Friday, September 22, 2017

Gioco - a Neighborhood Pionner - Appears to Be Closing at 1312 S. Wabash

Some big news for the South Loop restaurant scene (via Eater):
Gioco, a neighborhood restaurant pioneer that opened in 1999 before the South Loop real estate boom began, may soon end its 18-year run. A broker has listed the restaurant space for lease and is searching for a tenant who will pay 2017 market price. The restaurant’s lease is up in August 2018, but the landlord is optimistic that another tenant could be in place before the lease expires which would force the rustic Italian restaurant to close. 
The rent should skyrocket with the new lease thanks to the dozens of condo towers built over the years near Roosevelt and Michigan avenues, said Gioco co-owner Howard Davis. Back when it opened 18 years ago at 1312 S. Wabash Ave., Gioco was the only retail spot around.
This would be a bittersweet one for us.  One of our friends actually lived above the restaurant way back in the early 2000's and we vividly remember visiting her and being impressed with the vibe Gioco, Opera and Zapatista brought to this block.

In reality, all three were fine spots, but the food was simply mediocre in our opinion.  They all were trying pretty hard and for a new neighborhood, that was sufficient.

The new crop of spots that have recently moved in - The Scout, Flo & Santos, Lobo Rey, Asian Outpost - seem to be an improvement from the pioneers.  Yes, many of them feature the sports bar vibe, but we actually like the food at those places better than Opera and Zapatista.

Gioco will be missed, but we will be curious to see what moves in.  Hopefully it's something new and interesting.  We've really enjoyed Asian Outpost and are excited about Lobo Rey.  Hopefully some fresh blood will bring even more excitement to one of the Sloop best stretches.

Anyway, thanks to Gioco for the solid run and paving the way for the Sloop to grow.

(Hat tip: ND & NK!)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lobo Rey Officially Opens at 1307 S. Wabash

In case you missed it, Lobo Rey - the highly anticipated Mexican restaurant - has officially opened at 1307 S. Wabash.  As a reminder Eater Chicago gives a top line of the concept:
Lobo Rey, a Mexican restaurant featuring flattop table grills and a quick-serve taqueria component, will debut to the general public on Friday in the South Loop, near Soldier Field. The restaurant neighbors The Scout, a popular Bears game day bar on the corner of Wabash and 13th Street, and it shares the same owners. Daniel Espinoza, an Eater Young Gun semifinalist — who’s cooked for Diner Lab pop-ups in Chicago, and who developed the menu at Holy Taco! in Lincoln Park — is in charge of Lobo Rey’s kitchen.
We haven't been yet, but generally speaking the first Yelp reviews seem positive (3 five stars, 4 four stars and 1 three star).  The restaurant is still operating on limited hours and what appears to be a streamlined menu.

That being said, we're pretty excited to check this out.  Has anyone been?  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Another "Boil" Concept - Asian Cajun - Coming to 2113 S. State

A reader writes:
Looks like something is finally coming to 2113 S. State street, right next to Reggie's and the gyro/burger place that keeps changing hands. Asian Cajun (https://www.asiancajunrestaurant.com/) according to the sign. Unfamiliar with what is apparently the original in Lincoln Park, but looks interesting!

Definitely an interesting concept and addition to this portion of the neighborhood.  This "boil" restaurant concept ironically also comes on the heels of a post we did last week about Low Country coming to 1132 S. Wabash (old location of the closed Belly-Up BBQ restaurant).

Looks like this trend is officially invading the Sloop!

(Hat tip:  KS!)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Renderings for the Renovation of the Old Post Office

Curbed Chicago has the latest on the high-profile renovation of the old Post Office.  This rendering makes us eager for what may be in store:

While this is clearly in the works, a major wild-card has been put in play for the development.   Many feel that this building is an ideal candidate should Amazon choose Chicago for their HQ2 sweepstakes.  There is a lot of competition for where Amazon will land, but if somehow Chicago wins the right, this does seem like an enticing option for the e-commerce juggernaut.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Taco Madre and South Loop Market Moving in on 800 S. State Block

It seems like retail activity is really picking up around the Sloop.  Today we've got an update on a post we did last week and another piece of news about something in the same building.

