Thursday, March 31, 2011

Overflow Coffee Bar: a Grand Opening and a Grand Mission

In the fall of last year a reader was on the lookout for a coffee shop where they could go to work, relax and enjoy the neighborhood vibe. Despite our cheesy headline, it sounds like this reader and hopefully others have a new place to fulfill this desire - Overflow Coffee Bar (1550 S. State). Overflow Coffee Bar has been working towards opening up their business for awhile and it finally came to fruition. Best of all they're operating with a unique and interesting mission:
Overflow Coffee Bar is more than a typical coffee shop. For starters, we give our profits back into the community for non-profit activities. Next, we have a mission that’s more than just selling coffee. Our mission is to give South Loop residents, students and workers the opportunity to change the world. We accomplish our mission through four priorities.
Lofty goals, but ones you have to admire. For more info check out their website. Definitely an interesting read and definitely not something your 'typical' coffee shop would put down on paper. Anyway, their official grand opening is this Friday and they have a variety of special events:

Friday’s Schedule

  • 7am - First 300 people get a FREE Overflow travel mug (bring it in and get $0.30 off your drink… no expiration!)

  • 3pm - live guitar!

  • 5pm - Come in your pajamas and get an extra discount. Plus, we’ll play 80’s music.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • 10am - Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

  • 11am - Special Guest Appearance of Cosmo the Lango Bulldog

  • 3pm - DJ Toxxic

Welcome to the Sloop Overflow of luck and see you soon!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shots Around the Sloop: Digging at Trader Joe's

On March 21st, an anonymous commenter posted something no one in the neighborhood wants hear:
Sorry to possibly start a new rumor mill on this one, BUT I was at the River North Trader Joe's yesterday and was told that the S. Loop location was on hold indefinitely. Has Sloopin or anyone else heard the same from any reliable sources? Thanks!

We haven't heard that and hope it's not true. Regardless, we are pretty skeptical as the underground parking lot dig is in full swing and progressing quickly. Here are some shots we took on Monday:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicago's Best Goes to Flo & Santos

There has been a lot of talk about Gioco and some of the issues facing this restaurant, so we found it refreshing that their next door neighbor (and newest addition to the block) is getting some great pub:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Official Statement - Gioco Will Reopen

According to Crain's and an official statement from Kleiner:
Gioco, which has remained profitable over the years, has closed for the time being so that owners and investors can assess who will be involved and how details will be worked out going forward. It will reopen as soon as possible with the same name, concept and location.

More News on KDK Restaurant Empire and Our Gioco

Sorry if you're not into this story, but more and more information continues to come out and judging by the buzz last week we know some readers are very interested in it. With that said, the blog Eater Chicago has some new information about KDK, Gioco, Red Light and the subsequent 'restaurant empire' that looks to be in transition mode:

"Red Light is 15 years old so it's a little bit tired, but it has run a tremendous course," Kleiner said. "With Gioco, it's profitable, and we have a partnership there and we have to sort out and see what everyone wants to do. That's going to take a few days to figure out. There's a possibility we may sell it off and put it to rest. It's all been a great run for everybody."

So KDK, which at one time was one of the most successful restaurant groups in Chicago with places like the now-shuttered Marché and still-operating Vivo leading the charge in the early to mid '90s, and can be credited for helping make the West Loop what it is today, may cease to exist. Kleiner has been working on his own projects, including Carnivale and 33 Club, for a few years, and has design projects "all over the world," he said. His partner, Howard Davis, is also working on separate projects. Dan Krasny, who was a third partner, split from KDK years ago and continues to operate Vivo. "I'm moving in a whole new direction in my life," Kleiner said. "As each restaurant has moved on ... I moved on. I have projects all over."

Although the ambiguity around Gioco might not the news many of us were hoping to hear, it's still nice to hear that Gioco was profitable and it's closing wasn't a product of the neighborhood not supporting it (or at least that's the way we're reading the comments). Anyway, stay tuned.

Lights On at Old Orange Restaurant on Harrison?

A reader recently noticed some activity at the old Orange restaurant (75 W. Harrison) and wondered if we knew anything. This is the first we've heard, but does anyone else know what's up?
Hey there Sloopin-

Just walked by the old Orange space on Harrison, between Clark and Dearborn, and all the lights were on and it looks like some demo had been done. Any idea of what might be coming? Here are some pics.


(Hat tip: TR!)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More Trouble for KDK Restaurants as Red Light Closes

Many Sloopers were disappointed about the recent news about Gioco closing (including us). Yes, we hear it's they are planning to re-open, but many people don't seem to have that faith.

Regardless, it appears there is some other issues at KDK restaurants. Crain's Chicago is reporting that Red Light (another KDK restaurant in the West Loop) also closed this week. Who knows what this means, but regardless our fingers are still crossed that they sort out this mess and that Gioco reopens.

