OUR RATING: Do It!
Dating back to 1900 when it was established by immigrants, today this market bustles in a new location with the life and produce of a new generation. An Aladdin’s Cave of everything from produce to electronics, it’s a quintessential Chicago experience and perfect for a hot day of strolling and bargain hunting.
Alicia: The Maxwell Street neighborhood is one of the city’s oldest residential districts and comes with a wealth of history. The neighborhood’s multicultural open air market is my favorite in the city, and the one I keep going back to when the weather permits. There’s a unique and honest life to this market that you might not find elsewhere in the city, and with produce, antiques, household items, food, and music galore, it isn’t easy to walk away empty-handed.
I love to start my journey through the market by purchasing a piece of fresh fruit from the vendors, usually a juicy plum or a peach. Not only does this provide a refreshing outlet to what is usually a long, hot adventure through the stalls, but it also protects me from buying literally everything as I pass stalls upon stalls serving up authentic Mexican fare, including favorites like Pupusas y Tamales Mama Lula’s pupusas, Xoco-Churro’s churros and a wealth of pambazos, tamales, quesadillas and, of course, tacos.
My main purchases usually include a pair of sunglasses, as there’s a wide variety of choices everywhere you look, and at very decent prices. And while you don’t have to speak Spanish to get things at a good rate, it does help to have a bit of it up your sleeve to assist you in bargain-hunting. But really, I don’t really ever go with the intention of buying anything, but rather just go in hopes of soaking up the ambience and energy of the market, and I’m always so glad that I do.
Adam: With over 500 vendors, the frenzied buzz of the market engulfs you the moment you are swept by the torrent of people at its entrance into the many blocks of stalls beyond. Food sellers hawk their wares, whether it’s an enchilada you’re after, or a piña colada in a hollowed out pineapple (these are a must, as they are substantially cheaper here than elsewhere in the city).
There’s something about this market that reminds me of a car boot sale – sometimes the things you will discover will take you back to your childhood or a simpler time. A big highlight has to be the many gaming stalls that are selling everything from complete N64s and their cartridges to cartridges even from really old systems like the Super Nintendo (if you had the good sense to keep the system). My great joy here is finding all the old Star Trek games I was too young for at the time.
Other items on sale include perfumes and colognes, but be wary of these as they tend to water down some varieties with alcohol or sell slightly reformulated types.
Excellently fun for a warm day, the market is so long that is will take you a good hour to walk up and down both sides. Make the most of it and take your time – you’ll find something awesome.
Final Thoughts: An abundance of deals and good food is not all that awaits you at Maxwell Street Market. Fitness Sundays are every third Sunday from 9am-1pm, Dance Sundays also occur about once a month, and there’s a variety of other special events that happen each week. So get your Chicago on and enjoy the outdoors, and don’t forget that fresh piña colada or maybe just a glass of yummy horchata.
P.S. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Maxwell Street Market this Sunday, May 5 from 9am-3pm with performances by Linda’s Dance Studio, Mariachi Mexico Viva, Los Hot Baneros, and more!