinese American Veterans Memorial, 2169 S Archer Ave. A small memorial to Chicago Chinatown residents who served the United States in foreign wars.
- Dr Sun Yat Sen Museum, 2245 S Wentworth Ave (3rd floor, above the Chicago Food Market), ☎ +1 312 842-5462. Sa-Su noon-5PM, M-F by appointment only. A one-room museum good for some Kuomintang nostalgia. Free admission.
- Nine Dragon Wall, (just across Wentworth Ave from 200 W Cermak Rd). A smaller semblance of the ancient glazed tile Nine Dragon Wall located in Beijing's Behai Park.
- Ping Tom Memorial Park, 300 W 19th St, ☎ +1, . A riverside park with a Chinese touch, including a riverside Chinese pavilion and a bamboo garden. On a clear day the park has nice southwest side views of the Chicago skyline. The park offers many summertime events from movie screenings to the very popular dragon boat races. Check the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce's website  for details.
- Pui Tak, 2214 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 328-1188, . A historical landmark building notable for its traditional Chinese architecture now houses a Christian community center.
- Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S Morgan St, ☎ +1 773 837-0145, . Sa noon-5PM & by appointment. Bridgeport's (and possibly Chicago's) most radical and experimental artistic space is huge, full of artists and their art, and is an ever-expanding force in the neighborhood — they plan to host live music in the near future. A very interesting place to browse!
- Daley Residence, 3536 S Lowe Ave. Life-long home of the famous, the infamous, Richard J. Daley, and the place where his sons, current Mayor Richard M. Daley and state congressman John P. Daley, grew up. There isn't much at all to be seen here aside from the nice prairie-style brick one story, and don't bother the current residents.
- mn Gallery, 3524 S Halsted, ☎ +1 773 847-0573 ([email protected]), . Sa-Su noon-5PM during exhibitions. Run by a local couple, this three-story building houses exhibitions of contemporary art by Chicago and regional-based artists. Be sure to check ahead to make sure that they have an open exhibition.
- Saint Barbara Church, 2859 S Throop St, ☎ +1 312 842-7979. Built in 1914 to house overflow from Saint Mary of Perpetual Help, in the so-called "Polish Cathedral Style." Dominates the Bridgeport skyline along with St Mary's.
- Saint Mary of Perpetual Help, 1039 W 32nd St, ☎ +1 773 927-6646 ([email protected], fax: +1 773 523-4565), . Another massive, opulent church of the Polish Cathedral Style, built in 1882.
- Zhou B Art Center, 1029 W 35th St, ☎ +1 773 523-0200 ([email protected]), . M-Sa 11AM-5PM. A big arts center in the heart of Bridgeport hosting three contemporary painting galleries: Oskar Friedl, 33 Collective, and the Zhou Brothers Art Foundation. The Oskar Friedl Gallery in particular really warrants a visit as it is one of the city's better spots for avant-garde works. The cafe/bar inside is also pretty fantastic. Check ahead to make sure the gallery that interests you is open. 3rd Fridays of the month, the whole huge place is open to wander around.
Good Guys wore red
For baseball, the North Side has the Cubs, and the South Side has the White Sox. But the city used to be split for football as well: the Chicago Bears played up north, at Wrigley Field, and the Chicago Cardinals represented the south side at Comiskey. Both were charter franchises of the NFL; in fact, founded in 1898, the Cardinals were the first professional football club in America.
Although they had a good run in the 1920s, by then resident at Comiskey Park, and although the "Million-Dollar Backfield" of 1947 brought a championship to the South Side, the Cardinals couldn't defend their territory against the more successful Bears, and the Bidwill family moved them to St. Louis in 1960 (and later to Arizona). Still, if you're talking sports with an older crowd in Bridgeport, don't be shy about sneering at the Pottsville Maroons and their foiled claim to the South Siders' rightful 1925 title, and Ernie Nevers' obvious superiority to that overhyped Red Grange.
Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox
- Armour Square Park, 3309 S Shields Ave, ☎ +1 312 747-6012, . M-F 9AM-10PM, Sa-Su 9AM-5PM. A good place to play some baseball, soccer, volleyball, basketball, or take a dip in the pool. Occasional events include outdoor movie screenings.
- Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, 2145 S China Pl (2nd floor), ☎ +1 312 842-1988 ([email protected], fax: +1 312 275-7133), . Offers an assortment of services and events, such as: neighborhood tours, film screenings, language instruction, and cooking classes.
