Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shots Around the Sloop: Happy Halloween!

Some creative soda stacking at Jewel:

Custom House to Close After Service Tonight

Custom House (500 S. Dearborn) is closing its doors after seven years (photo via Eater Chicago)
Apparently it's out with the old lately in the Sloop.

Well here's a shocker: Custom House Tavern will close after service on Oct. 31. The news broke on 312 Dining Diva Monday night, but no explanation was given.
Eater finally did get an update from owner, Sue Kim-Drohomyrecky:
She explained that this was something they've been considering for a while since the neighborhood is changing and more students have been moving in. "The hotel wants a sports bar and I don't want to do a sports bar," she said with a laugh. "They don't want a three-star restaurant anymore. I don't want to get into that game with them." Kim-Drohomyrecky said they love Custom House and that the concept may re-emerge in the future. "We may tuck this one away and see if there's an opportunity to do it someplace else. I think our new places are phenomenal and we're going to focus on those. We'll see what happens in a year or so."
So the neighborhood is changing?  Ok, but it seems like there is still a place for a restaurant like Custom House (especially given it's proximity to the Loop).  Seems like an excuse if you ask us.

We imagine that something will replace Custom House in relatively short order.

We've had some solid meals at Custom House, but in reality we aren't going to miss it much.  Every time we've been service has been very spotty and inconsistent.

Anyway, the bigger question we have is what do you think about the assertion that the neighborhood is changing?  And that the hotel wants a sports bar?  Is that what the Sloop wants?  More sports bars (didn't Gino's East just open across the street with the sports bar concept)?

(Hat tip: EW!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Toppers Pizza to Open on November 7th

Well that was fast.

While some other restaurants and businesses take months if not years to open, Toppers Pizza (2 East Eighth Street) plans to open on November 7th according to a sign in their window.

We recently walked past the store and snapped a quick photo as well.  Looks pretty straight forward.

Looking forward to trying some of those Topperstix!

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Almost November 1st -- What's Up With Roosevelt Collection Retail?

It's almost November and while much of the world is focused on the upcoming election, we have another early November date that we've been keenly waiting for.  In February the new owner of the development, Dan McCaffery, had a promising statement:
Construction on the property will begin immediately so that we can stay on track to host a Grand Opening before November 1st of this year. In addition to having construction complete by that time, we plan to have 75% of our retail stores leased and opening as well.
Plaza Playground at Roosevelt Collection (photo: YoChicago)
There has been a lot of progress at Roosevelt Collection.  The plaza in the middle is completely redone and as far as we can tell looks pretty damn good.  We've also spoken to some residents at Roosevelt Collection who have been very impressed with how the McCaffery team has conducted business.

So that leads us to the biggest question of all -- the retail.  Is an Apple store coming to this development?  How about Yard House?  Or maybe some of these other quality retailers? Or maybe we won't hear anything?

Joe Zekas, from the blog YoChicago, visited the complex recently and weighs in on the situation:
I visited Roosevelt Collection last Friday, and the plaza appears to be nearly on target for completion by the end of this month. There were no signs, however, of progress toward any retail openings. The Roosevelt Collection blog isn’t listing any on-site retailers, although the McCaffery site does have a brochure naming several tenants.

The November 1st date is looming and a curious bunch of Sloopin shoppers and residents are eager to hear where we might want to spend money.

At a minimum we would at least like to hear if any retailers are confirmed.  We will see what happens...

Anyone have any thoughts or news on Roosevelt Collection?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Lacuna Fitness Officially Opens Tomorrow

Thanks to our message board we learned about Lacuna Fitness, a new gym concept that is coming to 645 S. Clark:
Lacuna Fitness is a 10,000 sf fitness facility on three levels, wherein personal trainers and fitness instructors pay a monthly membership to have access to this unique and full-equipped shared gym space for the purposes of hosting their individual or group classes or training sessions. 
Lacuna Fitness boasts such amenities as: 30-foot ceilings; a 5,000 sf astro-turf covered exercise field, perfect for allowing clients to feel like they are working outside in Chicago's winter months and with large garage doors open to Clark Street in summer months to give the gym its open and airy feel; top-of-the-line equipment throughout facility; luxury trainer's lounge perfect for your consultations, client progress meetings, or a place to relax between sessions; in-house concierge service to supply complimentary water to trainers and your clients as requested, provide towel service and equipment maintenance, and monitor and assist with booking of on-line scheduling system; community kitchen space on the second floor complete with granite countertops, a full-sized refrigerator, sink, dishwasher, and microwave; custom bench seating through-out; and more!
Interesting concept.  It also appears that you can rent out this space for events and what not.  On their website they have some videos of a "color outside the lines movie premiere". 

