Italian Beef Crawl 2014!

2014
10.05
Italian Beef Crawl 2014 is HERE!

Italian Beef Crawl 2014 is HERE!

Italian Beef Crawl 2014 is upon us.  What is Italian Beef Crawl?  It is a tour de force of beer and beef stretching across the city on a magical 8 hour tour. Included with this year’s invitation:

1 t-shirt to commemorate Italian Beef Crawl 2014

1/2 a beef sandwich at 4 beef restaurants

Beer at every bar on the beef crawl

Beer on the bus

Bus transportation from 12pm-8pm

Voting scorecards for the beefs of the day

Without further ado, here are the selected locales for this year’s beef crawl!

ROUTE

12:00pm-1:00pm: Five Star Bar – $2 PBR

1:30pm:                   Johnny’s Beef

1:45pm-3:15pm:    Phil’s Sports Bar

3:30pm:                 Mr. Beef & Pizza

3:45pm-5:15pm:   O’Malley’s Pub $12 Domestic Buckets

5:30pm:                  Marco’s Beef & Pizza

5:45pm-7:15pm:   The Question Mark $1.75 Domestic Drafts

7:45pm:                  Jay’s Beef (North Ave)

8:00pm:                 Two Way Lounge

COST

Please bring $55 to cover the cost of Italian Beef 2014.  We’ll meet on October 18th and get this show on the road.

Please note this post is not an open invite – if you have registered for Italian Beef Crawl through Brion Coughlin, Kurt Magnuski, or An Phan, you are good to go.

May the beef be with you!

The Great Chicago Fire Festival Recap

2014
10.05

The Great Chicago Fire Festival took place last night on an unseasonably cool night marked with the third earliest snowfall in Chicago history.  This artistic homage to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 featured buildings on floating platforms and much anticipation for a flaming tour de force that fell flat in its execution.

Arriving to Wacker Ave. at 7pm, chaos reigned as onlookers gathered on the Lower Wacker Riverwalk and the various bridges.  Security and police tried to clear spectators from the bridges due to safety concerns as fireworks were scheduled to begin later in the evening but the police changed their mind.  This left me to fight my way down to Lower Wacker Drive where all of the prime viewing spots had already been taken.  People lined up precariously on stairwells and some resorted to standing on muddy slanted hills to try to get their vantage points.  A man with a lit up Home Run Inn Pizza placard walked around to pass out coupons to all passers and maneuvering through the endless sea of people soon became a fruitless endeavor.

Eventually we settled into a spot under Wabash Bridge only to notice that the bridges had not cleared with thousands of people still standing on them.  Was this a legitimate safety threat?  Had police and security lost all control of public safety?  All of this reminded me of the much maligned Looptopia circa 2007-2008 that was subject to the same public mass disorganization.

Eventually the PA systems turned on to announce the schedule of events and explain the backdrop of the event.  Students did help assemble these great looking floating platforms and there were various community leaders and political big wigs ready to help with the lighting of the everything.  Trendy music popped in and the narration of the history of the Chicago Fire made us remember those fateful Chicagoans who had to deal with a mean southeast wind that would set their city ablaze.

Floating Building Platform

The anticipation of the setting of the fires was met with bemusement and prolong confusion as no fires were lighting up the buildings.  Music and the audio sounds of fires popping kept repeating on the loud speakers but it was clear that a certain element was missing:  fire.  Soon the crowd burst into chants of, “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE” which reminded me of Chicago Fire chants, but no capo to lead the cheering was to be found.  Eventually an announcement was made to admit defeat and capitulation as the gatherers were informed of the electrical malfunction and that now we would be setting the fires via manual mode which inevitably meant more delays.

At this point, the crowd began to thin out as disappointed onlookers were not willing to remain braving the cold for a partial glimpse of buildings on fire.  This gave me a much better vantage point to start shooting pictures, but there wasn’t much to shoot.  From Lower Wacker, you could see Marina City Tower residents gathered on their balconies trying to catch a view of the impending flames below, but the waiting continued.

At last - a fire?

At last - a fire?

Eventually the buildings were set ablaze with much cheering and applause.  The high winds did not help with the flames and we soon realized these buildings were fizzling out, much like the spirit of the event.  At this point, a vast majority of the people started fleeing the scene in an effort to avoid the inevitable public transportation logjam that would ensue.  An announcement soon proclaimed that the fireworks show was soon to begin!

