Wednesday, February 28, 2018

New Studies Cite Concern for Converting National Teacher's Academy into Sloop High School

Major story on the potential to convert National Teacher's Academy into a South Loop Neighborhood High-school (via
Chicago Public Schools leaders face “a high level of mistrust” and need more community outreach to address "a significant level of acrimony” between two elementary school communities the city plans to merge, according to a district-commissioned report made public less than two days before a school board vote on the matter.
“A myriad of concerns and challenges have arisen from the CPS proposal” to fold the National Teachers’ Academy into facilities at nearby South Loop Elementary, said the report from Westat, a statistical research firm based in Maryland.

The CPS-financed analysis of an effort meant to transform the NTA building at 55 W. Cermak Road into a culturally diverse high school for the surrounding area follows a separate report produced by opponents of the proposal that came out in January

The analysis from Chicago United for Equity concluded the merger would have “an undue burden” on predominantly poor and black communities including NTA’s existing students, future generations of low-income African-American CPS students and nearby existing high schools that struggle with low enrollment and limited resources.

“It is incumbent upon our city to find solutions that get to the same intent without perpetuating inequity,” said Niketa Brar, the group’s executive director and a former policy director to city Treasurer Kurt Summers. “We’re talking about one group of people that are being marginalized by this plan, with the intention that there be this new high school. You can get to that same good intention in multiple ways.”

The two studies are part of an ongoing and tense community debate as the Chicago Board of Education takes up a final vote to approve the plan Wednesday.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Rapper Arrested For Gun Possession on Roosevelt Road

A scary story (via Chicago Tribune):
Chicago rapper G Herbo and two other men were arrested after their limousine driver tipped off police that some of his passengers had weapons, prosecutors said.
After the driver alerted police, officers did surveillance on the limousine, prosecutors said.

About 10:30 p.m. Thursday, officers curbed the limousine in the first block of East Roosevelt Road in the South Loop neighborhood, prosecutors said at a bail hearing Friday afternoon.

Once the officers stopped the vehicle, three men, including G Herbo, exited.

One of the men, Deavonte Royale Kimble, 25, of Compton, Calif., was seated alone in the third row of the vehicle and was the last person to get out. Officers found a Glock directly below where he was sitting, prosecutors said.
We've never heard of him, but if you're curious:

(Hat tip:  AB!)

Friday, February 23, 2018

David Letterman Filming His New Show at Buddy Guy's Legends

Sounds like good old gray beard was in the Sloop (via Chicago Tribune):
Veteran talk show host David Letterman visited Buddy Guy’s Legends in the South Loop and the Athenian Room in Lincoln Park while filming his new Netflix show Tuesday in Chicago.

Despite the rain, Letterman stopped to take selfies with a crowd that had gathered outside the Greek restaurant.

It appears Letterman spent the morning at Guy’s blues club. Parking notices posted outside the club warned of filming of an “Untitled Letterman Project” on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Signs posted on the club’s front door said the club would be closed until 5 p.m. Tuesday for a private event.

Guy’s assistant, Annie Lawlor, said Tuesday the club was being used as a film set but would not give additional details. Music coming from the club could be heard from the street. Guy was a musical guest on Letterman’s “The Late Show,” and both men were among those who received Kennedy Center Honors in 2012.

Pretty cool stuff and looking forward to seeing if Buddy Guy was his guest.  The Tribune article also questioned if they could have been interviewing Tina Fey.  If I had to guess, it wasn't her.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Au Bon Pain Apparently Closes at East/West University Wabash Building

It appears that Au Bon Pain has closed up shop within East/West University's Wabash building (829 S. Wabash):

While you can see some people inside, gone are the pastries, coffee machines and salad bar.  Does anyone have any insight if this has been replaced by some other food option?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Construction for Columbia College Student Center Begins on Wabash

Judging by this picture below, looks like scaffolding and workers are starting to prep the vacant land for Columbia's new student center:

We're looking forward to this building as it likely will provide additional energy to this stretch of the Sloop.  Here is a rendering of how the building is intended to look once completed:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Somber but Beautiful Statement at South Loop Elementary

If you were taking your kids to South Loop Elementary today or happened to be walking by, you likely noticed this:

While it took us a minute to wrap our head around the picture above, it quickly became clear that the Chicago Police department was "escorting" the daughter of murdered CPD Commander Paul Bauer back to school (via CBS Chicago):  
Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer is remembered for far more than his leadership on the CPD.