Welcome to the neighborhood -- we wish you the best!

(Hat tip: Jim in the Sloop and Joanna!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Square One Adds Delicious Hot Plates to Their Menu

Last week we were invited to come to Square One (1400 S. Michigan Ave.) to check out their new "hot plate" menu.  If you're up-to-date with the dinning/drinking scene in the Sloop you would know that when Square One opened they originally stated they would "evolve with the neighborhood".

Originally, the food menu primarily consisted of cheese plates, meats, salads and light sandwiches.  Apparently it's time to evolve to food that is hot -- which sounded like a good reason to check the place out again.  While the hot plate menu isn't huge, it offers a nice variety:
Mac and Cheese - $6
Roasted Tri Color Potatoes - $6
Grilled Fish Tacos - $7
Cheese & Vegetable Croquettes - $6
Lemon Shrimp Kabob and Spanish Rice - $9
Albondigas - $8
Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Pepper Vodka Tomato Sauce - $9
Warm Goat Cheese Spread in Marinara Sauce - $6
Roasted Pork Shoulder Sliders - $7
Roast Beef Sliders - $7
Given our love of cheese and all things tacos, we opted for the Mac and Cheese, Grilled Fish Tacos, and Warm Goat Cheese Spread in Marinara Sauce:
First off, they clearly do a good job with presentation.  When the plates came out our mouths were watering.  The two cheese plates were piping hot and ready to be devoured.  It took some serious restraint to get a picture before digging in.

The Mac and Cheese was super rich and very flavorful.  While the portion size was average, it definitely needed to be shared, because one person couldn't finish it.  

The fish tacos on the other hand were delicious, but rather small.  Two bites for us and they were gone.

The Goat Cheese and Marinara was probably the highlight of the group and definitely something that would be good and easy to share with a larger group.

While all the food was quite enjoyable, this was clearly not a substitute for dinner...and as far as we can tell that's not the objective of Square One.  If you're looking for a full meal, this isn't the place for you.

If you're looking for some interesting cocktails/wines, coupled with a cool, laid-back vibe (love the high ceilings) with the option of some delicious nibbles  this is the place for you.  

Seems like a perfect place to meet-up with a friend, go on a date, or spend sometime pre or post dinner.

We will be back.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Event: Toni Preckwinkle & "The Future of the South Loop"

If you're looking for something to do tomorrow night (10/25) or are interested in the future of our fair neighborhood, this seems like an interesting event that the Prairie District Neighborhood Association is putting on:

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to Speak at PDNA Open Community Meeting
"A Look at the Future of the South Loop"
Thursday, October 25th, 6:30pm 

PDNA Meeting and Hyatt Tasting Event Date: Thursday, October 25, 2012
PDNA Meeting Registration: 6:00pm to 6:30pm
PDNA Meeting Time: 6:30pm
PDNA Meeting: Free and Open
PDNA Meeting Location: Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, 2233 S. Martin Luther King Drive, in Conference Center, room CC12

PDNA Meeting Agenda: A Look at the Future of the South Loop. Come to the PDNA meeting to learn about the $65 million in Tax Increment Financing dollars Mayor Rahm Emanuel committed to fund a wide range of infrastructure projects and developments throughout the South Loop and Near South Side.

  • PDNA: Organization Update 
  • Motor Row Improvements 
  • Streetscape Improvements 
  • Development Update 
  • Education Update 
  • Park Improvements 
  • CTA Improvements 

Special Guests: 

  • Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle 
  • Alderman Pat Dowell 
  • Alderman Will Burns 
  • Alderman Bob Fioretti 
  • NTA Principal Issac Castelaz
While most of these items have probably been discussed in some form on Sloopin, it's always good to hear it straight from the horses mouth.

For Rent Signs Mean Alain's Apparently Will Not Re-open


It's been an interesting three months for Alain's (1355 S. Michigan), the high-end restaurant lead by chef Alain Njike and partially owned by Bears D-lineman Israel Indonje.  After many months of build-outs and preparation, the restaurant finally opened on Friday, August 3rd.  At the time we and others were excited about the plethora of new eating and drinking establishments at the intersection of 14th and Michigan.

On an ominous Monday in September (9/24), the infamous eviction signs showed up on the front door.  Was it a misunderstanding with the landlord?  Was it a short-term problem?  Or was it a sign of bigger problems?  There were clearly more questions then answers.

However Chicago Magazine posted that the restaurant would re-open on Monday, October 1st.

Well that didn't happen.