Chicago Fire Fireworks!

Chicago Fire Fireworks!

At last, something to watch with awe and to think about.  Fireworks boomed from all bridges (with people still on them) and the greatest boom came from Michigan Avenue bridge which was just a bit too far out of site.  It was a fun fireworks show to watch and even more fun to take pictures of.  Execution here was great, but the lackluster never was blaze served as a great disappointment on a personal level.  Having been to a Red Moon event before, I was expecting flawless execution and an amazing show considering the $2M spent and considerable newspaper coverage.

The purpose of the event was to unite the city with its various communities being represented as well as to draw in people from all over the city to enjoy our seldom used Riverwalk.  I commend everyone who worked hard on the event and feel terrible that the inclement weather of the last few days resulted in less than perfect execution.  The idea was thought out and the considerable effort showed and I hope for more great city events in the future.

Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo

2013
12.23
Santa Claus and His Sleigh

Santa Claus and His Sleigh

If you’ve never been to Lincoln Park Zoo, Zoo Lights provides a perfect avenue to visit the zoo after hours.  While you’ll still run into the crowds and their kids, but the zoo is a bit more subdued at night. Christmas lights line up the open parts of the zoo and you can still catch great apes napping in their straw nests, smaller lemurs and primates acrobatically jumping and swinging, and take a gander at some armadillo and bats and still manage to buy yourself a popcorn.

Green Plastic Gorilla Mold: $2

Green Plastic Gorilla Mold: $2

The highlight of my trip was recovering a long lost childhood relic.  Once receiving this fine toy as a youngster, I remember the plastic smell of the gorilla statue.  Seeing this, I could not turn down the opportunity to regain this relic for a mere $2!

Would I do zoo lights again?  Yes, but with a lesser dose of rain and cold and maybe a pair of boots.


Spring is here!

2013
05.19

It’s always funny to me when people ask me what I did this weekend.  Maybe every weekend I will just post what I go out and do and then the question can finally be put to bed.

Step 1: Friday Afternoon Dim Sum at Minghin

No pictures here, we all know that the best dish on the entire menu in this Chinatown gem is the crispy Macau pork belly.  Taking out a college chum to grab some, it dawned on me that some parts of the country have no dim sum.  It is for this reason that I always take inventory and count my blessings for living in Chicago!

Step 2: Stop for a drink at Whistler

A Bentonhurst, if you would please

A Bentonhurst, if you would please

Fancy cocktails are never out of style at this Logan Square hotspot.  There were no servers on a Friday night but the dim lit room made it feel like an old school speakeasy.  We had a reggae show to go to so we had to skip out before the DJ hit the decks.

Step 3: Have a pitcher of Old Style at Two Way Lounge

The fancy cocktails were good, but my old college chum needed to meet the National Bohemian of the Midwest: Old Style.  I considered drinking only a pint for $2, but a pitcher was much more enticing.  We downed that pitcher and headed back towards Township.

Step 4: Catch Drop Steady at Township

Drop Steady

Drop Steady

Local music in Chicago is as rich as it comes, with Drop Steady on stage and Township crawling with friends all over the place it was the place to be on Friday night.  Perched near my usual spot in front of the stage I shot pictures and danced with the rest of the crowd.  Serious craft beer and some shots of whiskey rounded off the night.

Step 5: Saturday night: Start a photo project

Settin' up the shots

Settin' up the shots

If you’re going to sit around recovering from the previous night’s damage, make sure to find a buddy who will get you back up and rolling.  Practicing our night shooting, @MunicipalAgent quickly convinced me that I am in desperate need of a tripod.  If you pursue any hobby, I highly recommend finding experts way better than you are to help perfect your craft.  Our south side adventure netted us some pics and I am sure Luke’s will blow mine away.

Step 6: Sunday Morning – Go to the Globe Pub and Root for Arsenal!

Down to the last game of the Premiership season, I was not a good fan this season and stayed on the sidelines watching many a game from home.  I ended up going to the most crowded football bar in Chicago and ended up at the Globe for the game without a beer in hand for the entirety of the match.  Arsenal fans were in full force, loudly cheering and singing on Arsenal holding down 4th place for the season ensuring Champions League qualification for the 16th straight year while rival Tottenham’s season went down in flames into Europa League.

