Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Look Back at Cal's Liquors and Bar

Cal's Liquors and Bar closed at the end of 2012 and although it's just North of what we consider the South Loop, many residents and neighbors frequented the iconic dive spot.

A reader recently sent us this email:
Appears that Cal’s Liquors is now closed as well. Walked by yesterday and a couple of guys sitting in the mostly empty storefront, selling chairs and the neon signs.
Anyway, this got us reminiscing and we did some quick googling on the topic.  The Huffington Post did a nice little article about the closing and The Grid had this telling video:

Congress Conducts El at Cal's from The Grid on Vimeo.

On a different note, the Huffington Post referenced Cal's Facebook page and that the owner is working on launching a new bar.  So maybe they will pull a Villain's and reopen in the neighborhood?  Hopefully...

(Hat tip: JG!)

T&L Names Lao Sze Chaun One of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the US

Image from T&L
Either Tony Hu has one of the best PR machines in the food industry or he makes some damn good food.  It's probably the latter, but in all honesty probably a little bit of both.  Regardless, Lao Sze Chaun (2172 S. Archer) is damn good and damn close to us.  Here is what Travel & Leisure has to say:
Awards continue to rack up for Lao Sze Chuan, one of the first area Chinese restaurants to earn three forks from the Chicago Tribune, and a designated “Bib Gourmand” in the 2012 and 2013 Michelin Guide. Owner Tony Hu, dubbed the Mayor of Chinatown, has seven Chinese restaurants, with four more slated to open by the end of this year. Yet people continue to wait in line for a table at this Sichuan spot, known for its extraordinary spiciness and fearless dishes like sour pickle and pork stomach soup and Peking-style duck tongue (milder options are also available).

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Alderman Fioretti's Ward Meeting this Saturday March 2nd @ Jimmy Green's

From Alderman Fioretti's newsletter:
Alderman Bob Fioretti's Ward MeetingSaturday, March 2nd at Jimmy Green's825 S. State 
This Ward Meeting is a new opportunity to interact with Alderman Fioretti and help move Chicago forward. The event will take place on Saturday, March 2nd at 10:30 am, at Jimmy Green's, 825 S. State. Join us for light breakfast, coffee and conversation, and to garner your input on important matters like public safety, education, infrastructure and more. For more information, please contact our office at (312) 263 9273. We look forward to seeing you there!

Jersey Mike's Opening Today; Mercat Celebrates 5 Years

Jersey Mikes @ 26 E. Roosevelt
Lots of good South Loop information recently on the blog Eater Chicago.  Last week, they had two updates:
Jersey Mike's is opening their fifth city location on February 27 at 26 E. Roosevelt. On that day, donate $1 to South Loop Elementary School or Jones College Prep and receive a sub.
Try out a new spot and support some local schools.  Sounds good to us.

In other news, Mercat a la Planxa (638 S. Michigan), the well regarded tapas restaurant in the Blackstone Hotel is celebrating:
Five is the lucky number for Mercat a la Planxa. On March 5 they're celebrating their fifth anniversary with five different pig tasting stations paired with 5 Rabbit brews around the multi-tiered space for $55 a head. Starting at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. V.I.P.), it culminates with a birthday cake celebration at 9 p.m.
(Hat tip: AR!)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More info on Rezko Lot at Clark and Roosevelt

Down in the weeds at the infamous Rezko lot (via Chicago Journal)
Last week a couple readers tipped us off on a letter they received from Alderman Solis notifying residents about a hearing for a potential zoning change to the huge vacant lot at Clark and Roosevelt.

This week, did some digging and didn't find out any definitive answers.  However, they did provide a little more info:
Ald. Daniel Solis, chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Zoning Landmarks and Building Standards, has proposed throwing out a blueprint for the site passed by the council in 2004 that allowed for 4,600 homes and 670,000 square feet of retail space. He wants to zone the property for light industry instead, according to a notice for an upcoming hearing on the proposal.
As drastic as that sounds, it may not signal a major shift in the city’s plans for the Riverside Park site, which stretches south from Roosevelt Road on the east bank of the Chicago River. The City Council approved a planned development for the property, a special negotiated zoning status for large projects that expires after six years if nothing gets built under the plan.
They then added that there is uncertainty for anything moving forward:
It’s unclear whether a new plan for the site would include as many homes as the old one. Given the strength of the condominium market at the time, 4,600 seemed like a big but not unrealistic number. Today, it seems like a project that would take decades to complete. But Roosevelt Road’s continuing emergence as a shopping strip makes the property an even more attractive potential site for big-box retailers. 
The zoning committee was scheduled to take up the zoning amendment Feb. 26, but the proposal has been deferred, possibly until the committee’s next meeting March 26, said Nicole Wellhausen, a legislative aide to Ald. Solis (25th).
Stay tuned for more details.

(Hat tip: Curbed Chicago)

Ald. Solis Holding Community Meeting on McCaffrey Interests' Proposal to Eliminate Public Space on March 5th

For those in the community who are concerned or curious about the British School of Chicago coming to the neighborhood and preventing the promised "public space" at 9th and Financial Streets you should probably attend this meeting.  A friend of the blog sent us this:
Ald. Solis is holding a community meeting to discuss McCaffrey Interests' (the Roosevelt Collection owner) proposal to eliminate the public open space currently required by law at 9th & Financial/Wells Streets and to replace it with a private school. The meeting is on March 5th at 6PM in the St. Ignatius cafeteria, nearly 2 miles away from this area of the South Loop (and not even in the 2nd ward as it exists in 2013). 
(Hat tip: SC!)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Curt Bailey of Related Midwest Talks About Sloop Real Estate

It feels like we've said this a million times, but real estate continues to play a critical role in the development of our neighborhood.  The South Loop probably more than any other neighborhood in recent history has rode the real estate wave.  We all know this.

