Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"

The clouds gave way to sun early this morning, so I got up and dressed and... rushed to make it to McDonalds around the block for breakfast! Making it with 5 minutes to spare, I thought I'd do a little bit of exploring in the area that I currently reside in: Bridgeport.

I grew up in a neighboring area, so Bridgeport is nothing new to me. But watching this area grow into something quite comparable to a suburb near the city has left an impression on me.  Here are two new places I ventured out to today:

Henry C. Palasimo Fishing Pond:
I drive by this fishing pond every day on my way to and from home, but just now decided to finally check it out. Growing up, this area used to be a rock quarry, which didn't really bring much beauty to Bridgeport.  In the past few years, it has been redeveloped into something that the neighborhood can not only use, but also be proud of.  The quarry has been transformed into a fishing pond, which is uniquely hidden below the towering structure of what was once the quarry.  Green hilly areas have been established, and in the mornings you can see dozens of elderly and youthful people hiking around the paths created on the hills for exercise.  In the winter, kids love to hit the slopes here for some awesome sledding excursions and in the summer I'm sure there are tons of kids heading down to the pond to try their luck at catching some fish. 

 The pathway leading to the fish pond.

 Birds chilling out in the hot sun and the cool water.

 Large dock area for fishers of all kinds.

 A little background on the fishing pond

 Pathway and sitting area overlooking the city

 Bridgeport's view of the Chicago skyline

St. Barbara's Church off in the distance
At the top of the hills, you can find a wonderful view of what I'd like to call the "everyday worker's skyline," as the Chicago skyline is a backdrop to I-55 and the I-94 E/W splits.  It also gives you a great view of Bridgeport area, with churches standing tall in a few directions.  One day, when I finally admit that my metabolism just isn't what it used to be, I'll get a bit of exercise here. One day...

Cermak Fresh Foods:
Bridgeport inhabitants have been patiently awaiting the arrival of this new grocery store to the neighborhood.  As a kid, this spot used to be a Jewel-Osco, and once I was in college the store closed down (I'd say most likely due to it being the oldest and smallest looking Jewel in all of Chicago!) What stunk about Jewel leaving this area is that many of the people that lived here now had to travel by car to the nearest full grocery stores, which are two Dominick's locations (one further west and the other further northeast).  For a while, all that was in walking distance to the heart of Bridgeport was two pharmacies: CVS and Walgreens.  While CVS has recently revamped their store floor to include a better grocery section, the two pharmacies still couldn't fill in the gap that Bridgeport had without a grocery store.

Now, the day has finally come! Cermak Fresh Foods has taken over the old Jewel-Osco spot, bringing life to a somewhat subdued area. And when I say "life," I mean it! I tried a few times to circle the block to find street parking due to an already congested parking lot and ended up finally settling for a spot down the street (out of sheer luck).  Note to self: the next time I go to Cermak Fresh Foods, I will walk there and bring my shopping cart.

When you finally get past the parking and reach the entrance of Cermak, tons of in season produce welcomes you before you even go inside. And then, on the inside, you're greeted by more and more produce that was the main set back of having just two pharmacies within walking distance of the area.  The food selection is terrific and prices are great when you compare them to Jewel and Dominick's.  The one drawback (and this might just be because of it being opening day): super duper long check out lines. While it's a sure sign of early success for this grocery store, it was a little overwhelming to go into almost every aisle and seeing half of it consumed by people waiting in line to pay for their things.  I'm sure that this will die down in a month, but for now, I'll probably only shop here during the late evening, just to make sure I avoid any long waits.

 Surprisingly, maybe only a third of the produce section

 Long lines for check out crowded dry foods aisles such as this one

 Though a small sea food section, you can find fresh (and fast) crab

 Totally reminded me of Chinatown markets, with the baskets and baskets of crabs

One whole side of the market was dedicated to fresh meats and poultry! Definitely a great location to buy grilling meat for the summer.

 Customers waiting (patiently) to buy their share of the market.

Cashiers hard at work!

With just these two sights alone, I'm sure that many Bridgeport inhabitants (does "Bridgeportites" sound reasonable?) are happy that their area is alive and happening quite like it was when I was a kid.  Now people who live here can try their luck at fishing for the meal, or, if they come out empty handed, can just walk  5 minutes away to Cermak Fresh Foods to grab some fish for dinner ;)

Till next time!

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