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#1
Posted September 23rd 2008, 4:39pm
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Few places are written about as often, thoroughly, or as lovingly on LTHForum than Maxwell Street Market. A cursory search turns up 309 posts, or 109 topics containing that collection of words - and most posts are substantive descriptions of the many, many, offerings of the market. Along with the GNR list itself, Maxwell Street Market is one of the places most often recommended to out-of-towners looking for a true "Chicago Experience." Why is there such love in the food community for a simple, open-air flea market? At this moment, because it's the best place in Chicago to find handmade Mexican street food in an authentic atmosphere - and its wares are as diverse as Mexico itself. Few LTHers have covered the market as thoroughly as our own intrepid David Hammond, whose forays are well-documented here: Bigger and Longer: New, Improved Maxwell Street Market Guide

Maxwell Street Market offers the kind of foodie nirvana that makes you drool just considering it. My own adventures at Maxwell Street have included such unconventional foods as tacos de ojo and de sesos, goat consomme, huitlacoche, flor de calabaza, Mamey, and my beloved friend, the chicharron. However, you need not steel your foodie heart to enjoy the pleasures of the market: I've also enjoyed churros (mexican doughnuts,) tacos hecho a mano with more conventional fillings of carne asada, pastor, and glorious cheese quesadillas. If you haven't had the pleasure of food straight from the hands of an Abuelita, this is your opportunity - it is one of the few places where "homemade" has some real meaning, as the vendors come from their homes to prep and chop and squash and smooth before your very eyes. LTHers meet at this market several times a year, sometimes in an organized fashion, sometimes by chance - always intent upon the latest food and drink offerings, not to mention the side benefit of being able to purchase random goods in a state of well-fed nirvana: we've left the market with produce, parasols and pokemon cards.

Maxwell Street Market Tour led by David Hammond, Sunday 8/10
Maxwell Street Foray, November 18
Nr706's video LTHForum Visits Maxwell Street Market

Maxwell Street Market is a true treasure of Chicago - a repository of its history and a haven for its recent immigrants, all expressed through food and service. Although consistently pushed ahead by the wave of gentrification, the Market endures, a testament to vendors who spend one day a week - the day God takes vacation - making something from nothing: a full-service market that springs from bare concrete and sky.

Maxwell Street Market
Desplaines Street and Roosevelt Road
650 Roosevelt Rd
Chicago, IL 60607
Sundays (7:00AM to 3:00PM)
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#2
Posted September 23rd 2008, 4:43pm
MHays wrote:before your very eyes


( :shock: ) <--- those parentheses being tortilla edges
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#3
Posted September 23rd 2008, 5:33pm
MHays,

What a creative nomination.

One logistical question: Where does the certificate go to? City of Chicago?

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#4
Posted September 23rd 2008, 5:43pm
I suppose this question ought to be answered; I did put some thought into it. One idea I had was to offer a virtual certificate to the Maxwell Street Market Foundation website. I don't think offering a certificate to each individual stand is a good option, but maybe contacting the City isn't a bad idea, either - there is contact information here.
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#5
Posted September 23rd 2008, 5:57pm
Hi,

I wouldn't give it to each vendor, because they do vary in quality and your really paying homage to the whole rather than the different elements. I wouldn't give it to a foundation either, because they are likely into preservation and fundraising. I think giving it to whomever is responsible from the city would be the right place.

Regards,
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"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#6
Posted September 23rd 2008, 6:34pm
As this is my nomination, if it succeeds, I will take on the responsibility for figuring out the logistics of who to contact and tracking down what needs to go where - or if more discussion is necessary, I will create a thread to that end. I certainly don't want to make more work for the mods and GNR voters.
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#7
Posted September 23rd 2008, 9:12pm
Logistics aside, this is a brilliant nomination. A trip to the Maxwell Street Market is like a trip to many of Mexico's most important regions, food-wise. I heartily endorse Maxwell Street Market as a GNR (even if it isn't a restaurant, technically).
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#8
Posted September 24th 2008, 6:58am
I would be inclined that either it's the whole (so to speak) enchilada or this nomination doesn't make sense - it's also a prime example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I doubt we would recommend any single stand to out-of-towners as enthusiastically as we do the market - even if it was one of the fantastic ones - if it stood by itself on Desplaines. While I agree, this means the GNR encompasses some less-deserving places, how different is that than a GNR where most agree there are certain dishes they do better than others?

