Friday, December 31, 2010

Next Up for the Restaurant Scene: A Gastropubby Sports Bar

The Ole' Hardwood Gastro-Smokehouse is gone. Today we found out that a new concept is going to be potentially taking over the 'gastro' moniker on the 1300 block of South Wabash. News came today that one of the South Loop's older restaurants, Opera, will be shutting their doors after tonight in order to become a "Gastropubby Sports Bar":

Opera, the contemporary Chinese restaurant in the South Loop, will close after dinner service on Dec. 31. Partner Jerry Kleiner tells us it will reopen in three or four months as a yet-to-be-named "gastropubby sports bar."
This is definitely an interesting change. Maybe Kleiner and crew noticed how well Flo & Santos is doing across the street and decided a change was needed. Although we like Opera and are sad to see it go, it's been evident that the place hasn't exactly been packed over the past couple of months.

We recently had a nice Friday night dinner at Opera and maybe 25-30% of the tables were occupied. Not exactly the amount of dinners a trendy restaurant would expect on a Friday night. Change is part of everything so hopefully they settle on a concept that works. It's a huge space and Kleiner definitely knows how to build an interesting space, let's hope the food lives up to the design.

Anyway, if you're like us, you're hearing "gastropub" being thrown around a lot these days. Although we thought we knew what this meant, as of late we've been less sure. Hopefully the internet and wikipedia can shed some light on this trend:
A gastropub concentrates on quality food. The name is a combination of pub and gastronomy and was coined in 1991 when David Eyre and Mike Belben took over The Eagle pub in Clerkenwell, London. The concept of a restaurant in a pub reinvigorated both pub culture and British dining, though has occasionally attracted criticism for potentially removing the character of traditional pubs.
So it sounds like it's just a focus on quality food. We like quality food, so hopefully that's what we get!

(Hat tip: RG!)

A Look Back at 2010: #1 - Trader Joes

Over the final week of 2010 we will be highlighting the five most popular Sloopin posts of the year. This is based on page views from our Google Analytics tool.

Our number 1 story of 2010 from March 25th, 2010

Rumor Has It...Trader Joe's Moving Into Old Sam's Space

Our take now: It's not surprising that this is the top story on Sloopin in 2010. Back in March, many people were eager, but disappointed when it seemed like this rumor wasn't true. However, in November it was confirmed and most readers were super excited (including us). We will see how this progresses, but it should definitely provide a nice shot in the arm for the Sloop!

Finally, thanks to everyone for the amazing year! It's been an interesting one and we couldn't have survived without readers. Keep the comments coming and always remember that your emails are much appreciated around here.

Here is to a happy and healthy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ole' Charwood

We awoke this morning to numerous emails notifying us of a severe fire at Ole' Hardwood (1315 S. Wabash). As most readers know, there has been a ton of talk about Ole' Hardwood since it just opened a couple of months ago. Anyway, here is a quick blurb from a reader about the fire:
At 4:30-ish this morning, a torrent of sirens swarming our block woke us up - again. I looked out the window and the CPD was putting out a fire at Ole' Hardwood. I did not see any flames but there was plenty of smoke and when I came in after snapping photos and video I smelled like a campfire. For the record, if this was still that dump Utopia I would have been happy but Ole Hardwood seemed promising and I'm sad to see it gone. My wife and I recently had dinner there and enjoyed ourselves despite being wary of the shady restaurant history that location boasts. That being said, let the conspiracy theories abound! Remember, this comes several months after the adjacent building (to the east on Michigan Ave) burned to the ground. Also, this comes the morning after I received my noticed of the city's "Near South Tax Increment Financing Redevelopment Plan" in the mail. Crap, if this is how the city gets things done, I hope there aren't plans to "redevelop" my building! I hope the homeless center and other offices in the building weren't damaged too badly.

It appears that the fire department also smells something fishy based on this report in the Chicago Sun-Times:
A police Bomb & Arson Section sergeant said they are investigating because there was something suspicious about the blaze, but he did not immediately know if an accelerant was found.
Regardless, this is a sad development for the troublesome restaurant spot. Although some of the older restaurants that occupied this space were spotty, Ole' Hardwood was promising. Who knows what the future holds, but in our opinion something is better than nothing. Hopefully something positive comes of this and at least no one was hurt.