- Chinatown Summer Fair. 10AM-8PM, 19 July 2009. A fun neighborhood festival, with a Lion Dance procession along Wentworth at 12:30PM, and performances starting at 1PM, 23rd & Wentworth.
- Dragon Boat Race, (Ping Tom Memorial Park). 9AM-4PM, 25 July 2009. Dragon Boats along the South Branch of the Chicago River.
- Sun Yat Sen Park, 251 West 24th Pl. A little out of the way, but a nice small park and a great place to relax in the shade on a hot summer day.
- U.S. Cellular Field (Comiskey Park), (Sox-35th Red Line), . Formerly known as New Comiskey Park, this is the home of the White Sox — or, as the name is properly phrased in the company of Cubs fans, The 2005 World Champion White Sox. The stadium itself was a notorious dud when it opened in 1991, but recent renovations have helped tremendously. If you just want to see a Chicago ball game and don't care who is playing, the stately charm of Wrigley Field might be the better option. But Sox tickets are easier to get, the fans are no less loyal, and the fireworks shows after Saturday night home games (win or lose) are worth the price of admission by themselves. For a nifty ballpark treat not offered at Wrigley, try the elotes, corn-off-the-cob with your choice of salt, butter, cheese, lime, and/or red pepper.
The Chinatown shops are very fun, especially for gifts, but if you tire of knicknacks and knockoffs, Bridgeport has a handful of very eccentric and interesting offerings.
- Chinatown Bazaar, 2221 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 225-1088. 10AM-10PM daily. An odd gift shop with just about anything you could expect to be at a "Chinatown bazaar." It has a particularly good collection of cloth posters.
- CW Mei's Gift & Jewelry Co., 2241 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 225-1933. 10AM-9PM daily. Kung fu outfitters: swords, knives, outfits.
- Evergreen Jewelry, 2263 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 808-0730. 10AM-5:30PM daily. Just what the name would suggest, the store sells jewelry.
- Golden Dragon Fortune Cookies, 2323 S Archer Ave, ☎ +1 312 842-8199. Yes, the man who writes the fortunes is in this factory. Buy fortune cookies fresh out of the oven, or get them in bulk until you can't carry any more.
- Hoypoloi Gallery, 2235 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 225-6477 (fax: +1 312 225-6467), . Su-Th 11AM-8PM, F-Sa 11AM-9PM. Probably Chicago's strangest upscale boutique with all sorts of interesting artwork and furnishings for interior decorators and gift shoppers.
- Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng Co of Chicago Ltd, 2247 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 842-1171. 9:30AM-7PM daily. Wide selection of teas and tea accessories in a store for serious tea drinkers (if you use bags, that doesn't include you). Worth a visit just for the free samples! $2-50.
- Augustine's Eternal Gifts, 3327 S Halsted St, ☎ +1 773 843-1933. M-F 11AM-7PM, Sa 11AM-6PM. A store full of everything spiritual: from a rosary and cross collection to occult tomes and voodoo powders. Knowledgeable and helpful staff.
- Grandstand, 600 W 35th St, ☎ +1 312 927-1984, . M-F noon-7PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 11AM-5PM. A store with extensive inventory of sports memorabilia. A good place to pick up a reproduction Negro League jersey or rare baseball cards.
- Let's Boogie, 3321 S Halsted St, ☎ +1 773 254-0139. M-Sa 11AM-6PM, Su 11AM-3PM. A big vinyl store specializing in dance music from house to hip hop. No used records around, only new. A popular shop with Chicago DJs.
Chinatown is a wonderful and popular place for foodies, with lots of options, great authentic food, and reasonable prices. The flip side is the curt "Chinatown service," but if you've got a good attitude about it, that merely adds to the authenticity. The two most acclaimed restaurants here are Ken Kee and Lao Sze Chuan, but there are plenty of less known gems to seek out as well. For dim sum, the great rivalry is between heavyweights Shui Wah, Little Three Happiness, and The Phoenix. One big thing to watch out for are the scores of inferior dishes on those long menus. Most restaurants specialize in a limited range of dishes, and you need to know which to get a good meal—order a specialty listed below, or ask the server what the specialties are (if he directs you to the Kung Pao, insist on an authentic recommendation).
Bridgeport is far further off the beaten foodie path, but it's a quirky neighborhood with some excellent options. Ed's Potstickers and Healthy Food Lithuanian are the standout destination restaurants that really warrant a trip.
