Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Ominous Signs Show Up on Door of The Lobo Canteen (1307 S. Wabash) and Readers Are Pondering Why

We've received a lot of emails asking what's up with The Lobo Canteen at 1307 S. Wabash.  We don't know what is going on, but wanted to include a reader's note:
Is this another south loop casualty? It never really found its footing and was never that good to be honest.

It baffles me with the amount of foot traffic that has occurred in this neighborhood over the past couple of years, that we can’t seem to land any quality restaurants.

What does the West Loop have that we don’t??
In our opinion, at this stage the West Loop and South Loop are very different neighborhoods.  Yes, we share proximity to the Loop (hence each neighborhoods name), but outside of that the two neighborhoods have taken divergent paths.  We actually wrote about this on the back of a Crain's article in January.  While the West Loop has a bustling food and nightlife scene it doesn't have the same access to some of Chicago's most revered cultural and natural resources (Grant Park, Museums, Lake Michigan, etc). 

Anyway, the reader is specifically talking about quality restaurants.  This has been a heavily debated question since we've been in the Sloop (since 2008!).  One could argue that there are quality restaurants - Acadia, South Coast, Cafe Bionda, Kurah, Sociale, Umai, Half Sour, Mercat - to name a few that come to mind.

One hypothesis we have is that the South Loop's restaurant and nightlife scene isn't clustered and as a result doesn't feel like it exists.  If you look to the West Loop - "restaurant row" on Randolph helped brand that neighborhood as a dinning destination.  Over time, the neighborhood organically grew from there and now is what it is.  A similar phenomenon could be explained in some other neighborhoods (division street and North/Milwaukee in Wicker Park or even Rush street awhile back in the Gold Coast for example).

The closest we have to that in the Sloop is the 1300 block of Wabash (which as we see above has had a spotty run with "quality" restaurants) and Printer's Row.  In our opinion, Printer's Row has the most promise given it's unique feel and it's orientation within the city grid - how Dearborn Station beautifully looms over the intersection of Polk and Dearborn.  If one or two - quality/unique restaurants setup shop in that area - ideally on Dearborn we could see that strip continue to takeoff.

Any other theories?

Monday, April 29, 2019

Chicago Tribune Applauds "Hamilton: The Exhibit" at Northerly Island

We posted about the Hamilton Exhibition coming to Northerly Island and it is finally open.  The Chicago Tribune checks-in and applauds the (temporary) museum:
As spinoffs go, “Hamilton: The Exhibition” — a U.S. history showcase derived from a play about a treasury secretary, mounted in a sprawling, spare-no-expense rendering in a sort of airplane hangar on a peninsula in Lake Michigan — stands up well against charges of crass commercialism.
Yes, you exit through the gift shop in this fresh take from the creators of “Hamilton: An American Musical,” a little show you may have heard a thing or two about.

But otherwise the exhibition, which opens to the public Saturday after two years of development, plays more like a charmingly optimistic bet that Americans were dissatisfied with the fly-by view of history they got in high school, that the Founding Fathers itch discovered by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play demands much more scratching: more detail about the Revolutionary War, more debate over federalism, and way more exploration of early 1800s monetary policy.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Carjacker Fatally Shot by Concealed-Carry Holder on Ida B. Wells

Scary scene on Ida B Wells early in the morning (via ABC 7):
A would-be carjacker was fatally shot by a licensed concealed-carry holder after an altercation in the South Loop Friday morning, Chicago police said.
The shooting took place at about 3:15 a.m. in the first block of Ida B. Wells Drive, police said. A 41-year-old man driving a BMW told police he was rear-ended by a 22-year-old man driving a Volkswagen.

The driver of the BMW got out to inspect the damage and when he went back to get his cell phone, the Volkswagen driver approached with a handgun, demanded his keys and pushed him into the vehicle.

