Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Kevin Hickey's Bridgeport
Editor's note: After checking out the some of my Logan Square neighborhood picks, it's time to see what some of the best chefs in Chicago like to eat in their own hoods. First up is chef Kevin Hickey, who gave us a truly insider's guide to Bridgeport.
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Chef Kevin Hickey may spend his days in the Gold Coast, cooking elegant comfort food at his brand new restaurant, Allium, but after service is over, he returns to Bridgeport, the same neighborhood he grew up in. As you can imagine, this makes him one of the best guides possible to the South Side neighborhood, because not only has opinions on where to eat, but he also knows the families behind the establishments.
Much like the neighborhood itself, Hickey's favorites are a mix of the old and the new, traditional and innovative. From an old-school bakery with killer doughnuts, to a Chinese restaurant with a cutting edge tasting menu, Bridgeport has a lot to offer. I'll let Hickey take it from here.
Bar: Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar. I love that it is a brand new bar, but the family is not new. The family has owned that bar for 35 years, and Maria has run it for 34 years. It was totally a neighborhood place. Then she let her son Eddie turn it into a hip little bar. They still have the package goods store up front, and Maria still sits at the counter. But behind it is a sharp bar. It's my favorite place to hang out.
Sandwich: Ricobene's has been there for years, and they serve this breaded steak sandwich ($5.29, regular). It's a large piece of beef, but I can't vouch that it is actually a steak. Anyway, they pound it out, bread it, fry it, and then drench it in red gravy. You have to order it with mozz and spicy giardineria. It's then placed in a big roll. I'm only allowed to go once a year.
Dinner Spot: Pleasant House Bakery opened last year next to Maria's. They are doing English-style meat pies, and it's all really great. But I think my favorite dish is the steak chips. They serve it with a rich and dense gravy, which is so good, and then cover it in cheese curds. Plus, you can place your order in there and they deliver to Maria's.
Essential Bridgeport: Schaller's Pump. It's been there for so long, and it's such an iconic place. You have to go there and have a drink. It's across the street from the Democratic headquarters in the neighborhood, which tells you everything. We used to go there for prime rib when I was a kid, and Bill Veeck, who used to own the White Sox, was always there. A rare treat would be when I could go over and kick his wooden leg.
Burger: The burgers at Cork & Kerry at the Park are based on the many different ethnic groups of Bridgeport. So there is a Latino Burger ($8.95) with chorizo, chipotle mayo, and avocado. But my favorite is probably the Irish Burger ($8.95), which comes with Irish bacon, a fried egg, coleslaw, and Dubliner cheese.
Falafel: Zaytune on Morgan. They have great falafel and shwarma, and they are served on some beautiful lavash. It's a really nice place.
Date night: Han 202 serves this cutting edge Chinese tasting menu. It's also BYOB.
Pastry/Dessert: Bridgeport Bakery, which has been there for 60 years, has great doughnuts. Obviously, they are the old fashioned kind. They also serve bacon rolls, along with other American pastries. But the doughnuts kick ass.
Bread: The Impallaria Bakery & Deli serves good Italian bread. They also do a nice Italian cookie.
Coffee: Bridgeport Coffee Company. They've won all kinds of awards, and they totally deserve it.
Breakfast: I am pretty partial to the chilaquiles at Mexico Steakhouse on Archer Avenue, which has been there for over 40 years. I grew up with the family, and, in fact, my first girlfriend was one of the daughters. It's a pretty solid portion. I don't like it when chilaquiles are totally wet, but these are more like breakfast nachos.