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Jul 18, 2001 12:52 PM

Maxwell st. market

  • z

It's been a long time since i went and I am thinking some friends who have moved here to the market.

Anyone have current favorites for food there?

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  1. Maxwell Street is a favorite for most of my out-of-town vistors. It is gritty raw big city at its best. The "new" Maxwell Street market is more sanitized. That being said...let's talk food.

    Most of the fare is Mexican street food. I particularly like the "resturant" on the South end, East side that sells quesadillas and there is still one small stand (a lady with a grill) that sells Maxwell Polish. Other than that, I am too much of a Gringo to tell one purveyor from the next and it all tastes great because you are outside and bustling with a bunch of city dwellers looking for bargins on duct tape.

    Regarding the aforementioned disclaimer, I often take my vistors on a spin through the market, if they eat until they are full fine, if they are a bit uneasy about the conditions I take them to little Italy afterwards. You should note, the City of Chicago has inspectors working the market, however, as soon as backs are turned....

    For the die hards, don't miss the "real Maxwell" Pork Chop sandwich at Jimmy's at Halsted & Maxwell (where the old market used to be), along with a grape kneehigh, its transcendental. Watch your wallet and don't get to dreamy.

    Little Italy on Taylor, a few blocks west of the market has the Pomepi Pizza bakery which will please even non-pizza lovers with its wide selection and then a trip to Mario's Italian Ice.

    This is hands down a perfect Chowhound Chicago Day for vistors who are more adventurous (more intelligent) than a trip to Michigan Avenue and the Hard Rock Cafe. However, I would love to hear others suggestions.


    16 Replies
    1. re: Peter

      I've visited the market twice in the past two years. Although I find it quite difficult to weed through all of the vendors who seem to be selling nothing more than the junk that they had gathered from the depths of their basements...the food is quite good, in my experience. It is always on the heavy side, so go with an appetite and some Tums or Pepcid. But, it is worth it. Many of the stands have much of the same thing, and I think it would be most helpful if, before going, you could brush up on your Mexican food vocabulary so that when you ordered you'd know what you were getting.

      As I speak little Spanish I've sort of taken a chance I suppose and always left happy. The tamales, I've found to be hit or miss, sometimes they're rather bland, brick-like slabs of corn filling, and sometimes they are light and flavorful. The sopas I love and come with any variety of toppings from cheese, meat and salsas. There is this grilled corn that can be good...charred and topped with mayo, queso fresco and lime. Very good! And at one stand I had this fish soup with shrimp, cilantro and a tomato broth that they spooned over it. There are an abundance of chili peppers and Pepsi in a cool-looking bottle.

      I'd say go. The food is simple as can possibly be, served with good intentions, and flavorful and cheap. It's a unique experience, in my opinion.

      I'm actually planning on going myself this Sunday.



      1. re: Emily

        What line and el stop?

        1. re: bryan

          To get to the New Maxwell St Market? Take the Orange Line (or Red Line) (Or Green Line) to Roosevelt, and then get on a west bound bus on Rooosevelt. After the overpass (@Canal) get off the bus and the market should spread out to the north and south (maybe just south). Sundays only 6AM to 3 PM. You could walk from the orange line, if you were feeling vigorous -- it's a mile maybe or a mile and a half. Did I misunderstand the question--I figured a hound as knowledgable as you Bryan, woudl have been down there before.

          I think there may be a chowhound convention there this sunday...all this talk makes me want some goat tacos, fresh churros, and cut-rate auto supplies. Shall we wear red carnations?

          1. re: Seth

            Will someone eat an ojo taco for me? Since they were either out, or just didn't trust that I meant what I said, I didn't get to try one. I was on the south side of Canal, but this woman I met on the #12 bus over said that the stands don't remind in the same place every Sunday, that it was first come first serve....

            1. re: HLing

              I don't know -- there is a relatively small number of reputedly delicious things that I would hesitate to put into my mouth -- eyes might just be the newest member of the "Safe from Consumption by Seth" club. And I'm not sure that "tastes like brain" is an appealing endorsement. Has anyone eaten these Ojo tacos? What's the experience like?

              1. re: Seth

                The next time you get a steamed whole fish, try the eyes, and or the fish brain. I can't say that the ojo taco will be like that, but it will be similar. It's more tender than froie gras, somewhat similar to bone marrow but not too rich. Very delicate tasting. If you think about it, it's probably the cleaner part of an animal....

                Besides, it only cost me $2 for my taco and my fruit drink. Even if you got it just to look(sorry), I'd be curious as to what it's like.

                1. re: HLing

                  I have actually eaten fish eyes (but not in a steamed fish, actually in a thai crispy red snapper with chili sauce) and the one thing I want to know is - what about the lens?
                  from eating and also from some high school dissection I have done -this is a very rubbery thing (in fact cow lenses bounce like superballs)

                  1. re: zim

                    It's the stuff that's around the lense that's rather tender and tasty. The lense you eventually spit out when all the flavor is gone.

                    With a fish head you get the eye area, the lip area, the jowel, and the brain, all the very best parts of a fish, though of course different texture from the fillet. On the body some people like the end part nearing the tail because it's exercised more from navigating.

                    1. re: HLing

                      Wow, you must have big ojos (g).

                      Anyway, I know you were mid-long trek and probably a little disoriented but do you have any details on where the ojo vendor was? I may seek them out this sunday.

                      1. re: zim

                        Yes, my ojos are bigger than my stomach....(there seems to be a saying like that in several languages)

                        Hope you will forgive my inability to use the conventional directions(N.S.E.W). From the Roosevelt train stop I got on the #12 bus that cross the bridge. From the direction of the bus, the ojos vendors are on the left hand side. If you pass Dominick, you've passed them. There were 2 places that offered ojos. There're not far from each other. The first one you come to offered a lot of combinations, one of which is "cesos y ojos con some".(I'm not sure if this is taco or something else) The 2nd place seem to have single items for their Tacos, and ojos is one of them.

                        Bring a big stomach and good luck!!

                        1. re: HLing

                          "Yes, my ojos are bigger than my stomach....(there seems to be a saying like that in several languages)"

                          In Hindi: Ankhon ki bukh - hunger of the eyes

                        2. re: zim

                          Oh, and don't forget the giant Oaxaca Tamales! Also in the same general direction.
                          I walked the whole length of the left side of the bridge and back, so I'm not sure where the Oaxaca tamales were in relation to the ojos.

                          By the way, the waitress who showed me the way on the bus(she was going to work at that White Palace Cafe/Diner?on Canal and Roosevelt) said that the vendors don't always get the same spot each week. It's first come first serve.
                          Hope this doesn't change things too much....

                          1. re: HLing

                            you happened to walk into some chicago history there. The While Palace Grill (Diner) has been there forever - you might have noticed it along the way to the Market. it is definitely a chicago institution.

                            Just thought you might want to know

                            1. re: zim

                              I didn't know White Palace Grill was an old Chicago institution, but I did notice that in general people in Chicago were very nice. On my way back to the Art Institute, I stopped in at the White Palace Grill to ask the waitress I rode the bus with where to get the returning bus. She pointed me in the right direction for the 2nd time that day and wished me luck.

              2. re: Seth

                to the old place? yes. to the new. No. The south side is not a normal destination for me. Chinatown is about as far south as I normally get. My head hangs.

                1. re: bryan

                  Hehe...I certainly didn't mean to shame you, Bryan! You can hardly feel bad about having been only to the genuine article. When you go to the new one, be sure to post: I'd love to hear about the differences between the old and the new..