Starbucks Chicago Roastery a coffee wonderland

By Elisa Shoenberger

At 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15th, Starbucks Chicago Roastery opened as a temple dedicated to all things coffee. Each facet, from the architecture to food offerings, is a celebration of the exalted coffee bean. 

It’s the “best experiential retail you’ll see anywhere,” guest speaker and Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal said. The new store honored the former location of the Crate and Barrel flagship that was designed to be an experience for its customers.

Visitors appear to be filled with wonder as they enter the largest Starbucks in the world. Eyes are drawn to the 56-foot golden cask filled with roasted coffee. It soars up several stories with “symphony piping” shooting roasted coffee to the many bars and coffee stations throughout the store. 

“If you want to come in and just look and grab your coffee, that’s fantastic. But if you want to dig down on coffee and learn everything, then we’re here for that too,” said Marc Wanless, Director of Global Operations, Roasteries at Starbucks. 

Throughout the day, employees roast 25 pound batches of coffee beans that are loaded into the giant cask. All coffee roasted, Wanless explained, was exclusive to the Roastery Chicago location.

By following the cask and symphony piping to the upper floors, visitors will find more than the average Starbucks cup of coffee. There is a holiday special, a three-layered “Pistachio bicerin” at Experiential Coffee Bar on the third floor and exclusive Chicago cocktails infused with Starbucks or Teavana flavors at the fourth-floor bar.

There’s even a station dedicated to whiskey barrel aged coffee where green coffee is put into Knob Creek whiskey barrels, Starbucks partner Shiami Ranasinghe said. 

And as a final nod to the process of coffee, the backstairs feature a five story mural of a coffee harvest by Chicago artist Eulojio Ortega.

While this Roastery is devoted to all aspects of coffee, it’s also a celebration of all things Chicago. The location uses local distilleries for the cocktails and works with Chicago-based chocolatier Uzma Sharif to pair her chocolates with coffee.  

There’s a love letter on the fourth floor of the building with the line: “This Roastery honors all of these years of beautiful coffee in this beautiful city. A shrine to coffee, and a celebration of all we have done and will do here together. Thank you, Chicago.”

“Drink sir, is a great provoker”: Drunk Shakespeare delivers unpredictable laughs

by Doug Rapp

Behind an unmarked door on Wabash Street on a narrow stage, actor Courtney Rikki Green downs four shots of whiskey.

She isn’t fighting stage fright—this is part of the show.

Welcome to Drunk Shakespeare, a self-proclaimed drinking club with a Shakespeare problem. The small troupe performs one of his plays with a twist: one actor is drinking. A lot. 

The chosen actor takes four shots before the show, then two more during the performance in a space modeled to look like a hidden library speakeasy. 

“It’s taking a fresh look at Shakespeare and playing with it and letting people know that it’s approachable,” resident director Kathleen Coombs said.

At two recent performances of Macbeth, Courtney Rikki Green imbibed 12 shots of whiskey throughout the night while playing Macduff, Macbeth’s nemesis.

Drunk Shakespeare mainly sticks to the plot but allows plenty of room for improvisation. The actors, including Elizabeth Rentfro and Chelsea David, faithfully recite monologues while breaking into contemporary songs (Radiohead’s “Creep”), pulling audience members on stage or bringing out a birthday cake for actor Jordan Golding, who played Macbeth.  

Thomas Toles is the host, or “designated plot driver” as he calls it.

“I’m there to keep the story somewhat on track and also enable [the actors] at any moment to be their worst selves,” he said.

Green, for her part, held up remarkably well. She did drink hot sauce on stage, made a puppet do inappropriate things and poke Golding in sensitive areas with props, but returned to form to deliver her lines when needed.

“The alcohol helps so much,” Green said. “I’m into it.”

Before joining Drunk Shakespeare, she said the idea of drinking before a performance was unthinkable.

“Now, I’m like ‘Yes!’ That is how I unlock and unfurl and uncover the best parts of my acting ability,” Green said.

Coombs said alcohol helps the actors’ improv, allowing surprises and discoveries for a unique show each time. It all dovetails with Chicago’s reputation as the mecca of improv.

“I think it’s a really great fit for Chicago,” Coombs said. “We’re a theater town, an improv town and a town that loves drinking and having fun.”

Toles said drinking makes Shakespeare more relatable. High school English teachers have told him they wish they could bring classes to see what makes Shakespeare “so special and interesting and fun.” The show is 21 and over.

The diverse audiences at the frequently sold-out shows are approaching Shakespeare from various angles, Toles said.

“That’s a nice feeling when you get the nerdy Shakespeare fan and the jock from the frat house and they both are invested,” he said. “That’s so cool.”

“It’s a unique beast of a show that is truly unlike anything in Chicago,” Green added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, binge drinking (having 4 or more drinks within 2 hours) has serious health risks such as strokes, liver disease, various cancers plus memory and learning problems (like forgetting lines from MacBeth).