And now what appears to be the nail in the coffin..."for rent" signs on the window (see picture above).

It's unfortunate.  We never like to see businesses fail in the neighborhood, but such is life.

So what can we take away from this?  At least the space is now built out for a restaurant.  Stay tuned...we imagine that we will be eating something there at some point soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shots Around the Sloop: Burt Reynolds Convention or a Bears Game?

Judging by the amount of limos on Indiana Avenue on Monday night, we weren't sure if it was a Burt Reynolds Convention or a Bears game:

We're pretty sure it was a Bears Game...and an excellent one:

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Happy Gilmore reference.

Additional Hotel Plans Surface for Development Near McCormick Place

Image from Crain's Chicago
A massive hotel development (among other things) near McCormick Place has just reared it's ugly head again according to the Chicago Tribune and Crain's (behind paywall).  This has been covered by us in the past and it continues to drag on...sigh:
The prospect of private hotel development north of McCormick Place, delayed for several years, resurfaced Friday in federal bankruptcy court. 
Olde Prairie Block Owner LLC, led by developers Pam Gleichman, Karl Norberg and Gunnar Falk, indicated it has struck deals with three buyers for a 3.67-acre parcel at 330 E. Cermak Rd. The buyers have plans for a convention hotel, a smaller boutique hotel and a data center, the filings indicate.

We're not sure what to make of this, but if it could ever get going it would probably help the area quite a bit. 

We will see what the judge thinks...

Anyone have thoughts on this.  We don't claim to be real estate legal experts so would be curious to hear some thoughts on the subject.

(Hat tip: TB!)



Monday, October 22, 2012

Suggest Sloop Locations for Chicago's Bike Share Program

Some of you might have put your bike away for the season, but that doesn't mean we can't think about biking around the lovely streets of Chicago.  A reader sent us this interesting email about suggesting locations for the new Chicago Bike Share program:
I saw a story about this in today’s Sun Times. Sloopers should weigh in on where they might want rental bikes in the South Loop. Looking at the map, we could use more votes and locations in our neighborhood. 
From the website (http://share.chicagobikes.org/):
“Bike share will be a new way to get around Chicago. It is an affordable, self-service personal transit system that allows bikes to be picked up from one location and ridden to any other location in the system. Commuters, residents, and tourists don’t need to own a bike to make bicycling a part of their trip! 
Already successful in cities around the world, bike share in Chicago will make it easier for everyone to get around. 
Please tell us where you’d like to see bike share station located, and why you'd use it. Find a good location on the map, then click "Add location", and tell us why it's a good location. Click "Submit location" when you're done. You can also find existing suggestions and click to your support.”

We are huge supporters of this and if we want the Sloop to be represented well in any new biking program...get on the website, recommend locations and click support!

(Hat tip: SD!)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shots Around the Sloop: Bears Game Towing

Let this be a warning - they like to tow cars during Bears games...
(Hat tip:  SW!)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

This Week on the Sloopin Message Board (w/o 10/15)...

Booms, a place for kids to play, potential new businesses, Halloween  MTV shows were discussed this week on the Sloopin message board:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Slightly Insulting Chicago Posters: Nerds in Printers Row

We did a post about Slightly Insulting Chicago Posters back in July and at the time there was a comical poster about the South Loop (although it was much tamer than some of the other quips about other Chicago neighborhoods).  Well they've continued to churn them out and now have one for Printer's Row:

For those of you who don't think these are very funny, take a look at a post from the blog Austin Talks who examines some of the posters racial undertones in South and West side neighborhoods (like Austin's poster).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Obama Campaign Announces Election Night Rally at McCormick Place

Image from Esquire.com
Tuesday, November 4th 2008 was an electric and historic night in the Sloop full of amazingly tight security.  For those who aren't familiar with that date, it was the night local boy Barack Obama won the race to become the 44th President of the United States.

While we understand not everyone was happy to see this happen, you can't argue that our neighborhood was the epicenter of the world that night.  Lots of crying people.  Lots of smiles.  Lots of signs.  Lots of protests.  Lots of emotion.  And most of all lots of people in general.

It was an experience and something we will never forget.

Fast forward to this year's presidential race and President Obama's campaign is again headquartered in Chicago, his adopted hometown.  While their is definitely a different feeling this year than 2008, it was still assumed by many that the election night rally would be held in Chicago and probably held in Grant Park again (or so we thought).