- Feida Bakery, 2228 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 808-1113. 7AM-9PM daily, Dim Sum offered 7AM-noon daily. A small, reliable bakery, where the baked goods can warm your stomach for less than a dollar. Dim sum is not as good as you can get elsewhere, but it is dirt cheap. Items vary in quality, but the seafood dumplings and desserts are excellent. All items: $0.50-3.
- Lawrence's Fisheries, 2120 S Canal St, ☎ +1 312 225-2113, . 24 hours. It's amazing that this place exists so close to downtown. It's fried fish heaven with frogs legs, $1.45 clam strips, fried oysters, scallops, and boiled shrimp. All that with views of the skyline, intriguing industrial and river bridge panoramas, and of a good sized hanging shark. $2-12.
- The Noodle Vietnamese Cuisine, 2336 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 674-1168. Su-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-11PM. A solid Vietnamese pho (noodle soup with beef) joint, which qualifies as "ethnic food" for Chinatown residents — this is one of the few places around where you'll likely see only Chinatown residents, even on weekends. $3-6.
- Saint's Alp Teahouse, 2131 S Archer Ave, ☎ +1 312 842-1886. 11AM-midnight daily. A Hong Kong teahouse chain with a very long beverage list also serves entrees. Young crowd that enjoys the all-ages hangout. $5-12.
- Seven Treasures, 2312 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 225-2668, . Su-Th 11AM-2AM, F-Sa 11AM-2:30AM. Seven Treasures has a huge, if uninteresting, interior and late hours, but the reason to come here is for Cantonese noodle soup. Anyone who has spent time in China, and hankers for the noodle soup they had there will not be disappointed. The Hong Kong-style barbecue menu is worthwhile. $3.50-10.
- Spring World Restaurant, 2109 S China Pl, ☎ +1 312 326-9966. 10:30AM-10PM daily. Yunannese cuisine in the Midwest is Spring World — a specialty quite rare this side of the Pacific, so foodies should take note. Food-wise, this is one of the best options in Chinatown (try the tea smoked duck, cold noodles, or any of the lamb or mushroom dishes), and it's very cheap to boot: 4$ lunch and $5 appetizer bar! $4-10.
- Kevin's Hamburger Heaven, 554 W Pershing Rd, ☎ +1 773 924-5771. 24 hours daily. Chicago, for all that it takes fast food so seriously, tends to fail in the hamburger category. Not here. Kevin's serves what is likely the best down-to-earth hamburger in the city, as well as classic malts, shakes, and floats. As far as atmosphere goes, think industrial wasteland truck stop. $3-6.
- Maxwell St Depot, 411 W 31st St, ☎ +1 312 326-3514. 24 hours daily. Insomniacs take note! Chicago fare is the whole menu: Maxwell Street Polishes, pork chop sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers. This spot serves what might be the world's fastest food — served usually before you can complete your order — but it's magically piping hot fresh of the grill. The crowd can get pretty weird around F-Sa 4AM, and the food is of extraordinarily low quality, but at that hour (after drinks) few things are more satisfying than a hot off the grill pork chop sandwich with a heaped mass of grilled onions and mustard. $2-5.
- Morrie O'Malley's Hot Dogs, 3501 S Union Ave, ☎ +1 773 247-2700. M-F 10:30AM-8PM, Sa 11AM-6PM, closed Dec-March. Since US Cellular Field can't seem to do them right, get your real Chicago hot dogs here. Also, if you want any good insider information about the neighborhood, ask Morrie — he's helpful, friendly, and knows the area as well as anybody. If Morrie's is closed and you need a hot dog, you can get a fine one up at 35th Red Hots, closer to the stadium. $3-6.
- Ramova Grill, 3510 S Halsted St, ☎ +1 773 847-9058. 5AM-8PM daily. A diner that's been around forever, serving breakfast all day and locally renowned chili. It is the quintessential dirt cheap greasy spoon and easily one of Chicago's best diners. $3-5.
- Ricobene's, 250 W 26th St, ☎ +1 773 225-5555, . M-Th 11AM-midnight, F-Sa 11AM-1:30AM, Su 11AM-11:30PM. With one exception the food is pretty bad here, but the atmosphere is extreme Bridgeport, and it's a great place to bring kids. The exception is the Italian breaded steak sandwich, yet another neighborhood "delicacy," which it does better than anyone. There's nothing subtle about it—a big ol' breaded steak on chewy Italian bread, optionally drenched in red sauce, plus cheese, and hot or sweet giardinera. Don't order the king size unless you like to view your meal as a challenge. $4-12.