First, on Thursday last week we posted about a Mexican restaurant coming to 823 S. State.  Well signs are up in the windows now and it appears it's Taco Madre:

We're not familiar with Taco Madre, but according to the Google there are three existing spots in the burbs.  Before the naysayers say - "Why do we keep on getting suburban spots trying to move into the city?"  Maybe you should look at their 4.5 star Yelp review.  Has anyone ever had Taco Madre and can you vouch for this spot?

We've also noticed that South Loop Market is moving into the corner of State and 9th.  This space has forever been vacant, so definitely a welcome addition.  South Loop Market has a variety of locations throughout the neighborhood so they know what they're doing.

This stretch of south State street is getting a shot in the arm and is finally starting to warrant solid foot traffic.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Tribune Looks at the New Marriott Marquis at 2121 S. Prairie

We knew that the new Marriott Marquis was a big building, but this review in the Tribune really shines a new light on that (via Tribune):
Big, tall, powerful and gleaming, the 40-floor, 1,205-room Marquis will be Chicago’s sixth-largest hotel when it opens on Sunday.

After nearly two years of construction, Marquis embraces, perhaps even flaunts, its scope: Spaces are broad, the lobby ceiling reaches 30 feet, the restaurant serving three meals a day seats 400, and natural light floods in through floor-to-ceiling windows.

In the era of boutique and lifestyle hotels, Marriott Marquis is sprawling and powerfully urban — albeit with the occasional boutique amenity, such as the ability to order room service on your phone and the art commissioned by 40 Chicago artists. Many of the pieces have QR codes for more information about the art and the artist.

The Chicago property marks Marriott's seventh Marquis hotel in its portfolio. Each is located in a major city and has 1,000 or more guest rooms and at least 90,000 square feet of event space. It is the largest new hotel in the Marriott chain to open this year anywhere on the planet.

The reason for all that space is the hotel’s neighbor: McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America. A pedestrian bridge connects Marriott Marquis to all 2.6 million square feet of exhibition space inside McCormick Place, which makes the new hotel a natural destination for convention goers.

That's going to bring a lot of people down to the area.  Hopefully the retail follows!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mexican Restaurant Coming to Small Retail Space Between XSport & Former Jimmy Greens Space at 823 S. State?

Looks like a new Mexican restaurant is coming to 823 S. State according to this permit:

It appears this is for the small retail space that was for a healthy restaurant called Ufood and then was annexed by Jimmy Green's Bar & Restaurant as a private party space.  Jimmy Greens closed and now it appears this restaurant is moving into the small space.

There is a decent amount of Mexican options in the area (Flacos Tacos, Spanglish, Mago Grill & Cantina and the recently opened Lobo Rey).  That being said, you can never have too many tacos!

(Hat tip:  DS, MD,

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Welcome to Chicago's Super Loop

Blair Kamin - Chicago Tribune Architecture Columnist - has a fun read about the boom of construction in what he calls the "Super Loop" (via Tribune):
A flock of construction cranes fills the sky. Downtown's population is soaring. The skyline is changing and so is the texture of city life.

A generation ago, West Madison Street was Chicago's Skid Row home to winos and flophouses. It is now a chic strip of sushi joints, cycle studios, preschools and a gourmet ice cream shop. But the architectural fare consists of bland apartment high rises that have drawn complaints of monotony.

In River North, the old Ed Debevic's, a faux '50s diner best known for gum-snapping, table-dancing waiters and waitresses, is gone, replaced by a eye-grabbing apartment tower whose cantilevered wedges of glass resemble a Jenga game in midstream. Yet that building is an anomaly amid the bland, form-follows-finance high-rises popping up elsewhere in the neighborhood and around the city.