So, my suggestion would be to think of the Market as an entity - and if we decide it should be stand-by-stand, there's always next year. There are some suggestions floating around already as to how to award the certificate.
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#9
Posted September 24th 2008, 7:16am
Mhays wrote:So, my suggestion would be to think of the Market as an entity -

Mhays,

I view the Market as a whole, almost a living breathing organism. I never say I'm going to Manolo's or Ricos Huaraches, it's always I'm going to Maxwell Street.

I find Maxwell Street an inspired nomination and would be up for an outing this Sunday, baring a blizzard.

Enjoy,
Gary
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#10
Posted September 24th 2008, 8:44am
I find this nomination really puzzling. If your intention was to push the boundaries of what can be considered a GNR, I think you've succeeded.

But the truth is, there are few things in this city I'd rather eat than the Oaxacan tamales available at the market; my kids fairly drool at the mention of the market--you can almost see the elotes and churros dancing in their eyes; and I don't believe that my wife, SaintPizza, will rest until she has tried every taco, gordita, huarache, etc. with every available topping and found her favorite. Maxwell Street Market is an adventure in eating.

My biggest reservation is that the hours are so limited and the "address" so vague that I picture a person, having downloaded and printed the GNR guide, driving around the south loop on a Tuesday afternoon, beating his head against his steering wheel in frustration saying "Where is it? Where is it?"
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#11
Posted September 24th 2008, 8:55am
Hey, it's called the Maxwell Street Market - shouldn't it be obvious what street it's on? :roll:
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#12
Posted September 24th 2008, 12:04pm
I will have to make two posts on this thread - this is the one where I speak for the GNRs.

Yes, I agree that this GNR would create unique challenges in terms of making sure people understand what is going on. I think we can add wording to the GNR list and the pocket guide, something wildly creative like "Sundays only," that will convey the message. :idea:

That is neither a statement for, or against, the nomination in my role with the GNRs, just a statement that I think we can deal with it should the members find it worthy. I will post my personal opinion by and by.

d
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#13
Posted September 24th 2008, 12:15pm
Hey, there's already one with no phone that's only open three months a year, seems like no biggie to me.
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#14
Posted September 24th 2008, 12:30pm
Mike G wrote:Hey, there's already one with no phone that's only open three months a year, seems like no biggie to me.


Yup.
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#15
Posted September 25th 2008, 12:05pm
I love the nomination. The Maxwell Street Market is one of the first places LTH steared me towards, and I remember being amazed there by the taste of my first freshly made tortilla. Many years ago, when I thought Mexican food soley consisted of beef burritos and Nachos Bell Grande, David Hammond's guide led me through from tamales to elotes to zucchini flowers, and the world of real ethnic food opened up to me. It was from this stepping stone that I gained the trust to follow LTHers through Chinatown, Argyle Street, Pilsen and everywhere else in this area in my hunt for real food, made by people who care about tradition, quality and authenticity.

While I may not understand the technical hurdles involved with giving a GNR to a fluid conglomeration of streetfest stands, I know that introducing people to the Maxwell Street Market and supporting those who lovingly and expertly prepare food there is exactly what this forum is all about. Besides, many of the food offerings at MSM have shown that they have stood the test of time, and that the people here can count on them to be there after reccomendation.

I heartliy support the nomination, and think that adding Maxwell Street Market to the list will help the list continue to reflect what this forum is all about. Great thinking Mhays!