- Scoops, 608 W 31st St, ☎ +1 312 842-3300. 11AM-11PM daily. A deceptively old fashioned neighborhood ice cream parlor offering homemade ice cream in a non-old fashioned variety of flavors. They also happen to have free WiFi and homemade cannolis. $2-5.
- Bertucci's Corner, 300 W 24th St, ☎ +1 312 225-2848. M-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su 3PM-9PM. This family-run Italian joint exudes so much Chicago character, you will feel like you just stepped off the Chinatown street into a 1930s gangster movie. Scruffy, no-nonsense Italian-American food. The fact that it's in Chinatown only attests to its hidden gem status. Full bar. $6-12.
- Cantonesia, 204 W Cermak Rd, ☎ +1 312 225-0100 (fax: +1 312 225-2833), . Su-Th 11:30AM-11PM, F-Su 11:30AM-midnight. An 60-year-old establishment offering serving adequate Cantonese cuisine and much trumpeted Mai Tais. Stick to the noodle dishes and the hot and sour soup. $8-15.
- Ken-Kee Restaurant, 2129 S China Pl, ☎ +1 312 326-2088. 11AM-1AM daily. One of the best bets in the Chinatown Marketplace with an extraordinarily long menu offering Cantonese preparations of virtually any creature or vegetable. It's hard to get a table on weekend nights. $6-18.
- Mandarin Kitchen, 2143 S Archer St, ☎ +1 312 328-0228 (fax: +1 312 328-9628). M W Th 11AM-10:30PM, T 3AM-10:30PM, F-Su 9AM-11PM. As the name might lead you to expect, Mandarin Kitchen is one of the few restaurants around serving northern Chinese cuisine, which is generally drier and heartier than the other cuisines you can sample in Chinatown. Hot pots, where you cook the meat on your table, are the house specialty, and great for groups. Otherwise the lamb cumin and noodle dishes are very good bets. $10-16.
- ''Little'' Three Happiness, 209 W Cermak Rd, ☎ 842-1964. 9AM-2AM daily, dim sum until 3PM. There are two "Three Happinesses" right across the street from each other, and as you might guess, the small dingy looking one on the south side of the street is far superior. LTH is so beloved, the city's most knowledgeable foodie website is named after it. Specialties are many, including pan-fried rice noodles, spare ribs, crispy duck and chicken, and most famously the heads-on salt and pepper shrimp. The dim sum is excellent, and the cheapest of the big three (by a good margin). $5-25.
- Shui Wah, 2162 S Archer Ave, ☎ +1 312 225-8811. Dim Sum: 8AM-3PM daily, Dinner 5PM-2AM daily. Skip dinner, served by a different management and staff — you can do better. But the dim sum, always great, is quite possibly the best in the city when it's really on. Sadly, once a hidden gem, Shui Wah was recently exposed by rave reviews in popular Chicago magazines, so getting there early or late is wise to avoid the crowds on weekends. $8-20.
- Yee Heung Seafood House, 225 W Cermak Rd, ☎ +1 312 326-3171 (fax: +1 312 326-3838). M-Th 5PM-4AM, F-Sa 5PM-5AM, Su 5PM-11PM. Feeling peckish for authentic food in the wee hours of the morning? This is the place, and may be the best place after most close. $8-16.
- Ed's Potsticker House (Potsticker House), 3139 S Halsted St, ☎ +1 312 326-6898. Su-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-11PM. One of Chicago's great neighborhood restaurants, though you would never know it from the inauthentic sounding name. Chicago's Chinese community more and more bleeds across neighborhood boundaries into Bridgeport proper, and this restaurant is the showcase of the culinary possibilities this creates for the area. It's a mom and pop run Chinese restaurant specializing in Northern Chinese cuisine. There are a lot of great dishes on the menu (hint, not the ones you've heard of before) — aim for the lamb cumin, soup dumplings, or the whole Szechuan style tilapia.
- Gio's Cafe & Deli, 2724 S Lowe Ave, ☎ +1 312 225-6368, . M-Sa 8AM-9PM. Some of Chicago's best Italian is hidden in a tiny checkerboard tablecloth deli, more resembling a grocery store than a restaurant, hidden further still in the residential streets of Bridgeport. It's also, as you might expect, a steal of a bargain. Delicious Italian pastas, chicken, and panini. $5-25.