Both men were inside the vehicle when police said the 41-year-old BMW driver, a licensed concealed-carry holder, retrieved his handgun and shot the 22-year-old man in the head.
The point about the "licensed concealed-carry holder" is an interesting point and many fronts.  We're not going to go there...

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

South Asia Institute Looks to Be Moving Into Long Vacant Retail Space at 1925 S. Michigan

A reader writes:
There’s been work happening at this location (1925 S Michigan) for several months and only recently did a sign go up as to what it was for: South Asia Institute. Googling the name turned up a lot of places affiliated with various colleges so I’m assuming it’s going to be an outlet for one of the colleges here. Interestingly enough, before any work began a permit was posted for renovating the building for an art museum, so not sure what happened for this to be the final result.

We're unsure what this might be, but certainly curious to see what comes.  Regardless, it's nice that this space is (presumably) being filled.  We always thought the building was gorgeous.

(Hat tip: JB!)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Stalwart Brunch Spot Bongo Room Closes at Prime Roosevelt/Wabash Corner

In case you missed it, a popular brunch spot in a prime South Loop location has shut down (via Eater):
The Bongo Room, one of the most popular brunch and breakfast spots in Chicago, is down a location. The South Loop restaurant, at 1152 S. Wabash Avenue, is closed for good, an employee at the Andersonville outpost confirms. Ownership hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment but the location has been removed from its website, its phone number is disconnected, and Yelp reports it closed in addition to the employee confirmation. The Andersonville and Wicker Park siblings remain in business.
It's unfortunate, but hopefully something else interesting moves in.  The amount of foot traffic here seems like it would be a great opportunity for some other QSR type of restaurant (maybe something more local like a protein bar or something?  doubtful, but one can wish).

(Hat tip:  MK, NS, AW!) 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Believes One Central Could Generate $120 Billion Worth of Economic Benefits

It still seems like a pipe dream to us, but One Central recently got some support (via Chicago Tribune):
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce is throwing its support behind the massive transit center and megadevelopment proposed over train tracks near Soldier Field, which it says could create $120 billion worth of new jobs, taxes and other economic benefits over the next four decades.

The nonprofit business organization, which represents more than 1,000 companies in the Chicago area, on Wednesday unveiled a report outlining the potential impact of the proposed One Central project on the local economy, tourism and regional transportation.
All that said, the article outlines the daunting hurdles the development would need to clear:
One Central will need all the help it can get as it tries to coordinate plans with transit agency leaders, handle the concerns expressed by neighbors and alderman and deal with a new mayor. Landmark will need all of them on board before it can break ground.

It’s unclear how the developer plans to finance the complex project, and whether it might include state or federal funds. Landmark has previously said it does not intend to seek tax-increment financing from the city.
When it comes to these "mega-developments" we will utter our favorite words - we will see...

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Lollapalooza Daily Schedules Released and 1-Day Tickets On-Sale

If you're like us, you eagerly await all that is Lollapalooza each summer.  And if you're like us - that is to say, past our prime festival age - you also look forward to picking the one day where you (may be able to) summon the energy to bask in the unpredictable weather of downtown Chicago in August.

All that said, when this year's Lollapalooza acts were released we were genuinely impressed with the talent.  It was a wide range of genres with a variety of acts in their prime (although not everyone - ahem Strokes and Shaq!).  Despite the solid talent, there was an interesting narrative around "festival fatigue" given slow 4-day ticket sales.  Greg Kott from the Tribune weighs in:
Last year’s slower Lollapalooza sales could be pinned on the relatively stale menu of headliners – seven of the eight had played the festival before. But this year Lollapalooza has a fresher look at the top of the bill and shares some top-billed acts with Coachella, including Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, J Balvin and Janelle Monae. Four-day ticket prices ($340) are $5 higher than last year for Lollapalooza, whereas Coachella’s three-day passes cost $429.

Executives with C3 Presents, which promotes Lollapalooza with Live Nation, were not immediately available for comment on the sluggish sales.