Well yesterday night we found out that the event will be held in our neighborhood, but at a much more secure and less risky venue, McCormick Place.  The Tribune sums it up:
President Barack Obama plans to hold his election-night rally at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, a move aimed at easing concerns over weather and security, sources with knowledge of the event said Wednesday. 
Given the indoor location, the event seems unlikely to match the electric atmosphere of Obama’s 2008 outdoor victory rally in Grant Park. That event drew an estimated 240,000 people downtown and created picturesque images of the city’s skyline that were seen worldwide.
While we understand the rationale, it's still disappointing.  Chances are many of us who were there on that famous night in 2008 won't get access to McCormick Place.  It will be a different feel for sure.

Looks Like the Daley Family Has Not Left the Sloop

We all know that the Sloop's most famous resident (former Mayor Rich Daley) left the South Loop and moved up to North Michigan avenue last year.  At the time, most people thought he was selling his townhouse in the Central Station development.  Well apparently he did sell it, but decided to keep it in the family according to the Tribune:
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley has sold his longtime, four-level, 3,040-square-foot town home in the South Loop for $750,000. 
Daley, who left office last year after a record-breaking 22 years as Chicago's mayor, is keeping the town home in the family. He sold it Sept. 13 to his daughter, Nora, and her husband, Grosvenor Capital Management vice president Sean Conroy. the town home never was publicly listed, which means that most details about its interior were not made available. 
In an exclusive statement to Elite Street, Daley, who is of counsel to the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman, recalled the fun times that he and his wife, Maggie, who died last November, enjoyed in their 19 years in the home. 
"Maggie and I had great memories in that house -- dinners with family and friends, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations," Daley said. "The fact that my grandchildren will now be able to make new memories there is a wonderful thing. And it's a great community with strong families, great restaurants and wonderful amenities."

We liked having Da Mayor in the Sloop (speedy snow removal on Indiana Avenue anyone...).  While he obviously doesn't have the "power" that he once did, it was still disappointing to see him leave the neighborhood.

Hopefully he comes back down more often now that he has more of a reason.  It was fun seeing him around the Sloop!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Clean the Sloop with Ald. Fioretti this Saturday (10/20)

A good event and strongly encouraged for all of you Sloopers looking to make our neighborhood better.  With that said here are the locations from the Alderman's newsletter:
Join Alderman Fioretti on October 20th for the 2nd Ward Clean & Green. Several locations throughout the ward will host Clean & Green events, and this will be a great chance to meet your neighbors and give back to your community. 
Join us at a location near you!
Phoenix Military Academy
145 S. Campbell
Immanuel Baptist Church 1443 W. Roosevelt
Bartelme Park Adams and Sangamon
Old St. Pat's 120 S. Des Plaines
CafĂ© Society 1801 S. Indiana
2nd Ward Office 1319 S. State



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shots Around the Sloop: I Wish


A reader writes:
I see how you roll.

All I can say to that is I wish.

Judging by the license plate holder we're guessing that it is owned by a proud Ohio State Alum.  For those who aren't really into sports, the song "Hang on Sloopy" has become a signature of the Ohio State Football band.  It's also is the official rock song of the state of Ohio:



(Hat tip: AB!)

South Loop Restaurants Make Chicago Magazine's Top 50 Sandwiches

Who doesn't love a good sandwich.  We know we do.  Well Chicago Magazine just published a list of the 50 Best Sandwiches in Chicago.  Luckily for us, some of the best are in the Sloop:

Manny's Corned Beef (image from Chicago Magazine)
#7 - Acadia's Lobster Roll ($16 - 1639 S. Wabash)
In a town that recently discovered the joys of lobster rolls, nobody does them better than Ryan McCaskey. He flies in fresh crustaceans from Maine daily, poaches them, sprinkles them with paprika and chives, and cradles them in buttery grilled rolls. From the Atlantic to your belly in 24 hours.

#17 - Manny's Corned Beef ($12 - 1141 S. Jefferson)
The most famous deli sandwich in Chicago is also the gold standard: a sliced-to-order spectacle of salty-sweet meat that’s so tender, juicy, and lean you’ll savor it, sans the mild rye or the mustard, using only your fork.

#45 - Cafecito's Cubana ($5.49 - 26 E. Congress Pkwy)
The success of this sandwich, a Cuban tradition with shredded pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and pickles, rests with the bread. Cafecito’s simple white slices are crisp around the edges and spongy within: perfect bookends for a grilled sandwich.

We can attest for #17 and #45, but need to head over to Acadia to try out the Lobster Roll (mouth watering).

Anything missing on this list from the Sloop?  Panozzo's anyone?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Karamela Cafe...You Have Two Fans!