Drunk Shakespeare performs Wednesday through Sunday at 182 N. Wabash Ave. Visit drunkshakespeare.com for showtimes and tickets.

Going green with Circuit ridesharing

By Stephanie Racine

With Mayor Lightfoot’s new proposal on taxing solo rideshares, Circuit is a new viable option.

Circuit is a free and green rideshare company that made their debut in Chicago over the summer. New Eastside is a popular stop. The cars resemble shuttles, with each of the six passengers having their own door. The vehicles are fully electric and are hailed just like other rideshare companies, by using an app. Circuit has almost completed its pilot period in downtown Chicago and is winding down in November, but the company has no plans to leave.

“By no means do we want to leave Chicago. We’d love to be there full time,” said Circuit Co-Founder Alexander Esposito.

Circuit is looking for new ad partners for Chicago, but ideally they’d like to operate in Chicago by working with the city itself.

“We’re hoping to secure a longer-term service agreement with the City, local transit agencies or another local organization,” said Esposito.

In San Diego, there are 22 Circuit cars in operation with around 21,000 rides a month. Chicago’s ridesharing numbers are much larger than that, with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning reporting 286,000 rideshare rides per day. 

Esposito said they want to help with downtown congestion by making Circuit easily accessible at parking garages. They also want to help promote public transportation use.

“If more people could get a ride to the train, I think more people would use public transportation,” Esposito said.

According to Co-Founder James Mirras, there was a trend of Circuit customers using the app to get to and from the Washington/Wells CTA station.

“I was visiting family in the suburbs and used Circuit to get from the Metra to an appointment I had,” said Ana Ayrempour.

Ayrempour was surprised at how smooth the process was, especially with it being a free service.

“It was a quick pickup and the driver was nice,” said Ayrempour.  

Circuit employs drivers full-time and wants to focus on having local people driving their cars. Esposito thinks this helps bring a more comfortable feel to the experience.

“I’ve seen a driver taking time to teach an older woman how to use the app,” Esposito said.

Circuit was started by Esposito and his partner, James Mirras, as a beach shuttle in the Hamptons in New York, and was originally called The Free Ride. Now, Circuit has grown in different cities—both big and small. South Florida, Texas, California, and the Jersey Shore currently have Circuit.

For more information and to download the app, visit thefreeride.com

New Eastside seniors stay active and grateful

by Mat Cohen

No matter how many times you’ve been through it, the winter months never get easier.

Despite the weather, New Eastside seniors can get out and about downtown and enjoy a new class to help combat the winter blues. Some use services to get around, some use their own motivation, some use the Pedway and some use volunteering as a means to stay active, while many people just want to stay inside. Overall, seniors are thankful for time spent connecting with other people.

For Win Eggers, who lives in Park Millennium at 222 N. Columbus Drive, it takes personal motivation and a drive to get out of the house and volunteer.

“I’m retired and I could be sitting in the Lazy Boy,” she said. “I could be getting fatter and all that stuff but I just won’t let that happen to myself.”

Eggers volunteers at the Chicago Architecture Center and the Chicago Cultural Center and is grateful for interactions with different people during the holidays.

“It’s neat because you’re meeting a lot of tourists,” she said. “You learn about what their country is like this time of year and then compare it to what we’re like here. It’s just a great way to meet people and I’m thankful I’m able to do it.”

She said it’s easy to get around in New Eastside while staying relatively warm.

“I can take buses, trains, cabs, I got it all right here,” she said. “Also the Pedway, you don’t have any excuse for not walking because it’s always there and always nice in the winter time.”

The Renaissance Court Regional Senior Center, at the Cultural Center, offers bridge, movies, clown classes and a choral group. Joyce Gallagher, director of senior services of the Department of Family and Support Services, knows how important these programs can be during dark days of winter.

“There’s something for everyone,” she said. “And if there’s not, we actually go and create them for you.”

The City of Chicago operates 21 senior centers, each hoping to reach the senior population, from delivering an at-home meal or providing a new educational outlet.

For Gallagher, who lives at Harbor Point, looking at Lake Michigan is something she cherishes, no matter how cold it gets.

“I love to sit and look at the lake because it’s ever-changing,” she said. “We are so fortunate in the New Eastside to have that at our front door.”

Musician wins a spot in the heart of New Eastside

by Mat Cohen

In New Eastside’s version of American Idol, there’s no Ryan Seacrest or dimming of lights,

but there is a pretty great deal for the winner. Musician Justin Elliott has reaped the rewards after winning the competition Magellan Development Group puts on each year.

Elliot, a solo artist as well as frontman for the band Honeystone, has been living at the Aqua since the summer in exchange for being the real estate developer’s in-house musician.

