01 5 / 2013
On Chicago’s south side rests a neighborhood that only true Chicago south-side natives are familiar with. Located not too far from ‘the back of the yards,’ the Bridgeport area is one that sheds light on an interesting aspect of Chicago’s history.
Bridgeport has proven itself as one of the neighborhoods that is hanging on to it’s old south-side irish roots, though, the cultural dynamics have continued to shift over the past decade or so. This can be seen through the presence of various hispanic & asian cultural elements. I genuinely feel that the blurring of these neighborhood lines is what’s best for area. The city has allowed itself in many ways to be torn apart by ghosts of the past; that is, the long history of segregation can still be seen in how bridgeport differs from the surrounding neighborhoods just steps away. Head a few blocks south of Sox park and what you’ll find is an area that is (from a cultural perspective) completely different. Nevertheless, we took our time perusing through the streets of Bridgeport.
We started the day off with a couple of Chicago-style dogs from Maxwell Street, located at 411 West 31st street. No matter what neighborhood you’re in, if you’ve made it to our city then Maxwell street is a must do.
After chowing down on some Chi-styled dogs, we did a quick neighborhood walk-through, finally making our way over to Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar.
Maria’s –– located at 960 West 31st Street –– is the only beer/liquor store in the neighborhood that focuses specifically on offering artisanal & craft beers. These offerings do change weekly, which adds a nice twist to the overall experience; there’s always something new to try at Maria’s.
When we first walked in, we were all enamored by the antique vibe of the place, and the saloon style bar hidden deep in the back of the store.
At the bar, it was the whiskey selection that first grabbed my attention (and a bit of my soul). If you decide to proceed with shots of the “bartender’s choice” – you might want to order a Maria’s Ginger Beer to top off (just a suggestion!). Quite a few people came out for this weekend (special shout out to the FAMU & Univ. of Illinois alum who attended).
The biggest aspect in terms of Maria’s “cool factor” was that they are committed to supporting the local neighborhood and communities (local businesses, and craft beers). I had the chance to meet both Maria and her sister. They were possibly 2 of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met.
01 5 / 2013
For Week 10 of #77Chi we traveled to a neighborhood that has really become a staple to what the real “Chicago cultural experience” is–– we took our Chicago adventure to Wicker Park (f-yeah!). Though, some would say the new-found popularity of this neighborhood has caused a few changes in ‘authenticity’ around Wicker Park, it is without-a-doubt one of the very real cultural hubs of Chicago. This area never ceases to amaze me; it is still a mecca for hipsters, rebels, connectors, trendsetters and everyone else in between.
We wanted to be sure to get the true Wicker experience, so it was only right that we drop by the Emporium Arcade Bar, located at 1366 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
This bar is home to a vast selection of classic arcade-style video games; talk about a trip down memory lane…whew. It is only 25 cents for gameplay, but of course (in traditional fashion), you have to exchange that cash for good ol’ video game tokens. And the drink selection did not disappoint either.
What I was most impressed by was the diversity of this bar. It really speaks to the neighborhood and its hard to find that kind of diversity in the city.
After a few hours of gaming and drinks at Emporium we made a stop next door to Antique Taco.
Side note: I also dig the fact that a lot of these spots in Wicker are socially engaging in every sense of the term; that is, they believe in engaging with their customers via social media as well by providing people deals.
Did ya’ know you can score a free “horchata with cinnamon” milkshake from Antique Taco just by proving that you have +500 followers on Instagram? That milkshake = too good. Use the hashtag ‘#PopularPays’ and you can also score free tokens, or as they call it ‘Social Currency’ at Emporium.
All in all, it was another successful weekend. It also helped that we were blessed with some warm weather. My only hope is that the rest of Chicago will somehow take a clue from Wicker; break those boundaries by immersing yourself in a new setting with people who aren’t like you. And special thanks to everyone else who came out and made this weekend adventure what it was– a kick 4$S time.
15 3 / 2013
Just footsteps off the Central Park stop on the infamous green line train rests a 25,000sq foot building that many Chicagoans seldom venture to. This 108 year old building known as the Garfield Park Conservatory hosts elaborate weekly events, and houses over 200 species of plant life.