(Hat Tip: MD, ND, KP, J, BM, RP, BT!)

A Look Back at 2010: #2 - Lexington Park Condos

Over the final week of 2010 we will be highlighting the five most popular Sloopin posts of the year. This is based on page views from our Google Analytics tool.

Number #2 - From Saturday, January 16th, 2010:

What's Going on with Lexington Park Condos?

Our take now: Still not sure what's going on with this place, it truly is one of the more perplexing things in the Sloop (up there with A'Cappela Bistro). We're still optimistic that Cermak will develop into some great eventually, however something needs to happen with this building before we see any big improvements on this strip.

Parking Meter Rates Set to Go Up on Saturday

The controversial city parking meters are in the news again and we imagine most people aren't happy to hear about this. The blog, Expired Meter, sent us an email and posted on the subject recently:
It’s almost that time of the year again.

No, not Christmas or New Year’s, but parking meter rate increase season.

It was three years ago this month when Mayor Daley and his cohorts in the city council pushed through the Chicago parking meter lease deal. One of the more onerous results of the 75-year deal was an initial five years of steep meter rate price

On January 1st, parking meter rates will rise for the third of the five initial years.
Downtown, meter rates will jump $0.75 from $4.25 per hour to $5.00 an hour–giving Chicago the distinction of having the highest downtown parking meter rates in the nation.

We think that most of the South Loop's meters aren't in the 'downtown' section, so instead of a $0.75 increase it will be a $0.50 (from $2.50 to $3.00). If this isn't the case please speak up because we did some digging but couldn't find much consistent information.

(Hat Tip: TR!)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finals of the 2010 Curbed Cup: South Loop Faces Uptown

Over the past couple of weeks we've been actively calling all Sloopsters to head on over to the Curbed Chicago blog and vote for the South Loop. So far so good. We've beaten the heavily favored two seed Lincoln Park as well as the charming three seed Logan Square.

One round left and one more opponent: Uptown. If you don't know much about Uptown it's an interesting place. Ironically one of the first blogs we ever spoke to was Uptown Update which does a fantastic job of trying to stay on top of neighborhood issues. It's a vibrant blog that tends to have an engaged reader.

However, we still think the South Loop better (we're not biased or anything), so head on over to Curbed Chicago and bring home the cup for the Sloop!

A Look Back at 2010: #3 - 2x10 Comes to 1212 S. Michigan

Over the final week of 2010 we will be highlighting the five most popular Sloopin posts of the year. This is based on page views from our Google Analytics tool.

#3 - From April 20th, 2010

2x10 Comes to 1212 S. Michigan

Out take now: In a space that used to be a flower shop, this nail shop seems to get good traction. They did change there name, but it looks like it's the same place. Although it's good to have retail space filled, we're a little surprised this was in our top five topics.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chicagoist Stops By Panozzo's

We're fans of Panozzo's (1303 S. Michigan), so were glad to see them get some positive press from the Chicagoist blog:
For those looking for a real old world experience and truly authentic ingredients, there is no substitute for a neighborhood Italian grocer. You have seen them in old mafia films like The Godfather and they are storied in East Coast cities with large Italian-American populations like New York and Philadelphia. The mercato Italiano, with its imported meats, cheeses, pastas and pestos is almost thing of legend. Thanks to Panozzo's Italian Market in the South Loop, this legend is alive and well right here in Chicago.

A Look Back at 2010: #4 - Flo & Santos

Over the final week of 2010 we will be highlighting the five most popular Sloopin posts of the year. This is based on page views from our Google Analytics tool.

#4 From February 8th, 2010

Flo and Santos to Open in Spring

Our take now: There was a ton of optimism about Flo and Santos, and by our grades it's live up to the expectations. A great little, unique bar/pub spot that is great for a casual dinner or a drink. Also a great place to watch a sporting event. It does get crowded, so plan ahead if you're trying to get a good seat!