The performance venue includes the Drunken Bean Coffee and Wine Bar every Sunday from

10 a.m. to noon.

“I like it, it’s a great atmosphere,” he said. “Sunday morning people are coming before football or after exercising. There’s a lot of traffic and I hope some people stay a little longer than normal because they like what they hear.”

Elliott also played in the park during the summer and throughout the neighborhood in other Magellan Development properties. “I am grateful for Magellan and the whole Lakeshore East community for being so supportive,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of work in creating this solo business so I can have events like the Drunken Bean. Same goes for the band, they’re some of my closest friends in the city and it’s been an irreplaceable experience.”

Elliott, originally from Connecticut, moved to Chicago in 2015 with a goal of using music to make a living. He said it took about two years to become financially sustainable.

Creating the band was an integral part of his Chicago success. Honeystone formed in fall 2016 with members David Koslovsky, John Nordquist and Adam Hatcher. The band released a new album at the end of October, but will be splitting when Elliott moves to Charlotte, N.C. in January for “a dream opportunity” and the next challenge in his music career.

But before then he will be playing his guitar and soothing vocals at the Drunken Bean every Sunday through December.

“I’m hoping to soak in the last few months here,” he said. “But I’m also excited to move onwards.” He’s happy with how far he’s come in his career, his time in Chicago and what the community has done for him.

“For this opportunity I am so grateful for how amazing Magellan has been to me,” he said. “Overall, I’m super happy with the fact I’ve been able to make a living off of something I love to do while living in a city that I love.”

Local kids scale walls, shoot hoops as cold weather sets in

by Angela Gagnon

There are plenty of nearby options to help kids stay active as winter approaches.

Lakeshore Sports and Fitness (LSF), 211 N. Stetson Ave., is offering new children’s programming for members and nonmembers. Youth basketball classes, including group and private lessons, are available for kids aged 4 and up. Kids nine months and up can learn to swim, and older kids can hone their skills in the water with swimming lessons in the pool. LSF also has a seven-story indoor climbing wall with climbing lessons for kids aged 6 and up. 

“We want to get everyone excited about working out and being healthy,” said LSF General Manager Jarrett Brown. “We also want to build a sense of community for kids and families in the neighborhood and bring healthy habits home.” 

Besides organized classes, LSF also has a new kids playroom available to all members and their little ones during club hours. According to Brown, the play area provides a safe space for kids to run around and enjoy open play with others. Parents and caregivers are required to stay and supervise their children but it’s a good opportunity to socialize.

For more information on programming and offerings at LSF, contact Jarrett Brown at JarrettB@lakeshoresf.com or call (312) 856-1111. Information is also available at lakeshoresf.com/illinois-center/

To keep kids’ climbing skills sharp during the winter months, there are two indoor climbing wall facilities in Chicago that offer youth programs. 

First Ascent, 108 N. State St., is on the fourth floor of Block 37 and offers age-based progressive programs for kids of all abilities. Their teachings provide a structured approach to help kids become skilled and confident climbers. firstascentclimbing.com/block-37/ 

Brooklyn Boulders, 100 S. Morgan St. in the West Loop, offers kids climbing classes, private youth coaching, climbing teams and Adventure Days on select school holidays. They seek to instill a strong sense of self-confidence, teach problem-solving skills and improve concentration, movement and spatial awareness. brooklynboulders.com/chicago/ 

For those who don’t mind a little chill in the air, Maggie Daley Park’s ice skating ribbon will open mid-November. Kids can have fun exercising while skating on the unique and festive winding ice ribbon. Admission is free, and skate rental is available for a fee in the field house. 

“Parents can model healthy behavior at home,” Brown said. “Encourage kids to be active. Walk through the pedways together, dance, move around, do any type of sporting activity.” 

Or bundle up and head to Lakeshore East Park to run around in the field or enjoy the new playground equipment.

Local doctor finds freedom, uses real medical innovation to kill in fiction novel

By Mat Cohen

In the last scene of the 1977 film “Annie Hall,” Woody Allen jokes most people can’t break from a rut if they need the means it’s providing.

Dr. Michael Young, a Streeterville resident, had a private urology practice from 1991 to 2017 and is thankful he wasn’t dependent on a proverbial chicken providing him eggs. This led Young to break free of the medical industry and write his two books, The Illness of Medicine and Consequence of Murder.

“If you are stuck, but you don’t have any options and you need the eggs, you’re still stuck,” Young said. “I had an opportunity to say goodbye—I financially was secure and was able to cut that chain. I have other interests, other abilities and the means to pursue them.

“So I took advantage of that.”

Young’s other interests include medical innovation, underwater photography, teaching, riding his bike along Lake Michigan and writing. At the peak of his game, as the head of two departments and with a private practice, Young stepped away for those interests.

“I just got fatigued with where medicine was going,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, I just don’t enjoy the environment in which we have to practice.”