Upon entering the conservatory, each visitor is greeted with an aroma that can only be compared to that of a damp, honey dew smell you’d only be able to find in a fresh, open environment. Entry fee? Nope- nonexistent; though there is a “suggested donation” of $5 dollars. Dozens of visitors, both young and old, strolled through this masterpiece which at times reminded us of an elaborate corn maze decorated with all of natures beauties… a reminder that the simple pleasures in life are what really matter most.
Could it really be that were in the one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago? Did this 1.3 square mile area really tally 79 violent crimes and 18 homicides in 2012?
After this Frostian experience (as in the poet- Robert Frost), we ventured two blocks east to Inspiration Kitchen on Lake Street for a bite to eat.
“I’ll have the Catfish Po-boy” I exclaimed as my eyes raced franticly between the menu (which changes every 2 weeks) and neighboring Bachelorette party. As the rest of the group yelled out their orders, the entire table and waitresses was instantly taken by what was ordered next. “I’ll have water with cucumbers” sang a recently relocated two bachelor degree holding college graduate from the Deep South. As if 4 men having brunch together was not awkward enough, the table just shrugged off his request and requested some mugs of coffee. (East and West Garfield Park have been classified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a “food desert”, I highly doubt that cucumbers will be severed in any establishment in this part of town- save that for when we visit the Gold Coast. )
As the food came to the table, two things stood out service, which was awesome, and presentation which resembled that of the Four Seasons. By the end of brunch, none of those two things matter and were quickly forgotten as all 4 of us finished out entire plates and basked in fulfillment. The Food was top notice, the mission of Inspiration Kitchen even better!
24 2 / 2013
This weekend’s neighborhood visit was definitely a blast. Many thanks to all who came out. Week 8 began with our trip to Gallery Guichard in Bronzeville (3521 S. King Drive). We had an opportunity to meet with Danny Campbell, a professional artist who’s real story began the day he was given a second chance at life.
Several years ago while driving on a highway, a tire tread flew through his front windshield. After weeks of interrupted sleep— a direct result of his near-death incident— he began to research the statistics on fatalities related to tire tread accidents. He was now faced with an opportunity to create art from something that had taken so many lives before almost claiming his. Danny began to travel highways and backroads across the country, collecting treads and storing them on his property. When it came time for him to do something with the treads, he relied on his inner vision to create these intricate works of beauty.
It was definitely a pleasure to be able to experience his art as a whole— both in seeing the visual piece and in hearing his overall story. It is also worth mentioning that a part of this gallery consisted of South African artwork. Using scrap metal from the shanty’s of Cape Town and Johannesburg, along with a few other things that we might otherwise consider “junk,” these artists have some truly extraordinary work at hand. We also had the pleasure of speaking with Andre Guichard, founder of Gallery Guichard.
Recognizing that some of us are aspiring art collectors, Mr. Guichard pointed out a few things for us to keep in mind when looking to buy. He shed a lot of light on how to really take in the art, and left us with a few tips on training the eye (tips one might need to know in distinguishing authentic pieces from reprints or duplicates).
And WGN was there to capture it too! After the gallery, we headed over to Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles. For starters, the line spanned past the front entrance way - something you don’t see too often at south side establishments. Seeing this kind of activity was a clear indicator that this place meant big business. Prior to being seated we knew we had made the right choice; seeing full plates on surrounding tables packed with families and friends was a great way to take in some of the cultural makeup of Bronzeville.
And although the wait took a bit longer than expected, this establishment lived up to its reputation. It was the real deal - a true, homestyle chicken & waffles experience. The food was great! Likewise, there was nothing to complain about from a pricing standpoint either. For a waffle with syrup and a couple of juicy wings my meal came out to about $8.00.
On a special note, I really enjoyed myself this weekend and took in quite a bit from my surroundings. Again, special thanks to WGN for coming out - and thank you to everyone who made this experience what it was. If you would like to join us next weekend, please be sure to sign up for our mailing list here:
-Rob Bates, Co-Founder
24 2 / 2013
On the far Northwestern edge of the City rests a neighborhood that few people have ever heard of. This area, known as Montclare, resembles a neighborhood out of a 1960s black-and-white TV episode— opening up with large white lettering, timeless music, and a bold, narrator to set the tone. Drive slowly, because if you drive too fast you just might miss this small community. Montclare is heavily populated with an aging first generation Italian-American and Polish-American population. Outlined with nostalgic street signs and storefronts, this Saturday we sought out what seems to have become a forgotten skill— shoe and leather goods repair.
