The Run Down

For this guide, take the family to Bridgeport to fly kites and have a picnic at a giant rock quarry turned park. But first, you'll have everyone stretch their legs and take a short stroll through the neighborhood to gather all the necessary picnic provisions: tavern-style pizza and paczkis for dessert.

1. Pizza @ Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream

2. Packzis @ Bridgeport Bakery

3. Picnic @ Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park

1. Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream

We’re starting things off at Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream, a small eatery housed in a small building that sat vacant for years but has found new life.

It’s just big enough to fit a kitchen, but three different groups use it to help bring the menu together. They sell tavern-style thin crust pizzas by Eat Free Pizza, Korean-inspired fried chicken from Kimskis, and ice cream from their friends at Pretty Cool Ice Cream in Logan Square.

You may have heard of Kimskis or Pretty Cool Ice Cream before, but one you might not have heard of is Eat Free Pizza. It’s an Instagram account managed by a group of friends who make pizza out of a living room and give it away for free. They’ve found a home here and have been slinging pizzas out of this kitchen ever since.

There’s no seating inside, but they have a patio that they put to good use. The plan is to skip the patio and take this pizza to a nearby park—more on that below. 

Here’s a picture of their pepperoni and giardiniera pizza fresh out of the oven and at the park. The crust is super thin but sturdy enough to keep all the topping intact, and it’s got the type of satisfying crunch all pizzas strive for. The crust is most of the battle when making a good tavern-style pie, and they do this style justice.

2. Bridgeport Bakery

There are plenty of places in Chicago to get a good doughnut. There aren’t as many places, however, where you can get this traditional Polish dessert known as a paczki (pronounced like “pownch-key”).

If you grew up in Chicago, getting a box of these on Fat Tuesday is a core childhood memory, and now you can pass that Chicago tradition onto your kids.

A few blocks away is Bridgeport Bakery, which has been making paczkis in this cozy and unassuming storefront for over 30  years. When you walk in, you’ll probably think the place hasn’t been renovated since then either, but that adds to the charm.

If you haven’t had paczkis before, it’s basically a Polish doughnut. They make them with a bunch of different fillings. The fruit fillings are similar to what you find in jelly donuts. The custard filling, however, is where it’s at. It’s velvety, creamy, and just a well-balanced dessert.

You can really stock up on these too. They range from $1.50 to $2.79 apiece. That’s a lot of paczkis for not a whole lot of dough.


3. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park

Our last stop is less than a 10-minute walk from Bridgeport Bakery. This is perhaps the crown jewel of the neighborhood. It’s a 27-acre park established in 2009. Before being a park, this space was a landfill — before that, it was a rock quarry — and before that, it was the site of an ancient coral reef dating back 400 million years ago. This park is bustling with picnic-goers, people fishing, and anybody who needs a wide-open green space on a warm day. You’ll find three different sections to explore when you enter the park. There’s (1) the giant lawn, (2) a rock quarry pond, and finally, (3) the hilltop.

The first is this giant lawn on the West side of the park. There’s a gravel walking trail that circles the lawn, and at the North end of it, you can look down into the rock quarry and get a birds-eye view of the rest of the park.

Here’s the view from the North end of the giant lawn. Criss-crossing the park are trails and metal walkways that lead you down to the rock quarry pond. That’s where we’re headed next. Today, the quarry is filled with water and serves as a small fishing pond open to visitors.  The metal walkways take you all the way down to water level. To give you an idea of where we were before, on the top left of the picture is a fence on the cliff’s edge. That’s the North end of the giant lawn, and you can walk right up to it and look down on the water. Keep following the metal walkways, and you’ll eventually come across a stone stepping path that will lead you up a hill overlooking the city. Follow this up. Here’s the big payoff at the top of the hill. It’s a wide-open space with a lot of room to stretch out. And with the extra elevation, it doubles as a premium spot for kite flyers.

To end the guide, here’s one last look from our day in Bridgeport. We’ve touched on just one small segment of the neighborhood, which means more future trips to this beautiful community.