Team Coco Gets a Tat at Code of Conduct in the Sloop

We've posted a couple times about the tattoo parlor Code of Conduct that opened this past year on 11th between State and Wabash. It definitely looks like a cool place, but since we're not tattoo connoisseurs, it's good to see the inside from this video. This was shot by the Team Coco blog when they were in Chicago:

(Hat Tip: Tony II!)

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Look Back at 2010: #5 - Marshall's

Over the final week of 2010 we will be highlighting the five most popular Sloopin posts of the year. This is based on page views from our Google Analytics tool.

Number 5

From June, 28th, 2010:

Marshall's Coming to South Gate Market

Our take now: The store has been open for a couple months and seems to be doing pretty well. We've been a couple time and it always seems busy. A good addition and glad to have the business in the Sloop!

A Look at the Sloop Through an Interactive Census Map

A friend of Sloopin sent us a link to this sweet New York Times interactive Census map and needless to say we had some fun. Above is a screen shot of the greater South Loop area. The data is based off of samples from 2005-2009. You can see Chinatown towards the bottom, Pilsen to the Left and the diversity especially south of Roosevelt.

If you click on this link I promise you will have some more fun. Zoom out and see the racial makeup of the broader city. Or take a look at HHI or family statistics. We played with this for at least an hour. Enjoy!

(Hat tip: Bizau!)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Polls: Bears!

Hoping for another magical playoff run for a Chicago bound playoff team...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cultural Affairs Department Dismantled

It's a slow media with Christmas and all, so we went back into the archive and found an old email a friend of the blog sent to us about some layoffs at the Cultural Affairs Departments:

While the Mayor’s Office of Special Events has been spearheading the drive to privatize the city’s biggest free music festivals in Grant Park, the Daley administration has been dismantling the Department of Cultural Affairs, which has been responsible for the far more rewarding free concerts in Millennium Park and countless other worthy events annually at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Twenty employees at Cultural Affairs were laid off on Friday, including many key programmers. This brings to a total of 29 the number of employees eliminated at the department since October, according to city spokesman Peter Scales of the Office of Budget and Management.

We will be anxious to see how this affects some of our free concerts. Hoping they still are around next year...

(Hat Tip: Dick!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shots Around the Sloop: Festive and Happy Holidays

a festive parking lot at the southeast corner of wabash and fourteenth.

from all of us at the sloopin gang, wishing you and your loved ones a happy holidays and a healthy new year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Centrum Selling Roosevelt Collection

We've been intrigued with Roosevelt Collection for some time now and today we got some more interesting news. From the sounds of an article on Crain's, Centrum Properties will be attempting to sell Roosevelt Collection. We've heard some rumors of this, but it still comes as a surprise. It's a good read if you're interested in the building. We know there has been a lot of questions around the retail (or lack thereof) but here is the only real blurb about the topic:
Such short sales have become increasingly common in the commercial real estate market, as property values have plunged and lenders have become more willing to take a loss and move on. Centrum decided the time was right because of the strength of the local multifamily market, which could generate interest in the project’s 342 apartments, says Centrum Partner John McLinden.

But investors will be less enthusiastic about the project’s 398,000-square-feet shopping center. Just 23% of the retail space is occupied, to one tenant, movie chain Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres LLC.

We've had some recent post on the RC, so who knows what the future holds. As you might remember, we pondered potential businesses that could come to this space and we also got an intriguing comment from the president of Chiasso (a great modern design store up in the Lincoln Park). Stay tuned.

Shots Around the Sloop: Confusing Road Lines

We recently had a post about some perplexing lines on the road at 16th and Indiana. This prompted a reader to send us this email:


I am so glad you posted the piece about the sloppy road lines on the new State St renovation. I attached a picture of the lines at State/14th if you would not mind adding it to that post. All four crosswalks at this intersection look this bad. It is embarrassing.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Michael Reese Property Could Become Technology Park?

There has been a lot of discussion on what will happen with the property where the old Michael Reese hospital used to sit. Based on a story last week, it sounds as if the city is thinking about turning it into a technology park:
Mayor Daley says the city is thinking of turning the site of the former Michael Reese Hospital into a high technology park.

The mayor says the site is perfect for businesses because it's close to expressways, public transportation and McCormick place. Daley has appointed an advisory panel to determine if the idea is feasible and he expects recommendations in a few months.