This story has also received a wide amount of prominent news coverage, but we enjoyed reading the blog, The Feast, who sympathised with the South Loop residents and suggested ten solid dinning options in the Sloop.

Friday, March 25, 2011

YoChicago Checks in at One Museum Park

For those of us who are interested in neighborhood real estate, YoChicago ponders whether Spring will serve as a form of renewal for two of the South Loop's most high profile properties:
At the newer of the two towers, the 298-unit One Museum Park West at 1201 S Prairie Ave, just two developer-owned condos have closed since January 1. Going by what I can see on Redfin, it looks like 57 are still listed for sale, more than half at prices above 750,000, and another 91 are under contract — and in more than a few cases, have been under contract since 2006. That means the building is, at most, half-closed.

The overall sales numbers don’t look quite as bad for the older and
taller tower, the 286-unit One Museum Park at 1211 S Prairie Ave, even if it’s seen just one sale since October 1. Redfin shows 31 homes for sale and one home under contract, so the building may be nearing the 90% sold
mark. However, the remaining inventory isn’t cheap — the median price for those 31
developer-owned units is $1.23 million, and the 60605 ZIP code as a whole has
only seen about a dozen sales at or above that price in the past year.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Unexpected, Ominous Signs Appear on the Windows at Gioco

No need to push the panic button yet Sloopers!

On Wednesday and Thursday we received numerous emails from concerned readers about some ominous signs that appeared in the windows at Gioco (1312 S. Wabash):

I live on the same block as Gioco, and they have signs in the windows saying something to the effect of Closed Today and Until Further Notice; Sorry For the inconvenience. Does anyone know anything about this? It's such a great place...
Another writes:

I was walking by Gioco and saw it was closed. The signs in the window stated that Gioco would be closed today and until further notice. Not sure if they are closed permanently. Any ideas? Scoop?
Before fanning the flame, we decided to shoot a quick email to KDK restaurants (who runs Gioco) to inquire. Here is what they said:

We are hoping to overcome a temporary glitch that caused the closing. I would appreciate your patience and understanding.
We prodded a little more and they did say they play to reopen. So no need to panic just yet, it sounds like you will be enjoying some Italian food shortly.
Chicago restaurateur Jerry Kleiner, a co-owner in Gioco, at 1312 S. Wabash Ave., says the state suspended its retail license Wednesday because Gioco has fallen behind in making required employee withholding and sales tax payments. He hopes the closing will be temporary and said he and his partners in owner KDK Restaurants Inc. are working with the Illinois Department of Revenue to get the license reinstated.

Mr. Kleiner said Gioco is making money — he declined to provide specifics — but has suffered in a financial restructuring at KDK, which at one time owned a string of high-end eateries, including Marché in the West Loop and Opera, Gioco's neighbor just up Wabash. Marché closed in June after a near-two-decade run, and Opera shut its doors in December.

Now KDK is down to just one restaurant: Red Light. Mr. Kleiner said Gioco's success has helped keep Red Light afloat and delayed the demise of Opera.

"We're going to make good on the taxes owed," Mr. Kleiner said. "Gioco is very profitable. It just got caught in the fire."
Ironically, we actually went to Gioco this past week and had arguably one of the best meals we've had at the restaurant (we've probably been a dozen times over the past couple of years).
We opted for the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer (a staple whenever we go) and then split the tortellini and the Filetto Con Salsa Al Barolo for the first time. The filet dish was amazing. Two 4 oz Gorgonzola Dolce Crusted Beef Filets, Roasted Cippolini Onions, Sautéed Rapini, & Barolo Sauce.

Hopefully we will be able to have this dinner again soon!
What do you think is going to happen?

(Hat tip: DR, CS, BK, SLA, KDK, HAD!)

Alliance for a Greener South Loop Touts Earth Day

We recently received an email from the Alliance for a Greener South Loop asking us to bring some attention to Earth Day, which is this Saturday, March 26th. It's an important event and wanted to give it some pub:
Earth Hour is a global initiative that invites individuals, businesses, governments and communities to turn off their lights for one hour – 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 26. Will the South Loop’s commitment to the environment shine through its darkness for one hour?
They also give you tips on what you can do to take part in the event:
What can YOU do?
  • Talk to your building management about posting a notice to residents to Turn Off Your Lights!
  • Ask your friends and neighbors to do the same in their buildings.
  • Staying home on Saturday, March 26? Switch off lights for Earth Hour at 8:30 p.m., and celebrate a commitment to the planet with the people of the world;
  • Planning to eat out on Friday, March 26? Call ahead and ask the restaurant if they’ll have lights out and candles on for the evening;
  • Use the logo on your website, blog, or e-mail signature (jpeg attached, or go to
  • Help us document Earth Hour around us. Post before and after pictures of the neighborhood on the Alliance’s Facebook page.
  • The Alliance for a Greener South Loop presents the first annual Earth Hour
    Tweet-Up: tweet @GreenSouthLoop and tell us where you are and what’s going on where you are during Earth Hour.
  • Sustain environmentally-focused actions beyond the hour and share what you
    did in the the South Loop at by commenting on this blog post and with the world.
  • Sign up and share stories of actions that benefit the planet on
(Hat tip: GM!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Adler Seeking a New Prize for Museum Campus