We've been covering the drama at Karamela Cafe (1250 S. Michigan) over the course of the last year (here and here) and to be honest , much of it was probably us fantasizing about a new spot opening.  Opening a business isn't an easy task.  Anyway, Karamela Cafe is officially open and naturally we were intrigued to try it out.

On a random Wednesday last week, we ventured into the quaint shop and were greeted by smiles from the workers who were manning the open kitchen in the middle of store.  The decoration inside is nice and well done.  Nothing looked cheap.  Lots of attention to detail from a decoration standpoint (we specifically liked all the tiles all over the place).  It's not too polished though, very warm and homey.

When we arrived it wasn't busy.  One other party of three sat at a table in the front enjoying dessert.  This changed as our time went on as numerous people/groups came in and out.

We quickly sat down, reviewed the menu and went to the counter to order.  The menu is pretty streamlined. One side has salads, sandwiches and sweet/savory crepes.  The other side of the menu focuses on desserts, drinks and smaller items.  While it doesn't have a lot of options in terms of meals, they all sounded pretty good to us.

Since it was dinner time and we were hoping for a meal we opted for crepes.  We can get salads and sandwiches all over the neighborhood, so wanted to try something a little different.  We ordered a Prairie Crepe which included brie, ham (or turkey), baby spinach, pecans and was topped with balsamic glaze.  We also ordered a Atlantic Crepe which included smoked salmon, tomato, baby spinach, cream cheese, dill & chives (see picture below). To our surprise they also came with a small salad (nothing fancy, mixed greens, baby tomatoes, carrots, balsamic dressing).

The Atlantic Crepe (smoked salmon, tomato, baby spinach, cream cheese, dill & chives)

The crepe was made of Buckwheat, which was different and enjoyable. Both meals were extremely savory and definitely passed the "would you order it again" test.  However, there were other things that looked intriguing so we will probably try some other items next time.

As a gesture of goodwill, one of the workers gave each of us a small "glass" of Greek yogurt with some honey and a blueberry to top it off, which was also quite enjoyable.

Overall, we were skeptical about this place given the setbacks it had with its opening. Now that they're open we will definitely be back.

Looking at Karamela Cafe from a broad standpoint, it's a great addition to the neighborhood.  It provides some extremely unique options for the hood and definitely fills a niche with its European offerings.  The only thing comparable in our mind would be Little Branch Cafe.  In regard to prices, it seemed reasonable to us.  Crepes, salads and sandwiches were about $7-$10.  Desserts seemed to be a tad overpriced, but judging by their beauty the price was probably be justified (we will let you know after we sample this part of the menu next time).

Our only quip is that it was a tad stuffy in the place.  We got adjusted pretty quickly but a simple check of the thermostat would probably be helpful.

To sum it up...Karamela Cafe you have two fans!  Welcome the Sloop and can't wait to try some of the other things on your menu (pastry, coffee, smoothie, etc)!

(Hat tip: N!)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This Week on the Sloopin Message Board (w/o 10/8)...

Cafe, More Booms, Raw Fish, Books and Actors were some of the solid topics that graced the Sloopin message board this week:


Friday, October 12, 2012

Congrats to Waffles on Their Impending Expansion Up North

We've written about our favorable feelings towards Waffles and apparently business is good enough to expand up North.  Eater Chicago expounds:
Last May, Waffles owner Alex Hernandez told Eater he was looking to open a second location of his popular South Loop spot and he's finally found a location. The first two spaces he found fell through, but now he is planning on opening another Waffles at 3617 N. Broadway on Nov. 15. 
Hernandez said the space, which used to be Signature Pizza, is currently in the demolition stage and they're going to start the new build-out for what will be a 120-seat restaurant that will include an attached all-day 20-seat cafe. That will have a full coffee bar with Intelligentsia Coffee, fresh-squeezed juices, smoothies, milkshakes and more. The coffeeshop will also have a separate entrance and be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Hernandez said they're still coming up with a name for the cafe. 
Waffles on the North Side will be larger than the current location at 1400 S. Michigan. Hernandez said that while guests like the modern feel, many think the space is a little cold. For the new restaurant, they're going to add more color and warm woods to brighten it up.

The post goes on to talk about some tweaks to the menu.