Ok, well something being built at this site is better then nothing, but it seems like a waste to turn this into a technology park in my opinion since the land is so close to the lake. But what do I know...

For more information on Technology Parks check out this link.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sloop vs Logan Square - We Need Votes!

We pulled the upset last week against Lincoln Park. Well today the semi-finals kick off as the South Loop takes on Logan Square. We need votes, so click here and represent the Sloop!

From the blog, Curbed Chicago:

Pick a storyline: North Side vs. South Side; high density vs. low density; old school vs. new school; new-construction vs. vintage; single-families vs. high-rises. Curbed Cup 2010 continues this afternoon with another slug-fest between the South Loop and Lincoln Square.

Alderman Fioretti Addresses Snow Removal

We had a lot of discussion about a recent post on businesses (and home owners) being good neighbors and removing snow from sidewalks. Many complained about the lack of response from the city, but in Alderman Fioretti's most recent newsletter he addressed the issue:
Ald. Robert W. Fioretti (2nd) asks that we all promptly clear snow and ice from sidewalks and drives adjacent to our properties. While property owners can and will be ticketed for not being good neighbors, we all know that the right thing to do is pitch in and do our part, particularly when we have neighbors who are elderly or disabled.

City ordinance requires building owners or tenants to remove the snow and ice from sidewalks in front of their buildings or vacant lots. The ordinance states that if the sidewalk is wider than five feet, only a five foot path is necessary. Snow that accumulates before 4 p.m. must be removed within three hours after the snow has fallen. Snow that accumulates after 4 p.m. or during the night shall be removed before 10 a.m.

Non-compliance can result in ticketing and fines. Neglect of this duty may be reported to 311, (312) 744-5000, or to our office at: (312) 263-9273. We will ask Streets and Sanitation to inspect and issue a ticket, if warranted.

For more information on the City's snow and ice removal requirements, please view the information posted via this web site.

Seems reasonable to us. Hope this helps and thanks to the Alderman for addressing the issue.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Unusual Award for the South Loop Area

Neighborhoods take great pride in winning awards. Some beat their chests when they earn a place on a coveted restaurant awards list like the recently announced Michelin guide. Some take honor when their neighborhood beats another, like the South Loop recently beating Lincoln Park in the first round of the Curbed Chicago neighborhood cup.

Well today, we take great pride in announcing an unusual award that a business in the area received. LifeStorage of South Loop (State & 24th) has just been named 2010 Facility of the Year. Wow, now I know how a parent feels...I'm so proud.

Anyway, the article is a pretty funny read in our opinion. Here is a quick blurb:
The facility resides in a regentrifying area of Chicago's South Loop. Where drug dealers once ruled the streets, smaller businesses and shop owners have begun to open for business, attracting middle-class apartment dwellers -- many of whom need storage. With the help of architect David Wytmar of Groundwork, LTD, Barry and Jodoin created a plan that would honor the vintage charm of the original building, yet modernize it into the 21st-century self-storage brand that LifeStorage has created across the Chicago area.

"This was the right building at the right time," said Barry. "The neighborhood was turning around, and we were excited to be a part of that transformation." Today, the State Street store, located at 2361 South State Street is one of LifeStorage's busiest storage facilities in Chicago.

You can't make this shit up. Regardless, congrats to them...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Le Sole Tanning Closed

Although this is slightly old news, it appears that Le Sole tanning is closed. The tanning shop at 1130 S. Wabash was a snazzy little place that absorbed the Elements of Style boutique that was next door (which is now Computer Gurus). Both are now gone as far as we know.

We assume that the Trader Joe's will bring some other tenants to this stretch but who knows since there has been a decent amount of turnover in this building.

(Images from

Happy Belated Birthday Neighbor!

From Chicago Sun-Times:
Shedd Aqauarium staff threw a first birthday party for its youngest beluga whale, Nunavik, on Tuesday. The male calf celebrated with guests singing “Happy Birthday” and a cake topped with squid and capelin.

