|Classic South Side bungalows.|
Bridgeport is a neighborhood AND a community area. Besides the Sox (which still act as a major influence despite calling Armour Square home), Bridgeport is probably most recognized as the home of the Daley family. The original Mayor Daley, Richard J., called Bridgeport home while occupying Chi-town’s most prestigious office. Naturally his future-Mayor son, Richard M., grew up in the neighborhood, as did another no-less-notable Daley son, Bill.
But setting aside past history, Bridgeport today is on the cusp of truly exceptional things. While several storefronts remain empty, and while the rumble of the L doesn’t deliver people to the heart of the neighborhood, several anchors have established themselves to help make Bridgeport a destination for anyone looking for a truly classic and unique Chicago experience.
The boundaries: Although the boundaries of Bridgeport get a little twisted, especially in the northeast corner of the neighborhood, they are essentially as follows: The Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94) to the northeast, the Chicago River to the northwest and west, Pershing Road at the south end, and the train tracks between Canal Street and Stewart Avenue to the west. Might be best to just refer to the map at the end of this entry.
|Abandoned since the 1980s, a movement is underway to restore|
the historic Ramova Theater to its past glory.
Population make-up: From 2000 to 2010, Bridgeport’s population declined by 5.3% to 31,925 residents. As of 2010, the racial make-up of the community area is 38.5% white, 32.4% Asian, 27.0% Hispanic, and 0.8% black. Bridgeport also helps dispel the myth that the South Side is crime-ridden and to be avoided. It’s actually one of the safest community areas in the city.
A brief history: Beginning as farmland in the early 1800s, Bridgeport rose to prominence in the 1830s with the growth of manufacturing and industry, due to the neighborhood’s prominence along the Chicago River. The proximity to blue-collar work attracted various European ethnicities, especially the Irish. Over time, the political involvement of the Irish population worked itself to the Mayor’s office. Since 1933, five of Chicago’s Mayors (totaling a cumulative 71 years in office) have hailed from Bridgeport, most notably both Daleys.
|The Daley house. Today owned by another family,|
here is where Daley Sr. resided and Daley Jr. grew up.
Getting there: By L, you can get dropped off in the northern portion of Bridgeport at the Halsted Orange Line station. You can walk to the northwest part of Bridgeport from the Ashland Orange Line station as well, which is located in the McKinley Park neighborhood. Also, it’s a relatively short walk/bus ride to the east part of Bridgeport from the Sox/35th Red Line station in Armour Square.
If taking the bus north-south, your best option is Halsted (8), but Wallace-Racine (44) will also get the job done. If going east-west, you can hop on at 35th Street (35) or Pershing (39). Surprisingly there is no east-west route along 31st Street, but that may be changing soon. Lastly, the Archer bus (62), which runs northeast-southwest, will get you to the northwest corner of the neighborhood. Very useful if getting to/from the Orange Line.
Han 202 (605 W. 31st Street)
|"Chinese" and "seafood" are not mutually exclusive.|
Michael’s Take: I am huge fan of prix fixe menus. The menu only has a few offerings in each category (salad, appetizer, entrée, and dessert in this case), so there’s a lot of focus on just a few things. I opened with a calamari salad. Admittedly, it was underwhelming. The calamari was very tender, but the dressing was so light that it was almost unnoticeable, and the greens were fresh but unspectacular. From here, things vastly improved. My Shanghai dumplings were soft and moist, with a slightly meaty filling. As a big fan of dim sum, this was exactly what I was hoping for.
|The oft-changing menu.|
Laura’s Take: First Pro: BYOB. There is something really welcoming and exciting about bringing your own beverage bottle of choice into a small, cozy setting. Second Pro: A solid good meal. Con: A meal not so good that I can remember all of what I had. Actually, I know I had the peking duck as my entrée, and I know that the first courses outshone it. Yet I can’t remember what those appetizers were. This may be more a function of my already aging brain turning into a sieve for short-term memories, but it may not be. I had high expectations for Han202. I was slightly disappointed given these expectations. However, the atmosphere and experience overall were still lovely. Last pro: the atmosphere. Urban, intimate, bustling, and modern.
Anything Else We Missed: Definitely make a reservation. The restaurant is very small and you won’t be able to walk in on a weekend unless it’s really late. Also, there’s a sample menu on-line, but it essentially changes daily.
|Soy sauce ice cream to the left, "Lion's Head" durian to the right. Raspberry in the middle.|
Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar (960 W. 31st Street)
|Maria dominates her dojo on 31st Street.|
Michael’s Take: This is a really great joint. I’m already looking forward to going back. Like a microcosm of Bridgeport itself, our lone evening there was a great mix of people: young and old, hip and square, groups and solo acts, and several different ethnic backgrounds. Maria’s is small for a liquor store, and it’s also small for a bar. This isn’t a complaint. Rather, it’s a nice, low-light, intimate venue. The bartenders are very attentive and helpful in making recommendations. Great beer selection, especially on tap. For Chi-town brew hunters, this is must-do.
|Everyone's favorite blogger, stopping in for a cold one.|
Anything Else We Missed: DJs (aka “Disc Jockeys”) performing virtually every night of the week/weekend. The list of guest spinners seems equally diverse both musically and ethnically. So check the calendar on Maria’s website to see if they have something up your alley. If not, just go earlier and get yourself a tasty beverage before the music starts.
