Bridgeport/Chinatown secrets

Hidden karaoke, restaurants, shops and more.

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Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

Augustine's in Bridgeport

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Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

Bridgeport Art Center

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Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

Zero Degrees Karaoke in Chinatown

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Photograph: Marina Makropoulos

Zero Degrees Karaoke in Chinatown

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Photograph: Emily Mohney

Once a predominantly Italian parish, 108-year-old St. Therese Chinese Catholic Church (218 W Alexander St, 312-842-6777) features Chinese scrolls on its altar alongside a cross donated by Scarface�s mom, Teresina Capone.

Furtive food
If it’s your turn to bring breakfast for the office, swing into the outlet store of Poppie’s Dough (2411 S Wallace St, 312-949-0404). True, the 8am–5pm Monday–Friday hours aren’t the most convenient and the goods might not stack up to fancy Floriole or the like, but we’re talking ten scones or three massive muffins for a buck, people! (The sweets are so cheap because they’re packaging rejects, but they look—and taste—just fine.) And remember, we’re talking coworkers, not friends.

Tiny Chinese grocer Melody Corp (3012 S Halsted St, 312-326-0931) somehow survives in a Bridgeport strip mall between a Little Caesars and a McDonald’s Express, selling fresh pork in soup-ready cuts like hocks, plus belly and spare ribs for a steal—about $2 a pound. For the adventurous, there’s offal galore.

Elusive entertainment
There are two choices at Zero Degrees Karaoke (453 W 24th St, 312-791-1863): Drop $150 for four hours of karaoke in a private room with a dozen friends, or hang in the main room while spiky-haired, baby-faced college kids bump and grind to piped-in clubby Asian pop. The former works better for us, especially when your tab goes toward that $150. (Hello, fruity cocktails and fried fish balls.)

Every third Friday, the 40-or-so artists occupying the airy Bridgeport Art Center (1200 W 35th St, 773-247-3000) host gallery shows. Wander in and out of their studios and buy paintings, jewelry and more. On the top floor, an 18,000-square-foot loft space is an ideal private party spot (call for rates), complete with stellar city skyline view.

Shrouded stores
So what if your 1994 Pontiac doesn’t have a CD player? Detour to Let’s Boogie (3321 S Halsted St, 773-254-0139), surely the last place in town to find shelf after shelf of shrink-wrapped cassettes of all genres. For old-school with more street cred, a bargain bin of vinyl holds one-hit wonders and the occasional gem for $3.

When three locals rush in to Augustine’s (3327 S Halsted St, 773-843-1933) during a ten-minute span to pick up love potions or cleansing candles from spiritual guru “Reverend” Stitch Jones, you might just become a believer yourself. Or simply treat yourself to calming bath oils, sans hocus-pocus.

Hiding on the balcony level of Chinatown Square’s strip mall and sporting spotty hours (the sign says open 10am–8pm daily, but should say open when we feel like it), restaurant supply store Rong City (2124 B S Archer Ave, 312-842-0099) has stellar deals on super-sharp knives, mixing bowls and more.

Drop into Kent Young Health Products Inc. (2400 S Wentworth Ave 1/F, 312-791-1618) to meet with Young, a licensed herbalist and acupuncturist considered the best in Chinatown. For $10, he’ll take your pulse, check your tongue, ask a few questions and wrap up with a remedy, pulling roots, herbs and, yes, deer penis from mysteriously marked drawers and grinding them into cure-all concoctions.

Mysterious miscellanea
Drinking yourself into a stupor at a Sox game is all too easy; luckily, so is booking a room at South Side–themed Bridgeport Bed and Breakfast (3322 S Morgan St, 773-927-1122; $200–$400/night). The Mayor’s or the 11th Ward suites aren’t going to win any design awards, but what the place lacks in flair it makes up for with hospitality—and crème brûlée French toast at its Polo Café.

In the window of the Worker’s Unity Center (3339 S Halsted St, 773-446-9925), a small sign that reads only unemployed action center belies the presence, and history, of the Young Communist League within. Known locally as the Haymarket Club, the YCLUSA has been headquartered in Chicago since the 1920s, taking action these days via political protests such as Occupy Chicago and motivating its base with events like open-mic night first Fridays.

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