In case you missed this story last week in the Chicago Tribune, the Adler Planetarium is one of many institutions hoping to land a space shuttle:
The Adler is one of 20 museums in the running to get one of two orbiters up for grabs, Endeavour and Atlantis. NASA will reveal the two museums that will get those shuttles April 12, the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle space flight.

"Chicago is the best place in the Middle West for a shuttle," said Adler President Paul Knappenberger after revealing an elaborate concept drawing of the kind of building Adler would erect on a parking lot west of the planetarium to house a shuttle and related exhibits.
As part of their bid, Adler proposes an interesting pavilion to house the shuttle:
Hoping to create a little last-minute hoopla for its cause, Adler Planetarium on Thursday unveiled plans for a dramatic lakefront glass pavilion that it proposes to build if it obtains one of the soon-to-be-retired space shuttles.
(Image from the Chicago Tribune)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Roosevelt Collection Sold!

We've been hearing rumblings about Roosevelt Collection being shopped around and judging by a post we read on Curbed Chicago (via Crain's) it sounds like the massive new development on Roosevelt has been sold:
Unnamed sources tell Crain's that McCaffery and Canyon Capital Realty Advisors have agreed to buy Roosevelt Collection, the suburban-style apartment-retail development, for somewhere in the neighborhood of $160 to $175 million - roughly half what it cost to build. The main question remaining for South Loop residents is whether McCaffery will be able to do what Centrum Properties failed at: leasing the 398,324 square feet of retail space.
This has got to be considered a good thing for the neighborhood. It became clear that Centrum lost momentum with the project and even though the rental units appeared to be leased, there was absolutely no visible movement on the retail front.

Hopefully this sale brings some fresh blood into the project and a group that is motivated to see the development live up to its potential. Speaking of the new blood, we did a quick google search on Canyon Capital Realty Advisors and found out that they're the group that developed State Place.

For Sloopers who aren't familiar with that name, you definitely know their property, which is the huge development that starts at Roosevelt and State and goes all the way north to 11th street (see pic). Retail tenants within this property include Walgreens, Fitness Formula Club, Verizon, HR Block, Hair Cutery and Kriser's Pet Shop. Let's hope they get moving on the retail front...we love the property but want this place to progress.
Hopefully this is a good sign! What do you think, please sound off.
For more background on Roosevelt
Collection click here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Living Like an MVP in the Sloop

If you're a fan of the NBA, you probably know that Derrick Rose is a baller and that he is the favorite to become the youngest MVP in league history. The best thing about this is that he hails from Chicago and plays for his hometown Bulls.

If you've followed his story, you know he grew up playing basketball on some of Chicago's most notoriously dangerous streets. When he "made it" in the league there was some concern that some of the people he grew up with could bring him down. Luckily it appears that Derrick and his family have been able to prosper and successfully distance themselves from bad influences.

One of the ways we heard he did this was by moving to the suburbs. However, it came as a surprise when we read a recent post on the Chicago Now blog network about sports stars and where they live in Chicago:
Looking at some famous basketball players, Michael Jordan built an amazing house in suburbs, as did Scottie Pippen, close to the Berto Center, while Derrick Rose is currently downtown, closer to his United Center game site, living in a South Loop townhome.
This came as a surprise. Regardless it's always good to have an MVP in the helps the value of our real estate.

With a post about Derrick Rose, we're obligated to post a youtube video of his ridiculous dunk highlights:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Scout and Tribute Most Eagerly Anticipated New Spots

Sloopin's retail week was exciting for us, hope you found it good as well! Thanks for all the tips, comments and page views (as an FYI, it was our best week ever on Sloopin in regard to traffic to the site).

Our corresponding informal poll suggests that people are eager for most of the new spots, but the Scout and Tribute are clearly the most anticipated: Tribute came out slow of the gate, but they definitely understand the power of social media and saw some big gains towards the end thanks to posts on their Facebook and Twitter pages. With that said, we also saw a great video on this page showcasing one of the interesting dishes executive chef Brandon Baltzey is dreaming up (we also love the music):

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Just North of the Sloop a Unique Entrance

It's not that close to the Sloop (however still walking distance), but a reader is curious and asking for some help:
I know it's in the Loop, not the Sloop but do u know what this is at Madison and Michigan? Hotel?