Anyway, there has been a lot of news in the press lately about Related Midwest's bet on the South Loop (click here for Chicago Tribune Article, Chicago Magazine post, Michigan Avenue post).  We found the video below to be the most enlightening:

While this doesn't mean property values are soaring, it does seem positive that a well respected company like Related feels strongly about the Sloop!

The Lobster Roll Trend on Display in the Sloop

Lobster Roll on the Bar Menu at Acadia (1639 S. Wabash)
If the Lobster Roll is us trendy, because we like the damn thing.  Our go to spot for food news in the city, Chicago Eater, had an in-depth recent post on the trend.  They checked in with Ryan McCaskey of Acadia on the topic and dissected what a good Lobster Roll consists of:
A lobster roll's essential ingredients are simply a top split bun (so, it opens on top instead of the side) and lobster meat. Like so many sandwiches that have come before, the bread is of the utmost importance. It's so vital that McCaskey worked out a deal with his lobster purveyor for them to buy and send packages of a specific type of bread, used for lobster rolls, and only sold in Maine (and not available for interstate shipping) with his order. "I tried making buns in house and they just aren't the same. The bread," he explains, "should be buttery and crispy on the outside and steam on the inside—warming the lobster with the steam." 
And what of the lobster—which part makes for the best roll? Claw, tail and knuckles are used for the filling, but McCaskey says his favorite part is the knuckle meat 'because it's sweet and more toothsome than the other parts.' The meat is quickly cooked in hot water, broken down, chopped, mixed with some mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon and some chives. A high quality paprika blend is sprinkled over the top to give a bit of depth. He explains the spice is a traditional garnish on Maine lobster rolls. Armed with definite opinions on what goes into a good roll, he tells us he finds the addition of celery "kinda gross" and views lettuce "as just a filler…because I'd rather have more lobster." He quickly adds that these opinions are based on what he ate there as a child. "This is what I grew up with, its what I know." So instead of giving a gussied up version of his childhood fare, he focuses on offering the best, most authentic version of its simple self. "I'm a purist at heart," he says, "I wanted to give an authentic experience, not try to change it."
........[mouth watering]......[noises coming out].....[hungry]........oh yeah we need to finish this post.

We don't particularly like mayonnaise but that doesn't stop us and we suggest that it shouldn't stop you either.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Poll: Couch & Blanket Popular Activities During Winter

Setting the Record Straight on Little Branch Cafe

There has been some discussion on our message board recently about Little Branch Cafe and some possible changes.  As always rumors and hearsay exist on the interwebs.

A reader was curious and decided to simply ask the owner what was going on (what a novel idea!):
I noticed there was some discussion about LBC on the board. I went there today and the owner (Bu Lee) told me she bought the place from Sang and Soo Choi December, 2011! This is no "recent" management change. Bu is a young Korean woman - perhaps readers are assuming all Asian women look alike. But the liquor license is back and in full swing. Stop by and talk to Bu for the details.
We haven't been there in a couple of months, but last time we were there all seemed well to us.  Food was good, service was good, liquor was on the shelf and the world was fine.

(Hat tip: JK!)

Shots Around the Sloop: The Storm That Wasn't

From 2/21:
(Hat tip:  LY!)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Soldier Field Gets Big Names This Summer

In case you didn't catch the news yesterday, the Sloop's local sporting facility -- aka Soldier Field -- announced that some titans of their respective industries will be coming to our neigbhorhood.

From a pop/hip-hop perspective, the Legends of Summer tour, featuring Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake will be here on July 22nd and undoubtedly singing this song:

Monday concerts aren't are favorite, but we may have to suck it up to see a good show.  On a different but related note, we heard a rumor that Jay-Z was headlining Lolla this year...looks like that probably ain't happening.

Soccer fans will be happy to hear that Lionel Messi and friends will be playing a game at Soldier Field in early July.  For those not familiar with Football, Messi is the current "it" player.  Some would even go as far to say the best ever.  Judging by this video, it would be hard to argue:

Other acts coming to Soldier Field this year include Taylor Swift on 8/10 and Bon Jovi on 7/12.  You probably won't find the Sloopin Crew at those.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Alderman Dowell Town Hall Meeting Monday (2/25)

From the Praire District Neighborhood Association (PDNA) newsletter:

Sweet Petal (537 S. Dearborn) Moving Out of the Sloop

Image from
A reader tipped us to this one yesterday and it unfortunately appears to be true...

Sweet Petal, the flower shop at 537 S. Dearborn, is jettisoning the Sloop and moving North to 20 E. Ontario according to their webpage:
SHOP UPDATE: We are moving to 20 W Ontario! Our shop will be closed until March 1st.
Business counter has been updated.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Acadia and Gioco Participating in Chicago Chef Week

Ok, we're kinda late with this post.  Yes, Chef Week is almost over (from Feb 17 - Feb 22), but you may be able to still get in and enjoy some good food from some of the Sloop's finest.