(Image from Chicago Sun-Times)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Cinderella Story? Help the Sloop Beat Lincoln Park

If you're a reader of Sloopin you probably know we've really enjoy the real estate blog Curbed Chicago. Well they recently kicked off their first annual Curbed Cup, which pits neighborhoods against each other in a bracket format:
This year, Curbed Cup, Curbed Chicago's annual Neighborhood of the Year tournament, is kicking off with eight (quarter)finalists, who will square off in a series of one-on-one matchups. Voting for each matchup will be open for 24 hours, or until the next matchup is posted. Let the voting begin!

Well the South Loop has been dealt a tough hand as a seven seed and is up against a tough opponent in Lincoln Park (the two seed). Curbed Chicago paints paints the picture:

In one corner, we have Lincoln Park, a traditional heavyweight of the North Side. In the other, we have the South Loop, a neighborhood that crashed so hard after a period of rapid development that one real estate agent inexplicably described it as "the Sycamore or Moline of Chicago." Last week, South Loop residents celebrated the news that Trader Joe's would open a new location at Wabash and Roosevelt. Lincoln Parkers, meanwhile, enjoy such an embarrassment of riches that people take to the streets to protest the 'invasion' of new grocery stores.

Ouch! Well our guess is that Sloopin readers probably have something to say about this. Head to their site and as Mayor Daley, the South Loop's most popular & powerful neighborhood resident, would say "Vote Early and Vote Often!"

Represent the Sloop!

(Hat Tip: Curbed Chicago Gang!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wing Stop Open on Harrison

This is slightly old news, but we wanted to mention it regardless. A Wing Stop shop recently opening up on 12 E Harrison in University Center (essentially on the corner of State and Harrison).

If you're like me, you don't know much about Wing Stop. I tend to favor chicken wings from a local bar if I'm in the mood for them. Here are some relatively positive reviews on Yelp and below is a quick blurb from their website:
It’s no wonder we have sold so many wings after wins at the Buffalo Wing Festival 3 years in a row. Wingstop has taken chicken wings to a whole new level by saucing and tossing them in a choice of 9 flavors.

Wingstop is not fast food; our wings are made with care and served up piping hot. Every order is made fresh when you order it; nothing sits under a heat lamp. In addition to hot fresh wings our sides are homemade. Fresh Cut Seasoned Fries are cut daily in every restaurant from Idaho Potatoes. If you haven’t tried any of our sides you are missing out!

Did we mention that Troy Aikman is their national spokesperson for Wing Stop? If that' doesn't sell you, we're not sure what would.

He's so charismatic...especially vintage Troy pitching for coke:

A Good Deal Indeed

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Are the Lines So Crooked?

A reader writes:
Dear Sloopin,

Have you seen the "repaving" of Indiana at and around 16th Street? The streets are completely uneven from lane to lane, and the "crosswalks" are mis-marked, mis-taped and essentially a joke. Even my 4-year old son has asked me "why are the lines so crooked?" Do you happen to know if there are any plans to finish the "repaving" or "crosswalks" so that they meet some type of minimum construction safety and/or quality standards?

The streets were in better shape prior to this laughable project, which is just a block down the street from the current mayor.


We've heard some rumblings about this, but don't have much info. Can anyone else provide some perspective on this?

(Hat Tip: KD!)

A Great YouSwoop for Gioco

A good deal is a good deal and we had to post this one for all of our readers:

$15 for $50 at Gioco - Courtesy of YouSwoop

Enjoy...we will!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wishing For Summer in the Heart of Winter

Seems appropriate that we post our most recent Sloopin poll. Not surprisingly, we yearn for Summer and dread the Winter. Bundle up tomorrow...last we checked it was a high of 15 and a low of 2!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Steak Still the Signature, But Chicago Firehouse Has a New Menu

Dining at the Chicago Firehouse (1401 S. Michigan) was always a treat for us. Whether it was the classic decor within the old firehouse or the traditional big steak, it always was enjoyable. But from the sounds of an article we just read on Chicago Magazine, somethings are changing at the upscale spot in the Sloop:
For ten years, the place (Chicago Firehouse) has successfully carried on Chicago’s macho, beefy steak-house tradition, its menu packed with wet- and dry-aged prime steaks. Much to our surprise, O’Malley decided to shake things up “to modernize how we currently do the steak house.” Enter Kendal Duque, a chef with impeccable credentials that stretch from classic (Everest) to contemporary (Sepia).