So it goes in The Great Chicago Post-Recession Building Boom. A surge of tall buildings, the vast majority of them housing rental apartments, is creating a densely populated, urban core — call it the Super Loop — that is pushing far beyond the borders of the traditional downtown. But the Super Loop is patently un-super in at least one respect: It lacks a new version of the technological and aesthetic innovations that made Chicago's reputation as the cradle of modern architecture.

And that's the tone of the article in general.  Despite the negativity, it's a good read on many levels.  Kamin's provide some surprising info about the Super Loop:
Consider, though, the bright side of the building boom, which has been overshadowed by the violence wracking parts of Chicago's West and South sides. For city lovers who believe that density, rather than sprawl, is the ideal path to cutting car use, saving energy and halting the effects of climate change, these are, in many ways, the best of times:

—Nearly 229,000 people now live in the central area roughly bounded by Lake Michigan on the east, the Stevenson Expressway on the south, Ashland Avenue on the west and North Avenue on the north, according to an analysis of population data done for the Tribune by Chicago-based demographer Rob Paral.

That's an increase, since 1990, of more than 82,000 — more than the population of Evanston. Three-quarters of the gain has occurred since 2000 as waves of high-rise residential construction — first primarily condominiums, then, after the recession, chiefly rental apartments — remade the city's core.

Taken by itself, the Super Loop would form Illinois' second-largest city, easily topping No. 2 Aurora, which has about 201,000 residents.
The article isn't solely focused on the Sloop, but it does provide some shout-outs - most notably where it gives design props to 1101 S. States "guitar-like curves".

If you've got the time we'd suggest the read.  It's an interesting read if you're curious about architecture, design and urban trends.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Domes & Shipping Containers Come to Vacant 62-Acre Related Midwest Property

A reader writes:
Related (the developer for the property) is assembling a geodesic dome down on the tundra as I write.


If you recall, we posted about a plan Related had to bring pop-up food and retail and other events to the vacant land as plans for development will likely take awhile to really formulate.  Maybe this is it...

Monday, September 11, 2017

Owners of Low Country Southern Boil Restaurant Opening Something at Former Belly-Up Space (1132 S. Wabash)?

A reader writes:
Not sure if you've seen this, but last night it was posted on the old Belly Up. Seems to be the same company that owns Low Country up North.


We're not familiar with ME Restaurants or Low Country, but if that's true and they're opening up a similar concept it would be something different for the neighborhood.  Low Country (3343 N. Clark) seems to be popular according to Yelp where it has 4.5 stars on 380+ reviews.  

Here is a video from their website that likely we make you hungry (and excited about the possibilities):


The location and space is pretty good.  However, it's currently buried behind scaffolding at the new 26-story high-rise at 1140 S. Wabash.  The previous restaurant Belly-Up seemed to feel the brunt of that challenge, but the scaffolding will eventually go away so this new concept should be setup for some solid foot traffic.

Does anyone have any other info on this one?

(Hat tip:  AB & BH!)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sloopin Open House: 3bd Recently Remodeled Condo Under $400K with a Murphy Bed

We recently stumbled upon a cool unit that recently went up for sale by its owners.  The unit at 40 E. 9th street is Apt #1608 as is a 3bd/2bth listed for $369K.

If you're familiar with the building you know there are some interesting layouts and this one also fits that mold.  Beyond that, two things stand out to us:

1)  We love the concept of murphy beds as a space saver and this unit has a pretty cool one:

2)  They used some pretty solid "eco-friendly" materials for their remodel (which is how we found the listing):
Parking is not included in the price but is listed for an additional $29K.  We've also learned that they will be hosting an open house today (9/9) and tomorrow (9/10) from 10am - 2pm.  Go check it out!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Could Amazon "HQ2" Be Delivered to South Loop?

Despite all of the scary weather and political news happening, it seemed like everywhere we looked yesterday we saw articles about Amazon's RFP to cities seeking info on a second HQ.

May Jeff Bezos have his sights set on Chi?
Naturally, everyone across the country is salivating about the business opportunities this poses for their respective interests.

