Dining

Cheap Thrills: Maxwell Street Market

A guide to Chicago's historic street food market

"I love street food, and this is the best that Chicago has," says Yescenia Mota, program coordinator of Chicago's city-run street and farmers' markets.

She's referring to a three-block stretch of Desplains St. in the South Loop. Each Sunday, it's overtaken by stands selling tacos, elotes and huaraches; tomatillos, nopales and dried chiles; all interspersed with tables of clothes, candy and bric-a-brac.

In its 101st year, Maxwell Street Market is as bustling as ever. And, unlike any other market in town, it's open outdoors, year-round. As the season for street fests and outdoor farmers' markets wanes, look to Maxwell Street:  "You'll be amazed who shows up in December. It's 20 below and snowing and it's still packed," says Mota.

Hit her four favorite market stalls, leaving room for a fried-dough finale from the Xoco-Churro truck.
Al pastor and tacos at Rubi's
Rubi's: Overheard while waiting in an epic line for Rubi's Rick Bayless-approved tacos: "Vale la pena [it's worthwhile]. These tacos are the best." Mota gets carne asada or al pastor ($3 each).

Manolo's: Order headily spiced mole rojo with braised pork atop a huarache ($4.50), a long, wide corn tortilla pressed with black beans inside.
Manolo's mole rojo
Pupusas Mama Lula: Load Salvadoran pupusas (thick, stuffed maize tortilla, $2 each) with vinegary cabbage slaw and red chile sauce and dig in--forks optional.

La Paz: This stall's chicharron en salsa verde taco is Mota's favorite thing at the market, with fried pork rinds simmered in piquant green sauce.
Pupusas Mama Lula

Maxwell Street Market 800 S. Desplaines St. Chicago IL 60607 312-745-4676

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