Whether it’s your local butcher, hardware store, bakery, or florist, it seems like all too often in Chicago neighborhoods these onetime staples have been replaced by large multinational conglomerates. Well not in this neighborhood— within a two block radius of Harlem and Grand Avenue, you are likely to find all those places and more! Anthony Roberts of the RedEye Chicago described this destination best:
“Bowling trophies that have collected dust from decades past litter the interior of Mont Clare Shoe Repair (7181 W. Grand Ave.), a family-owned business tucked away in the city’s far Northwest Side Mont Clare community. The business is celebrating its 75th year in the location, a testament to the family values and sense of pride felt in the largely Italian and Polish community. The shop gets a steady stream of local regulars, but many have no idea that places like this even exists.”
24 1 / 2013
This weekend we kicked things off with a warm cup vanilla chai. DOLLOP, located at 345 E. Ohio St., Chicago, is a recent phenomenon, and since opening has become an instant favorite of many in the area. Though it was a bit pricey (about $5.00 for a small chai tea), It definitely had the hustle & bustle of a successful downtown establishment.
We headed over to MCA but they were only open for 15 more minutes, so from there we went to Pops for Champagne. This local wine and champagne bar in the Near North Side neighborhood was full of young, vibrant characters looking to spend a nice chuck of change. The crowd was surprisingly mixed in terms of age and other demographics; definitely a nice spot for a potential date or celebratory occasion with friends and family - a somewhat intimate type of setting.
Seeing as though it was about 25 bucks for a glass of champagne, I only indulged in a drink or two. No complaints from me though; it was the best glass of Champagne I’ve had in quite some time. After squawking at the bill for a few more minutes, we headed over to Mercadito.
With some of the best tapas in the city, Mercadito really lives up to its reputation. Since Mercadito is located in the River North area, it was hard to get around those downtown prices. And unbeknownst to us, it was restaurant week so there was a bit of a wait. They do have food deals during the week - like “Taco Tuesday” …BTW, the tacos were amazing. We had the tacos de carne, tacos de pollo, and carnitas de puerco. Good stuff! Check out their menu here - http://goo.gl/elhfV
All in all, it was a great experience. Thinking back to our mission, this really reaffirmed something that I’ve known for a while— that, although I had a great time downtown, it has been truly beneficial to find other areas across the city that I can enjoy without having to spend serious loot. This was the most expensive weekend yet; between parking, champagne, tapas and coffee, I probably spent around $100. In contrast, our experiences with Humboldt Park, Chinatown, Chatham and Montclare as a collective whole still cost us less than downtown did. I recognize downtown doesn’t require that you spend money to enjoy it, but it does if you really want to experience some of what it has to offer.
18 1 / 2013
On a cool unusually warm Saturday in January it is easy to see why this neighborhood was dubbed Aubrun Gresham. The redish brown brick buildings outlined every aspect of this Southside community which is lined by continuous rows of trees. I could only imagine on this cool winter day how the entire landscape would change on a bustling summer afternoon with the trees fully bloomed. It is almost like the tree lined blocks would be more fitting in some far away northern suburb, than this working class neighborhood stationed between 75th and 91st streets. The first stop in AG brought us to Lagniappe Creole Cajun Joynt, and as a frequent visitor to New Orleans, I must say their recipe was spot on and instantly made me feel like I was stationed in some pre-hurricane Katrina 4th ward. Posted right off Ashland and 79th this place is without a doubt is worth a second look. I would recommend the gumbo, and the thing about this place is the food is as the servers and the atmosphere. Want to try authentic New Orleans food but not pay for plane ticket? Than this is your spot.
Looking for a fun activity? Try skating! And I’m not talking about inline, I’m talking about straight up roll bounce, 4 wheel roller skates. The MLK park and family center is located @ 1219 W 76th St and is an nice inexpensive place to blow off some steam. Even if you do not like to skate it is entertaining watching the people in the place show off the newest ( and oldest) dance moves on skates. On top of that skate rental was 3 bucks! That is less than a gallon gas!
