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#1: Halsted Foods

Yesterday, I got “scooped” by the press. The lovely Kyra Kyles @ The Red Eye hit on “my” topic on her blog. At first, I was like “Damn…there goes another idea out into the universe that found another owner.” Then I decided to drop her a line to tell her about my blog. I actually got some “press” out of it. Whoo Hoo. So, anyway, thanks to Mz. K, her blog actually got me off of my toochis, kicked my “lil hater” in the a**, and filled the ‘fridge so, I won’t spend what little change I have at crappy McPier. So, without further ado….here’s the first neighborhood~~~ Bridgeport.

Halsted Foods
3418 S. Halsted
Mon to Fri 9 to 9
Sat 10 to 9
Sun 10 to 7

Rating: 2.8 pots out of 5.

Think of “Cheers” when you think of this place. Yes, come in here enough and they will know your name. This place is over 100 years old (seriously) and has no sign of slowing down. I’m reminded of the old A&P chain when I go in here but it has no green stamps or the ubiquitous coffee mill at the register to grind your Eight O’Clock coffee beans. (But they do carry Eight O’ Clock in hazelnut no less).

However, they probably will move within the next year or so. The Chicago Public Library has plans to expand southbound and they are in the way.

Service/Added Features (3 pots): Not bad. Go often enough and you’ll get to know the cashiers and a few of the pimply-faced stock boys. There’s a very sweet old guy there who knows everyone in the neighborhood (and probably where the bodies are buried) and always is reminding me about upcoming sales. He saved me from buying paper towels tonight since they are going on sale tomorrow. HF offers home delivery for about $8. Other services: check cashing, stamps (10) for $5, roll of quarters for .25 service charge, overpriced smokes (but that’s everywhere), and money orders.

Price (4): It’s a low-end grocery store. You’ll find some private brands here but mostly their stock is made up of the Centrella Food brand, which is a local company. Centrella isn’t gonna make it on the Food Network but it’s pretty good quality if you have a tight, I mean tight, budget. If you’re mindful, you can do some serious stocking up around holidays. I’ve caught some really good sales here on brands I normally wouldn’t get because of price. The next sale I’m looking forward to will be in late February/March when corned beef tends to get down to 99 cents a pound. Gotta love the Irish.

Now they do have “markdowns”—but that’s a serious buyer beware situation. I combed thru the cart and found Miracle Whip for $1.99. But it expires tomorrow. Just like the Uncle Ben’s rice, Dole Pineapple cups, Sanka Coffee, and fruit that looked like it was on it’s way to becoming mummified.

Selection (2): You’re not gonna be able to go hog-wild here. One thing I’ve noticed about grocery stores in Chicago is that their location determines what is carried. So, while Centrella is the main brand here, you’ll find three “genres” of food staples here: American, Mexican, and now some Chinese (but it’s actually Thai brands. Crappy Thai brands). Meat is pretty basic~~ no special cuts of pork, beef or chicken. But in the last 7 months I did start finding some lamb and veal cuts. Albeit skimpy and a bit on the high price side. The deli is okay– but not much of a choice. It’s either private label cold cuts or Scott Peterson, which is an “okay” brand, but not one to make a habit out of.

Produce is about as basic as you can get, about 10 types of fruit to choose from and that’s not including my beloved Clementines. Veggies are the same, but they do carry the Glory brand, which is great when I want to make a quick pot of greens with smoked turkey. I used to split my shopping between here for the meat, which is cut nicely and clean, and the Egg Store at 30th and Halsted. But due to the economy, I assume, they have closed. So, the one thing Bridgeport will now be lacking (aside from a good bowling alley) is a range of fresh produce. When I moved over here two years ago, the Jewel across from the Egg Store closed. The one plus side to this place is that it carries a lot of local brands, which I’m considering to make a point of buying more of.

Local Companies: Europa Bakery, La Criolla, Bella Nico, El Milagro, Del Rey

Cleanliness (4): This maybe a stretch but it’s like discounting the Pyramids because there’s sand. The place is old and yeah the owners could make some investments and rehab the title, the walls, the meat display but it’s that quaintness that gives it some sort of nostalgia to it. But the place is generally well stocked, except on Wednesdays and Thursdays of a really good sale (i.e. Corn King bacon 2/$5. Swine, be afraid over here. Be very afraid.)

Accessibility (2.5): If you’re walking or on the bus, then it’s a great place. Right on the #8 Halsted bus line and if you live nearby, then you’re not in a food desert. But if you’re driving, forget it. Parking is on the street, which means you have to pay for it. Or you could risk a ticket by parking on the neighborhood side streets. (But that risk only happens during baseball season and the snow removal days). As for handicap access, I guess the aisles could be navigated but check out certainly could be tight.

Location (4): I guess this part is subjective. It works for me. It’s on a main bus line and within walking distance.

Overall: This is a basic supplies store. Better deals on sales can be found at Fairplay on 47th and Halsted. However, if you have a tight budget then it could be Sri Lanka. But if you’re cooking mid to gourmet then move on to green pastures.


About Author

A visual journalist living in Chicago.


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January 2010
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