(Hat tip: CPM!)

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Annual Top 10 Best Spots to Watch Sports in the Sloop

Two years ago we had a post pondering the best place to watch the Men's NCAA basketball tourney in the Sloop. At the time we said Kroll's was our top spot.

In honor of the tournament and a couple of new options in the neighborhood, we figured we would start an annual "Top 10 Best Spots to Watch Sports in the Sloop" list. Please note that we're not saying these are the best bars/restaurants in the neighborhood, we're simply saying if you're trying to watch sports these are our top spots. Without further ado:

1) Kroll's (1736 S. Michigan) - This spot has been around for a while and hasn't lost any of it's luster. Kroll's has 4 projectors and numerous flat screens coming at your from all angles. All in all Kroll's provides solid food, a warm atmosphere, a good neighborhood vibe and enough screens to ensure you will be able to watch whatever you want.

2) Jimmy Green's (825 S. State) - Relatively new to the Sloop, Jimmy Green's has the most impressive and up-to-date system when it comes to TVs and sound. We've heard criticisms about the crowd (which has been described as touristy) as well as the decor (which is chic & modern). Regardless, if you're out to watch sports this place will have what you're looking for.

3) Flo & Santos (1310 S. Wabash) - A newcomer to the Sloop, this small spot has a lot of character. On the south wall you will find numerous high quality screens that makes this a great place to belly up and enjoy a full day of basketball (or whatever). Some of the best "bar food" in the neighborhood, the one complaint is that it's small and tough to get seats during prime sporting events.

4) Bar Louie (47 W. Polk) - You're probably wondering how could we put a chain in our list. Sorry to disappoint, but true Sloopsters look past the standard stereotypes and see this spot for what it is...a cool historic building with a ton of new flat screens to watch your favorite sporting event.

5) Kasey's Tavern (701 S. Dearborn) - this old school, Printer's Row staple is small but again has plenty of screens and a ton of historical charm. Although they don't have food, you will find a lengthy beer list and ample screens to catch all the buzzer beaters - come early to get a seat though.

6) Wabash Tap (1233 S. Wabash) - This is probably the closest we have to a "dive bar" in the South Loop, but in honesty not sure we would go that far. You pay for what you get at this spot, which is cheap beer, bar games and TVs. They also have popcorn...which is a plus.

7) Villains Bar and Grill ( 649 S. Clark) - Definitely not a sports bar, but Villains Bar & Grill pulls off the dark, alternative vibe while allowing you to enjoy their screens behind the bar. This place has great food, awesome beers and typically isn't packed because it's not the first place you think about when going to watch sports. If you can get a booth by the entrance, you will be glad you came here to watch whatever sport you're looking for.

8) Weather Mark Tavern (1503 S. Michigan) - Sailing and sports don't typically go together, but this nautically themed bar/restaurant has plenty of TVs to choose from. Some of the food is really good and some not so much, but it's a relaxing vibe if you're up for that.

9) Hackney's (733 S. Dearborn) - Known for their excellent food and neighborhood charm, Hackney's does have a bar. Unfortunately the TVs are slightly outdated and the bar area is very small. It's typically super crowded in the bar area, so if you can get a seat it's good, but if not, head somewhere else.

10) Tapas Valencia (1503 S. State) - Tapas and sports?!?! You're probably perplexed and we were too, but one random Friday night we sat at the large bar area at this restaurant and had a great meal and a great sports viewing experience. It won't be crowded, so if you're looking to steer clear of the "sports crowds" give this a shot.

Others considered, but not on our top ten:
South Loop Club - Tons of TVs (some old), but we bad service when we went
Tantrum - Never been...
Buddy Guy's Legends - Go for music, not for sports
Blackie's - Not a bad choice if all the other places are packed
Chicago Firehouse Bar - A classy way to watch sports
La Cantina and/or Zapatista - Guac and Sports sounds good to us
The Shrine

We're cautiously optimistic about the Scout (1301 S. Wabash). It's set to open this spring and judging by previous endeavors from the management group it could crack our top 10.

So what do you think? Disagree? Other suggestions?

(Image from Kroll's)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lexington Park Goes Rental

In case you missed this story earlier in the week, according to Crain's the infamous Lexington Park highrise at Cermak and Michigan is going rental. Although many will probably see this as a negative, in our mind it could be positive.

