The Run Down

There are no shortage of outdoor markets when summer rolls around, and for today's guide we'll be visiting two staples on the the South Side. You'll first head to a summer farmer's market in Woodlawn, just south of the University of Chicago campus, where we'll pick up fresh produce, pies, and a smorgasbord of items from a local French chef. Afterwards, we continue our quest for good food at a mini outdoor market constructed from repurposed shipping containers. Here are the details.

1. Shop @ 61st Street Farmer's Market

2. Eats @ Boxville

1. 61st Street Farmer’s Market

Every Saturday from May to October, this quiet street near the University of Chicago campus is transformed into a bustling market. There are loads fresh produce vendors, food stalls, and other eats. Before we get into it, here are some logistics information to be aware of and some other interesting facts.

– Market runs from 9am – 2pm on Saturdays

– Outdoor season runs from May to October

– The market is run by Experimental Station. This is a non-profit focused on building cultural infrastructure on the South Side. Their headquarters is on the market grounds and inside their building they house a number of different businesses like the South Side Weekly, Build Coffee, and Invisible Institute.

The entrance is at the corner of 61st and Dorchester. If you have trouble finding it, just look out for this imposing steam plant that overlooks the market. There are 20+ vendors and here is a spotlight on just a few places we stopped by.

Build Coffee

If you head straight from the entrance, the street will bend and right around the corner you’ll find another section of vendors and a line of folks outside of Build Coffee. This is a gallery, coffee shop, and bookstore all rolled into one.

Keep this place on your radar. In addition to their coffee, breakfast sandwiches and fresh baked bread they sell from Publican, they serve as a culture hub, hosting music performances, books clubs, art exhibitions, and other specially curated events. 

Pleasant House Bakery

At the end of the farmer’s market is where you’ll find Pleasant House Bakery. They operate a restaurant in Pilsen known  for their savory meat pies that they call ‘Royal Pies.’ These things are the ultimate comfort food. It’s a flaky and buttery pie crust filled with meats and veggies encased inside. 

Chef Didier

The legendary Chef Didier is a popular presence at the market. He’s been a staple of the French cooking scene in Chicago since he arrived here from Paris in 1986. He brings coolers full of classic French dishes including his specialty foie gras and duck terrine. Pair the duck terrine with the fresh baked publican bread you just picked up, and you’ve got yourself the beginning of quite the picnic.

Speaking of foie gras, you may also want to thank him because he can be credited in helping overturn Chicago’s  foie gras ban in 2008.

Supreme Bean Pie

As you make your way through all the vendors, you’ll inevitably run into Supreme Bean Pie. This is a South Shore bakery that specializes in the almighty bean pie. It’s made from the simple navy bean and tastes similar to sweet potato pie but with a slightly milder flavor profile. After scarfing down one of their mini-pies, I’ve officially converted from team sweet potato to team bean pie.

The bean pie also has a fascinating history to go along with it. It’s been a staple dish of the black Muslim community since the 1960s after the founder of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, published his book, How to Eat to Live, that instructed his followers to adhere to a healthful diet, with a particular focus on the navy bean.

2. Boxville

After the farmer’s market, we’re continuing our quest for good eats and shopping. We’re about a 6 minute drive to the Bronzeville neighborhood where we’re going to visit an outdoor marketplace constructed from repurposed shipping containers.

It’s called Boxville and it’s an initiative meant to spur commerce in a community that’s looking to revitalize itself. While the marketplace is made up of 17 shipping containers with room for 20 businesses, the vision is to continue to build up, literally, with the goal of having 100 containers spread over four stories.

We were food focused on our trip and stopped by two places to grab some eats.

Synergy Foods

Located in Boxeville’s main square, Synergy Foods is a produce store providing the community with access to fresh produce. On top of that that, they sell a variety of caramel apples, a classic summertime treat that we were eager to get our hands on.

These caramel apples are hand dipped and come in a variety of mixes. The one pictured below is the called the Trio — it’s a Granny Smith Apple coated with caramel and topped with crushed almond, Butterfinger, and walnut. Here’s a tip. Don’t buy just one, because while you may think one is enough, it just isn’t.

The Hot Dog Box

The Hot Dog Box is a gourmet hot dog joint started by Bobby Morelli and his 9-year-old daughter Brooklyn. While dad constructs their decadent gourmet hot dogs, Brooklyn runs the register and writes these adorable handwritten thank you notes with every order.

They’re constantly experimenting with different hot dog styles, but each one of their hot dogs start with their filet mignon steak dogs. Pictured below is their Bronzeville Bourbon Wagyu Filet Mignon Steak Dog. This hefty hot dog is topped with a cabbage & carrot medley, smokey crumbled bacon, a secret bourbon BBQ sauce, and hot sport peppers.

For you hot dog purists, they also do a classic Chicago dog, but we’re here in Boxville to think outside the box.

That does it for this guide but after you pick up your hot dog and caramel apples, there are 15 other other businesses in this marketplace for you to explore and round out your afternoon.

Here’s a bit more on each.