Illinois Tech is nestled comfortably on the south side of Chicago, just minutes from the excitement of downtown. While most IIT students take the time to visit the Chicago Loop downtown often during their early collegiate career, the more subtle neighborhoods closer to campus are often forgotten and passed by until students search for something more than chain restaurants and twenty-plus story buildings.
Just a few blocks west of Illinois Tech over the Dan Ryan Expressway sits Bridgeport, one of Chicago’s most diverse communities and the home of five of Chicago’s former mayors. Bridgeport is also the home of many IIT students who choose to move off of campus due to the neighborhood’s proximity to campus, housing options, diverse community, and amazing neighborhood atmosphere.
One of the first things any IIT student acquainted with Bridgeport will recommend are the wonderful independently owned food options. Bridgeport is home to two of my favorite coffee shops in the city–Bridgeport Coffee at 31st Street and Morgan, and Jackalope Coffee and Tea House at 32nd and Halsted. Both are great for caffeine-fueled study sessions when you just need to get away from campus to focus for a while.
For a more well-balanced meal, Bridgeport is also home to some of the greatest restaurants in Chicago. My personal favorite, Pleasant House Bakery, located across the street from Bridgeport Coffee at 31st and Morgan, is the home of savory English-style meat pies, seasonal sweets, and homemade sodas. Other favorites of mine include Pancho Pistolas at 31st and Union for a contemporary sit-down dinner with delectable Mexican cuisine and Phil’s Pizza at 35th and Aberdeen. To top it all off at the end of the night, Bridgeport is also home to a simple ice cream shop, Scoops, at 31st and Wallace.
These are just a few of the many food options available in the neighborhood for students to explore. Luckily, many of the restaurants in the area are well-known among groups of students and word-of-mouth promotion happens pretty fast when someone discovers their favorite new off-campus dinner spot, so be sure to listen up! Many locations in the Bridgeport neighborhood also offer discounts to Illinois Tech students, so bring along your student discount card!
In addition to the wonderful food spots in the neighborhood, Bridgeport also holds a strong sense of community and pride. Since moving to the neighborhood after my second year at IIT, I’ve been able to meet people from all walks of life who are friendly and have a passion to improve their neighborhood. The neighborhood’s diversity comes through in Bridgeport’s art centers and community events. Several parks are also available for guests to relax, exercise, or even go fishing!
Bridgeport is just one of the oft-overlooked neighborhoods in Chicago that have a lot to offer, and I encourage students to get out and safely explore what their city holds for them in addition to the hustle and bustle of downtown. Students at Illinois Tech are in a prime location to do just that: expand their horizons, try new things, and become a part of their greater community.
-Kori Bowns, physics education junior