Archive for June, 2010

#42 – Eat a Sundae at Margie’s Candies


After watching Les Bleus crash into flames and infamy during the World Cup, the time was nigh for a trip to one of Chicago’s oldest ice cream parlors. Of course, I’m talking about Margie’s Candies which has been a Chicago mainstay and institution since 1921. It was a sweltering day and I couldn’t imagine a more refreshing snack than to pay a visit Margie’s for the first time to try the sundae.

Inside, memorabilia from days past greeted me as well as vintage furniture and decorum. Kind of like stepping into an older person’s home, trinkets from yesteryear dotted most surfaces and I was seated at a comfy booth. A cool looking jukebox sat affixed to the booth, but I didn’t bother to check if it actually worked!

Sitting in my booth, I looked at the gargantuan menu of ice cream and dessert treats. There was a $30 super mega ice cream sundae on the menu, but I didn’t have the manpower or backup to tackle that beast. I decided on a chocolate sundae and listened while two older southern women marveled at the menu with the same anticipation. The women decided on sundaes all the same and all of a sudden, this dropped onto the table:

Two scoops of chocolate bliss stood staring at me. Some hot fudge was ready to go while the nuts and the whipped cream made this classic chocolate sundae a monstrous snack. Margie’s was nice and cool inside and the ice cream let me escape from the reckless heat outside. The peanuts added an extra layer of texture and I couldn’t help dabbing my vanilla wafer cookie all over my sundae to scoop up every last bit of tastiness. For less than $10 I was transported into a magic wonderland even without needing anyone to keep me company. It was a delightful dessert and I can’t wait to try again!

New Ideas from the RedEye / Metromix Tweetup


(Source: Metromix Chicago)

One of the finest qualities of a good old fashioned tweetup is that you’re always able to get in touch with a large mass of people, all with divergent opinions, ideas, experience, and expertise. This effect is amplified when you attend a RedEye Metromix party since everyone is out and about and some of the most social beasts in the city. At the recent RedEye / Metromix tweetup at Goose Island, I got to sample some Hefe-Hawks-Win and Big Buff Ale. I also got to sample some of the encyclopedic knowledge of bars, restaurants, and the arts that accompanies the people who come to RedEye / Metromix tweetups. I posed the question, “What would you do if you had to leave Chicago for good?”  Here were some of the answers:

Kathy, @crushgear’s childhood friend, had to complete her own bucket list before moving away recently:

1. Drinks at the Signature Room

2. Go to Second City and catch a show

3. Take the Red Line and take a picture at every stop

4. Bike to Evanston to North Avenue and back

5. Get Pho on Argyle

6. Drive from Museum Campus to Evanston on Lake Shore Drive at night.

A very eclectic mix of activities with lots of travel. The lakefront is one of my favorite courses to navigate, since I can collect Foursquare points faster than a trick or treater can collect candy. I definitely can’t knock off #4 since I’m unable to ride a bike, but I need to add learning how to ride a bike at Lake Michigan on my bucket list. The only question would be who would be brave enough to lend me a bicycle? Stopping at every stop on the Red Line also makes my CTA quest a bit more complicated. Will I take every CTA line in one day or will I stop at each one? The possibilities are endless

@staticfritz won the beer naming contest with his brilliant “Hefe-Hawks-Win!” moniker.

1. Kincaid’s $1.00 beer on Wednesdays

2. Visit the Adler Planetarium and Navy Pier

3. Go to the Modern Art Wing of the Art Institute

4. Visit the local Microbreweries – 3 Floyd’s, Metropolitan, Half Acre, Revolution Brewing, Flossmoor, Goose Island

5. $1 beer at any local bar

Being the winner of the beer naming contest, it’s no surprise that @staticfritz is likely a member of the Beer Appreciation Society. While I have gone to Kincaid’s for $1.00, it’s been awhile and a visit back to amateur hour might be well warranted. Visiting the local microbreweries is definitely on the horizon with 3 Floyds at the top of the list. $1 beer at a local bar is feasible, but I miss the days of 25¢ beer at My Bar that no longer exists.

@CokeHat was wearing a straw hat like myself and I got to pick his brain for some bucket list ideas:

1. Grab a slice of Pizzeria Due

2. Dance to real house at Green Dolphin in the Boom Boom Room

3. Eat a Skyway Dog

4. Eat a Rainbow Cone at 92nd & Western

5. Visit Haunted Trails minigolf off of Harlem.

I love exploring the south side and usually like to line up a few things when I go deep, deep into the south side. The south side is still a part of Chicago and I’m sure there are plenty of people from the south side who don’t venture to the north side on any regular basis. I guess I am a bit south side shy since I don’t know too many people who live down there and don’t know which neighborhoods are safe vs. crazy dangerous. @CokeHat’s ideas are delicious for the foodie in me.

After the tweetup ended, @torihatesyou drove @ErnestWilkins@henjealy@trendyrende, one other guy, and myself from Goose Island to Messner’s. We had to cut our way through Boystown then chugged along through Wrigleyville right after the Cubs game.@torihatesyou displayed her driving mastery while Chicagoans did their best to impede our way. Eventually, we ended up at Messner’s with replay of Uruguay’s slaughtering of South Africa in the background. After awhile, @ErnestWilkins left the bar, Grandma @henjealy had to go to bed, and I decided to bounce too.