The commander of the 18th Police District was a man who got involved in his community, whether it was at his church – Nativity of Our Lord in Bridgeport — or at the school of his 13-year-old daughter, Grace.

At South Loop Elementary, blue ribbons line the street. Bauer is being remembered for always stepping up, starting the daddy-daughter dance and always smiling when with his daughter.
We were chocked up by the statement and symbolism as we walked to work.  We can only imagine how his daughter and family are feeling.

Lobo Rey Brings Flavorful Food and Vibe to the Sloop

Lobo Rey has garnered a lot of attention from this here blog and rightfully so.  It took over a prominent spot on South Wabash and was being led by the crew behind The Scout - one of the Sloop's more popular restaurant/bars.  Additionally, they had a well respected chef who was bringing a unique concept of hibachi style Mexican to the hood.

Unfortunately for that chef, Daniel Esponoza, it wasn't meant to be at Lobo Rey as he left in December - a short stint that lasted less than four months.  We've heard that it was a function of creative control of the menu - namely Esponoza wanting a more creative menu vs. ownership wanting something that catered to the neighborhoods more modest desires.

Despite this surprising change in the kitchen, Lobo Rey seems well positioned for the future.  We recently had our first visit and overall had a good experience.  If you've eaten at Zapatista, the previous tenant which closed in 2015, the cavernous layout likely looks familiar.  However, you'll notice a much trendier, airy and updated feel.  Gone are the "rooms" that made the space feel intimate.  Instead you will find more open space:

On the Saturday night we were there, it certainly wasn't crowded, but still felt like the restaurant had a solid energy.  The one other thing that was noticeably different was that there are two bars areas.  One on the south side of the restaurant (where Zapatista had their bar) and an island bar (which you can see on the left side of our panorama pic above).  In the back there is the much ballyhooed about hibachi style grills.  On the night we were there, it appeared there was a private party so we didn't get a chance to check it out, but hope to soon.

Moving on to the most important thing - the food and drinks.  The menu was a single page and seemed like it could have been found at a trendier food neighborhood up North or West.  This isn't a knock on the restaurant, but just an observation - it's a fun menu, but not unique to the city (albeit a trendier one than you would typically find in the Sloop).

The table next to us was getting into some Mezcal, but that wasn't the type of night we were getting into - although maybe we should have.  We opted for their signature drinks - a unique version of a Paloma and a Margarita.  Both were fine, but won't have a rushing back for more.  There were some other interesting options, so we'll go that route next time.

Although the drinks didn't really tickle our fancy, the food exceed our expectations.  We ordered some pre-meal guac, which was delicious.  They also had some salsa that had a noticeable kick which we added to each bite of guacamole - yum on that one!

For the main course we did the taco sampler which consisted of 8 total tacos - 2x pork, chicken, steak and mahi mahi:

For us, the tacos were certainly the highlight of our experience.  The presentation was festive and the flavor was bold.  We over ordered for two people, but better to go this route than the alternative.  The steak and mahi mahi were my favorites, while my wife seemed to prefer the pork shoulder.  The chicken was good, but the peppers were beyond hot and frankly overpowered the rest of my bites. 

They also had "foot long" quesadillas which seemed to be a nod to The Scout's similar foot long grilled cheese dishes.  We didn't' check it out, but look to next time.

So what did we learn from our experience?  In the Sloop, Lobo Rey has the most flavorful tacos in the neighborhood!  The vibe is fun and more hip than most other options in the neighborhood.  Compared to other Sloopin taco spots - Flacos Tacos, Spanglish, Mago Grill  and La Cantina - Lobo Rey provides a differentiated "Mexican" approach.  Trendier, more flavorful and a better "going out" experience overall. 

If we had friends coming down who wanted Mexican, we likely would head here.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Taco Bell Cantina at 407 S. Dearborn Getting Close to Opening

A reader provides an update on the Taco Bell Catina:
I know you folks can be sticklers about boundaries - but have lived in this area since '98 and consider this at least "southside" if not South Loop! Barely north of South Loop? Anyway - very close here. No inside info but bet by the weekend they go live.

