October 16th, 2004


African American Street Cuisine

I drove into Chicago to pick up my sister at Midway Airport yesterday, and got to kill some time on one of my favorite Chicago streets: South Cicero Avenue. As you go south from I290 you go through a VERY hispanic neighborhood -- they don't even bother to put English on a lot of the signs. Thne there's a mostly black neighborhood, followed by a large shopping area. I screwed around in Target for a bit and the contrast with an Iowa Target store is stark. The signs are both in English and Spanish -- something that hasn't hit Iowa for the most part. In the Electronics department they were BOOMING 50 Cent on one of the demo stereos. And the atmosphere in the store where I was the only white person was very chill, the clerk that checked me out was genuinely sweet to me. I wonder if a black guy would be treated as well at a Target in the white 'burbs.

Managed to get my sister at Midway without getting hit for parking, always a bonus. But the highlight of the trip for me was the FISH AND CHICKEN joints. J & J Fish and Chicken is a prime example of my axioms of inner city dining: If the kitchen is behind bullet-proof glass, it's got to be good. We got small Ocean Perch meals, which was about $7. What you get is a bunch of fries, several large pieces of breaded fish, laid over some thick pieces of white bread. This last touch is just like Kansas City Barbeque.

I don't eat a lot of fish since I stopped eating meat, or fried food, so this was a treat, and it was really worth it. The fish comes out really hot, the breading is crunchy and gives the fish a great flavor, dare I say subtle? Even the fries are a cut above regular fast food fries, subtly seasoned on the outside. In short, this place ROCKS. And they have insane party packs on the menu. If you ever wanted to belly up to the counter of a fast food place and say "can I have 200 chicken wings?" this is your place.