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Baylor's Melon Market (with photos)

Baylor's Melon Market (with photos)
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  • Post #121 - July 3rd, 2011, 2:22 pm
    Post #121 - July 3rd, 2011, 2:22 pm Post #121 - July 3rd, 2011, 2:22 pm
    I didn't think to ask where the current load is from. I won't make that rookie mistake again.

    Incidentally, I do know that you can follow Baylor on Twitter. They don't post often, maybe every week or two. But you should follow: @Baylormelons

    Their post recent tweet was this one:

    25-Jun-2011
    I have some sweet yelowmeat watermelons today! 95th and King drive in Chicago an Sherman and Capitol in Milwaukee!! Spread the news!!
  • Post #122 - July 3rd, 2011, 2:32 pm
    Post #122 - July 3rd, 2011, 2:32 pm Post #122 - July 3rd, 2011, 2:32 pm
    And finally, did you guys ever read the Chicago Reader article from Summer 2010 that first turned me on to Baylor's Melons. It's a great read. Here's the link.

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/wa ... id=2044653

    It lists Keith Baylor's email address as: kbaylor29@gmail.com

    Watermelon Men
    Why the Baylors, third-generation melon haulers, have the attention of local chowhounds
    By Mike Sula

    At least once a week all summer long someone in the Baylor family drives down south and hauls back a 48-foot semitrailer filled—front to back, top to bottom—with sweet, crisp, 90-percent-water-based nostalgia.

    It could be 23-year-old Jeremy Baylor, or his 30-year-old cousin Keith, but more often it's one of their fathers—brothers Homer and Mack, respectively—who makes the watermelon run. They deliver their load to the family's market at Halsted and 101st, and then various relatives fan out with smaller trucks, piled high with bright green-and-white-striped globes and oblongs. You might have spotted them, parked somewhere on the south side, perhaps along Stony Island or 95th Street. Keith or Jeremy, or their cousins or family friends, sit up in the truck bed all day long, weighing and pricing fruit, slicing off samples, and making change for customers.

    Many of the customers are of Homer and Mack's generation, and were raised, as the brothers were, in the south. Maybe their own parents grew and sold watermelons."We fulfill a demand for something that reminds people of the south, before they all migrated north to find factory jobs," says Keith.

    Homer and Mack, both in their 60s, were born in central Mississippi in a town called Hickory, along with their older brothers Lieutenant and Elton. In 1953 their father, Hezekiah "Papa" Baylor, began hauling melons north and setting up on the street in Gary. "They were one of the largest cattle farmers in the area, and they grew watermelons kind of on the side," says Keith. "They picked cotton and worked in the fields, and they would bring the watermelons north in the summertime, before 57 was even a highway."

    Over the years they added regular stops in Chicago and Milwaukee, staying for a day in each before turning around and heading back home. In the mid-1960s Hezekiah's sons began moving one by one to Milwaukee, where watermelon sales became an infrequent sideline to construction work for a time. Mack, who's 62 and the youngest of the four brothers, made his way to Milwaukee in 1966. He worked there for a few years until he bought his first semi, a GMC with two gear shifts and a gutted muffler. Now the brothers and their sons use their own trucks to haul steel and other freight around the midwest when watermelon's not in season.

    The family tapped into a network of farmers across the south, and beginning each May collected their first load from Florida and made the two-day trip north, sleeping in their cabs. Keith says his father Mack tells the story of coming down the steep incline of Monteagle Mountain in Tennessee, an infamous stretch of Interstate 24 just over the Georgia border, and having to take both hands off the wheel to downshift. His muffler announced his arrival up to three miles off.

    In 1971 the brothers opened their first permanent seasonal watermelon market in Milwaukee—now there are three—and in the early 80s Homer opened the red cinder-block market at 101st and Halsted that serves as the Baylors' Chicago HQ. Jeremy mostly runs it now.

    Keith grew up in Milwaukee selling melons, and later roasted peanuts, too, in the markets and on the trucks. Watermelons helped put him through Howard University, where he studied business. But the allure of the road and the loyalty of his customers brought him back to the trucks. He has a wife back home whom he doesn't get to see much during melon season.