Currently, he is the director of the division of innovation in the Department of Urology at the University of Illinois Chicago and has been on radio shows discussing the state of the medical industry.

His first book, Illness of Medicine, published February 2018, recounts his 33 years of experience in the medical field.

“I wanted patients to understand what physicians are going through and I wanted physicians to understand what patients are going through,” he said. “I wanted both to see the other side of the table.”

Consequence of Murder, a fictional story published in June, uses a HydroGel to kill evil. The gel, which Young developed in real life for about a year, changes its state based on temperature. Its original purpose was to hold kidney stones still for doctors to break them down easier. But when the Office of Technology Management found other work in that area, the HydroGel was used to fictitiously take away lives instead.

“I’ve done all this work and now I can’t do anything with it,” he said. “What do you do when you get upset? Well you say, ‘I’m going to kill somebody,’ figuratively. So I decided I was going to use this stuff to kill somebody. It was my venting.

“So, that’s the process of murder. It’s a little warped, I know, but this is how I think.”

Christian Luciano, Ph.D., is a colleague of Young’s at UIC was impressed Young was able to turn the book into a mystery.

“It’s amazing how this involved a mystery novel,” he said. “It’s an extraordinary complex thing and he makes it understandable. The perfect balance between facts and details, but while still keeping the essence of what it is.”

Young said fictional writing is more challenging than nonfiction. He is currently writing his third book with many of the same characters overlapping from his second. 
For more information, visit https://michaeljyoungmd.com/.

The News Gets Around

Take a little piece of home with you when you travel this holiday season. Show love for your community by snapping a photo holding up New Eastside News in a new and exciting location. We would love to hear the story behind the photo as well. The best photo and story we receive each month will get a spot in the paper and a gift card.

Managing Editor Stephanie Racine just took a trip to Newport Beach, California. Before having lunch with a view of the Pacific, Stephanie took a picture with the September edition of New Eastside News in front of Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean. 

Thank a veteran For Veterans Day

By Doug Rapp

Veterans Day is Monday, Nov. 11, and whether you mistakenly spell it with an apostrophe or not, there are several ways to thank Chicago-area veterans.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs (IDVA) say there is no single way to thank a veteran.

“There is no best way to thank a veteran, other than to thank them sincerely,” said IDVA acting director Linda Chapa LaVia.

“If you want to offer to shake their hand, do that. If you want to simply say ‘Thank you for your service,’ do that. Whatever you do, do it with genuine gratitude for the freedom and security that their service has afforded you,” she said.

The aptly named Soldier Field will be honoring veterans at 11 a.m on Nov. 11 with a ceremony in the south courtyard. Originally named Grant Park Municipal Stadium, it was renamed Soldier Field after WWII at the request of the Chicago Gold Star Mothers, an organization for women who lost children in military service, according to Soldier Field’s website. 

The Pritzker Military Museum & Library, 104 S. Michigan Ave., will have free admission on Veterans Day. The museum features a 75th anniversary exhibit on D-Day along with an exhibit recognizing Medal of Honor recipients.

A GEM of a job: Employee of the month Kobe Stanton

By Doug Rapp

Kobe Stanton has a long commute, but for her, it’s worth it.

“I love what I do,” Stanton said of her job as a security resource officer at GEMS World Academy on East South Water St. “I can say I wake up and look forward to seeing these kids.”

Stanton heads into New Eastside from suburban Markham to keep the students safe at GEMS, a preschool-through-12 school that emphasizes a global STEM curriculum and multilingual learning.

Working security is nothing new to Stanton, 31. After attending Olive Harvey College, she was a guard at Chicago Housing Authority’s central office and the Art Institute before she started at GEMS. She’s been with the school since they opened in 2014.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids grow up,” she said. “I’ve had five years of interacting with the families and getting to know them personally.”

Stanton said she loves the international diversity of the 400-plus student body.

 “I like the environment of happiness and positivity,” she said.   

Stanton, a Country Club Hills native who grew up with nine siblings, said her duties include monitoring student pick-up and drop-off, recess, helping with the front desk and phones while “being an extra eye for teachers” when needed. 

“My favorite times are when I get to interact with the families,” she said. 

Stanton said GEMS’ security is tight but “not a lot of crazy things are going on.” She said she and the security staff of four can assist in minor medical incidents or accidents, run fire and lockdown drills, provide security camera footage if needed and patrol the 322,000-square-foot campus.

It’s not all work, though. Stanton said one of her favorite events is the annual fundraising gala. She said it’s fun to raise a toast with the families in formal wear instead of her usual security uniform. 

Looking back on her five years at GEMS, Stanton said she appreciates her rewarding work.

“I am actually thankful for everybody that walks into this building because everyone that walks in here has a positive attitude,” Stanton said. “There are a lot of people who have bigger problems than what you think you have.”

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