Step 7: BBQ and Crawfish Boil at Toon’s

BBQ BBQ BBQ

BBQ BBQ BBQ

Most people in Chicago are lucky if they have a friend with a grill who’s willing to cook some food up on the weekend.  I’d say you’re really, really fortunate if you’ve got some friends who are experts at using a smoker and invite you on over.  Feasting on some smoked chicken, smoked brisket, hot links and some delicious BBQ sauce, I them remembered there was some crawfish to smash open!

Chicago Crawfish Boil

Chicago Crawfish Boil

If you are ever looking for a crawfish boil in Chicago, Toon’s is the place to be: accept no imitiations!  Dollar for dollar and flavor for flavor you will end up on the winning side and satisfied with crawfish from the best!  Danny has been cooking up crawfish at Toon’s for the last 14 years.  Memorial Day is your next chance for a crawfish boil!

Step 8: Concrete custard at Scooter’s

Mocha. Snicker. Madness.

Mocha. Snicker. Madness.

Dessert?  Dessert!  Scooter’s Frozen Custard in Roscoe Village stands as a marvel in desserts.  With the oppressive sun melting my soul away, I was encouraged by seeing a small crowd of children, parents, dogs, and thirsty people standing outside and enjoying an ice cold custard from Scooter’s.  Perusing the menu a combination of Vanilla custard, mocha, and Snickers sounded like the perfect way to cool off after a BBQ.  We sat inside and were able to grab some water while our custards quickly were assembled ready to nosh!  Life seemed so much better in the air conditioning watching the other folks outside melt away.

The just about wraps up my weekend.  I truly, dearly wanted to go to Lakeview Mayfest, however I will save my money for the real German Maifest up in Lincoln Square!!!

Sit in the Bleachers at Wrigley

2013
05.02
Right Field Bleachers

Right Field Bleachers

On a warm spring night there are few better places than finding yourself in the bleachers at Wrigley Field and hanks to @DreFlair, I got some free tickets!  With a cool breeze you’ll find few more entertaining baseball experiences no matter where your baseball allegiances may lie. I’ve been going to the bleachers since the massive heatwave of 1995 when the temperature hit 106 and sweat stains could be seen on the faded bleachers.  Since then, the @cubs have built more seating, added a Toyota sign, a lounge in center field, and made the line for getting a wristband longer than the line to Hot Doug’s.

Despite these things, here’s why I love going to the bleachers:

The view

The view

When you’re watching baseball on TV, the view is always from the center field cameras.  Behind the mound, you get to see where the catcher is setting up, if a runner is out or safe, and catch when the bullpen is warming up.  Watching the outfielders shift every so often lets you know where they think the ball is going to go.  I love taking pictures from the bleachers!

You can try to feed the players

You can try to feed the players

For whatever reason, Cubs fans make no sense.  Half come to the game unprepared to pay any attention, while the vast majority drink until they can’t think, throwing food and sometimes drenching players in a cold cup of beer.  Whether you are a diehard fan of baseball who shudders to think of missing a play or someone more interested in tweeting on the ignorance of the fans all game, you’ll nary find a crowd that reacts with no sense of logic in baseball.

Fans with a deathwish

DO NOT DO THE WAVE AT WRIGLEY

Call me old school, but back in the day Cubs fans prided themselves that the Wave did not and could not happen in Wrigley.  You save that nonsense for the other foo-foo ballparks around the country.  In the past three games I’ve gone to I’ve seen one wave go through the stadium umpteen times, at another game a set of fools attempted the Wave and were shouted down, and last night’s Wave which stopped as soon as it went up. Totally unacceptable fan behavior.

Maximum leg room in the latter innings

Maximum leg room in the latter innings

If the Cubs are losing heavily, you’ll have no trouble finding that extra legroom you’ve always dreamed about. Fans trickle out each inning as the Cubs will likely face another 100-loss season.  As the “L’s” start piling up, you can rest assured that new seats will open up after the seventh inning stretch.

The bleachers are as glorious as they are obnoxious.  Regardless of the circumstance, I would make sure to stop for a bleacher game if I ever had to leave Chicago for good.