We're definitely eager to try out the new menu! Has anyone else tried it out?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do You Want a Chiasso at Roosevelt Collection?

A Blog can be a variety of things. Sometimes it's a news source, sometimes it's entertaining (at least we hope), and sometimes it's a lighting rod of opinions. Well today, we're going to turn it into an informal focus group.

We recently had a post Pondering Potential Retail at Roosevelt Collection. We had some great comments (thanks for that), but also had an interesting comment from the President of Chiasso:

I'm the owner of Chiasso and noticed your comments about CB2 and West Elm. If we open a store at the RC would you shop there?

Chris Segal
Personally we love this store! My family was in in town recently and we specifically went out of our way to go to the Chiasso on Clyborn on the way to dinner.

If you're not familiar with the store, it's a great store with all types of modern decor and furniture (here is their website). We just recently installed this sweet clock in our South Loop apartment.

So please answer this question, would you shop at Chiasso if they opened a store at Roosevelt Collection?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Signs of Life on South Wabash South of 16th Street

To most people who don't reside in the South Loop, South of 16th street is still way out of their "comfort zone". Although we usually try to talk them out of this mindset, the fact is that it's still relatively desolate South of 16th street. Yes, Michigan Avenue has move in ready retail space and businesses are slowly moving in, but West of that is pretty bare.

But there have been some recent positive signs. Who can forget the beautiful and unique Columbia College Media Production Center on South State street or the new Clark-N-Oak Animal Hospital opening across the street. We also were sent an email with a link to a new day care going in at the 1900 block of South State called Summa Cum Laude Early Learning Center.

Wabash is showing some interesting signs of life as well. If you read Sloopin, you know about the controversy around a proposed park at 16th and Wabash. Regardless of how you feel about the topic, in our opinion a park of any kind is an improvement over an empty lot. We also found out some interesting information from Alderman Fioretti's newsletter which mentioned that South of the park would be a "private commercial property, which will be a new restaurant".

Well according to Chicago Magazine, it appears that this restaurant is a new high end "to be named" project by Ryan McCaskey:

The South Loop teems with newly built condo skyscrapers, but somehow, fancy restaurants have materialized much more slowly. Into this breach steps Ryan McCaskey, who sports lines on his resumé from Tuttaposto, Vivere, Rushmore, Courtright’s, and Tizi Melloul (which now seems to be like the Taxi of Chicago restaurants, with alumni going on to ambitious projects left and right). In late summer or early fall, McCaskey plans to open a “contemporary classic American” spot at 1639 South Wabash Avenue.

This is definitely welcomed news for this strip, but it ain't going to be cheap at approximately $60-$70 a person. Regardless in our opinion this is great!

It also provides some Southward movement for the Wabash restaurant row. The 1300 block of South Wabash currently boasts 5 "nicer" restaurants. Maybe this will cause similar restaurants to open up shop on South Wabash (yes, we know that Cuatro and Room 21 didn't exactly cause a similar trend, but those were much further South). We can dream...

(Hat tip: SoloMotorRow & JP!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Overheard on the Streets of the Sloop

Tuesday Evening: A man with two hard hats under his arm on the Green/Orange line Roosevelt CTA stop platform, sipping something from a large coffee cup and emphatically muttering incoherent sentences:
"Give me your playa's card...women don't need you...they need a rough man like me!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More on Nick Cave Pop-Up Store at Mich & 23rd

We were captivated by some interesting videos we found about Nick Cave's Sound Suits. According to the blog Racked Chicago, his pop-up store is open for business at 23rd and Michigan:

Cave teamed up with multimedia designer Bob Faust to open this pop-up designer showcase of avant garde accessories and gifts on East 23rd st at Michigan Ave. The lonely stretch of old Chicago loft buildings, between the south end of McCormick Place and Chinatown, feels just derelict enough to inspire the feeling that something special is about to happen to the neighborhood. SoundSuitShop may just be the kickstart that this neighborhood needs.
(Image from Racked Chicago)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Let it Snow, but Peeps Need to Shovel

A reader writes about a common problem that seems to pile up every winter around the Sloop (and presumably the rest of the city as well):
Hi there Sloop!