**Edited to reflect my actual lack of knowledge about the technical aspects of awarding the GNR.
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#16
Posted October 7th 2008, 9:10am
A yes vote for this. I believe that while Maxwell Street Market is really a collection of individual restaurants, with individual owners, and varying qualities, they comprise a singular experience. This singular experience makes it eligible, in my opinion, for a GNR.

Look at the things the stands share in common. They provide Mexican or Central American foods, with a focus on regional and speciality fare*; the places are all run by families or small groups, with a sense of dedication and commitment; they cook using traditional ingredients and methods; related, they cook using methods associated with their outside-ness. In other words, Maxwell Street collectively provides a set of food experiences unique in the city. It should also be noted that the places share license and health code provisions. Finally, they collectively compete for the same eaters. These shared attributes make the market an entity greater than its individual stands.

Because of the reasons stated, Maxwell Street Market should get a GNR.

*I understand that there is a smattering of other foods, I would consider those places the Gene n' Jude's tamales of this nomination: irrelevant to the worthiness.
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#17
Posted October 7th 2008, 10:07am
Vital Information wrote:*I understand that there is a smattering of other foods, I would consider those places the Gene n' Jude's tamales of this nomination: irrelevant to the worthiness.


I doubt this could be a certificate quote (as nobody outside LTH will get it) but it gets my vote for a banner quote. :D
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#18
Posted October 10th 2008, 11:39am
This is a terrific nomination. I think the main idea of the award is to point people to places in the city that are great spots at which to eat. Maxwell Street Market more than qualifies.
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#19
Posted October 10th 2008, 4:21pm
I definitely support Maxwell Street Market getting a GNR. It might not meet the traditional definition of "Restaurant", but to the LTH community it is a single entity, a true eating destination, where the cheap tube socks and used surgical instruments are a lovely diversion. To give awards individually to Rubi's, Manolo's, Ricos Huaraches, etc. would be to slight the greatest part of the Maxwell Street Market: the experience of the weekly crawl from vendor to vendor, making room for that fantastic tamale at the next stand.
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#20
Posted October 10th 2008, 4:42pm
I, too, support this nomination. It definitely stretches the bounds of what a GNR is, but if the purpose of a GNR is to point people to places that serve good food and/or have a unique food experience, then Maxwell Street Market definitely serves that purpose. FWIW, I'm not particularly concerned about other certain logistics, such as where to post the sign, whether some will think it honors the hot dog vendors, etc., as long as the certificate indicates that we are honoring the Mexican vendors (and I'm sure it will). As for the possibility that the market will change for the worse in the future, then the renewal process will purportedly ferret that out should the market change in such a way that the GNR certificate no longer makes sense.
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#21
Posted October 11th 2008, 1:49pm
As I mentioned above, I do have this other point. Maxwell Street is actually a Great Neighborhood on its own, and one that serves darned good food. In a sense it is more like giving a GNR to a food court with multiple vendors who may change.

So it does stretch the definition of a GNR, but it has always been a great place to eat, a great place to visit, and I definitely support this nomination.
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#22
Posted October 13th 2008, 6:34pm
This is an excellent nomination, MHays! (Sheesh...wish I'd thought of it.)
And, though I have my favorite stands, I agree with all points on treating the Market as a whole.

