So, this happened earlier this morning. A huge sinkhole in Chicago. Lots of flooding around the area today. Stay safe, people!
Let me tell you what an Instameet is. It’s a gathering of a group of people who share a common interest, in this case, Instagram. What do we do with this common interest? We take to the streets and capture art, people, buildings, etc. We then upload our photos to Instagram and share them with the world. In Chicago, we have instameets at least once a month. Friends and strangers gather together and capture the beauty of this architecturally amazing city. Kind of geeky you say? I say, bring on the geeks!
This month’s instameet took place in a part of the city known at Streeterville.
We spent a good amount of time on our walk admiring and photographing a Chicago landmark, Prentice Women’s Hospital, which is unfortunately slated for demolition.
If you’re an instagram-er yourself, search hashtag #igcprentice to view all of the photos of Prentice that have been uploaded from our meet-up (plus other uploads from the walk).
Here are some of my other creatively edited photos from the instameet:
After our walk around Streeterville, some of us went to Sable Kitchen & Bar. It was my first time there. We had celebratory birthday drinks with a fellow IGer and all-around laughs and a good time. After drinks, we made our way over to Club Lago for an amazing Italian dinner. Now, this is a restaurant I will most definitely return to.
Stay tuned for more instameet goodness! I rather like wandering aimlessly around Chicago with friends and strangers.
It’s very common for me to hang out in and around Wrigleyville. I’m a Cubs fan. I go to shows at Metro. It’s always just been a really familiar area to me. Before Derek and his wife moved into town, they were here for a visit and we found ourselves over on Clark Street after enjoying a cocktail at the top of the Hancock. It was during that visit to Uncommon Ground that I recall pointing out my sister-in-law’s old apartment above the The Piano Man and telling them how her German Shepherd escaped from her apartment and ran down Clark Street…during rush hour. That story still cracks me up.
But I digress. Uncommon Ground has since become a common place for us to end up when we’re in the Wrigleyville area. They’ve got a nice selection of local craft beers and I’ve come to learn that they grow their vegetables and herbs in their organic roof top garden over on Devon (Uncommon Ground’s second location). From what I gather, they are the country’s first certified organic roof top farm. Ya learn something new every day. You can check out more of Uncommon Ground’s “Green” efforts here.
So, as you can see, I’m pretty stoked on this uncommon find in a common area. I look forward to visiting the Devon location in addition to more patio hangs at the Clark location.
*Also, we were Uncommon Ground’s 1000th Twitter follower. Score!
I grew up with coffee as an ever present beverage in the hands of my great grandmother, grandparents, and my father. It was with coffee that you started the day and often what kept you going. I had my first cup around ten or eleven years old and have been drinking it ever since. It wasn’t until my first year in college that I began to see coffee as something more than a quick pick me up or a black liquid inside a ceramic mug beside my breakfast. A friend introduced me to coffee made in a French press. The process of heating the water, grinding and steeping the beans, and then the physical press of the device was incredibly captivating. I can’t say how or why, but it was. It was in that friend’s apartment, on that fall evening that I can point to as the turning point for my relationship with coffee.
I am slightly older now and my understanding of coffee is that it is not a commodity that is made and disposed of in under seven minutes. Rather, it is an artisanal craft with varieties of growing methods, roasts, brewing devices, and social structures that reside within. In recent years there has been a movement in the coffee industry referred to as the “Third Wave” where coffee growers, buyers, and roasters are elevating the status of coffee in the public sphere. Intelligentsia are one of the big three shops in the United States that have been doing a large part in this elevation of coffee. No pun intended.
Chicago is fortunate enough to have four Intelligentsia locations. One in Millennium Park on Randolph and Wabash, one on Broadway, one inside the Monadnock Building, and most recently inside the Merchandise Mart on the Near North Side. While I have only visited two of them, the Broadway and Millennium Park locations, I am confident that the quality of the coffee and level of service at the other two are equal. The Millennium Park location is one that sees a lot of foot traffic and seems to have a faster work pace due to its location in the bustling Loop. Intelligentsia on Broadway has a much more relaxed feel thanks to the rustic, wooded decor which contrasts the Millennium Park location’s slick, modern look.