If history is any indicator, it is extremely rare for a festival to exist — let alone thrive — for a decade-plus. Lollapalooza (which established its annual Grant Park residency in 2005) and Coachella (originated in 1999) are among the North American exceptions. In recent years, a number of long-running festivals have either shrunk (Vans Warped Tour has gone from a national tour to a handful of dates) or struggled to stay viable amid declining attendance (Bonnaroo in Tennessee).
We tend to agree - the nation wide festival boom has certainly reached its peak and is likely on a decline.

For what it's worth in our opinion, when Lollapalooza changed their format from 3 to 4 days, the dynamic change considerably.  If you can put aside the fact that $340+ (without taxes, food/beverage/housing, etc) is a lot of money, it's hard to simply commit to 4 days of standing in a park and listening to music - even for a energetic youngsters.

Last year we only went on Sunday and the general feel of the festival by that point was exhaustion mixed with a tinge of  can we go home yet?  Maybe last year was an anomaly...but probably not.

Ok - enough of us waxing on about the existential status of music festivals and Lollapalooza.  While each day of Lolla likely appeals to different people, if we had to rank our days we would say:
  1. Friday (8/2) - Best Day all around
  2. Sunday (8/4) - It's Ari's festival and day from what we've heard...
  3. Saturday (8/3) - despite headliners, undercard is fun
  4. Thursday (8/1) - Ouch, no go...

Do you agree?  The top of the bill is stacked on Friday with the wide-ranging sounds of Tame Impala, the genre bending Janelle Monae and the soul (and talent) of Childish Gambino:
The good news for customers is that with the lack of demand, you can actually score tickets to the day you want to go - a crazy idea, right!  As of last night, none of the days are sold-out (unlike the previous years where most of the "popular" days sold-out immediately).  

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Hooter's Quick-Service Restaurant Concept "Hoots" Coming to the South Loop this Fall

Looks like the Sloop is getting a Hoots (via Crains):
Happy to see chicken wings fly out the door of its quick-service restaurant in Cicero, Hooters is expanding its pared-down Hoots concept and opening two Chicago outposts this summer, with more coming by the end of next year.

The takeout-focused Hoots stores, one planned for Logan Square and another for the South Loop, are expected to open in August with less than half the menu of standard Hooters—and none of the female servers clad in orange short shorts or low-cut tanks.

They’re designed to appeal to families, millennials and those pressed for time. The Hoots expansion comes at a time when the Hooters chain, owned by Atlanta-based Hooters of America, has seen a slight decrease in the percentage of customers who visit at least once a month, according to Technomic, which studies restaurant trends.

Guests order at the counter, and servers—men and women in khakis and crew T-shirts—hand over to-go bags at the register or bring the food to dining tables or the bar, where customers can gaze at TV screens.

Does anyone have any bets on where they might set up shop?  Will it be west or east of the river?  Our bet is west of the river.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Eater Checks-in At the Newly Opened SX Sky Bar at Hotel Essex

Wowsa - the Sloop has never had a bar so swanky (via Eater):
Last week, the reborn Hotel Essex reopened in South Loop. That’s the new name for the Essex Inn, which opened back in 1961. Now billed as a “luxury lifestyle hotel,” the space at 800 S. Michigan Avenue. A neighboring building contains 479 apartments. Occupants of the hotel and apartment building need to eat and drink, and that’s where the complex’s sixth-floor lounge and club comes in: SX Sky Bar opens Thursday to serve guests.

The spot is from Oxford Capital, the company behind LondonHouse and the Godfrey. Nightlife, rather than food, is the main draw to the lounges at those two spaces, and you can expect the same vibe at SX Sky Bar. The windows retract allowing views of Buckingham Fountain, the Bean, and the Museum Campus. Inside, the food menu includes snapper sashimi, duck confit carnitas, and Kentucky fried cauliflower. Dishes are supposed to be lounge friendly, but at the same time give customers enough food for a full meal, even if the tables are a bit small for a feast.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sumi to Replace Former Kome Japanese (1303 S. Michigan)

A reader writes:
New sign went up at the former Kome Japanese place; now Sumi Japanese food.
We saw this posted on Hello South Loop and looks like it's true:

This spot has had a tough go of it since Panozzo's closed in 2013.  Hope Sumi has better luck.