As a reminder, we first heard about this back in April of 2017.  Some time passed which made us question whether or not this was actually happening, but then construction picked up in January of this year.  Judging by the above looks like this is close.

(Hat tip: IC!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Construction Progress Check-in at Rafael Viñoly Megatall High-rise on Roosevelt

Joe Zekas from YoChicago! snaps some fun shots of the rapidly rising highrise at Roosevelt and Indiana (via 
The Rafael Viñoly-designed tower will bring another 792 apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail space to the southern border of Chicago’s front lawn. And at 887 feet, it will be the tallest building in the South Loop when completed. 
There’s still a year of building to go, but it’s already making a visual impact. Check out the photos below from Joe Zekas at YoChicago!, the man who puts the “OG” in “OGP.” (That’s One Grant Park.)
Looking east at the building from across Michigan avenue

Looking northwest from Indiana.  The scale of the building is clear on
this side and sorry about your amazing view people to the south - gone!

Monday, February 12, 2018

After 6 Years, Our Second Acadia Dining Room Experience Leaves Us Satisfied

Scallop at Acadia circa 2018
It's been a grip since we've ventured past the bar at Acadia and into the dining room (hello 2012?!?), but recently that changed.

When we first went to Acadia it was their opening week in January of 2012.  At the time we knew we were going to have a nice meal at what we presumed was a good addition to the neighborhood, but looking back we definitely didn't anticipate this unassuming, yet immaculate restaurant would reach the upper echelons of the Chicago dinning universe.

Some things have certainly changed since then.  An expensive traditional menu has been replaced with an expensive tasting menu.  They're closed on Mondays and Tuesday and oh yeah...reservations are still tough to come by.

Another softer feature, but one noticed by us was the level of service.  Not saying our first experience was bad, but it was clear that the staff has upped their game and was super attentive, coordinated and professional.

The decor was the same as we remembered - high-end, simple but comfortable.  A fun change was the music at the restaurant.  Pretty sure we got some Radiohead and Outkast subtly complementing our experience.

So let's move to that!

Our tasting menu consisted of Acadia staples and upon further review many similar dishes that we had back in 2012:

We had the Scallop, "Risotto" and Biscuit before and all were excellent again.  As you can see in the picture above, the scallop presentation was simply amazing and something that clearly has improved since Acadia's early days.

Beyond that the premium A5 beef was good - but maybe not spectacular IMO.  Others in our party thoroughly enjoyed it though, so take that for what it's worth.

Surprisingly, one of my favorite dishes was the carrot.  Again, you can see it's beautiful but the mix of ingredients really made this one sing.  Different textures, temperatures and taste profiles made a truly unique dish.

This was a school night (aka weekday) soiree so our crew didn't get super aggressive on the booze front - although we did opt for the wine pairings.  As expected, Acadia did well on this front.  Not gonna even try, this part of the experience is lost on me.  I like wine, but don't have enough of a sophisticated pallet to give you much color here.  Everything seemed to pair well - so cheers to that Acadia (seems like this is table stakes for a two-star Michelin restaurant)!

The overarching experience this time was better than the first.  They've been doing this for 6 years now and clearly have assessed what works and what doesn't.  Additionally, the tasting menu portions seemed appropriate and we left satisfied, but not stuffed.

We'll be back, but likely next time at the bar to consume the Lobster Roll.  That being said, hopefully we don't have to wait another 6 years to make back to the dinning room.

We're lucky to have Acadia in the Sloop.  If you haven't been, we suggest you splurge!

(Hat tip: AS & DK!) 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Won Kow Restaurant - 90-Year Old Chinatown Pioneer Closes as Owner Retires

Although most wouldn't consider Chinatown in the Sloop, we still like to keeps tabs on the neighborhood mostly because we love that it's so close.  Anyway, Eater has the scoop on a Chinatown pioneer closing up shop:
The oldest restaurant in Chicago’s Chinatown closed last week after 90 years on the South Side. Won Kow Restaurant, the once-bustling spot in the heart of Chicago’s Chinese community, closed on February 1. Signage at the restaurant read that the owner had decided to retire.
Won Kow was a community tentpole for nine decades at 2237 S. Wentworth Avenue. The neighborhood’s changed as much of the attention has shifted north to the intersection of Archer and Wentworth. There’s also more interest in Chinatown Square — the two-story outdoor mall. Reports dispute the year Won Kow opened — it was either in 1927 or 1928. Customers would haul up the stairs to find a massive dining room. Bartenders served large tiki-like drinks as diners enjoyed dim sum.