- Healthy Food Lithuanian, 3236 S Halsted St, ☎ +1 312 326-2724 ([email protected]), . T-W 8AM-4PM, Th-Sa 8AM-8PM, Su 8AM-5PM. Where else are you going to go for Lithuanian? Fortunately, the one option is a very good one and has been serving grandma's Lithuanian favorites since 1938, making it the oldest Lithuanian restaurant in the world. Don't miss the blynai (Lithuanian crepes). The "healthy" name comes from the fact that this restaurant only uses organic ingredients and serves a fair amount of breakfast foods made from buckwheat. It does not come from the heavy portions nor the generous sour cream. It's also an intriguing option for souvenirs, with Baltic amber jewelry and t-shirts boasting kugelis as the "breakfast of champions." $8-14.
- Pancho Pistola's, 700 W 31st St, ☎ +1 312 225-8808, . M-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-10PM. Authentic and very solid food in a nice sit-down family owned Mexican restaurant notable for its great margaritas. One of Bridgeport's trendiest restaurants (there aren't a lot of those). $8-15.
- Han 202, 605 W 31st St, ☎ +1 312 949-1314, . 4PM-10PM daily. High class, trendy dining on the cheap! The ethnic makeup of this section of town might fool you, but "Asian Fusion" is about as unlikely as a Utah brewpub. Bridgeport is a decidedly non-trendy neighborhood. But the neighborhood's new Han 202 has taken off, and its chef's cooking has attracted favorable comparisons to some of the flashiest and esteemed in the city. The rave reviews are no doubt reinforced by the extraordinary deal—$20 for a fixed price five-course meal, plus BYOB with no corkage fee.
- Lao Sze Chuan, 2172 S Archer Ave, ☎ +1 312 326-5040, . 11:30AM-midnight daily. Often considered the best Chinese in the Chicagoland area, Lao Sze Chuan serves up fiery Szechuan cuisine. Not only is the food excellent, the service is as well, and it even has a nice ambiance. As is often the case in Chinatown, sometimes the most inauthentic sounding names hide the best dishes; Tony's Chicken is the restaurant's rightly famous dish, served with three types of chili sauce. Other famous dishes include their very unusual cumin lamb, as well as the tea duck. If what you want isn't on the menu, tell them what you want and how you want it cooked — they'll likely invent the dish on the spot! $10-17.
- Phoenix, 2131 S Archer Ave, ☎ +1 312 328-0848, . Dim Sum: M-F 9AM-3PM, Sa-Su 8AM-3PM; Dinner Su-Th 5PM-9:30PM, Sa-Su 5PM-10:30PM. The Phoenix is the gold standard in Chicago dim sum, and with good reason. It's the one of the three top dim sum establishments that actually has nice decor, which, naturally, you pay for. Unlike the other good dim sum options, Phoenix uses the ever-popular wheeled cart method of delivery. The one downside to Phoenix is that it is better known, and therefore a good deal more crowded (and expensive) than most Chinatown restaurants — it pays to arrive either early or late to avoid the crowd. $18-30.
- Polo Cafe & Catering Bridgeport USA, 3322 S Morgan St, ☎ +1 773 927-7656, . lunch: M-F 11AM-3PM, dinner: W 6PM-8PM, F-Sa 5PM-9PM, brunch: Sa 9AM-2PM. A fine Bridgeport steakhouse decked with Mayor Daley-worship decor. Show up early on Saturday for the "Bloody Mary Brunch" and try "The Mayor's Steak and Eggs." $15-40.
As you might expect from such an Irish neighborhood, drinking is an established tradition in Bridgeport. If Chicago machine politics and general intrigue are your cup of tea, finish a tour of Bridgeport with a cold beer at the birthplace of many a corrupt scheme, Schaller's Pump. In Chinatown, some of the nicer sit-down restaurants serve alcohol, and the bar at nearby Bertucci's Corner is very pleasant. If you're up for a weirder Chinatown experience, head to the nameless, haunted, union man's bar at 26th and Wentworth.
For tea, you're in luck. In addition to dedicated teahouses, every sit down restaurant in Chinatown will serve you endless, free loose-leaf oolong tea with your meal. If you care more about the tea than the meal, Mandarin Kitchen's standard oolong is the finest.
- Bernice & John's, 3238 S Halsted St. A laid back and particularly friendly Bridgeport bar with Thursday open mic nights that have caught on well with local artists.