Design and decor are great, but, a coffee shop is nothing without quality, delicious tasting coffee and Intelligentsia delivers. With single origin, seasonal offerings from Panama to Mexico and blended roasts like “El Diablo” and their “Sugar Glider” espresso. But, let us not forget that drinking the coffee is the last step in a far reaching process. While you wait for your coffee to be served to you, you can watch the baristas craft your drink. Their fluidity and proficiency behind the espresso machine is inspiring to a nerd like myself. The calmness with which they brew using a Chemex or a Hario V60 dripper (the manual equivalents to a Mr. Coffee drip pot) gives me insight, just by watching, on how I can improve my brewing technique when I’m at home. Intelligentsia is accessible to patrons of all types, from the chronic Starbucks drinker to police officers and business persons. It feels like a safe space where you can enjoy your drink, converse with your friends or do work and not have to worry about anything hindering you from enjoying your day.
By now, you may be asking yourself “yeah, but how does the coffee taste?” Well, I can answer that. In one word? Great. In many words? Well, I can start saying that this or that coffee has notes of blueberry, bergamot, or honey, but I won’t bore you with that in this post. Intelligentsia has coffee making down to a science, as well as an art form. Every cup has the right balance of water to coffee and is given to you at a temperature that doesn’t force you to set it on the table and wait a few minutes to take your first sip. If you like it black or with soy or whole milk, you will be pleased with what what you ordered, whether it comes out of a demitasse or a cappuccino cup. If you especially like what you sat down and sipped, you can ask the staff what beans were used and you can more than likely purchase a bag for yourself to take home.
Each location is easily accessible by car or a number of CTA options. In my opinion, it is definitely a place that helps prop up the local coffee scene, among a heap of other shops and small roasters. They are a great resource for learning about the coffee process thanks to their tours and barista classes at their roasting works on West Fulton. If you are interested in coffee in any form, Intelligentsia is the perfect place to start because of its fair pricing, accessibility and instant familiarity.
Instead of enjoying the summer day with friends and family, I’m inside of the house hanging out with my super contagious virus. I’m very bummed about this.
There are a ton of things I could do around my house right now but, the more things I touch, the bigger the possibility is of spreading this virus. Sigh.
*Think happier thoughts*
Earlier in the week, I joined a bunch of my lady friends at a local joint up the road called OMango. I have eaten at a handful of Indian restaurants in the past, so I was somewhat familiar with the bold flavors of Indian cuisine.
I only live approximately five miles away from OMango, so the fact that I can go there, eat great food that doesn’t cost a lot, and hang out with friends who live close-by is ace.
Johanna (aka Momma Cuisine) had a little get-together at OMango. We chatted up a storm and snacked on delicious things, like, Chicken Tikka, Samosas and Naan Sticks.
I don’t think anyone at the party was too upset when they brought out the Mango Phirini (I know I wasn’t).
Goodness me. My inbox has been bombarded with domain expiration notices from the half dozen or so domains I purchased “thinking” that I was going to create an army of blogs in the AmySphere. Uh. Time and energy do not permit. I sound like a broken record, I know.
I’m bound and determined to keep this one alive. Cheers to that.
Lately, I’ve been visiting with lots of friends and checking out some new (to me) restaurants. Some, I’m looking forward to returning to and some I could care less if I ever step foot in again.
As for right now, our house guest is making me itch, so I’m off to take some allergy medicine. Do your house guests make you itch?
With 200+ square miles filled with restaurants and bars, it’s nice to have a little help from your friends on where to go. So, I’ve gone ahead and gathered recommendations from some of my friends on where they like to go in Chicago for a drink or a bite to eat, or just somewhere to enjoy the ambiance. Check out our Local’s Recommendations page to find out about the places these locals like to frequent.