A sign on the window reads “we appreciate all the business that you have given us over the years. We hope that you have enjoying dining here as much as we have enjoyed serving you.”

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Fun With Interactive Maps: Zoom in On the Sloop with Strava Global Heatmap

Who doesn't love a fun interactive map?!?!? 

After perusing Curbed Chicago recently and clicking to the Strava Global Heatmap, we found ourselves down a rabbit hole of different views of activity around our city and neighborhood.  Probably not shocking to a lot of you, but it's fun to play with:
If it wasn’t already obvious how much Chicagoans love their parks, a new map from Strava makes that abundantly clear. The heat map shows fitness patterns of people from around the globe, and may have gotten into a little trouble revealing sensitive information about U.S. military bases.

Nonetheless, the exercise tracking map illuminates Chicago in a fascinating way. City parks are lit up and the Lakefront Trail is white hot as a result of all the runners. Look closely and you can make out the bottom half of the Chicago Marathon route too.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

More (Serious) Momentum for Motor Row: Wicker Park's Fatpour Tap Works Coming to the Area

A couple weeks back, we sort of joked about a Subway coming to Cermak as a sign of momentum for Motor Row.  Well it appears there is some legit momentum if this one actually happens (via Eater):
Fatpour in Wicker Park
The area around McCormick Place’s food and dining options are famously sparse, but that’s slowly changing with new construction. One of those new South Loop options will be a second location of Fatpour Tap Works, the Wicker Park sports bar that opened in 2012. A new, two floor location should open in late October inside the under-construction Hilton Homewood Suites at 1101 S. Wabash Avenue.
“We are looking forward to pumping some energy into the area,” said Erik Baylis, a partner at Big Onion Tavern Group, Fatpour’s parent company.

Baylis said they’ll have two floors and a mezzanine. They’ll serve lunch and dinner to cater to the convention goers at McCormick Place.
The point of the post is that this would be some serious momentum for Motor Row's entertainment district.  We'll be curious and excited to see how this progresses.

PLEASE NOTE:  earlier version of post questioned some of the location information from the Eater article we referenced.  They've since updated their post with correct information.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Take Me Out to the Near South Little League Ball Game

A reader writes:
I am sending this email on behalf of Near South Little League. Attached to this email is the registration flyer for Near South Little League. Our website is
It would be great if you could post information about registration for Near South Little League so that your readers know how to register for baseball this summer. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!
This is something we can get behind!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Field Museum's T-Rex Sue Begins To Be Dismantled Today

A couple weeks ago we wrote about how the Field Museum was getting a new, larger Titanosaur.  Before that happens they have to move Sue.  The Tribune has an interesting read if you're curious:
The Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton we know as Sue exists somewhere on the spectrum between sculpture and erector set. Sue stands in the Field Museum's central Stanley Field Hall thanks to an armature, a metal framework, that holds in their proper place the bones discovered in the South Dakota earth in 1990. The skeleton was mounted to convey ferocity but also with dismantling in mind, so that scientists wielding Allen wrenches could take out bones and study them as needed.

Beginning Monday, the Field's $8.36 million apex predator - and apex museum specimen - will begin the process of permanent removal from the only Chicago home it has ever known. Sue is making way for a replica skeleton of a new dinosaur, the largest-ever-found Patagotitan mayorum, to take occupancy of the central hall. Over the course of February, the tyrannosaur will be deconstructed, spirited upstairs to its new home in the museum's former 3-D theater on the second floor and then remounted in place for an unveiling in early 2019.

Friday, February 2, 2018

"No Condo" Yard Signs appear on Vacant 630 S. Wabash Lot

A reader writes:
Do you know what this is about? It's the vacant lot at 630 S Wabash next to Warehouse Liquors.
Not sure what this is about, but not sure if this vacant lot is serving much of a purpose right now.  If we were playing devils advocate our rebuttal would be "If no condos, then what?".

Maybe a Columbia building?

Anyway, the only thing we've written about regarding the lot was that a reader saw soil boring equipment taking samples way back in clearly not much movement has happened since then.

(Hat tip:  MJ!)