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Bridgeport, Chinatown, McKinley Park

Shop Local 2021: A Bridgeport, Chinatown And McKinley Park Holiday Gift Guide

Support these independent retailers, nonprofits and shops during this holiday season.

Chicago Tool Library co-founder Tessa Vierk helps library members check out their tools.
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CHINATOWN — Local businesses in Chinatown, Bridgeport and McKinley Park have something for everyone on the gift list this year. 

You can satisfy your loved one’s sweet tooth with a coconut tres leches cake from Kristoffer’s Cakes in McKinley Park, or you can gift them access to tools of every kind from the Chicago Tool Library.

If you’re not sure what to get, head to Chinatown Square and wander the aisles upon aisles of gifts at AJ Houseware & Gifts — we promise you’ll find something that inspires interest.

Block Club Chicago rounded up a few neighborhood gift options to help residents shop local.

Here’s what you can buy:

Chinatown

Credit: Chinese American Museum of Chicago

Chinese American Museum of Chicago, 238 W. 23rd St. Website.

The Chinese American Museum of Chicago’s mission is to preserve the past, present and future of Chinese-American culture in the Midwest through exhibitions, programs and research. It also has an online book shop featuring everything from Chinese-American children’s books to cookbooks. 

Highlights include “Have You Eaten Yet?,” ($16.50) a book of recipes from members of the museum and their families, “Soup! Soup! Soup!,” ($5), a book of 38 hot and cold soup recipes, and “Growing Up in Chicago’s Chinatown: The Stories of Raymond Lee ($22),” a memoir that gives a first-person recounting of the neighborhood’s history.

The museum is open 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. All books can be ordered online. 312-949-1000. Instagram.

Credit: Amy Qin/Block Club Chicago
A close-up of a shelf at AJ Housewares & Gifts, 2125 S. China Pl

AJ Houseware & Gifts, 2125 S. China Place.

AJ Houseware & Gifts may be small, but not an inch of the store is empty. Every nook and cranny is filled to the brim with affordable housewares, trinkets, souvenirs and plants. 

Consider a mini potted bamboo plant ($3.99) or combine several larger bamboo stalks ($0.75 each) for a loving plant parent. A small glass teapot ($9.99) or larger painted ceramic teapot ($19.99) makes a useful yet elegant gift for a tea drinker.

There are gifts for anime lovers, too: Choose from a Naruto action figure ($24.99), Totoro decoration ($15) or numerous other character figurines.

The shop is on the first floor of the Chinatown Square Plaza and is open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. 312-567-9908.

Bridgeport

Credit: Provided
Co-founder Tessa Vierk helps library members check out tools.

Chicago Tool Library, 1048 W. 37th St., No. 102. Website.

Do you know someone who loves to work with their hands? Or maybe they’ve started a new hobby but need the right gadgets? Give them the gift of thousands of tools at their fingertips through a membership to the Chicago Tool Library. 

The yearlong membership — which starts at $10 and then is priced on a sliding scale based on what makes sense for your budget — will give them access to more than 2,500 tools to borrow, just like they would a library book.

“It’s not just for people who are really handy,” co-founder Tessa Vierk said. “We have pop-up canopies and folding tables for birthday parties. We have camping gear. Literally anybody who lives in Chicago could benefit from it.”

Chicago Tool Library is open 6-8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. You can browse and place holds on its tool inventory here and buy a gift membership online. 773-242-0923. Instagram.

Credit: Bridgeport Art Center/Facebook
Visitors at a Third Fridays event at the Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St.

Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St. Website.

Support local artists with a gift from Bridgeport Art Center’s online art shop. If you find something that catches your eye, contact the artist directly with the info provided. Pieces range from the everyday — think a handcrafted mug ($12) or small watercolor landscape ($25) — to the avant-garde, such as a 42-by-46-inch multicolored Batik art piece ($2,000).

Or, stop by in person and browse five whole floors of art at one of Bridgeport Art Center’s free Third Friday events. Every third Friday — mark your calendars, the next one is 7-10 p.m. Dec. 17 — visitors can meet roughly 30 to 40 artists who will open up their studios and can help you find the perfect piece for your loved one.

Bridgeport Art Center’s gallery and offices are open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m.-noon Sundays. 773-843-9000. Instagram.

McKinley Park

Credit: Kristoffer's Cakes/Facebook

Kristoffer’s Cakes, 1735 W. 35th St. Website.

A trip to McKinley Park is incomplete without trying the popular tres leches cake at Kristoffer’s Cakes. The Chavarria family, who also own Kristoffer’s Cafe and Bakery in Pilsen, opened the McKinley Park bakery in 2018 to specialize in the family’s tres leches recipe. The cake, which comes in a variety of flavors, is rich, moist and just the right amount of sweet — sure to please even the most discerning baker.

The most popular cake is the coconut tres leches cake, said baker Kristoffer Chavarria. Options include a slice ($4.25) and 6-inch ($24.99), 9-inch ($42.99), 10-inch ($49.99) or 12-inch cakes ($64.99). Other cakes — like a delicious ChocoFlan cake and carrot cake — are available, as well.

Kristoffer’s Cakes is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. Phone, online or in-person orders are accepted. Delivery via DoorDash, GrubHub or UberEats is also available for select addresses.

Sarita’s Pleasure Pie Shop, online. Website.

These specialty vegan pies are dreamed up and individually crafted by the multi-talented Sarita Hernández in their McKinley Park kitchen. 

The suggested donation, via Venmo, Paypal or Zelle, for a full 9-inch pie is $30. Quarter pies (four slices can also be combined to create a whole sampler pie too) are available on Hernández’s Thirsty Thursday special for $8-10 per portion.

Place an order for a pie by messaging @saritamaritza on Instagram. You can also email saritaspleasurepieshop@gmail.com. Send a photo of a pie already featured on the bakery’s Instagram or let them know what flavors you’re craving and they can curate a selection for you to choose from. Pickup is in McKinley Park, and deliveries cost $5-10 depending on the distance. 

Did we miss your favorite neighborhood spot? Not to worry! Add it to our Block Club reader guide, which will come out in early December.

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