If you want to find out how an Asian immigrant ended up running an old-school bar and new-school Polish/Korean restaurant in an Irish neighborhood, just ask Maria Marszewski. Born in Busan, South Korea in 1937, Maria was working as a beautician when she met an American soldier at the church where she was volunteering. After the Korean War, James Marszewski returned to Busan where the two were married. They settled in Chicago and Mrs. Marszewski opened a beauty shop in their home. When her husband died at a young age, she ventured into the world of real estate—both residential and commercial—a field where she was very successful.
Nearing 50 years old, she decided to sell her properties and try something new…so she bought a frozen-in-time bar in the Bridgeport neighborhood (home of two Chicago mayors plus the Daley clan). The former Kaplan’s Liquors became Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar. Mrs. Marszewski remembers that the bar patrons did not offer her a warm welcome to the neighborhood. “People were bad to me. Open up the door and—'Hey, Chinese, get the hell out of my neighborhood!'" But Mrs. Marszewski’s warm personality quickly won them over. In 2014, Maria’s expanded to include Kimski, a Polish/Korean restaurant. (Yes, the cuisines do work well together!)
Why this stop? Take the Orange Line to Halsted—Maria’s is about a 15 minute walk from the station.
Get involved—Maria’s and Kimski have partnered with Public Media Institute and Marz Community Brewing Company to create The Community Kitchen Project. Watch this video to learn more about this project. If you're inspired by what you see, consider supporting The Community Kitchen.