This is a good trend if you ask us.  Waffles will join, Flaco's Tacos, Yolk and Epic Burger that started in the Sloop and expanded throughout the city.  Are we missing any others?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Help Local Students in the Sloop Name New Shedd Dolphin

It's not everyday that a neighbor let's you name one of the their kin.  Well some local students are getting that chance and need your help to achieve their goal.  An employee from the Shedd writes:
Students from two local schools – South Loop Elementary School and John C. Haines Elementary School – have the unique opportunity to help Shedd Aquarium name its new Pacific white-sided dolphin calf. Shedd is currently hosting an online voting contest allowing the public to select a name for the male calf from among five options. Additionally, each of the names are being represented by a Chicago-area elementary school. Students from each school will serve as ambassadors for their name, writing essays, creating visual elements and conducting research to help persuade online voters to pick their name. The winning class will receive a day at Shedd which will give them the opportunity to learn more about the calf, his mother and Pacific white-sided dolphins directly from Shedd’s animal care staff. All students from each of the participating classes will receive a poster featuring the dolphin calf.
The students from South Loop Elementary are representing the name Kusook (COO-sook) which means “play”. The students from Haines are representing the name Kisaani (kihs-AH-nee) which means “boy”.
The contest runs through Oct. 11 and additional information about the names and participating schools can be found in this news release.
So here is the link to vote.

For more info here is a link to the press release and here is a video from NBC5:


(Hat tip: BK!)


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Crain's Looks at Downtown Condo Collapse

Crain's is taking a look at the broad downtown real estate crash and it's probably not going to surprise you much.  If you were around back then, you probably know the story.  Regardless, it's good to hear some of the stats and especially hear/read how the Sloop was affected.  Here is a video summarizing the piece (from Chicagobusiness.com):


SOUTH LOOP SWOON Of the 129 downtown condo projects on the market five years ago, 53, or 41.1 percent, have run afoul of their lenders. The greatest concentration of distress has been in the South Loop, widely recognized as the city's most overbuilt neighborhood. Twenty-six of 44 South Loop projects, or 59.1 percent, have been financially troubled at some point in the past five years. That includes three condo towers in the Central Station development taken over recently by a group of lenders and New York-based developer Related Cos.
The good news is that the market, though far from healthy, is in the early stages of recovery. Condo sales in the city are rising again, and developers have chipped away at the glut of unsold units in recent years, either by slashing prices or renting them. In 25 buildings being marketed in 2007—19.4 percent of the total—all or some units have been rented rather than sold, according to Crain's analysis. 

Anyone have thoughts?  While the South Loop seemed to epitomize the boom and bust of the housing crash, the neighborhood in general still seems positioned for strong growth over the long term in our opinion (obviously we're a tad biased).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Karamela Cafe...Finally Open

We've spent a lot of time sifting through information on Karamela Cafe (1250 S. Michigan) lately.  At first we heard the owners walked away.  Then we heard they were opening a couple weeks ago.

Well enough of the speculation.

They're open.  We saw it with our own eyes.

Has anyone been?  We are looking forward to trying it out.

Business counter is updated.

(Hat tip: DJ!)

Monday, October 8, 2012

The History of 830 S. Michigan

Image from Architecture Chicago Plus
Remember this blue YWCA building at 830 S. Michigan which was demolished in 2010?  Well the Architecture Chicago Plus blog has a great and detailed post about the history of this spot.  A very interesting read of the current predicament at this location:
So now we come to what 830 is today: nothing. An empty lot. A raw abscess in the landmark Michigan Avenue street wall. It's testimony to how fragile Chicago's protection of its landmarks can be. The only positive legacy of 830's sad tale is the void it's left behind, an accusatory scar demanding we not waste this last opportunity along the civic showcase that is Michigan Avenue with anything less than the best.

They also have this great picture from the Aeroplane hotel which used to be at this location in 1929:
courtesy, Chuckman's Collection

Good stuff!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ideas for Old Michael Reese Campus Floated Around Again

Image of Old Michael Reese Hospital Grounds from Chicago Reader
Remember when we covered everything to do with Chicago's Olympic Bid?  Man those were some interesting times and posts.

Well a lingering one continues to give us material.  Chicago Real Estate Daily had a recent story about concepts for the large, vacant former Michael Reese Hospital site (just South of the Sloop):  
The former Michael Reese Hospital site on the South Side is blank slate, but planners and residents took an initial stab at figuring out how to fill it at a meeting Monday evening. 
Suggestions for the 37-acre property on South Lake Shore Drive included building an Obama Presidential Library, transforming it into a technology park and using it for a casino. 
The pressure is on the city of Chicago to do something with the site before October 2014, when the city must starting paying down a $91 million loan on the property, which the Daley administration had wanted to use for the 2016 Olympic Village. Earlier this year, the City Council refinanced the property in a deal with Medline Industries Inc., the Mundelein-based hospital supplier that provided the loan and sold the property to the city.
Interesting stuff.  Still not sure what would be best for the Sloop, but it will be fascinating to see what happens with this space.  The idea of the Obama library is interesting to us.  However, we can think of many other places where we think it would be better placed.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ringing Bells in the Morning? It's Chicago Marathon Weekend!