- Bridgeport Coffeehouse, 3101 S Morgan St, ☎ +1 773 247-9950 ([email protected], fax: +1 773 247-9969), . M-F 6AM-8PM, Sa 7AM-8PM, Su 8AM-7PM. Starbucks doesn't exist in Bridgeport and in this coffeehouse, the staff knows their customers by name. Features original blends roasted in house and some excellent loose-leaf teas. Free wireless, live jazz on Sundays, and live blues on Wednesdays.
- First Base, 3201 S Normal Ave, ☎ +1 312 791-1239. 11AM-2AM daily. A lively bar with some good Irish stout on tap. It gets raucous when the Sox are playing.
- Mitchell's Tap, 3356 S Halsted St, ☎ +1 773 927-6073, . Su-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM. Lots of different kinds of beer, bowling, golf machines, and frequent live music. cover on Sa only: $3-5.
- Schaller's Pump, 3714 S Halsted St, ☎ +1 773 376-6332. M-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 4PM-3AM, Su 3PM-9PM. This family-owned Irish-American bar is the oldest in the city — founded in 1881. The former speakeasy gets really crowded during and after Sox games, but it's always a good place to spot local power-brokers — it's just across the street from the Democratic Ward office. Regardless of whether you're here after a Sox game or you're just hatching political plots, you can enjoy a mighty fine corned beef and cabbage sandwich.
- Zhou Brothers Cafe, 1029 W 35th St (Just inside the Zhou B Art Center), ☎ +1 773 523-7777, . Certainly the most stylish hang-out in Bridgeport, the cafe/lounge is a nice place to relax on the couches, surf the free WiFi, and have a glass of wine. food: $5-10.
If you want to get out of the touristy areas and get a real Chicago neighborhood experience, the three options below are excellent. The Chinatown experience is, as is appropriate, budget and poor, while the Bridgeport options are upscale and full of South Side character.
- Chinatown Hotel, 214 W 22nd Pl (located at Cermak/Chinatown on the Red Line), ☎ +1 312 225-8888, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. Free wired internet and computers. One of the best budget options anywhere near downtown Chicago. And to top it off, its right by all sorts of delicious and cheap Chinese restaurants. But do remember that it is a budget spot — staff speaks limited English and accommodations are pretty spare (might remind backpackers of China travels). from $67.
- Benedictine Bed & Breakfast, 3111 S Aberdeen St, ☎ +1 773 927-7424 (fax: +1 773 927-5734), . Cozy spacious rooms within an urban Benedictine monastery. The price is way lower than what you would spend in a downtown hotel, but the accommodations actually blow those hotels out of the water (multiple rooms, private gardens!), and the monastery and the surrounding neighborhood have much more character. The monks are quite good cooks, and very quiet hosts — you won't even see them leave you a different breakfast each morning. Definitely make your reservations well in advance, as the two apartments often are booked solid as far as three months. $165 for 1-2 adults.
- Bridgeport Bed and Breakfast, 3322 S Morgan St (Above the Polo Cafe), ☎ +1 773 927-1122, . Run by the owner of the Polo Cafe, offering meeting space for 100 people, and suites for 4-6 visitors, the Bridgeport B&B is an unusual neighborhood B&B. One significant plus of staying here is enjoying the big gift certificates and discounts at the Polo Cafe downstairs. $200-450.
The most pleasant spots to check your email have got to be the Bridgeport Coffeehouse, Scoops, and the cafe/bar inside the Zhou B Art Center (See above for details). But for those without a laptop, there is also free internet access also at the following two public libraries:
- Chinatown Public Library, 2353 S Wentworth Ave, ☎ +1 312 747-8013. M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM. Free public internet access. Also, the library manages to be a bit of an attraction in and of itself for its indoor koi pond, China-related displays, and collection of books in Chinese.
- Richard J Daley Public Library, 3400 S Halsted St, ☎ +1 312 747-8990. M-Th 9AM-9PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM. WiFi in the house of his honor.
- Chicago's Southeast Asian Strip is located in Uptown around Argyle Street, at the CTA Red Line stop of the same name. It is a better bet for Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, and other Southeast Asian regional cuisines. It is also far less touristed than Chinatown.
- If you came here after reading Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and are feeling disappointed in the general lack of hog butchery, head due southwest to visit the few remaining monuments to the once vast Chicago meatpacking district, around the Union Stockyard gate in Chicago's Southwest Side.
- For those in search of the perfect Irish pub in Chicago, you may have better luck in the Far Southwest Side.
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