The southern end of the South Loop (if you consider this the South Loop) is probably the bleakest area of the neighborhood in regard to retail and it's mostly due to the fact that there is little foot traffic these days. Well the good news is that by this building going rental, foot traffic should pick up. Hopefully it brings some more shops to this stretch of the neighborhood.
The article goes on to talk about estimated price at the building:
The ST spokesman says the venture hasn't chosen a property manager or decided on rents. But people familiar with Lexington Park estimate that one-bedroom units will rent for $1,300 to $1,600 a month, while two-bedrooms will go for $1,700 to $2,100.

By comparison, monthly rent for a one-bedroom unit starts at $1,500 at Terrazio, a 180-unit development about a half-mile north of Lexington Park, says Jennifer Witt of Coldwell Banker NRT, who is leasing a block of unsold units for Terrazio's developer, Sedgwick Properties Development Corp. of Chicago.
For the saga behind Lexington Park click here for old Sloopin posts.
(Image from Curbed Chicago)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

If Chicago Had a Tsunami...the Sloop Would be Screwed

Obviously the horrible events in Japan are nothing to scoff at. As we watch the pictures and videos roll in it's tough to contemplate how anyone could cope with something like this. If you're interested in donating to the red cross, here is a link to do so.

If you're like us, it's hard to see the images and really understand the scale of the disaster (even though we know it's huge). Living by a large body of water always makes for unusual weather problems, but luckily for us it appears that we don't have much to worry about since the history of earthquakes in Chicago is relatively small both in amount and intensity.

Regardless, we found this interesting link at Curbed Chicago that helps put the scale of the Japanese disaster into perspective for people like us:

Chicago as we know it wouldn't exist anymore.

(Hat tip: Kelly T!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Progress at Roosevelt Universities "Vertical Campus"

In case you haven't been by the proposed site of Roosevelt Universities "Vertical Campus", it looks like they're making some progress according to a blog called Chicago Architecture Plus:

It also touches on some of the architectural artifacts that are being discovered as the building is being built. An interesting read for people that are into these types of things.

For some of the Sloopin posts we've done in the past, click here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another Soho Reference for Printer's Row

A couple of weeks ago we posted about an article we read in the Tribune stating that the Soho neighborhood in New York served as inspiration for one of the first developers who had the vision to turn Printer's Row into a residential neighborhood.

As a result it comes as no surprise that the residential units in this neighborhood could be described similarly. YoChicago posted about this recently (click here) and here is a look inside: For more pictures click here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ending Sloopin's Retail Week with Three Openings

Hope everyone enjoyed our impromptu, but much deserved first Sloopin retail week. For the most part the activity seems encouraging and only time will tell what actually opens. As we know, just because it's announced in the Tribune, or on a sign in the window or on a building permit on the door, it doesn't mean something will actually open.

With that mind, we wanted to end the week with three recent businesses that officially opened up their doors:

TLC Cafe (424 S. Wabash)
We've posted about TLC in the past and It appears that everything is set up for the grand opening:

Donna's Cafe (1255 S. State)

We've had a lot of coverage of Donna's Cafe in the past and although the doors were open, the "official" opening just happened. The Chicago Journal had a good read in the most recent edition and we suggest you take a read.

Bikram Yoga Chicago (47 W. Polk)

Again, covered by Sloopin in the past if you're interested in background, but the hot yoga establishment opened it's doors in Dearborn Station this past Monday. Check out their website for more info.

Best of luck to these businesses and we're glad to have you in the Sloop!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hopefully You Can Swim in Lake Michigan Soon

Weather is getting nicer...Maybe you can swim in Lake Michigan soon:

Breakfast Spot Coming to 1400 S. Michigan?

This is our third straight post about the 1400 block of South Michigan and to be honest this might be the most exciting post yet (in our opinion). The west side of the block has a lot of good looking retail space built, but the question has remained, when will the businesses come?

Some readers recently noticed some construction inside the retail space at Michigan Avenue Tower II (which is the high-rise at the corner of 14th and Michigan). Anyone who has walked by this retail space has probably noticed the unfinished floors and dire scene inside. So it came as a pleasant surprise when we saw work being done inside this retail space. At the time no one knew what was going in, but after some digging we heard through the grapevine that it's going to be a "breakfast spot".

Honestly, when we peak inside it doesn't seem to look like a restaurant. It looks more like a dentist's office or maybe office space? It's early, so we will see.

Yolk and Bongo Room are solid and seem to do good business. Can another breakfast spot flourish?

Friday, March 11, 2011

South Loop Immediate Care Opens at 1430 S. Michigan

As we all know there is a lot of vacant retail space on Michigan Avenue. Although a sexy restaurant or boutique would have been preferred, it's still good to see something moving in. Well recently we noticed signs that South Loop Immediate Care has a new home at 1430 S. Michigan.

Their website obviously is different than the name in the window, but the address is the same. We're not 100% sure but this might be a new location for the South Loop Urgent Cart that use to be on 16th street.