We got our months wrong. Chicago Chef Week is actually March 17th through March 22nd.  Good news is that you can still plan ahead.  Enjoy.

Acadia (1639 S. Wabash) and Gioco (1312 S. Wabash) are offering $44 three course tasting menus.  Click here for link.

If those two restaurants don't do it for you, there are some other solid options albeit not in the Sloop.

I'm Hungry and it's 3am ...Sloop Late Night Options!

We spend a lot of time talking about eating in the Sloop.  Whether it's a new place, a favorite place or a mysterious is often on our mind.

But one thing we don't do much is talk about late night food options in the Sloop.  Recently we read an article on domu outlining some of the city's top "never close" restaurants:
Today, your favorite apartment-finding resource is pleased to offer the renters of our beloved city a list of chicago restaurants that never close. whether it be thanksgiving, christmas, or international skeptics day, we have found at least 34 local eateries that are open and ready to serve hot food any time of the day, any day of the week, every week of the year. these always-open restaurants are scattered across 26 chicago neighborhoods, from ghareeb nawaz in west ridge to captain hook’s fish & chicken in chatham to the americana submarine shop across the street from the notorious metropolitan correctional center.
With that in mind, let's boil this down to the Sloop and surrounding areas.

Based on their list, their are only two options in what we consider the Sloop:

That doesn't mean there aren't other options close to the hood:

We've been to both places in the Sloop and have driven by the surrounding spots.  Has anyone been to the three other options close to the hood?  They seem intriguing.  Did Domu miss any?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Eater Chicago Updates Chef Shuffle at City Tavern

Based on our experiences at City Tavern (1416 S. Michigan) we're comfortable saying that the restaurant  has been a good addition to the neighborhood.  They've even won a Bib Gourmand rating in the 2013 Michelin Guide.  While this was all fine and dandy, there has been a little uncertainty back in the kitchen.  Eater Chicago recently posted about some changes in the kitchen:
Robert Hoffman (via Eater Chicago)
Originally opening as a sister restaurant to Chicago Firehouse across the street, bringing chef Kendall Duque along, the food program quickly went astray. Mainstay proprietor Matthew O'Malley feels executive chef John Caputo righted the ship, now bringing in Robert Hoffman (Moto, Otom, BOKA) to run the kitchen. He officially took over on Valentine's Day. 
But how did City Tavern get to this point? Months before the opening, at the conceptual inception, Duque was tabbed to run both restaurants. Hoffman says Duque was "possibly overwhelmed" by running both projects, as well as care for a newborn child. "Things (in the kitchen) that were seamless were no longer seamless," O'Malley says, and "things went sideways" in late September. Duque is now spending time with his family. 
When Duque left, Mainstay moved quickly to fill the role, tabbing Jackie Shen (Chicago Cut, Friendship Chinese, Red Light) to take over the dining program. Shen didn't work out either, and was ousted within two months. Shen's interest in diverse Asian cuisines didn't line up with the "tavernesque-Americana" ideals of City Tavern, and "what we were looking for and what was produced didn't match up," according to O'Malley.
Has anyone been recently?  If so what are your thoughts?

$400M Hotel Coming to Motor Row...Maybe? or May Not?

Image from Curbed Chicago
A strange story popped up yesterday via multiple sources.  In the morning it was announced (Chicago Tribune):
The agency that owns McCormick Place announced Tuesday morning that it will build a second hotel near the convention center complex, but now it appears the plan faces a significant hurdle before it could come to fruition.
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, also known as McPier, said it is acquiring land for a 1,200-room convention hotel, which would cost $400 million to build. The hotel would be located immediately west of the convention center's newest facility, the West Building. A skywalk would connect the two.
But JRM Technology, the property owner, already has invested thousands of man hours and millions of dollars to develop a $400 million data center" at the site, James R. McHugh, president of the company, said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
"That plan has already received City Council approval and we would start construction as soon as a building permit is issued," he said.
Though McPier "approached us about an alternative location for this project, we considered those conversations to be very preliminary and no agreement has been reached," McHugh said. "It is our hope that the issue can be resolved in a way that improves the ongoing redevelopment of the South Loop."

So a hotel was announced with prominent people there (the Mayor and Governor), but the land wasn't secured!?!?!?!  While something seems fishy, it's pretty clear that a hotel would be much better for the neighborhood than a data center.

Back in 2010, we actually had a link about this proposed data center at Indiana and Cermak and that "data centers" were a new trend for this area.

Anyway, it sounds like the city is going to make this a hotel happen one way or the other:
Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch said the project is moving forward. 
"We are in active negotiations with McHugh and there are a number of options that will allow both the data center and world-class hotel to be built," he said in a written statement. "However, the city will pursue every available option to ensure that the hotel is built, and brings with it essential redevelopment around McCormick Place."
Given the city's vision for an entertainment district, it makes sense that this prime piece of land would be something besides a data center.  Should be interesting to see how it plays out.

Seems like more and more talk about Motor Row/McCormick of these days something will actually happen.

(Hat tip: GM & Bat312!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Well Future Pharmacy - A Local, Independent Pharmacy Providing Personalized Service for the Neighborhood

Sponsored Post

Kushal and Bhavi Patel, owners of Well Future Pharmacy
Well Future Pharmacy (1442 S. Michigan) has now been open for about 6 months and business has been gaining momentum.