Nana (3267 S. Halsted Street)
|Don't let the logo fool you. |
You're not in Logan Square anymore.
Michael’s Take: Although the restaurant was bumping at noon, we lucked out and only had to wait about five minutes to get a window seat for two. The restaurant looks really small when you walk in, but there’s an adjacent dining room offering much more space. The menu is limited which, again, isn’t a complaint. It’s a concise menu with some really solid-looking breakfast and lunch items. I went with one of their signature dishes, the Nanadict. While the concept clearly mirrors oh-so-delicious eggs benedict, their spin on this classic item really excels. Beneath the beautifully poached eggs is a hearty, spicy, crumbly layer of chorizo sausage. This pairs perfectly with a light poblano cream sauce, matching some cool with the heat of the sausage. Finally, replacing the English muffin is a pupusa. It’s a firm, slightly crispy disc of bread that provides a solid base for the Nanadict, and compliments the soft texture of the poached egg. The home fries and light salad on the side make the meal more filling than on first appearance. Going back to Nana, I’d likely get the Nanadict again. It’s easy to see what makes this a signature item…well, that and “Nana” is in the name of the item.
|Na na na na, hey hey hey, |
kiss these eggs benedict goodbye!
The home fries that came with the meal were above average too. The volume of food altogether was quite a good deal for the price, a happy surprise. I left feeling full and satisfied in a healthy way.
Anything Else We Missed: I think it’s hard to consider Nana a diner, drive-in, or dive, but that didn’t stop Guy Fieri from stopping in for the Food Network. It’s a particularly lengthy segment compared to the amount of time the show usually spends on a given eatery and does a great job of highlighting the unbelievable food at Nana.
Bridgeport Art Center (1200 W. 35th Street)
|This IS the entrance, right?|
Michael’s Take: What’s nice about Bridgeport Art Center’s gallery is there are enough interesting pieces to spend at least an hour, or you can quickly admire it in a 5-minute stroll. One of my FAVORITE concepts that successful cities are embracing is the live-work artist studio. Artists can live temporarily (usually for a year or two) at very low rent, and are given lofts that function as residences and work studios. Currently, the Bridgeport Art Center has nearly 50 artists living on four different floors in the imposing building. The results are a variety of forms of art: painting, sculpting, woodworking, even audio. Much of the artwork on display is for sale. Prices are listed on flyers attached to the wooden beams. The Bridgeport Art Center holds several formal exhibitions every month. But even if you want to head over on your own, the gallery is free and open to the public most days, including Saturdays.
|"Self Portrait" by Bill Boyce|
Anything Else We Missed: Art seekers, don’t stop here. Bridgeport also features two highly acclaimed galleries that offer a variety of programming throughout the year. The Co-Prosperity Sphere (3219 S. Morgan Street) also hosts artist residences, studios, and events such as an open mic story telling which is BYOB/P (bring your own booze/pie). Also, the Zhou B Art Center (1029 W. 35th Street) is a prestigious art center that emphasizes bringing together Eastern and Western art forms into one place. Zhou B (appropriately named after the Zhou Brothers) features frequent exhibits, open houses every third Friday of the month, and a café/art lounge.
|"Trying to Remember Books Loaned to Friends" by Rita Grendze|
Bridgeport: The Final Tally
|Playing "Spot the Hipster" in the heart of Bridgeport (35th & Halsted).|
In many ways, Bridgeport still resembles the neighborhood your grandparents resided in as you grew up. In other ways it resembles the next Logan Square. These identities intermingle street-by-street creating an environment that makes Bridgeport one of a kind. Once Chicago’s iconic blue-collared, closed-off neighborhood, it has reinvented itself as a place where everyone fits in. Still oft forgotten by those who prefer to stick to downtown and the North side, Bridgeport is on the cusp for a remarkable breakthrough in the very near future; to potentially become one of the Windy City’s most identifiable and enticing neighborhoods.
|Bridgeport is the place to be (before and after the Sox game, quite naturally).|
|"Blo/Blo" by Bill Boyce at the Bridgeport Art Gallery|
|Red Beet Salad at Han 202|
|Shanghai Dumplings at Han 202|
|Toldja the Sox were a big deal|
|The past embraces the future |
|Bridgeport (yellow) is just a stone's throw away from the Loop (blue).|