Chicago/Bridgeport-Chinatown

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.

Understand

Buddhism and Catholicism in Bridgeport

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.

Get in

By train

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.

By bus

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.

By car

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).

Get around

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.

See

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

Bridgeport

Enlarged Chinatown map

Do

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

Buy

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

Bridgeport

Eat

Downtown Bridgeport

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 Han 202 are in particular standout destination restaurants that really warrant a trip.

Budget

Chinatown

Bridgeport

Mid-range

Chinatown

Bridgeport

Splurge

Drink

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.

Sleep

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.

Connect

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:

Go next

Routes through Bridgeport-Chinatown

END Southwest Side  SW  NE  Near South The Loop
The Loop Near South  N  S  Bronzeville Far Southeast Side


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 21, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.