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South Side Cheap Eats: The New Maxwell Canal Street Market

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Aug 7, 2006 3:35PM

2006_08_maxwell1.jpgChicago is a city full of iconic imagery. From its skyline and architecture, to its beaches and boulevards, to its trains and neighborhoods, take one look at any of those and you know that you're looking at home.

The Maxwell Street Market once deserved to be listed among all those other landmarks. These days, Maxwell Street itself is unrecognizable. All traces of its open market glory were buried long ago by urban planning and the joint influence of UIC and His Elective Majesty, Richard II. The modern Maxwell Street is home to half-million dollar, leaky townhomes and polished turds like Junior's Sports Lounge and Morgan's passing as "entertainment options". The old market moved east; today it stretches down Canal Street, from Taylor to 18th. Even though it tries to capture the lightning of old Maxwell Street in a bottle, it's not quite the same.

Sure, if you're not a discriminating shopper, you can find pretty much anything you're looking for at the market, from clothing to central air systems. If you can't, you really aren't looking hard enough. That also includes cheap eats. Just don't hope for variety on this front, since the Polish sausage stands moved only a couple blocks over, to Union, literally on the entry ramp to the Dan Ryan. From Roosevelt Road to 14th Street, the Maxwell Street Market's dining options are dominated by Mexican food kiosks. All you have to do is sit down and wait for a waitress or cook to take your order. Tacos on average cost $1.50, as do cold drinks.

2006_08_maxwell2.jpgChicagoist stopped at Tito's Tacos, ordered two barbacoa (barbecue) and a bottle of mandarin Jarritos soda. Our total cost (with tip)? Only six dollars. We also saw kiosks selling tortas for as low as seventy cents. You can also stock up on dried fruits, nuts, non-perishables, and fresh fruits and vegetables at the market. One vendor we passed was selling fresh herb and pepper planters. Looks like that new Whole Foods that's being built across the street may have some competition.

Stopping short of going totally nostalgic on you readers, the New Maxwell Street Market does its best to fit in with the changes in the city. You would do yourself a favor by visiting the market, load up on ears of corn, eat an enchilada, and buy that set of tires for your car you haven't been able to afford. It's set up every Sunday, year-round, from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.