    The Baylors used to rely just on word of mouth from their regulars to get the news of their locations out, but Keith recently set up a Twitter account, @baylormelons. They don't have a website or even a phone number, though you can always ask at the Halsted market, open 8 AM to 9 PM daily. For five years running they've attracted a dedicated following among the food enthusiasts at LTHForum, who keep track of the arrival and changing locations of the trucks. Posters have noted the complex and subtle flavors of the watermelons and have speculated that the fruits take on "herbal" and "grassy" notes from crops in surrounding fields.

    "I don't know where people pick up on that," says Keith, who eats watermelon every day for breakfast. But he does agree they are superior to store-bought melons—they're fresher, sweeter, and crisper, and for that he sells each individually weighed melon at a constantly changing premium. In early June the Florida melons were selling from $7 to $12 for 18 to 45 pounds. Compare that to 15-pound Texas watermelons on sale at the same time for $4.99 at Cermak Produce.

    Lieutenant and Elton are now retired—other family members operate the Milwaukee trucks and markets. "My dad will go get a load and we'll switch trailers. We might trade up, it all depends on the situation, like if I still have melons here, my dad will go get them. Or he might stay here and sell, or I will go get the load," Keith says.

    They follow the melon crop north as the season advances. After Florida, they get them from Georgia, and then around July 4 they're selling the prized Mississippi melons, which benefit, says Keith, from the region's red clay soil. "A lot of our customers are from Mississippi, so we try to get Mississppi product. That's the way we've survived over the years."

    Keith Baylor says this week (this is from 2010), in addition to the red seeded and seedless watermelons, he'll be selling yellow-fleshed watermelons from Mississippi. E-mail him at kbaylor29@gmail.com.
  • Post #123 - July 3rd, 2011, 4:01 pm
    Post #123 - July 3rd, 2011, 4:01 pm Post #123 - July 3rd, 2011, 4:01 pm
    I didn't bother to ask yesterday, but regardless of where it was from, it wasn't very good. Mealy and not particularly sweet or flavorful.

    -Dan
  • Post #124 - July 17th, 2011, 6:07 pm
    Post #124 - July 17th, 2011, 6:07 pm Post #124 - July 17th, 2011, 6:07 pm
    Has anyone been to Baylor's lately? How was it?
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
  • Post #125 - September 13th, 2011, 7:07 pm
    Post #125 - September 13th, 2011, 7:07 pm Post #125 - September 13th, 2011, 7:07 pm
    Hi,

    According to incite, Baylor melons finish this weekend.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #126 - September 13th, 2011, 7:44 pm
    Post #126 - September 13th, 2011, 7:44 pm Post #126 - September 13th, 2011, 7:44 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

    According to incite, Baylor melons finish this weekend.

    Regards,


    Yep! I was told this coming Saturday. 3 for 12.
    Dearest Chicago on Web
    Dearest Chicago on Twitter
    Dearest Chicago on Instagram
  • Post #127 - February 1st, 2012, 6:17 pm
    Post #127 - February 1st, 2012, 6:17 pm Post #127 - February 1st, 2012, 6:17 pm
    While in Milwaukee recently we spied a dormant Baylor's Melon Bus parked off Fond du Lac (at Capitol, I think). A most attractive vehicle, sporting a hot watermelon pink paint job, it really gets you in the mood for the season's first melons, not all that far off.

    Image

    Image

    As it says on the side of the bus, the home-base Melon Market in Milwaukee is at 20th & Capitol, a couple miles east. Of course, Baylor's Melon Market at 101st & Halsted in Chicago will be closer for most.

    Baylor's Melon Market
    1985 W Capitol Dr
    Milwaukee WI
    414-873-6363

    Baylor's Melon Market
    10100 S Halsted St
    Chicago
    773-239-4780
  • Post #128 - July 1st, 2012, 10:43 pm
    Post #128 - July 1st, 2012, 10:43 pm Post #128 - July 1st, 2012, 10:43 pm
    Hi,

    My Mom requested I buy a Baylor watermelon while I was zipping around Milwaukee today. The luck-of-the-Cathy held up as I bumped into one of their fixed locations at Capitol and 20th Streets:

    Image
    7-1-12 Milwaukee by cal222, on Flickr

    They had a sale of two watermelons for $16, you could choose two valued at $8.50 up to $9.00 each. Naturally, I took two $9.00 melons.