The first snow fall of the season came today, and with my joy for snow comes my animosity for the vacant and parking lot owners who do not maintain their sidewalks. The walkways around Clark, Polk, and Financial Place are very slippery! The condos and businesses take care of their sidewalks, but the lot owners do not, making it impossible to safely walk up the street. The vacant lot next to the Amlie building on Clark is the worst offender! What can we do to get these people to take care of their properties during the winter? I've tried contacting the Alderman, but that process is just too slow and ineffective. Help!

Thank you!!

This might be a tough one to enforcement, but we agree that the Alderman is the best option. Does anyone else have any suggestions? If you want to help push the issue, it might be good to have some other residents email the Alderman at

(Hat Tip: BS!)

Old Bridge & A Concerned Resident

Some of the bridges and viaducts around the city and Sloop are definitely old and scary dangerous. A concerned reader recently emailed us after reading an interesting story in the Chicago Tribune about technology being used to monitor old bridges:
Hey Guys!

I regularly check your blog. I'm a resident, business owner, and law student here in Chicago. I live in 1720 South Michigan. I just read this article and a light went on in my head. Have you ever walked under the bridge near the intersection of Michigan and 16th when a freight train is going over it? I cross my fingers every time I do. It may be "structurally sound" but, if a car ran into one of those 100 year old, rusted out, flimsy columns that support the bridge with a several ton train overhead, I'd venture to guess it would fail. Are there any plans to renovate/repair it?

A concerned resident

We've noticed this bridge and although we haven't had the same worries, we can see where you're coming from. I haven't read anything in regard to renovations, but there has been a lot of talk about making these tracks inactive by rerouting trains (see old Sloopin posts on the topic here). There was some talk about converting this into a walking/running/biking path, but as far as we know those aren't happening (although we wish they were!).

(Hat Tip: MR!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

In Case You Missed the Northerly Island Presentation

If you're like us and we're intrigued by the Northerly Island Plan, but didn't have the time or will to make it to the presentation, it's OK. The Chicago Sun-Times has a good recap and here is a link to the 51 page presentation. I think my favorite thing is the proposed amphitheater that turns into an ice rink in the winter.

Finally, here is a good video with a lot of the visuals being proposed:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Getting Drunk for $5 a Pop at Custom House Tavern

Although we've never been to Custom House Tavern at 500 S Dearborn (mostly because we've heard mixed reviews) we stumbled upon this tidbit thanks to Eater Chicago which might cause us to make our inaugural trip there:

PRINTER'S ROW—Custom House Tavern wants to get you drunk ... for cheap. On Dec. 4, the anniversary of the repealing of the 18th Amendment, a.k.a. Prohibition, the restaurant will offer a trio of classic cocktails—the Dorflinger, Vieux Caree and Bolo Cocktail—for just $5 each. And chef Perry Hendrix will serve tasty bites, like duck terrine and bacon caramel corn, to ensure you don't fall off your stool too quickly. [EaterWire]

Friday, December 3, 2010

In Need of a Gym

A reader writes:
Hello! I was wondering if you could start a conversation on Sloopin about gyms in the area, which ones people prefer, amenities, pricing, why, etc? We're trying to figure out which gym is best - specifically one with an indoor pool.

LH, you're in luck...we've done some extensive blogging about gyms in the area, so click here for more information.

More importantly, does anyone have any thoughts for LH?

If you need a pool, then you probably have to focus on Xsport, Bally's or LA Fitness (I think).

Since we're talking gym's people we also thought we would post a recent email from a reader who has an update on the Bally's at River City. As most of us know, River City had a massive flood a couple of months ago which severely damaged the building (including the Bally's):
Since this was news earlier, it's now back .... After what, four months?, the Bally's at River City is open again. Only about half of though (cardio and weight machines) is open for now. The girl at the desk said it would be 6 to 8 weeks before the pool and weight room on the lower level reopens. The steam rooms aren't open yet either ...
(Hat Tip: LH and JJ!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Look at Plans for Northerly Island

Northerly Island seems to be an urban planners dream. A prime piece of land that is open for creative thinking and big dreams. As most people know it was the location of the infamous Meigs Field airstrip until Mayor Daley decided to carve X's into the runway. Now it's mainly a serene peninsula with gorgeous views, a beach and a concert pavilion.