All we can say is if you've ever tried to get your prescription filled in the neighborhood (cough cough places on Roosevelt Road) you've probably been frustrated with the wait and/or lack of attention. I know I have.

We recently stopped by and had a nice conversation with Kushal and Bhavi Patel, the owners of the pharmacy.

Why should someone use Well Future Pharmacy to get their prescriptions filled?
We offer more personalized service than chain pharmacies. We do our best to learn about our patients and treat them with kindness and respect. We are also fast, most prescriptions filled in 5 minutes or less and no long lines to wait in.

We try to make sure our patients know about their medications before leaving the pharmacy. Most people are asked "Do you have any questions about the medication?" when they go to chain pharmacies.  If it is your first time taking a medicine, shouldn't the pharmacist tell you what to expect instead of you coming up with your own questions?

Some other key differentiators are:
  • Low Prices - We aim to offer the best prices on medications for uninsured patients. Call us today to check prices on your medication. 
  • Delivery - We offer free same day delivery in the South Loop and delivery anywhere in the greater Chicagoland area. 
  • Discounted Pet Medications - We carry pet medications at greatly discounted prices. 
  • Non-Sterile Compounding - Both for humans and animals. 
  • Vitamins - We also carry a wide range of vitamins and specialty lines of vitamins such as Pure Synergy, Life Extension, Metagenics, Renew Life, and many others. 
  • Running Supplies - For our South Loop runners, we carry a wide range of GU Energy Gels and Chomps. We can also special order most vitamins at the best prices. 

Is Well Future Pharmacy more expensive than a big chain
Not at all, We accept all major insurance plans at the same copay as you would pay anywhere else. Most people are confused about the copay structure of their prescription drug plan.

We make it easy to understand copay tiers and make suggestions to lower your monthly prescription costs.

If you are uninsured or have very high deductibles, we can save you money on your prescriptions.  Prices for uninsured and under-insured are typically 25-50% higher at chain pharmacies than what you would pay at Well Future Pharmacy. I urge any uninsured patients to call us for a simple price quote. We constantly check market prices for medications and aim to always have the best prices for our patients.

What makes your pharmacy better than a big chain pharmacy?
When you call us, you speak to a pharmacist who can help right away.  Most big chain pharmacies have already began sending your phone calls to call centers located in another part of the state or country. Prescriptions are being filled elsewhere and shipped to stores.

Do you know who is filling your prescriptions? How many people have access to your medical records? People get frustrated when talking to a different person every time they call.

With us, you will always speak to myself or Bhavi. This eliminates nearly all of the frustration people have when they call chain pharmacies with dozens of employees and having to repeat yourself to each person.

How does someone transfer their prescription to Well Future Pharmacy
Transferring is very easy! Just call and let us know which pharmacy you were getting your prescription from. We will contact that pharmacy on your behalf and have the prescriptions transferred here, usually within a few minutes.

What services do you offer and which ones are the most popular
Our most popular service is the free delivery. We work around our patients schedule to deliver prescriptions. If you are not feeling well, your doctor can call in or send an electronic prescription to us, which can be delivered to your door.

Compounding is our second most popular service. The South Loop is also full of new moms, and our number one compound is an ointment for breastfeeding mothers. This winter, our free flavoring service has begun to pick up with a lot of parents.

We just took a quick gander at Yelp and you have a FIVE STAR RATING. Congrats! How do most people find out about you
Most people find us through word of mouth. We have very happy customers who do a great job at referring their friends and family to us. We also get many referrals from local independent south loop businesses such as South Loop Immediate Care, Solo Eyecare, European Foot Clinic, Universal Dental, and Sloop Dental. With the help of these businesses, we meet new customers everyday.

Why did you choose the South Loop for your Pharmacy
We felt the area was missing a community pharmacy that South Loop residents could call their own. Being South Loop residents, we believe this area has a lot of potential and we wanted to do our part to help grow this community. The best way we could do that was to add a new business where these empty storefronts have been for years. We are invested in the community and want to see the area prosper.

The Sod Room (aka Sprout) Almost Ready for its Debut

Image from - PHOTO CREDIT: DNAinfo/Lizzie Schiffman
It's been just over a year since we posted about The Sod Room (formerly knows as Sprout Playroom), a new playspace for kids coming to 1454 S. Michigan.

Opening a business ain't easy, but we're glad to see that they've stuck with it.  Judging by this article in DNAinfo Chicago, opening should be coming in a couple weeks.  The owner, Cynthia Valencia, weighs in:
She doesn't envision the space as a daycare center — her goal is to bring parents and kids together and create a community for South Loop parents like the north side hubs she used to travel to. 
"We wanted to make it a place that's good for meet ups, good for groups, and good for individuals that are new to parenting and need a community," she said. "Hopefully they can see a familiar face and strike up a friendship." 
It's a good read.  Best of all the article has a lot of pictures that gives a good feel for the space.

Best of luck to the Sod Room!

Monday, February 18, 2013

After a Year and a Half Spanglish Finally Opens!

We love a good taco and have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Spanglish (555 S. State).  It's been awhile in the making -- we first posted about the "Coming Soon" signs appearing in July of 2011 -- but as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.

