Friday night Cathy and I hit a few Far South Side gems. First was Pacifico for a tostada and tacos (the standard LTHForum order: ceviche, soft fish, crispy shrimp). Then off to Club 81 Too, on the banks of Wolf Lake, for their Friday fish fry. One of these days this place will get a proper write-up here; actually at this rate it might take years. Instead of the original plan of stopping for pupusas afterwards, we decided to take the opportunity to try the fresh peach ice cream at Cunis Candies. This is seriously good ice cream. The season is winding down so don’t miss your chance this year.
After a very circuitous route back toward the city we headed up Halsted. As we approached 101st Street there was a sight that stopped us dead in our tracks.
Melon Market at Midnight, View from Halsted
Baylor’s Melon Market is a colorful cinderblock shed, lit only with a few fluorescent bulbs, filled with watermelons of various shapes and sizes. As the sign suggests they sell only watermelons grown in Mississippi. The Market has been around 18 years and is open from May to September.
The Melon Bus
Around back was a converted school bus adapted as a melon-hauling vehicle. Behind the bus was an 18-wheeler with sleeper and open trailer also for transporting melons. Clearly these guys are serious.
Not being able to get thoughts of watermelons out of my head, I returned on Saturday when they were open.
Baylor’s Melon Market, View from 101st
During business hours they open up the north side of the building. Other than watermelons, the only other item they sell is peanuts, also grown on their farm in Mississippi. I bought a bag and they are truly outstanding. These are smaller than the usual peanut, unsalted, intensely aromatic, with a very concentrated flavor. Unfortunately, they never have boiled peanuts because the green peanut season hardly overlaps their Chicago stay.
Piles of Melons
You can’t walk around inside the Melon Market but there are plenty of watermelons to look at (the picture shows only a fraction of what’s on hand). When I asked if I could take a picture the very nice proprietor joked, “Never seen a melon before?” “Not this many,” I answered truthfully. Long ones, round ones, big ones, small ones, dark ones, light ones. “Just like people,” she pointed out. Unlike humans, every one is nearly perfect, there are few bruised or damaged melons at Baylor’s. The prices are not particularly low—some of the big ones approach $10—but they seem to do a brisk business. I bought one of the smaller melons for $5.
Melon Return Policy
Baylor’s has quite a liberal return policy for their melons but there are
So how was the melon? Simply one of the best I can remember. I’m all for eating local products but there are times the local stuff doesn’t quite measure up. Give a Baylor’s a try before they close for the year. Or if you miss them this year, think about them next May when you’re tempted to buy one of those pale, pink, mealy supermarket watermelons. Baylor’s is another Far South Side gem, I’d say.
Baylor’s Melon Market
10100 S Halsted St
(a few blocks south of the I-57 Halsted exit)
Open 7 days, 8:30am-9pm