It's not surprising that Chicago is going to aggressively bid on this (via Sun Times):
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pitching Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about building the company’s second North American headquarters in Chicago amid speculation that the e-commerce giant may be eyeing the North Branch industrial corridor.
Competition for the $5 billion prize and as many as 50,000 jobs is certain to be intense. But Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff with a national reputation, is hoping he has the clout to bring the bonanza home.

Mayoral spokesman Grant Klinzman disclosed Thursday that Emanuel has had several conversations with Bezos about choosing Chicago for a project the company has described as a “full equal” to its sprawling Seattle headquarters.

While a lot of dominoes have to fall for this to eventually happen, you would have to think Chicago has a decent shot given a multitude of variables (international airport, central location, educated workforce, to name a few).

The local media is already thinking where a massive Amazon headquarters could land in Chicago and it seems like the Sloop has numerous spots that could be attractive.

The first that seems most poetic would be the Old Post Office (via Crains):
A poster child for stalled redevelopment, the hulking structure straddling the Eisenhower Expressway is undergoing a $500 million rehab at the direction of developer 601W. The existing building is 2.6 million square feet, and 601W has zoning to add another 5 million. It has high visibility and is right next to Union Station. "The Post Office can handle their whole requirement," said Telos Group President Brian Whiting, who is overseeing leasing of the building. One hurdle to clear could be the cost and logistical challenge of building over a major highway.
Related Midwest 62-Acre Lot South of Roosevelt
Another interesting opportunity would be the 62-Acre undeveloped Related Midwest property just south of Roosevelt between the river and Clark (via Crains):
The vacant 62-acre piece stretching a half-mile south from Roosevelt Road along the Chicago River has plenty of room for a corporate campus. Developer Related Midwest has envisioned a mixed-use development, but has not submitted any plans with the city. The site is one of the largest empty tracts in Chicago and is surrounded by transportation options.
Another spot that seems logical would be the Michael Reese campus that was bought by the city for the failed 2016 Olympic Bid.  It seems like that would be a boon for the South Side as well as a engine to help revitalize the area around McCormick Place and Motor Row (which we know the city is VERY focused on).

So....let's see where this ends up.  Could be another game changer for the South Loop if it happens.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Motor Row (aka McCormick Square?): The Hottest Neighborhood You've Never Heard Of


In case you missed this last week, some "positive" news on Motor Row and all of the activity around Cermak (via Crains):
Milan Rubenstein was nervous when he spent $19 million on a slew of mostly vacant properties on the Near South Side three years ago. Historic Motor Row on South Michigan Avenue and the area surrounding the McCormick Place convention center were so plagued by developmental false starts that even a new CTA train stop, 10,387-seat arena, 40-story hotel and a vow from the city of Chicago to transform the neighborhood into an entertainment district were no guarantee that his big bet would pay off.

"I was scared to death," says the partner at Windy City RE, which has historically specialized in buying and selling apartment complexes but splurged on mixed-use properties on and near Motor Row in 2013 and '14. Beyond the money he spent to purchase the properties, he had to spend millions more to fix them up. "Now I'm no longer scared. I'm very excited."

Motivated in part by the addition of Wintrust Arena and the 1,206-room Marriott Marquis Chicago hotel set to open in coming weeks, Rubenstein has in the past 18 months signed more than 15 leases with businesses to fill his retail and office space. His historic properties that once housed auto showrooms but sat empty for years have been filled in recent months with tenants that hint at gentrification: bars, restaurants, a day care, a boutique gym and even a dog grooming business. Residential units above the retail properties are getting snapped up as well, some for 20 percent more than he underwrote them for when he purchased the properties three or four years ago, he says.

These are early signals that the entertainment hot spot he envisions for the area with year-round activity instead of ebbs and flows of traffic from convention-goers may be starting to form—though the road ahead is still long.

It's an interesting read...BUT...still doesn't seem like the neighborhood is that hot yet.  Yes a lot of developers and investors are eating up properties, but we've heard this story before.

I guess we'll see.  We're optimistic, but again we're taking a more cautious approach.  The proof will be in the pudding.

(Hat tip:  AR & AD!)