Well we're not ready to officially say it's good (since we haven't given it a try yet), we're pretty excited about the potential.  We've heard rumors and know the staff and owner has the experience to do well.

It looks like opening day was Friday the 15th.  If anyone has given it a try please do comment and let us know whatcha think!

UPDATE - here are some shots and thoughts that Brianbobcat sent us:
Spanglish is officially open as of Friday the 15th. After YEARS of "coming soon", soon is finally now. I went there, and it's very bright, almost too bright though as it's a cold light, not very warm and inviting. I got a steak burrito, and while it came out quickly, the steak was a very fatty steak and needed a lot of chewing. They're comparable to Chipotle, so for those not willing or able to walk up to Jackson and Van Buren, this could be a good substitute. Their credit card machine wasn't working tonight, so bring cash. I will still give them more chances, as a coworker who also went said the chicken was good, but the beans so-so. Best of luck Spanglish!
Spanglish from the outside
Inside Spanglish
Another reader emails us about their experience:
Finally open!! It was really good. Their menu is pretty comparable to flaco's, although i would say it's more comprehensive, and they have several breakfast items! There were a good number of people there last night, and they seemed to be operating relatively smoothly. I am constantly at flaco's (sometimes 3 times a week). I plan to now alternate when I feel like a taco. Cheers!!
(Hat tip: Villains Facebook, Brianbobcat, MJ, R!)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Hockey City Classic on Sunday (2/17) & Free Skate on Monday (2/18)

Hockey in the Sloop!  We love it and will be there to watch the games this Sunday.  Tickets are still available for those of you who are looking for something to do.

Or if you're looking for something to do and want to be a little more active, on Monday, they're having a free skate:
Starting at 10 a.m. CT on Sunday, Jan. 6, select Chicagoland OfficeMax stores will hand out a total of 3,000 passes to the public for the free skate events on Feb. 2 and Feb. 18 at Soldier Field. Passes will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis and each household is limited to four (4) passes. 
If you have free skate passes, visit: for important information.

Friday, February 15, 2013

First Ascent Climbing - Chicago's First Dedicated Climbing Gym - Coming to the Sloop in 2013

A reader sent us a link to a website for First Ascent Climbing:
Chicago's First & Only Fully-Dedicated Climbing Gym Coming Fall 2013
The wait is over. First Ascent Climbing brings world-class climbing to Chicago's South Loop.
We poked around their website and social media pages, but couldn't find anything about the location.

The most insightful article came from a press release on a website called Climbing Narc:
First Ascent Climbing will be the city’s largest indoor climbing gym, offering over 26,000 square feet of climbing surface, 148 top-rope stations, steep lead climbing terrain reaching 55 feet in height, top-out bouldering, and World Cup competition-ready features. The facility is conveniently located in Chicago’s South Loop, less than 10-minutes from Chicago’s busy urban center. First Ascent Climbing is scheduled to open in November 2013.
The press release actually came from Walltopia, which is the company designing the climbing facility.  We're not avid climbers, but it seems like this will be a pretty intense and serious facility judging by this youtube video we found:

So this begs the question, where can something like this live?  It's gotta be South of 18th, right?

(Hat tip:  AO!)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jersey Mike's Subs Confirmed for Roosevelt Road

Sign in the window leaves little doubt about what's going in this building
Lovers of subs rejoice, Jersey Mike's Subs looks to be officially coming to Roosevelt Road.  While we've had readers tell us that they know this to be true, we didn't officially know.

As of Monday (2/11) the sign in the window (see picture above) removes any doubt in our mind.

We've never had Jersey Mikes.  Is it good?  In your mind where does it rank in the sandwich pecking order?  Better than Subway?  Pot Belly? ABP? Quiznos? Hanahah's Bretzel?

On a related but different topic, the area around Roosevelt/Wabash appears to have the chain sandwich market well represented.  If there is one thing we now have it's a ton of grocery and sandwich options close to Roosevelt.

(Hat tip:  DD!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Zoning Change for Infamous Rezko Empty Lot?

Could something be in the works for an infamous and controversial gigantic empty space South of Roosevelt (between Clark and the Chicago River)?  A couple reader's received this notice from Alderman Danny Solis (25th Ward):
YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that a public hearing on the requested Zoning Amendment listed below will be heard at 121 N. LaSalle Street; in Council Chambers, 2nd floor of City Hall, on TUESDAY FEBRUARY 26,2012 at 10:00 AM
YOU ARE RECEIVING THIS NOTICE for the proposed zoning change for an address or addresses within your Ward because your property is either in or within 250 feet of the proposed boundary. Please refer to the legal description and address if applicable and forward any questions to the Alderman who proposed this change.
APPLICANT: Alderman Daniel Solis
West Roosevelt Road; South Clark Street; West 15th Street and the centerline of said street if extended where no street exists; and the South Branch of the Chicago River
Residential Business Planned Development Ns. 904
M2-3 Light Industry District

Frankly this is pretty surprising.  While we don't claim to be zoning experts, changing from residential to industrial doesn't sound beneficial for our community.

So the million dollar question (or in the case of the value of this land -- billion dollar) is, why the change in zoning?  I assume we need to go to the public hearing for this information.

Image from Middle-East-Online
Anyway, the history and plans for this site are pretty epic.  The first thing we ever heard about this property was that it was eyed for an urban IKEA.  Then we heard it was tied to the infamous (and convicted) businessman Tony Rezko.  His plans were to convert the massive space into "Riverside Park" as seen in the picture to the right (think Central Station).