Want to be featured in our next Local’s Recommendations list? Shoot us an email at: info [at] swallowthischicago [dot] com
In the years that I’ve lived in the Chicago area, I’ve had many friends and acquaintances pass through on their way to other destinations. The majority of these people have been in bands. They play at venues like: Metro, Beat Kitchen, and once upon a time, The Fireside Bowl.
One thing these friends have in common is that while they are in town, they want to know where the best places to eat are. Each has his own preference. Sometimes they want vegan, wherein, we direct them to The Chicago Diner (Check out Derek’s post about The Chicago Diner). Some want hot dogs; so we direct them to Wrigleyville Dogs. There’s something for everyone in this city. In my opinion, that’s really something to be proud of.
So, consider this the start of a new series on STC, “Where do you go in Chicago?“
Our first interview is with Ryan Rockwell from the punk band, Mixtapes from good old Cincinnati, Ohio.
STC: About how many times have you been to Chicago?
Ryan: Somewhere around 20 to 25 times
STC: Have you tried an array of different cuisines during your visits?
Ryan: I have. Pizza is mostly what I’ve had in Chicago. I generally like New York-style pizza better, but there are a few places in Chicago that have won me over. Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East, those two are pretty stiff competition. But it also depends on what they have as their special. One time I ate there, Gino’s had this cheeseburger pizza. But Lou’s has the cheese garlic bread. Basically, if you don’t feel horrible, you’re not doing it right. You don’t go there to watch your calories. You need to eat two pieces and want to die. I think Giordano’s kind of sucks. I think they need to step up their game over there.
STC: Have you decided on a favorite place to dine?
Ryan: There’s this Mexican restaurant in Logan Square, Fonda del Mar. I have been there twice. It was awesome and I’d go back again.
STC: If you could quit your band and open a restaurant in Chicago, what would be your specialty?
Ryan: It would be a grilled cheese buffet! You’d go down the line and we’d have specialty grilled cheeses from normal to with bacon or mac n cheese on top and vegan and everything. There would be sides and desserts as well, of course, but honestly why is there no grilled cheese buffet?!
STC: Not that we care, but where do you like to go out to eat in Cincinnati?
Ryan: You should care! Actually when it comes to specialty places we don’t have alot of options but I’ve learned over the years and touring that there are some amazing mom and pop places and some amazing chains. Around here we usually go to Red Robin or Cheesecake Factory, real indie, I know. Also City Barbecue and theres this Irish burger place I’m not sure if you guys have it up there, but it’s called McDonalds, they have a pretty good variety!
Today’s guest post comes from my buddy, Derek Fulmer, who currently resides in West Virginia but will be making his way back to the Chicagoland area in 2012. Derek talks about his love for The Chicago Diner and puts up a pretty convincing argument as to why we should dine there.
As a vegan who travels often throughout a given year it always seems to be a task to discover places to eat that are either distinctly vegan or vegan and vegetarian friendly. However, that task is becoming easier as more restaurants are accommodating vegans and vegetarians. Either the diet is gaining popularity or restaurants are realizing that if they are to serve a medium to large sized party, a vegan or vegetarian in that party will most likely dictate where the group dines.
It is no secret that my love for The Chicago Diner is great and that as a soon-to-be resident of Illinois and the Chicago area, I can hardly wait to have this option when dining out.
Prior to my first experience at The Chicago Diner, I had only been able to digest the entrées and deserts vicariously through friends who played in bands and came through Chicago several times a year while on tour. Hearing about the atmosphere, the wait staff, and the neighborhood, let alone the food, made me eager to visit the establishment.
The Chicago Diner offers an almost punk rock sensibility with a friendly and easy going atmosphere which combine to give you an experience unique to the area. It’s menu, which offers what can be classified as “American” dishes features intelligent takes on classic dishes like veggie burgers, fries, shakes, and cakes and pies.