Anyway, good to see the real estate development ads come down and an actual business with actual people move in.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grace O'Malley's Owners Mum on New Concept

Yes it's the Sloopin retail week and thus far everything we've posted about seems positive. Although this news from the Chicago Sun-Times isn't ain't positive and it doesn't tell us much of anything new:
The owners of Grace O'Malley's, a South Loop restaurant that closed Feb. 1, decline comment on Friday about the future of the site at 1416 S. Michigan Ave. The restaurant owner, Mainstay Hospitality LLC, issued a written notice to employees at its other eateries - Wabash Tap and The Chicago Firehouse - notifying them of Grace O'Malley's closing but revealing no other plans.
So no news on this front. We've been asking around and it seems like the employees are obliging their owners and not offering up any details on future plans for the building.

Wait and see...wait see...

For those of you who don't regularly read Sloopin we had a post about Grace O'Malley's closing a couple of weeks ago.

The Great Trader Joe's Dig Begins?

Retail week on Sloopin wouldn't be official if we didn't have at least one post about the Trader Joe's that's going in at the corner of Roosevelt and State. As you may or may not remember, one of the "contingencies" for TJ's to come to this location was that they could build a parking lot (beyond what was already there).

In a newsletter from Alderman Fioretti, it sounded like the plan was to build a parking garage underneath the building. As we said then and will say again, we're not really sure how (or if) that's really going to happen but it appears some form of construction project is beginning:

After we snapped these pictures they put up a green construction fence which has a sign for Bovis on it. So it looks official in our mind. As always we will keep our eyes fixated on this project and try to monitor updates accordingly.

Finally, it also appears that the inside has been cleaned out and some contsruction has begun there as well (we noticed one of the backwalls has a huge hole in it). Besides that nothing major at this point, but good to see some movement within the building.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Guy Fieri Brings Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to Panozzo's

If you were looking for some solid Italian food yesterday, you were out of luck according to this picture a reader sent to us: Good to see a solid South Loop business/restaurant get some national attention. For more background here is what Panozzo's emailed us a couple of weeks ago about the show:

The Food Network Show 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' starring Guy Fieri has picked Panozzo's Italian Market to be featured in a new Chicago-centric episode. They'll be visiting and shooting the first week of March (actual air date TBD) and the subject will be Porchetta, Meatballs and True Bolognese.
Should be a fun episode to watch. If we get additional information we will pass it on!

Also, the reader also took this picture yesterday. Guy's facny red car parked outside of the store:
(Hat tip: JG & DL!)

Intriqued by Brandon Baltzley, the New Chef at Tribute

We were excited to hear about a new restaurant called Tribute coming to the Essex Inn last month. We're also excited about recently stumbling upon more background on the executive chef, Brandon Baltzley, who has had spent the last year in Chicago bouncing around hot spots.

A site called rock and roll ghost has a great post about Brandon's background and the rocky relationship at his last stop Mado:

The space where Chicago restaurant Mado stands will not be going to Chef Brandon Baltzley after all. In a Rock ‘n Roll Ghost exclusive, Baltzley states that there were differing opinions on what the space was worth.

Now that Baltzley’s efforts to take over Mado have ended, he’s focusing on searching for a new space, private functions and seeing what else is out there for him in the culinary world.

Baltzley came to Chicago earlier this year from New York City, getting his feet wet at Grant Achatz’s three Michelin starred Alinea and then at Schwa before taking over the Executive Chef role at Mado that was vacated by Rob and Allie Levitt, (Rob Levitt’s The Butcher and Larder is due to open in the very near future). The 25 year-old chef overhauled Mado’s menu, opening up the Levitts’ Mediterranean small and large plates to a more global reach.

There is more to the story, but this was published before the news that he found a home at Tribute in the South Loop. In another interesting article, we found out that Baltzley "wowed" the owners of Tribute with some of his trial dishes:
Baltzley’s tryout, now public in the wake of his hiring, wowed Tribute‘s partners, particularly Lamb. “Great ingredients treated well – you could sense the depth of flavor and technique. An exceptional blend of creativity and approachability. You could taste the passion in his food. Truly an expression of Brandon’s personality,” Lamb told The Gluttonous Ghost.

Even better yet, Tribute seems to be active in the social media space. So if you want to follow the restaurant as it prepares to hit it's open date of May 1st, check out their facebook page, twitter page and blog.

Should be a big improvement for this space. We're really looking forward to this one!

Finally, if you're like us you can't get away from the antics of Charlie Sheen, well it appears that the team at Tribute can't either. The provide some excellent commentary on the situation while at a tasting for their own coffee blend that we presume will be offered at the restaurant:

(Image from Eater Chicago & The Gluttonous Ghost)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Man Above Sends the South Loop "Pita Heaven"

Your prayers have been answered Sloopers!