That plan was derailed for many reasons.  In 2009, the Chicago Journal did a great post looking at the land and how it's a weird untamed and unintentional urban park (with wild coyotes running rampant).  In 2010, reported that the site was up for sale.  Most recently, it's been discussed for the rumored Chicago Casino (even though that seems like a long shot).  Way back in 2008, we wondered if it could be utilized for the Olympic Stadium - obviously that won't be happening any time soon.

Needless to say, it's a huge piece of land and could be used for so many different things.  So the question remains...are there pending plans for this new land?

(Hat tip:  AA & CC!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pondering Blowholes at Northerly Island

Studio Gang's Framework for the New Northerly Island
A reader recently sent us an article published on Arch Daily called, "Studio Gang Breaks Ground on Ecologically Diverse Urban Mecca".  This is in reference to their plans for Northerly Island.

If you recall, back in the fall of 2012, we posted about this and its apparent ground breaking in November.  While it sounds like they're moving forward with the plan, it's just one phase of the plan (the Southern End).  The cost is approximately $6.5 million and is detailed in the image below:
Image from Chicago Journal

While the Arch Daily article didn't provide any new information as far as we can tell, it did spark some additional curiosity on our end and as a result we did some more reading.  After all it's February in Chicago and we need to fantasize about warmer weather activities.

Anyway, we downloaded Studio Gang's entire presentation (which is 56 pages) and read through it.  While we learned a ton (like the plan calls for a new bridge at Waldon Drive), one thing fascinated us.  If the actual plan takes shape like the image at the top of our post (which is still a long shot) the new Northerly Island is going to have a blowhole (from page 31):
Image from Chicago Magazine article

This portion of the Northerly Island plan (the reef islands on the Eastern part of the plan) is probably the most unlikely since it would cost North of $100+ million and require congressional authorization.  Regardless, it's fun to ponder if Northerly Island could someday have a blowhole like an island Hawaii (cue youtube video of blowhole):

(Hat tip: BMP!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Get Your Girl Scout Cookies Tomorrow @ 1250 S. Michigan

The South Loop Elementary School Girls Scout Troop will be holding a site sale in the lobby of Michigan Avenue Tower -1250 S Michigan Avenue on Feb 12th, 2013 between 5-7pm. Cookies will be available on site - Cash and Carry :) No waiting!

Chicago Mag Has Lunch with Alderman Fioretti

Last week Chicago Magazine had an article from their "Lunch With Ald. Bob Fioretti".  Honestly, it was a pretty boring read if you ask us.  Wish they would have asked him some more questions about getting screwed by the new ward map or anything to do with the wards he represents.  Instead they published some broad questions that didn't really interest us.  Regardless, worth a read if you got 5 minutes to spare.

Our favorite exchange:
CF: Who’s the better mayor, Rich [Daley] or Rahm?
RF: I think we’ll have to see where this one goes, too early to judge. We ought to be attracting businesses from all around the world….. Job creation is different from bringing jobs from the suburbs to the city and saying, “I brought in lots of jobs.”
CF: People seem to appreciate Rahm’s intensity and hard work ethic.
RF: I hear it up and down now. I wish Mayor Daley was back…. I think Rahm has a long way to go to endear himself to the citizens.

Or maybe this one (which he hits out of the park like a true politician):
CF: What’s your biggest mistake as alderman? 
RF: Voting [during the Daley administration] for the parking meter privatization…. It turned out that everything they told me was a lie and not only that but they lied to us about how they were going to spend the money. They raided those funds and everything is gone. Would I have ever voted for this misrepresentation? I would never have voted for it.
Seems like a polished answer to the "What's your biggest weakness?" interview question.

My response typically is, "I care to much!".

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013

LAND SALE: NW Corner of Michigan & 14th (1344 S. Michigan)

Real estate chatter is becoming a weekly thing here at Sloopin.  Last week it was news of a proposed CMK apartment tower at 1333 S. Wabash.  This week a friend of the blog sent us news that the vacant lot (currently a parking lot) at the Northwest corner of Michigan and 14th (1344 S. Michigan) is up for sale:
The lot is bank owned after Wintrust foreclosed in late 2012. Call for offers with a deadline of February 15th. Northwest corner of 14th and Michigan. No formal asking price. From what we've heard there is a lot of strong interest. The parcel was originally purchased as a condo site.
We also received the following marketing brochure (with full link to pdf here).   We always like to see how these things are marketed - it's interesting to see what businesses they highlight:

We could think of a hundred things we would do with the land...if only we had the millions to buy it!

(Hat tip: PKP!)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Think You Know Chicago's Neighborhoods? Then Play This

The game sweeping Chicago, "click that 'hood"

We know that you know the Sloop like the back of your hand but what about the other neighborhoods in our fair city?

Check out this addictive game called "Click That 'Hood".  It took us awhile to get the hang of it, but we finally beat the 1 minute mark after our second attempt.

How did you do?