This piece of land was going to serve as a main component for the Chicago 2016 Olympics, but we all know how that ended. We've also heard people propose a Casino, Obama's Presidential Library and numerous other unique things (see old Sloopin post about Ideas for Northerly Islandmerous).

Anyway, tonight at 6:30pm at the Chicago Architecture Foundation (224 S. Michigan Ave), the Chicago Park District's director of planning and development, Gia Biagi will unveil plans for the future of Northerly Island. Some renderings have been put on Facebook and they look interesting and here is a good aerial shot:

Also, the Chicago Tribune has a great post about this event and these plans.

We're going to try to go to the meeting, but if not, hopefully someone else can elaborate on what was discussed.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Delicious Soup Dumplings in Chinatown

We read this and immediately wanted to head down to Chinatown: Slurp Up Some Savory Soup Dumplings.
From the post:

These savory soup dumplings, while not common on most Chinese restaurant menus, are available in venues across Chicago. We enjoy ours at either Lao Shanghai Restaurant or Moon Palace Restaurant, both located in Chinatown.

Lao Shanghai Restaurant, 2163 S. China Pl.
Moon Palace Restaurant, 216 W. Cermak Rd.

(Post and Image courtesy of Chicagoist)

Follow-up on Retail Stories

Everyday it seems we get more information about retail projects in the Sloop. Since the volume and interest has been high, we figured we would take a day to follow-up on some tips and comments we've received over the past week. So here we go...

Additional Details About Trader Joe's
Yes, we all know that Trader Joe's is coming, but details about the build out have been slowly trickling in from various sources. In Alderman Fioretti's newsletter a new tidbit emerged:

With the build out of their store and the construction of a new, below-ground
parking area, it is anticipated this store will open sometime in 2011.
We were envisioning an above ground parking lot (even though we were unsure how that was going to happen), but a under ground lot is much better and will help maintain the streetscape better in our opinion. Also glad to hear that it plans to open next year (although the specific time of year is still undetermined).

Additionally, the Trader Joe's South Loop story has been covered by Crain's.

South Loop Wine Cellar
We've received email and comments saying that the South Loop Wine Cellar (1442 S. Michigan) appears to be closing. We recently walked past the store and it appears that this is true. As of Monday night, most of the Wine bins are empty. At the beginning of the year we heard a rumor that they wanted to close up shop, but were having issues with there lease. Anyway, it appears that this is now the case. This marks the second wine store on Michigan Avenue to close up shop this year (see old Sloopin post about Winestyles).

Flavor 180
A reader writes:
A new spot, Flavor 180, is opening in the old Carolina Caramel (1511 S State) spot. There is a banner outside of the space which also reads, "a new take on fast food." Check it out...
We did some searching but couldn't find anymore information. If someone has the scoop let us know.

Willow Church
On Monday we posted about a new Cafe called TLC Cafe on Wabash just north of Congress. It also appears that a Church will be moving in next door at 418 S. Wabash as well. A sign that reads "Future Home of Willow Church" can be seen in the window. For those who aren't familiar with the space, this used to be the Prairie Avenue Bookshop.

Activity at 1400 S. Michigan
Finally we received a comment yesterday about a potential build out at Michigan Avenue Tower II (1400 S. Michigan). We also saw them pouring concrete slabs into the vacant retail space. We're not sure if this is for a specific tenant or if this is just the final (and much needed) step in making this space ready to be rented. Anyway, it was an eye sore and hopefully this means they can finally rent out this space.

As always, thanks to everyone who has been sending us emails, comments, and pictures. It seems like there are some good things going on in the Sloop in regard to retail. It's unfortunate when a business closes, but it's encouraging when more new stuff keeps on coming.

(Hat Tip: ND, JF, and all the readers who sent info about TJ's)