(Hat tip:  LB!)

Friday, April 12, 2019

NEMA Opening May 1st & Will Take the Mantle of Chicago's Tallest Apartment Building

Chicago Magazine checks-in at Nema:
NEMA Chicago, one of the city’s biggest apartment buildings to sprout up in years — both in height and unit count — is leasing up for its first wave of move-ins next month. The 896-foot tower, Chicago’s tallest residential rental building, will open at 1200 S. Indiana Avenue in the South Loop on May 1, delivering 800 new units to the burgeoning downtown market.

Residents who’ve watched NEMA rise over the past year and a half might notice something familiar about its appearance. The building’s “bundled tube” design, which features a series of staggered setbacks as the tower increases in height, bears a striking resemblance to Willis Tower.
Here are some good details we haven't seen before:
NEMA certainly cuts an imposing figure in the South Loop, which is home to a smaller cluster of skyscrapers than in nearby Streeterville and River North. The building is split into two segments: the “Signature” apartments (floors 2 through 47), and the “Skyline” apartments (floors 49 through 76). The first section comprises 674 units; in the more exclusive second section, there are just 126. And thanks to South Loop’s relative lack of density, NEMA’s shorter neighbors imbue those Skyline units with stunning views of the city.
Of course, none of this comes cheap. Rent at NEMA will start around $1,800 a month for a studio, Bitton says. An apartments.com listing shows monthly prices ranging from $1,865 for a lower-level studio to $25,000 for a four-bedroom floor plan, though this model won’t be available until August 1.
The fun stat for this building - it's currently the tallest apartment building in Chicago.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Z Gallerie Filling Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and Closing Roosevelt Collection Store

Word has come down that Z Gallerie is closing their doors at Roosevelt Collection.  The natural reaction that many in the neighborhood have is a sarcastic "why can't we have nice things?".  While we may argue that Z Gallerie isn't really that nice, the reality is that a closing store isn't a good look for the neighborhood.

In this case, it appears the problem is with Z Gallerie and not our neighborhood as they're actually filing for bankruptcy (via retail dive):
Z GallerieFiling date: March 11
Outcome: The retailer is expected to close 17 stores and estimates that the Chapter 11 process will last four months, according to a company statement.
Z Gallerie is a home decor retailer headquartered in Los Angeles with 76 stores nationwide, operating in a space that’s sitting in the midst of disruption. Subject to court approval, the business will have $28 million debtor-in-possession financing from secured lender KeyBank National Association.

Outside of the announced 17 store closures, Z Gallerie is expected to keep physical locations and its website open and operational through the duration of bankruptcy processes, pending funding approval by the courts. Court documents state that the retailer estimates up to $500 million in assets.

Roosevelt Collection already has a decent amount of vacancies, so hopefully they can draw some new tenants.

(Hat tip:  TE!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Studio 6/Motel 6 Proposed for Old Historical Building in Motor Row (2300 S. Indiana)

Another hotel could be coming to Motor Row (via Crains):
Chicago convention-goers could soon have a lower-cost hotel option next to McCormick Place under a proposal that would add to the recent run of new places to stay in the Near South Side neighborhood.

A suburban investor plans to turn a vacant six-story former auto showroom just steps from the convention center into a 200-room, dual-brand Studio 6/Motel 6, according to a spokeswoman for Des Plaines-based Sachi Construction, the general contractor assigned to the project. The venture that owns the property at 2300 S. Indiana Ave. is controlled by a group that includes Arlington Heights-based investor Chirag Patel, according to public records.