It appears that the man above is listening and has decided to bestow us with Pita Heaven. Readers might remember that there was a sign claiming that Pita Corner would be opening in August of 2010 at 1250 S. Michigan. Well that didn't happen supposedly due to an investor dropping out of the project. Last we heard the others involved with the project were seeking other investors.

Call it divine intervention or whatever you want, but we recently noticed that new signs have appeared:All I can say is that I've been praying for falafel and it appears that someone is listening.

Enough of the religious jokes, but we couldn't help it...all we can say is Pita Heaven.

(Hat tip: ND!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sloopin's Retail Week

So after getting a lot of emails and talking with a variety of people recently, it seems like there has been a lot of action on the retail scene within the Sloop.

With that in mind, we're going to have a lot of posts this week about the retail scene in the neighborhood. Maybe some of the news will be new and some will be old, but it's been fun to see watch.

So stay tuned this entire week for at least one retail post a day (maybe even more if you're lucky). If you've seen something or have a question please send it our way and we will post.

Sloopin Crew

Lights Help! The Scout Shows Off a Subtle Improvement

Call it insignificant, call it beautiful or call it crazy...but in our opinion a subtle lighting addition to the old Opera restaurant at 1301 S. Wabash has us excited about what could be going on inside. If you're a reader of the Sloopin you probably know that Opera served it's last meal on December 31st of 2010 and that a new concept called the Scout is planning on moving in this spring (last we heard in May).

The windows are papered up and last we saw the entire place was gutted. But last week when strolling past the building at night we noticed the addition of new lights which do an excellent job of accentuating some of the buildings character. It seems like a simple yet impactful improvement to the building and with this type of attention to detail we're excited to see what they have in store for the inside.

It also appears that the vintage, translucent glass near the corner of the building might be coming down. A couple days after we took the picture above we noticed that plywood boards have been put over these tiles. We can only assume that means they're coming down. Maybe we're wrong.

Or maybe we're just crazy and shouldn't be looking so hard for signs of life at places like this.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Epic Burger Continues to Expand in Chicago

Yes, Epic Burger (517 S. State) started in the South Loop so naturally we feel a strong bond with the burger joint. And that's why we're happy to see that it appears that they're doing pretty well:
Epic Burger is opening its third location this summer in the heart of the Chicago’s West Loop. Epic’s inaugural location launched in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood in May 2008. Shortly after, a second location was launched in Lincoln Park in June 2010.
As we've said in the past, it's good to see them doing well. They're usually pretty busy when we walk by. Best of luck to a South Loop original.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Everyone Can Use More Energy...Try Crystals

Yes, you read the headline correctly. The Sloop has an energy solution for you and it's in the form of Crystals. Some people rely on working out or sleeping or coffee, but now you have another option.
Located in a small retail space that isn't visible from the street, the space share a lobby with one of our favorite asian restaurants Ma & I (1234 S. Michigan). We've never seen anyone in the mysterious Crystal Energy. However, we've been intriqued by the store and we have some "far-out" friends who've jumped on this train before. Regardless, it's been open for a couple of months now and we recently took a quick phone image.
We couldn't find a website for this store, but did find a website talking about the benefits of crystals.
Maybe this is the answer to all of our problems?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Not Your Typical Landmark

We've posted about the renovations at Chef Luciano's and Gourmet Chicken before, but yesterday we read an article on WBEZ's website about the process underway to make part of the building a landmark:

If the Chef Luciano & Gourmet Chicken place in the South Loop looks like a white castle, it's with good reason: The 80-year-old building was originally a White Castle, one of the earliest built by the world-famous restaurant chain.

And tomorrow, city staffers will seek preliminary landmark status for the building at 43 E. Cermak, saying the 80-year-old building is the city's best surviving example of an original White Castle restaurant. Built in 1930, the building, originally White Castle #16, was among scores of first-gen White Castle restaurants that made eating hamburgers acceptable--it was low-brow carny food before then--and created a construction and business model that paved the way for modern post-war franchise systems like McDonalds and others, according to a city report.

The city's landmarks division will make its case before the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

ABC7 also did a little piece about the process and sums up the story well:

(Hat tip: LR3 & RG!)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What's Going on with the TIF?

If you're like us (and we assume others) you arrived home one day recently, checked your mail and saw a mysterious large envelope with a bunch of papers that appeared to have something to do with a revision to TIF boundaries in the neighborhood.

Actually, we received about four of these envelopes and for some reason one of them was sent through priority mail (why? we have no idea). Throughout all of this mail, the purpose wasn't very clear and we've been meaning to follow-up as to what this might mean. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to the bottom of this and as a result are relying on someone better versed in the subject to shed some light on these documents and what they might mean for the neighborhood. If you received these papers, PLEASE help explain.