Unfortunately, I left the bar and walked a few blocks away before realizing that I had left my backpack in the bar! Fearing losing my darts and camera, I rushed back to find it where I left it – under the table. I had forgotten to ask anyone at Messner’s about their ideas on what is cool to check out in Chicago, so I got a quick rundown.

@letspotteryyall’s list:

1. Get a Whoopski Dog at Superdawg

2. Go swim in Lake Michigan

3. Take a class at Lill Street on Montrose

4. Eat pizza at Spacca Napoli by Sunnyside & Ravenswood and Lou Malnati’s in Lincolnwood

5. Eat Harold’s Chicken Shack on Milwaukee, then have a bacon party

There are some interesting food combinations such as Harold’s Chicken Shack and a bacon party. I don’t know what a bacon party would entail, but it does sound like there would be plenty of crispy bacon. I suppose those with a deathwish should do the deadly daily double of Harold’s Chicken directly followed by bacon! I have definitely had a Superdawg before, but never this Whooski dog. I have set foot in the old Lill Studio and like clay, but haven’t had a chance to try real pottery before.

Finally, former art auctioneer, @trendyrende gave her suggestions for the Chicago Bucket List:

1. Go to Wrigley Field for a ballgame

2. Head to the 59th Street Art Fair

3. Go to Clarke’s for a milkshake and pancakes

4. Catch independent improv at Playground Theatre

5. Find the Mark Chagall paintings in Chicago

The arts seems to be high on the list of things to do with an art fair, improv show, and Marc Chagall. Unfortunately for me, the 59th Street Art Fair was June 5-6th (DOH!). Sixty-two years in the make and I’ll have to catch its sixty-third incarnation next year. I’m a little bit overwhelmed with all of the ideas that everyone’s put together and how to get them all done. Luckily, summer’s just beginning with the solstice on Monday and I have plenty of time for adventuring!

Until next time, friends!

#13 – Throw a Lakefront BBQ


Staring at the doppler radar report all morning, Accuweather and were no match for the almighty power of the National Weather Service. The thunder boomed and rain fell but I held firm in my resolve to throw a Memorial Day lakefront barbecue. Some friends tried to persuade me earlier in the weekend that the rain would be terrible on Monday but my main dilemma was which was worse: throwing a BBQ in the rain or changing plans at the last minute? Given that over two dozen  people had skin in the game with their Facebook RSVP, I decided that throwing a BBQ in the rain would be better than telling everyone to swap out plans.

The rain and thunder came down and I loaded up a cooler and cooler bag with beer and meat, a backpack full of utensils, and another bag full of blankets. One of my best friends was a bit hesitant to come help set up but he was a good sport and found my grill and we loaded up his car with all of the gear. On the drive to the lakefront there was the unceasing rain making me uneasy, but this is what we signed up for.

Seeing so many people already out at the lake made me feel better about dragging everything out in the rain for a good old American barbecue. Families pitched up tents and canopies while we started unloading all of our gear under an unclaimed tree. The rain was a light drizzle and the text message bombardment ensued. Some people let me know via text that there was too much rain to consider going out, others asked how many people would actually show up for a rain-filled barbecue. My response was always the same: these were the times that tried mens souls, a direct challenge on our personal resolve and we would triumph over the human condition!

Given our limited resources, we tied a tarp to a tree but didn’t have enough rope to tie all four corners. We MacGuyered a solution and used a public garbage can as a support structure for our ill-begotten tarp. While the tarp was limited in its effectiveness, it was way better than nothing. There was a comedy to it, especially while we were envying the other groups that had canopies, other tarps, and giant tents. Most other people were already grilling meat and we were a step behind but that didn’t pose too much of a problem given that the rain got worse and there weren’t that many people there.

A few more friends showed up and we huddled under umbrellas and the tarp. I started checking the doppler and the storm moved too slowly for anyone to be optimistic about the prospects of improved weather conditions. I’m sure my friends were hungry, but we didn’t want to do anything about it until the rain relented a bit. The police drove by more than several times looking for illegal activity and likely were also trying to slap on extra parking tickets in the parking lot. Our morale was low, but our resolve high as we were determined to ride out the storm.

The change in weather also brought in a change in luck. While the rain decided that it was tired of us, a kid from one of the families under the canopy came over suspiciously and told us that his family brought too much stuff and they wouldn’t be able to load the canopy back into their car. The deal seemed too good to be true, so I asked, “How much do you want for it?”

“$10,” he answered.

Faster than he could finish his sentence, I dug out ten singles from my wallet and gave it to him. Someone else offered to pay for the canopy and someone else gave him another $2, but I declared, “Deal!” and we got him his $10. The family packed up their gear and we kept an eye on the canopy to see if they would actually leave it. The tables, chairs, and grill were gone and we swooped in under our much bigger canopy providing maximum protection from the rain. While the canopy was slightly broken, it wasn’t anything some duct tape couldn’t fix up.