(Hat tip: Chicagoist!)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Traffic Lights Blinking at 13th and Wabash; Will be Functional Soon

Blinking lights at 13th and Wabash intersection as of 2.4.2013
It's been sometime in the making, but the intersection at 13th and Wabash looks to be getting its functioning stop light:
For those not familiar with the drama we have some history here and here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Shedd Reclaims Attendance Title from the Georgia Aquarium

Crowds line up to enter the Shedd Aquarium, in 2012. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune /January 31, 2013)
In case you missed it last week, one our major "neighbors" reclaimed an impressive distinction (via Chicago Tribune):
The Shedd Aquarium reclaimed its attendance title among the nation’s major non-profit aquariums after trailing the relatively new Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta for the last five years. 
Nearly 2.17 million people visited the Shedd in 2012, a 2 percent increase from the previous year and about 57,000 more than went to the Georgia Aquarium last year.
Congrats to them!

Opinions on Neighborhood High-School Debate Continue

The dust isn't settling on the debate around a neighborhood high-school.

We've recently received numerous emails and comments from readers who have continued to voice displeasure with the Mayor's recent announcement to double enrollment at the current Jones College Prep instead of utilizing the old building for a neighborhood only program.

Yesterday a reader posted an opinion piece by current 2nd Ward Alderman, Bob Fioretti (via Chicago Sun-Times):
Ald. Fioretti (via Sun Times)
Any neighborhood that seeks stability, safety and enhanced recreational resources needs a high school — a public high school open to all. It’s the one amenity that the 2nd ward lacks. This is the chief reason I have fought over the last five years to keep the old Jones building from being torn down. As the central city area (including the South Loop, Near West Side and Chinatown) has blossomed over the past decade, we’ve gained all the other basics — grocery stores, cafes, pharmacies, banks. We’ve got new L stops and new parks, but no neighborhood high school. Middle-class families have been moving to the central city area for three decades now. 
But 2010 Census data indicate that many leave as their children approach school age. And they head for the ’burbs, taking a chunk of our tax base with them. That’s why I had hoped the old Jones College Prep building could become a neighborhood high school.
He ends with a compelling paragraph:
If we want middle-class families to stay, let’s make sure they have the same menu choices as other neighborhoods enjoy. This can only encourage more families to settle in our area and create added stability and assurance that long term, their educational and social needs can be met in their chosen neighborhood.

This viewpoint isn't unique.  South Loop resident and activist, Blagica Bottigliero, posted this on her blog about the current high-school situation:
I, along with the Alderman and other community activists learned that we had a building that was at risk of demolition. It was to be torn down and replaced with a brand new, selective enrollment public high school next door. We saw this opportunity to build a case for not only saving the building, but turning it into a neighborhood high school, serving multiple communities on the Near South Side of the city (think Soldier Field/Chinatown/Bronzeville areas). 
We did everything CPS asked us to do. We found the data. We found the money. We found the community support. We did everything possible to petition for making the building a neighborhood addition. And we lost. The building was saved, but the neighborhood component was not. Instead, Mayor Emanuel decided to hold a press conference and announce the merging of the two buildings and increasing the number of citywide, selective enrollment seats. The Mayor also went on to say that adding more selective enrollment seats will keep families in the city. I don't agree. This action confirmed a few things for me:
  • the City doesn't seem to care about neighborhood schools and building community 
  • the City and CPS doesn't seem to want to involve the very community leaders who worked tireless for one cause 
  • the City and CPS continue to put more support and money into charter schools

Will this public outcry mean anything for our neighborhood?  Only time will tell, but the fervor doesn't seem to be dying down.

(Hat tip: BB!)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Some Motor Row Updates from Chicago Architecture Blog

Not a ton of new information for the well informative Sloopers, but regardless we wanted to throw you a link if you're interested in Motor Row (via the Chicago Architecture Blog).

One snippet that we found interesting:
In addition, a group of potential out-of-town investors came to Chicago on January 30th for a tour of Motor Row locations for a possible entertainment business. 
And Fioretti says a Swiss company with deep pockets is trying to fund a Miami-based hotel company to open a boutique hotel in the district. 
To date we haven’t heard any rumbling from NIMBYs in the area. Everyone we’ve spoken with seems eager to have new neighbors, more dining and entertainment options, and fewer vacant buildings. At this point, most of it is just dreams and drawings, but everything does seem to be falling into place for the wasteland around McCormick Place to transform into something much better.

Help Wanted: Designers for the New Sloopin T-shirt!

You may or may not remember our 2010 t-shirt contest.  You may or may not remember that "The Year of the Sloopster" concept won.

It's clearly been awhile and since it's a new year, we thought we would try to come up with some new gear to show off our South Loop pride.

While the contest was good and all, we're going to change up the format.  We have some ideas as to what we want the shirt to say this time, but our problem is we aren't graphically inclined.

We know we have some artistic readers out there, so we thought we would do a quick post asking for people interested in helping.  While we can't offer you money...we will give you a free shirt and any publicity that comes from your design being selected (which means numerous posts on Sloopin!).  Best of all you will be helping out your favorite blog!

If you're interested in submitting a design, please email

Best Regards,
Sloopin Crew

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Motor Row: The Natural Connection to Chicago's Cultural Mile

Oh Motor intrigued and you frustrate.  It never seems to end.