The relocation of the market to its permanent home should resolve any issues with the "Where is it?" It's on Desplaines between Roosevelt and Harrison. (This is hard to write without feeling like a self-promoting wank, but in case you're looking for a mostly-reliable map with the new locations of food stands, here's one.
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#23
Posted October 13th 2008, 6:39pm
Not to worry, I love your map and have linked to it several times (albeit in other places) Thanks, ccrush!
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#24
Posted March 21st 2010, 12:52am
MSM is home to my favorite tamales and churros in the city, as well as being all around a fun way to spend a Sunday. I love that the food options are endless, and one can be as safe or as daring as one wants and still come out satisfied. I strongly support renewal.
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#25
Posted March 21st 2010, 4:34pm
I strongly support this renewal. I've been going to MSM since college, visited at least half a dozen times this past year, and the novelty has not worn off at all. There's nothing else like MSM in Chicago. Where else could I have gone on this sunny March morning to enjoy birria and pastor tacos, fresh tortillas, menudo, elotes, replenish my stash of chicken and chili-mango lollipops, pick up a box of 7 pineapples for $5 and a zebra-striped cocktail shaker?
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#26
Posted March 21st 2010, 4:46pm
happy_stomach wrote:I strongly support this renewal. I've been going to MSM since college, visited at least half a dozen times this past year, and the novelty has not worn off at all. There's nothing else like MSM in Chicago. Where else could I have gone on this sunny March morning to enjoy birria and pastor tacos, fresh tortillas, menudo, elotes, replenish my stash of chicken and chili-mango lollipops, pick up a box of 7 pineapples for $5 and a zebra-striped cocktail shaker?


I agree. The allure never wears off...though I sincerely hope your pineapples are okay: I bought a box there once, got them home, discovered they were all grey and weird inside. They don't call it the Cheat You Fair for nothing...still, I just love the place.
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#27
Posted March 21st 2010, 5:00pm
David Hammond wrote:The allure never wears off...though I sincerely hope your pineapples are okay: I bought a box there once, got them home, discovered they were all grey and weird inside. They don't call it the Cheat You Fair for nothing...still, I just love the place.


Mhays and I figured the pineapples were a gamble. I'll find out soon their condition, but I think we've already gotten our money's worth in the absurdity and consequent hilarity of splitting a case of pineapples between us on the street. :)
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#28
Posted March 21st 2010, 8:23pm
happy_stomach wrote:
David Hammond wrote:The allure never wears off...though I sincerely hope your pineapples are okay: I bought a box there once, got them home, discovered they were all grey and weird inside. They don't call it the Cheat You Fair for nothing...still, I just love the place.


Mhays and I figured the pineapples were a gamble. I'll find out soon their condition, but I think we've already gotten our money's worth in the absurdity and consequent hilarity of splitting a case of pineapples between us on the street. :)


Plus, after I got home, I made Sparky figure out the pineapple-to-dollar ratio for each of us, so even if I don't get another pineapple rhubarb pie out of it, the camaraderie and educational value worked for me! Besides a full stomach, I went home with 3 pounds of grapes, a nice jicama, garlic, assorted candies (including a super-sour grape Mexican vampire-pop) and a huge rolling duffel bag that made the pineapple situation even more absurd. (Yes, I left Maxwell Street Market with a giant rolling suitcase filled with fruit, candy, and vegetables.)

I'm guessing in part because the weather called for snow, there were fewer taco stands than I remember - sadly, the place where I got montalayo and the eyeball stand were notably absent. However, just off the entrance was a stand serving excellent menudo and birria tacos, which satisfied my hunger for innards (if not braaaiins) and the vanilla churro I had as an amuse-bouche really hit the spot.

I'm in for renewal!
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#29
Posted March 22nd 2010, 5:59pm
While I think this is a shoe-in, I will still chime up. Aside from the best tacos, quesadillas, tamales, and churros I have ever had, last fall I grabbed pounds of fresh peppers at 50 cents a pound. Everyone got a bottle of homemade hot sauce for Christmas.

This is a true treasure.
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#30
Posted March 27th 2010, 1:33pm
Enthusiastically append my yes vote. I stop here at least a couple of times a month. Even a vegetarian like me has so many options. That, and the only place to get a 8-pack of Mach-3 razors for 10 bucks. What can be better? Oh, I once got a pair of new hand-made Italian Loafers for 15 bucks! I know that is not a GNR thing, but I wanted to brag anyways! :D
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