If you're like us you're going to wake up Sunday morning to fans screaming words of encouragement and the constant high pitched dinging of bells.

The only thing that can mean is that the Chicago Marathon is underway and finishing up through the Sloop.  While it's a little disheartening for us since we're never going to be able to accomplish something like a marathon, it is interesting (and in some cases inspiring) to see the runners on the final stretch of a grueling athletic competition.

For those of you who could care less about the event and just want to know how it might affect you, here are the street closures and times for the event this Sunday, October 7th:
Michigan Avenue: 35th St. to Roosevelt Rd.  closed from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Roosevelt Road: Michigan Avenue to Columbus Drive closed from 7 a.m. 4:30 p.m.
Columbus Drive: Roosevelt Road to Finish closed from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

One other big event to call out this weekend as well is the Notre Dame versus Miami college football game at Soldier Field on Saturday, 10/6 at 6:30pm.  It's being dubbed the Shamrock series which makes us think this may become a reoccurring event.

Regardless, while we're used to football games this time of the year, just want to prepare some of you that this Saturday will most likely be like a Sunday in the Sloop...for better or worse.

What's that New Building Next to the Roosevelt Stop?

A reader asks:
I know the CTA is renovating parts of the Roosevelt stop, but any clue what that narrow building is next to the North entrance of the stop?  See picture.
We asked around and didn't get any good information (including CTA workers who looked at me like i'm an idiot).  Anyone have any insight on what this is?

Seems like a good spot for a Starbucks competitor.

UPDATE:  On the Sloopin message board its been said it will be a Jersey Mike's

(Hat tip: SR!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

DePaul Basketball Near McCormick Place?

Man-o-man...the ideas continue to fly around this week as various people talk about ideas to bolster Motor Row and the area around McCormick Place (see our post from Monday).

Image from Chicago Business
Recently Greg Hinz from Chicago Business reported that:
DePaul University is talking about moving its basketball games to a new facility that would be built for it near McCormick Place, in a deal being pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 
That's what I hear from multiple inside sources, as discussions continue about DePaul's desire to return Blue Demons games to the city from where they're now played, in Rosemont — past O'Hare Airport, and many miles from the school's main Lincoln Park Campus.
Other places have been discussed in Lincoln Park as well as the United Center according to the article.

Not sure how I feel about this one.  While yes, it would mean more people in the area, is it really the type of thing that will help build up Motor Row?  I could see it being a fit if it was closer to the DePaul campus, but it clearly isn't (maybe more so then Rosemont I guess).

On the other hand, for the area to take off it seems like more stuff has to open.  Whether that's restaurants, music venues, shops, or sports arenas something has to change.  Maybe this is it.

What are your thoughts on this one?

This Weeks S. Michigan Surprise? New Chef at City Tavern


Image from City Tavern's Facebook Page
So we've spent a lot of time gushing over the recent restaurant/bar additions to South Michigan.  All in all we've been pleasantly surprised across the board.  But apparently some people haven't.  Turmoil and drama continue to fester on one of Chicago's most prominent streets.

Last week it was Alain's (1355 S. Michigan) reportedly being evicted and then potentially reopening this week (which as far as we could tell was not open yesterday).  We also heard conflicting stories about Karamella Cafe (1250 S. Michigan) owners leaving completely...and then of them opening on Friday, 9/28 (FYI - that didn't happen).

This weeks surprise?  Kendall Duque is apparently no longer with Mainstay Hospitality (owners of the Chicago Firehouse and City Tavern) according to Eater Chicago.  Chef Duque has been with the company for awhile and as far as we could tell had a solid run.  Given City Tavern's recent opening and solid reviews, you would think everyone would be happy.  Maybe they were?  Maybe it was time for a change?

Image from Eater Chicago
Regardless, Jackie Shen (previously of Red Light, Chicago Cut) has taken over responsibilities at City Tavern (1416 S. Michigan).  From the sounds of it Jackie has been bouncing around the Chicago dining scene quite a bit recently.

She has the credentials and clearly the experience to carry on and (dare we say) improve on the original concept.  We've had a couple meals at City Tavern thus far and were encouraged.  Some were mediocre (walleye pike with pea tendrils, artichokes, wild mushrooms and cashew vinaigrette) and some were simply amazing (wild salmon with asparagus, lump crab and blood orange bearnaise).  Should be interesting to see what stays and what goes.