Not surprisingly, the area is starting to get real traction in development.  Most notably was the new tri-Hilton hotel that opened last year and the Marriott Marquis that opened in 2017.  There is also a lot of smaller business sprouting up in the area. 

Anyway, looks like the momentum continues for Motor Row. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Lincoln Yards and The 78 TIF Vote Delayed Due to Mayor-Elects Request

An interesting political showdown is brewing for the 78 (via Chicago Tribune):
Lori Lightfoot flexed her new mayoral muscles Monday, getting her soon-to-be predecessor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen to hold off voting on $2 billion in controversial property tax subsidies for a pair of massive developments until she gets a closer look at the deals.

It remains to be seen whether Lightfoot forces substantive changes to the tax increment financing proposals for Lincoln Yards near Lincoln Park and The 78 in the South Loop. Emanuel’s floor leader and the chairman of the Finance Committee, Ald. Patrick O’Connor, said he hoped to hold a vote on the proposals Wednesday morning before the full City Council meeting.
This likely won't be resolved this week, but should be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Permit Posted & Paper Up at Former Gioco Restaurant Space

The long running and popular Italian restaurant Gioco closed their doors back in May of 2018.  The restaurant was a staple for the early days of the Sloop and naturally elicited bittersweet feelings across the neighborhood.

Since then, activity at the spot has been sparse but a reader sent us this quick blurb and permit picture:
Not sure who G Dock LLC is, but fresh butcher paper over the windows and permit posted

The space is old, but certainly has a lot of character.  Does anyone have info on this permit or know what's coming?

(Hat tip:  SW!)

Thursday, April 4, 2019

26 Best Things to Do for Kids this Spring - Featuring Many Sloops Spots!

Maps.  We love maps.  We love maps by Curbed Chicago.  Two maps for you today featuring Sloop spots.

First up - lots of us in the Sloop have kids...so here are The 26 best things to do in Chicago with kids (link): 
19. Harold Washington Library
The main branch of the Chicago Public Library, the postmodern Harold Washington building boasts an entire second floor of children’s books, games, hands-on activities, and multimedia tools that are perfect when inclement weather strikes. Head to the ninth floor to see a gorgeous winter garden with stunning glass ceilings.
20. Shedd Aquarium
Parents will love this Beaux-Arts building situated on Lake Michigan, but kids will have a ball exploring one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums.
21. Adler Planetarium
Even young kids will like checking out the eye-popping Amazon river tanks and the colorful coral and fish of the reef exhibits, and don’t miss watching swimming beluga whales, dolphins, and sea otters in the Polar Play Zone.

22. The Field Museum
This Grant Park natural history museum offers dinosaurs like Maximo the titanosaur and SUE, the world’s largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex (returning to a new exhibition space on December 21). You can also see a real mummy, experience an array of hands-on activities in the Crown Family Play Lab, and watch a rotating schedule of 3D movies.

Second - and since it's the season - here are 26 things to do in Chicago this spring (link):

18. Harold Washington LibraryThe enormous red brick structure with bright turquoise colored aluminum acroterion is the central location for Chicago’s Public Library system. It’s a wonderful place to explore, but make sure you travel up to the ninth floor. That’s where you’ll find the Winter Garden where you can steal a quiet moment in a beautiful room. It houses study spaces and a special collections hall—all under a gorgeous glass roof.
19. Auditorium TheatreThe Auditorium Theatre is one of a kind and built in 1889 by architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler (who were mentoring a young Frank Lloyd Wright at the time). The building is remarkable for its construction, elaborate detail, and acoustic perfection. Currently, the theater is working to restore the meticulous, gold stencil work that was unfortunately painted over in previous decades. If you can’t see a performance in the dramatic space, there are a few tours throughout the week where you can learn more about the 24-karat gold leaf ceiling arches, intricate floor and wall mosaics, and murals by Charles Holloway and Albert Fleury.
20. Adler Planetarium Explore the stars, planets, and solar systems at the country’s first planetarium. The Doane Observatory has one of the largest aperture telescope available to the public and after-hours events where visitors can see the Moon, Jupiter, or Saturn. The view from the Adler isn’t just about the sky—looking back at the city from this far out is pretty spectacular too.