    It was cool to learn from their signage that this business has been thriving since 1953.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #129 - July 1st, 2012, 11:16 pm
    Post #129 - July 1st, 2012, 11:16 pm Post #129 - July 1st, 2012, 11:16 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:It was cool to learn from their signage that this business has been thriving since 1953.

    In Watermelon Men, an excellent history of Baylor's, Mike Sula wrote:In 1953 their father, Hezekiah "Papa" Baylor, began hauling melons north and setting up on the street in Gary. … In 1971 the brothers opened their first permanent seasonal watermelon market in Milwaukee—now there are three—and in the early 80s Homer opened the red cinder-block market at 101st and Halsted that serves as the Baylors' Chicago HQ.
  • Post #130 - August 6th, 2013, 7:56 pm
    Post #130 - August 6th, 2013, 7:56 pm Post #130 - August 6th, 2013, 7:56 pm
    Baylor melon bus spotted today around 5 PM on the S/W corner of 159th & Dixie Highway Harvey,IL.
    You can see a street view of it on Google maps.
  • Post #131 - May 11th, 2014, 1:42 pm
    Post #131 - May 11th, 2014, 1:42 pm Post #131 - May 11th, 2014, 1:42 pm
    Is the stand open yet? thinking about donut and melon run.
  • Post #132 - June 5th, 2014, 2:31 pm
    Post #132 - June 5th, 2014, 2:31 pm Post #132 - June 5th, 2014, 2:31 pm
    Got my first watermelon of the summer at Baylor's today, followed up with a fritter from Old Fashioned. The watermelon made it home just fine, unfortunately the fritter didn't survive the ride...
  • Post #133 - June 5th, 2014, 3:54 pm
    Post #133 - June 5th, 2014, 3:54 pm Post #133 - June 5th, 2014, 3:54 pm
    Thats why you gotta buy two
  • Post #134 - June 14th, 2014, 7:30 am
    Post #134 - June 14th, 2014, 7:30 am Post #134 - June 14th, 2014, 7:30 am
    How was the melon?
    I can not get a good watermelon for the life of me.
    If I knew it would be good, might be worth the ride.
  • Post #135 - June 14th, 2014, 11:00 am
    Post #135 - June 14th, 2014, 11:00 am Post #135 - June 14th, 2014, 11:00 am
    Hi,

    Where Baylor's obtains their watermelons pretty much follows the seasons. Early on their melons come from Florida. Their sources come progressively north as the season evolves.

    Often they have some representative melons cut up for tasting. If none are out, they might do it by request ... though I have never had to. At least you have a sense what you are about to purchase and eat.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #136 - June 16th, 2014, 9:02 am
    Post #136 - June 16th, 2014, 9:02 am Post #136 - June 16th, 2014, 9:02 am
    jilter wrote:How was the melon?
    I can not get a good watermelon for the life of me.
    If I knew it would be good, might be worth the ride.

    .
    The melon was awesome. They always have some cut up for samples.
  • Post #137 - July 12th, 2014, 10:17 am
    Post #137 - July 12th, 2014, 10:17 am Post #137 - July 12th, 2014, 10:17 am
    I read in Dining Chicago

    that Baylor brings a truck to Highland Park.
    Can anyone verify that for me?
    I have looked at FB and Twitter and nothing seems to be updated past 2013.
    Thank you for any current info.
    Jill
  • Post #138 - September 22nd, 2016, 3:19 pm
    Post #138 - September 22nd, 2016, 3:19 pm Post #138 - September 22nd, 2016, 3:19 pm
    The Baylor Watermelon store is closed for the year. Since they don't have a phone or website, I found out the hard way. You're welcome.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #139 - July 10th, 2018, 12:46 am
    Post #139 - July 10th, 2018, 12:46 am Post #139 - July 10th, 2018, 12:46 am
    Has anybody seen the melon truck this year? Do they do any stops in the Northern suburbs or on the North side of Chicago?

    I reread the posts here, and apparently the only place you can get the melons is 10100 South Halstead correct? That is too far for me to drive just for a melon, unless I stopped there on my way to Michigan next month. Thanks, Nancy

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