A reader had similar concerns and questions:

Hi Sloopin!
I just got a notice in the mail concerning a "TIF" hearing that was happening for the south loop area. My brief reading about the topic was insufficient to come to any real conclusions about this new development for the neighborhood.

  • First, did everyone in the neighborhood get this notice?

  • Second, I think you would do a fantastic job of discussing this issue and what it means for residents! I'm a bit worried about if this will increase property taxes.

Also, it appears that a neighborhood gets TIF designation if its 'culturally important' or its 'blighted.' Which of these designations would the Sloop fall under? I think the city's designation could have serious ramifications.

The city's website for this topic is:

Much appreciated!

(Hat tip: RP!)

Dreaming of Interesting Things for a High Profile Lot in the Sloop

It's fun to dream. So put on your step outside of your box and go with us on a completely hypothetical exercise of creative thought.

We recently read that a very high profile piece of land in the South Loop is going up for auction:
Offering 837 feet of river frontage and 216 feet of frontage on Roosevelt road, this 5+acre site is bordered and ties together some of Chicago’s most recent high profile developments. With its immediate neighbors, such as
Roosevelt Collection and old-line destination properties, such as Soldier Field, the Museum Campus, University of Illinois/Chicago (UIC), the parcel is ideally positioned for city support.
Obviously it's going to come at high price, but put on your city planner hat or developer hat and let us know what you would like to see in this space.

We're going the ridiculous "but wouldn't that be interesting" route with our dream. We would like to see a one of a kind championship golf course built by Tiger Woods that links this property with the larger vacant property south of Roosevelt. For good measure we would also like to build a platform over the train tracks west of the river to afford more land for our golf course. Realizing this isn't very feasible we would like to utilize some unique golf design attributes like greens with two pins and holes with multiple tee boxes to utilize the most of the land. Yes, it's crazy, but it would be unique and showcase golf in a unique, urban way. Oh and we would be able to play golf without driving to the suburbs and waiting in that annoying traffic for hours.

So what are your ridiculous thoughts/dreams for this property?

It will probably end-up becoming a Wal-Mart, but it's fun to dream...sigh.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Eating for the Sake of Eating at the Chicago Firehouse

Restaurant week is a funny thing. On one hand it's a good reason to go out, try a new restaurant and splurge on some new eats. On the other hand it's a little glutinous. While I love to eat, I very rarely need to eat an appetizer, entree and dessert...but it's restaurant I eat.

On the last night of restaurant week, some friends suggested going to the Chicago Firehouse (1401 S. Michigan) for a night of sophistication, friendly banter and large cuts of steak. Who can pass that up?

We've been to the Chicago Firehouse a couple times and tend to have a good time. The food is great and classic, but the building, mood and ambiance is something that always impresses. Anyway, we're not talking about the building anymore. We like it. It's cool. End of story.

Today we're focusing on restaurant week. If you've participated in restaurant week you know that you can order off the normal menu, but that's not very fun. It's restaurant week, so you have to order off of the 'special restaurant week' menu, right? The CF restaurant week dinner menu consisted of two price points and both had three courses (where you had to pick one from each course):

$33 option


  • Firecracker Shrimp
  • Lobster Bisque
  • Baby "iceberg" wedge


  • Roasted Amish Chicken
  • Skate Wing
  • 10 0z Flat Iron Steak


  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Callebaut Chocolate Brownie

$44 Option


  • Charred Baby Octopus
  • Steak Tartare
  • Lobster Bisque
  • Caesar Salad


  • Roasted Pork Chop
  • Atlantic Salmon
  • 12 0z Rib-Eye Steak


  • Key Lime Pie
  • Callebaut Chocolate Brownie
  • Raspberry Cheesecake

So we had a decent sized party and all I can say is that I didn't hear many complaints about the choices the group made (all the choices are italicized above). If there was one complaint it was that my flat iron steak was a little more rare then I liked (and I asked for it to be medium rare). Being the carnivore I am, I still ate the whole thing...and it was still delicious.

Anyway, our experience for restaurant week at the Chicago Firehouse was good and would recommend it. Yes, we ate a little too much, but hey, restaurant week only comes once a year.

Did anyone else go to any South Loop restaurants that participated in restaurant week? If so, speak up and let us know your experiences. Some people are cynical towards the whole week, so we would be curious to hear how it's perceived in the Sloop.

(Hat tip: PSC!)

Video of CTA Map Coming to Life

Randomly found this via CTA Tattler blog and thought you might enjoy it. We love the Chicago grid and this does an interesting job of illustrating how that grid is serviced via the CTA:

The Sloop seems to have a lot of activity (which you probably already know)