18 1 / 2013
This week we had the pleasure of being able to explore Chicago’s very own Chinatown neighborhood (special thanks to Vincci & Jenna for joining in on this weekend excursion). As you may know, Chicago’s Chinatown presented some similarities to most other major Chinatown neighborhoods in big cities. The hustle and bustle wasn’t as prevalent as one might expect to see in the LA or NY Chinatown, yet, Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood still has a lot to offer. By exploring the entirety of the neighborhood we were able to culturally immerse ourselves in more than just the food offerings. There were many shops, housing structures, marts that we observed and yes, I came to learn that the area is culturally diverse. One thing I noticed while in the Chinatown neighborhood is that it acts as a haven for not only Chinese culture (as initially intended) but is also inclusive of other aspects of various asian cultures (Korean, Japanese, etc.).
My first stop in the Chinatown neighborhood was for a quick tea from Saint’s Alp Teahouse. I waited here for a bit while the others made their way over to the neighborhood, and I noticed that it was busy so business must be doing good. I didn’t have time to stop at the Chi Cafe as initially intended, but I definitely plan on making another trip to the Chinatown neighborhood in the near future. When everyone finally arrived, we went to the Cai restaurant for some Dim Sum.
At first I was a bit unsure, but it turns out that the food is a lot better than what my initial expectations had allowed me to believe. And from a cost perspective, it is safe to say we were all in for a surprise: for a group of 3-5, it only cost us $25.00 for the entire meal which was a definite steal. Afterwards we took a look around Chinatown Square, capturing more of the cultural essence of the neighborhood.
Understandably, there weren’t a lot of people outside since the temp had dropped. Still, you can get a sense that when it is warmer out or when the neighborhood observes special celebrations (i.e. Chinese New Year) they definitely have space to host cultural festivities. I’m curious to know a bit more about what some of these activities might be. The Chinatown Square outdoor shopping area is full of shops with freshly imported goods from over seas. From signage to goods and other offerings, everything reflects asian heritage; there is a lot of power in understanding where you come from. I have a lot of personal respect for this. All in all, it was a great experience. I learned a bit about the culture, though I still struggle with chopsticks. Until next time Chicago.
29 12 / 2012
Hey guys! Finally- here it is, a review for Week 3 of 77. If you were able to make it, great! Otherwise, I definitely appreciate you taking the time to read this. I can speak on a lot of what Chatham is, what it used to be and how it is changing— I have a “leg up” on everyone else since I’ve lived here my whole life. Still, I knew that I had to approach this weekend with an open mind just as I would for the other neighborhoods.
I learned a bit about myself too. The ‘technical mapping’ of the Chatham neighborhood encompasses a lot more than what I had initially identified with; that is, I’ve always seen 79th and Cottage Grove as being part of the East Chatham neighborhood (as I knew it growing up). Still, benefit of the doubt goes to Yassa— it is listed on Yelp as being in Chatham and the food was great, so I have no problem claiming it.
Yassa definitely had an interesting food selection, and I must say, it easily met the standard set in some of the positive reviews I had read prior to my own experience at the small, family owned restaurant. The plantains were probably the best I’ve had of any restaurant in Chicago. Actually, those were the best plantains I’ve ever had…ever. A lot of places don’t know how to cook ‘em right, so I was in for a pleasant surprise when I actually had plantains that tasted great. And the rice was too good. I definitely recommend this to anyone (Chicagoan’s and non-Chicago natives alike). No matter how discrouaged you might be from looking at the exterior, this restaurant is most certainly worth the trip.
I then headed over to Dat Donut (which used to be an extension of the South Side famous “Leon’s Barbecue” which was in the same building). Leon’s is no longer open. I used to love their barbecue but they started to struggle when they kept changing their recipe— it was a huge mistake). There’s now an “Uncle Johns Barbecue” and it is GOOD…just a side note. Dat Donut has some good deals and I have to say, I’ll probably be back in there sometime this week to grab another donut or two. From there I headed over to Cole Park. This park has a lot of meaning me. I grew up playing basketball at this park. I’ve met a lot of friends at this park and spent a lot of time here with my dad when I was a child. We do have a lot to offer, and the people of this neighborhood certainly recognize it. And as of lately it seems like the rest of the city is finally starting to recognize it too. You should check out some of the new innovative community renewal projects that are currently underway.
See you guys next week!