Ironically, after I bought the canopy the rain stopped and we were able to break open the grill. Some delicious steaks were popped onto the grill with some burgers and hot dogs and people emerged from the woodwork ready to eat, drink, and play. Some delicious mango salsa arrived while we munched on tortilla chips, buffalo kettle chips, and ate food off the grill. More families arrived to the lakefront and the sun finally broke through. We ate some marinated shrimp and jerk chicken while soaking in the rays and having a great time celebrating Memorial Day.

Was the juice worth the squeeze? While I sit here with a wicked cold probably gained from standing in the rain a bit too long, there are few things better than grilling delicious food on the lake with good friends. I will always remember that raggedy tarp we hung on the tree and the family that hijacked it after we abandoned it for a bit too long. Rain or shine, Chicago lakefront BBQs are where it’s at!

More on the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam


One of the things I enjoy about The Chicago Bucket List is getting reader feedback and expanding my knowledge on Chicago. One reader has been kind enough to share his insights and give us a broader view of the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam and what it stands for:

“In 2004, approximately a dozen burners gathered one evening to celebrate a friend’s birthday who lived in the area, by having a pig roast and doing a little fire spinning. The local police arrived soon after…and once they realized we were good people who meant no harm, we were actually ENCOURAGED by the beat officers to return; at that time nobody went to the lakefront after dark, as that area was rather gang-infested. The police felt that such a fire jam would bring more people into the area, and discourage the gang activity. So, the decision was made to come back every full moon the weather would allow, and the Full Moon Fire Jams were off and running.  Ever since, the size of the jams have grown exponentially every year. What started out as a small group of twelve people has now grown into the jam you witnessed last week, with well over 700 people in attendance! 🙂

As the size of the jams has grown, so too have the organizational and safety efforts been stepped up – the caution tape and solar lights are a relatively new development. The overall “ethics” behind the Full Moon Fire Jams come directly from The Burning Man Festival in Nevada; namely:

radical self-expression
radical self-reliance
respect/protect the community
ask first
leave no trace.”

This reader has shed light on one of the most uniques events that you’ll get to see on the lakefront on full moons during the year. The Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam does not support the public consumption of alcohol and respectfully asks that any spectators leave all alcohol away from the Fire Jam. Being a lifelong Chicagoan, sometimes a mentality is developed that having a great time necessarily includes overexuberance, but I would have to agree here that drinking and breaking the law is not what the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam stands for. If you plan on attending the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam in June, please do not bring alcohol or any other contraband. After all, how would you feel if you were the one responsible for putting an end to this amazing display of skill and artistry?

#38 The Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam


Being on short rest and typing away at the laptop, I received a text message from a friend telling me that there was a full moon fire jam at Foster Beach from sunset to 10:30pm.

“What’s a fire jam?” I texted.

“Google it,” my friend fired back.

Googling it directed me to the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam website with a full calendar of fire jams for the remainder of the year. Pretty cool stuff, I remember the first time I witnessed fire spinners at a fundraiser organized by the Leftist Lounge where there were amazing bellydancers, capoeira performers, and fire spinners. I still remember that fundraiser since it was the best entertainment I’d seen in years and I think if you live in Chicago long enough, you’re going to run into fire spinners. Even with the precautionary safety measures taken by the fire spinners, from the outsider’s perspective, it always looks like someone’s going to loose grip and throw fire at you.

Given the spectacle and the fact that I hadn’t seen a friend since he packed for LA, I jumped at the opportunity despite severely short sleep and hopped on the bus. On the bus, there were people talking about the fire jam, but I found them to be a bit off kilter since they were missing a few teeth. They decided that they would wait ten minutes for the bus to round about from Foster and Broadway to Foster and Sheridan. I got off the bus and beat them to the lake, but didn’t see any fire jam.  Another friend decided to meet me down at Foster Beach and we started walking down the astroturfed soccer field. The flickering through the trees and the sound of drums was enough to let us know we were in the right place. Conveniently, someone had already put in the fire jam as a foursquare location and I checked in for an ungodly amount of points after my marathon day.

We walked into a crowd, and people were dancing to the beat of Djembes and trombone and trumpet. The fire constantly flickered from afar, but as we approached the flames transformed to giant arcs of instant combustion. Some people sat, others leaned closely to snap pictures and many a flash went off trying to capture every moment. Unlike most crowded venues and concerts, I had no hard time getting to the caution tape line that surrounded the fire spinners and was happy to not find stiff elbows as my reward. Some people brought their kids while others were in wheelchairs and the diversity of Chicago shined at the fire jam. In the distance, aspiring fire spinners took turns spinning hula hoops while still dancing.

Spinner after spinner lit their poles, bolos, and hoops and as quickly as the fire jam appeared, it was gone. Chants of, “Leave no trace!” filled the air and people picked up their garbage, bags, chairs, and started dispersing. The moon finally made its appearance over the treeline and the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam made a new fan. Next round about, I will make sure to bring others to indulge in the spectacle of highly skilled fire spinners.