In the Summer of 2010, my wife and I were in town visiting friends and family and eating at The Chicago Diner was most likely the first thing written in our agenda when even planning the trip three months prior. We each chose their “Buddha’s Karma Burger” which consisted of a curry-tofu and sweet potato patty, lettuce, tomato, a mango-pineapple sauce and either avocado or vegan cheese, with a side of sweet potato fries. Many nay sayers of the vegan diet will tout that fake cheeses and burger spin offs (i.e.- the veggie burger and its spin offs) can never match the taste, texture, or experience of a real beef hamburger, and they would be right about that. However, I think that is the point. These dishes are supposed to be distinctly different from any other restaurant, vegetarian or not. The Chicago Diner and its tag line, “Meat Free Since ’83” has cultivated a menu all its own, and is one they should be proud of. It is easily at the forefront of meat-free Chicago eateries.
The bottom line is that it’s about food, and the food is good at The Chicago Diner. With a great beer selection, any combination you can think of is sure to win you over whether you are first timer or a repeat customer. What’s even more impressive is the sense of community that they foster within their walls. 2011 marks the twenty-ninth year that The Chicago Diner has offered a veggie-friendly Thanksgiving dinner.
They take reservations and offer a bountiful spread for those who attend. This kind of bringing of people together, especially during one of the biggest American holidays of the year, is a testament to their willingness to include and engage their customers, who are ever loyal, in their environment of hospitality and alternative dietary habits. The Chicago Diner is a must for any city dweller or visitor of Chicago. If you have never experienced vegetarian fare, this is the place to start.
One day in April of 2007, I received a phone call from an old friend. The voice on the other end of the line said something like, “I’m in town. Let’s meet up.”
I gathered the troop and soon we were city bound. The troop, at that time, consisted of me, Eric and an eighteen month old Hailey.
We decided to go to Vong’s Thai Kitchen (or, VTK, if you will). We had heard good things.
Forgive me, I just can’t recall every detail of the evening. My memory is a bit fuzzy, as it’s been almost four years since that night.
However. I do remember one incident that evening.
The “giving the 18 month old a spoonful of Wasabi sauce because she’ll eat anything” incident.
So, there we were. The six of us. At this hip, somewhat pricey, yet delicious, Thai restaurant.
We were seated. Things were going well. We were having a nice conversation with our friend and his two co-workers (who, by the way, we had met several minutes prior).
Then, we decided to show off our cool toddler who will eat anything. Anything. Even spicy Thai food, or so we thought.
She willingly took a sip of Wasabi sauce off of the silver spoon we used to feed it to her. Our company was impressed. ”Wow.” They must have thought. “This kid WILL eat anything!”
Our kid. She was awesome.
She started bubbling. From her mouth. Bubble after bubble after bubble. Like the kind of bubbles you see when you dump an entire bottle of soap down the drain and let the water run over it and the bubbles just keep coming and coming and coming.
And then, gagging. She started gagging.
Oh shit. She’s going to throw up. She’s going to throw up in front of my friend and his co-workers who are in town on a business trip and ohmygod, my kid is going to throw up all over the table at this nice Thai restaurant!
Then, there was that awkward moment of awkwardness and the, “Uh, er, so how’s the weather out where YOU live?” saved-by-the-awkward-conversation, conversation. You know, the one where everyone pretends like they didn’t see a thing.
NOTHING TO SEE HERE! MOVE ALONG! (in the words of Officer Barbrady)
We all lived happily ever after.
Oh, I suppose you want to know what happened to the kid?
She ended up being fine. She’s 6 years old now and is as healthy as a horse. She’s not a big fan of Wasabi sauce, but she does like dipping carrots into peanut butter and watching Monday night football!
Moral of this story: Take your kid to the circus. Don’t put your kid in the circus.
Note: Vong’s Thai Kitchen served its last bowl of Wasabi sauce sometime in the winter of 2009. We don’t think the mouth-bubbling toddler incident had anything to do with the restaurant’s demise.
Bummer, too. We really liked that place.
*Thanks to Joey for recently reminding me of this incident.