And if that's not enough, Eater Chicago is also providing some additional juicy info about Mainstay Hospitality:
Also joining the team as chef/partner is John Caputo (Bin 36) where he will oversee operations at Chicago Firehouse until an executive chef is found. He's been brought in to cover until he takes his official post at a yet unnamed concept for Mainstay. Stayed tuned for more on the Shen shuffle.
Unnamed concept?  Let the rumors begin.  Last we heard was that the once rumored Mainstay Hospitality Italian restaurant is back on the table and coming to the empty building just South of City Tavern.  We heard that it could open sometime in the summer of 2013.  Or maybe this concept is for something in Motor Row, where according to the Chicago Tribune, Mathew O'Malley (owner of Mainstay Hospitality) has been sniffing around for other opportunities.    

So stay tuned and don't blink.  Just like the weather things can change in a second around here.

(Hat tip: MCT!)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Villains Bar & Grill Closes; Toppers Pizza Opening on State

It appears to be true (sigh) that Villains Bar & Grill has served its last pint and burger at 649 S. Clark.  We've spent many nights at Villains and were truly sad to hear this news.  One of our favorite times ever watching a Blackhawks game happened at Villains (Kaner's Hat Trick in 2009 against the hated Vancouver Cannucks).  From their facebook page:
After five years of serving our wonderful patrons the best craft beer we could get our hands on , we pour our last drink tonight . We would like to thank all of you who enjoyed your Villains experience . So this evening plenty of drink specials to give us a proper send off . Also a big f**k you to Jos. Cacciatore & Co our current landloard for making it impossible for us to stay in our location.
Well apparently they didn't like their landlord.  From what we've been told, Villains is looking at various locations in the South Loop and outside of the neighborhood.  We wish them the best and hope they stay in the Sloop.  They have a great place in our heart and will truly be missed.

In other South Loop retail news, it appears that Toppers Pizza (2 East. 8th Street) is moving in on State Street (next to Ace Hardware).  We wrote about this back in Mid-September but weren't sure what it would be.  However, how many Pizza places are too many?  This puts three pizza places all within essentially one block of each other on the same street.

We've never had Toppers, but are always interested in trying some new pie.  Does anyone have an opinion on this place?

(Hat tip: R, JK, DJ!)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Mayor Emmanuel Touts $65 Million Worth of Improvements to the Sloop

Image from Chicago Sun-Times
Every so often we hear whispers of incremental improvements to the neighborhood.  Whether it's street beautification or new lights or improvements to a park or improvements to a CTA stations, slowly but surely things improve for our neighborhood.

Well this past Friday, Mayor Emmaunel, Alderman Fioretti, Alderman Dowell and others gathered at Weather Mark Tavern to announce various improvements that are coming to the broader South Loop area.  We're not going to go through every single thing since most of them have already been announced, but if you're looking for a good summary of everything we highly suggest reading the entire article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Instead, we're going to highlight some new things (or at least things we don't remember).

Image from Chicago Sun-Times
First, some new renderings of the new green line station at Cermak were unveiled (see pic on the right).  The station looks pretty interesting, different and modern if you ask us.  It was also announced that the station is going to be called "Cermak/McCormick Place" which makes sense since we've been told one of the big reasons for this station was to serve McCormick Place.

Second, it was announced that the South End of Grant Park is going to get some remodeling (according to the Chicago Journal's recap):
Another $3 million has been allocated to southward expansion of Grant Park. According to the map provided by the City of Chicago, the extension would fill in the vacant site west of the 11th/Museum Campus Metra station.
This is what we're most excited about.  We were happy about them knocking down the old dilapidated station there, but it seems like this space was ripe for a makeover.  Hopefully it will be nice.  We shall see.

Finally (and unsurprisingly) there was some more talk about Motor Row.  We love the idea of this area becoming something that serves the city and area better, but frankly we're exhausted by all of the talk and from what we can tell lack of action.  We hear about how the city wants to develop this area, but what gives...why can't this happen?

The Chicago Tribune (free digital membership required) has a story that summarizes some of the new talk about Motor Row.  Most of it isn't new stuff (like Cheap Trick Venue, Hotels, Restaurants, Broad Shoulders Brewery, Music Studios, etc) but it seems like this is stuff we've been hearing about for awhile.  I guess Rome wasn't built in a day and apparently Motor Row won't be either.

For more info about Motor Row the blog Chicagoist also weighs in here.

Anyway, this is an encouraging post for us at Sloopin.  It's always good to hear that city officials (mainly the mayor) have decided to invest in our neighborhood.  Not only will we see some improvements, but it's also positive coverage that is disseminated throughout the city and region.

What do you think about this stuff?