Anyway, a reader recently sent us a Chicago Tribune article discussing "The Future of Chicago's Cultural Mile".  The author, Chris Jones, thinks it should be extended down to the historic Motor Row.  While we don't disagree, we've been hearing about this for a long long time.  Anyway, he starts his article with:
At first glance, the Chicago Cultural Mile ("Where Culture & Commerce Meet") resembles nothing so much as a gerrymandered congressional district.
According to its website, this officially arty and mercantile stretch begins at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River (where many visitors walking south currently turn around), heads south down Michigan Avenue and then takes a turn toward the lake on Roosevelt Road, jogs southeast on Columbus Drive, then east again on McFetridge Drive, then briefly back north, then east again on Solidarity Drive. It is, for the record, closer to two miles than one. But then mile markers aren't stakeholders.
Why the serpentine path? Why not keep going south, all the way to Motor Row, between 2200 South and 2500 South Michigan Avenue, the stretch where one used to be able to buy more than 100 makes of automobile, the stretch where many of those historic buildings (including the home of the Chicago Defender) still stand and the stretch that has perhaps the most obviously dynamic potential for tourist-oriented, entertainment-centered economic development in the entire city of Chicago?

So why should this happen?  Most of us know the answer, but if you want to hear Jones' take:
Motor Row, its natural destination, sits right next to the McCormick Place convention center, a crucial economic generator that was built without an obvious emotional link to its city — a disdain for urban context that extracts a heavy price. Fixing up Motor Row is the best way to change that. As the Tribune reported last fall, things are already happening: The Seattle-based food-circus hybrid known as Teatro ZinZanni is eyeing the 'hood for its long-anticipated Chicago branch. The band Cheap Trick is planning a venue and museum. There is talk of hotels and restaurants. A nearby stop on the Green Line is coming.
However, if you go and stand on Motor Row this week, none of that will be in evidence. But you can smell the potential. Motor Row could be the grittier Chicago equivalent of Downtown Disney in Florida, except the buildings won't be fakes. Perhaps this is a chance to redeem some of the mistakes of Maxwell Street, where history was papered over.
If (let's hope once) Motor Row gets fired up, the next problem will be that of connective tissue. People will want to walk back to the Loop — safely. I took part of that stroll the other day. The northbound trek on South Michigan Avenue allows you to drink in the majesty of the approaching city with singular intensity, a consequence of being hemmed in by tall buildings but discerning broader vistas ahead. It's an asset that will need to be exploited.
Well that's all fine and dandy.  Hopefully this happens.  In the meantime, I guess we can just sit tight and see if this potential ever materializes.  We think it will, but we grow more skeptical each year.

Also, we don't really like the idea of  "Chicago's equivalent to Downtown Disney".  That's just plain scary.

Finally, we didn't know about Teatro ZinZanni scouting the hood.  Naturally that has intrigued us to find the following teaser for one of their other venues (and makes us feel like this Downtown Disney thing is a real possibility):

(Hat tip: EJM!)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Two Crime Updates for 2/1/2013

Wanted to post a couple crime updates this afternoon.

First, in case you didn't hear, there was a shooting on Lake Shore Drive & the ramp to 55.  Here is a link to the story and quick blurb about the motive from the Tribune:
Illinois State Police Cpt. Gutierrez said police were able to talk to the passenger, who was not harmed, and police believe that "this incident stems from drug and gang activity."
Another reader sent us this community alert recently.  Here is a link to the document from the police (1st district):
(Hat tip: LP!)

Panozzo's "Raising the Bar" in 2013

Panozzo's Italian Market (1303 S. Michigan) is no doubt one of our favorite places in the neighborhood.  While the secret has been out for awhile, a reader recently thought some changes were made:
Any idea if Panozzo's is under new management? I was in the other day, and I didn't recognize anyone working there (whereas usually it is the same friendly faces each time). New menu, disconnected phone line, and web site down. Sort of confused!

Don't fret South Loop!  We sent a quick note to Mike Panozzo and he quickly let us know that most everything listed above is incorrect (except for some new menu items):
Lots of misinformation here. Not sure why he said phone lines and web site are down. I call the store multiple times each day, and I'm looking at the web site right now. 
As for personnel, there has been some turnover, as there is in any business this size. Additionally, we usually hire culinary school grads and people who really know and love food. Not surprisingly, they are sharp and ambitious kids. We understand they won't be around forever. That said, a number of people at the store...David, Patrick, Danielle...have been around several years. 
The menu is, indeed, new. We are raising the bar in 2013. We're paring down the menu a bit and focusing on what we do best...which is the food we make in house. AS you know, our chef, John Asbaty, who has been here since Day 1, is immensely talented. We want to focus on him and make virtually everything from the bread to the condiments in house. 
Whatever is not actually made in our kitchen will be sourced only from local, responsible farms and producers, like LaQuercia, Creminelli, Gunthorp and Slagel. We're upping the ante on all of the sandwiches. We will also be focusing on made-to-order salads. We've always tried to be special, and we're challenging ourselves even more to be the best we can be. We want the South Loop to be home to one of Chicago's best markets. 
There will be other changes. We want to add more seating, and keep our retail offerings small but very select. And that doesn't necessarily mean higher prices. (Some of our sandwiches are actually less expensive than their previous incarnations.) 
The management hasn't changed at all. John, myself, my wife Ellen and Tony Gierczyk are still the owners. Tim Ziegler, who replaced Darin Lattimer as manager, has done a GREAT job helping us narrow our focus to what we do best.

So there you have it, Panozzo's is not going anywhere!

Now we can all sleep at night...

(Hat tip: TJ & MP!)