22. Glessner HouseNear South Side’s historic Prairie District, the Glessner House is an important commission—influencing the works of architects such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. Built in 1887, when Victorian homes were popular, the Henry Hobson Richardson design featured a courtyard and a strong visual emphasis on the horizontal. This National Historic Landmark now operates as a non-profit museum.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

2nd Nickelodeon Slime Fest Returning to Northerly Island on June 8-9

We (apparently) missed this last year, but if getting slimmed is your thing...you're in luck (via Chicago Tribune):
After making its stateside debut in Chicago last summer, Nickelodeon SlimeFest will return June 8-9 to Northerly Island for its follow-up festival.

The lineup for this year’s family-friendly music festival features rapper Pitbull, singer/songwriter Bebe Rexha, Nickelodeon star and YouTuber JoJo Siwa and rapper/singer T-Pain, plus some stars of Nickelodeon shows including “Annie vs. Hayley,” “Cousins for Life,” “Henry Danger” and “Knight Squad.”

Along with the music and celebrity programming, SlimeFest also has activities, most of which prominently feature slime in one way or another. Extra festivities include a maze, inflatables, craft-making, photo ops and a bunch more.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Hotel Essex Officially Opens

We've spilled a lot of digital ink on the new Essex Inn Hotel (now dubbed Hotel Essex) and yesterday marked a huge milestone as they checked in their first overnight guests.  The Chicago Tribune provides the latest overview of the massive $75 million renovation.

One area that is most intriguing to us is the new dinning/entertainment features that the development brings to the neighborhood.  The new managers have a track record:
Oxford manages the property, along with several other downtown hotels.
“We’re known for our rooftops at Oxford,” Jordan said, referring to popular hotel-based nightlife spots like I|O at The Godfrey and LH at LondonHouse.

Hotel Essex’s version is SX Sky Bar, slated to open April 11 in the adjacent Essex on the Park apartment complex. Spread over two levels, the swanky space has its own entrance off Michigan Avenue. An elevator opens onto a sexy, sixth-floor lounge tricked out with colorful velvet booths and cushy, oversized thrones straight out of Alice in Wonderland (footstools available for those who aren’t pro basketball players or leggy super models). Retractable walls of glass will slide open in warmer weather, making for an enviable perch to sip a craft cocktail while peering over Grant Park.

California native Christopher Suzuki, former sous chef at LondonHouse, has been tapped to run SX Sky Bar’s kitchen. Light, sharable plates and sushi will be served daily starting daily at 2 p.m. and going into the wee hours.

Behind a door marked “VIP,” a 9-foot-long beaded light fixture hovers over a stairway that leads down to an area designed “to bring dancing back to Chicago,” Jordan said. As a DJ pumps out the music, an army of lights from the ceiling will project images on the poured concrete dance floor.

Another dining and drinking venue can be found at street level: Grant Park Bistro, a modern French grill from Chicago-based LM Restaurant Group. The restaurant takes the place of the former Brasserie by LM that closed in 2016.

The bistro, which handles room service for the hotel, shares space with a small outpost of Vanille Patisserie called Petite Vanille, selling baked goods and coffee.

This all sounds amazing, but we're just unsure how a nightclub/dance club will do.  If anyone checks it out PLEASE let us know.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Kids Wonderland Play & Party Opens Today (4/1) at 2028 S. Michigan Avenue

If the pictures above doesn't scream YAY (or oops i peed my pants in the ball pit) - then you're likely not going to Kids Wonderland Play & Party.  The place looks like a real life manifestation of the popular Candy Crush mobile game and it opens today (4/1).

General admission pricing ranges from $10-16 depending on what day you go and how long you'll be there.  There also slight discounts for additional siblings.

For more information you can check their website here