St. Jane Chicago Hotel opens

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

The St. Jane Chicago Hotel opened July 1 in the famed Carbide & Carbon skyscraper, 230 N. Michigan Ave., in the former home of the Hard Rock Hotel. The hotel includes 33 floors with 365 guest rooms, 33 of which are higher-end suites.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the number of rooms was reduced from 381. Becker Ventures retained ownership of the hotel and, together with
the Aparium Hotel Group, they rebranded the hotel as the St. Jane Chicago Hotel.

“Chicago deserves this beauty, and the Carbide & Carbon building deserves to be as impressive on the inside as much as it’s inspiring on the outside,” said Carrie Meghie, principal at Becker Ventures, in a press release.

According to Kevin Robertson, the co-founder and CEO of Aparium Hotel Group, The St. Jane hopes to be a destination for tourists and residents alike with its amenities, restaurants and event spaces setting it apart from other Chicago hotels.

“The hotel will be home to Free Rein, a contemporary American brasserie from Michelin-starred chef Aaron Lirette, a 24th floor lounge, market cafe and 11,000 square feet of meeting space,” said Jordon Aluise, the hotel’s public relations director.

Free Rein will be a New American all-day dining facility, with French influences. It will feature locally sourced food and drink, like Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee and Arize Imperial Kombucha.

The St. Jane will also give back to the community. “The 365-key hotel will embrace the arts and culture that define Chicago through local partnerships with Marwen, educating and inspiring young people from under-resourced communities through the visual arts,” Aluise said.

According to their press release, they plan on hosting many charity events in their event spaces.

For more information, call the hotel at (312) 345-1000 or visit their website, Stjanehotel.com.

Local pubs to open early for World Cup fans

By Matthew Reiss | Community Contributor

With soccer’s World Cup returning June 14, all eyes will be glued to TV screens around the
country—despite the U.S. team’s shockingly early exit from the tournament.

Over three billion people worldwide watched the 2014 Brazil World Cup, with public viewings in Chicago set up in Grant Park and Soldier Field drawing tens of thousands of local fans.

This year, without the U.S. team to root for and with the games primarily airing in the morning due to the time difference with host country Russia, it will be more difficult for soccer fans, such as myself, to find public venues to watch games.

But never fear—for the truly dedicated fan, there are still ways to get your World Cup fix in Chicago.

Fado Irish Pub, 100 W. Grand Ave., has been a hotspot for European soccer league coverage, and will be opening its doors early for each and every World Cup match. They are also available to book for group watch parties.

Upscale sports bar Theory, 9 W. Hubbard St., is also committing to World Cup coverage. Managing Partner Joel Sorinsky said that Theory will show all games kicking off after 9 a.m., and brunch will be available on every game day.

The Globe Pub, 1934 W. Irving Park Rd., has long been a site for supporters of the Chicago Fire MLS team, including their Pub to Pitch shuttle service to and from home games. The Globe is currently remodeling, but General Manager Megan Kosmensky said that they’ll be reopening with upgraded screens and amenities the week before the Cup.

They will be showing every game, and will allow children accompanied by adults to come to viewings of the first round matches.

Fans can stay close to home with some residential buildings offering special viewing events. The Aqua in New East- side, 225 N. Columbus Drive, will open its media room—complete with theater seating—to residents for every match of the tournament.

Published June 5, 2018

Food at Streeterville Social soars to new heights

By Kathleen O’Connell | Loews Chicago Hotel

Streeterville Social’s new weekend brunch offers elevated favorites such as King Benny with Alaskan king crab, organic poached eggs and herb hollandaise, and Chicken and Waffle with crispy chicken thighs, sour cream waffles and a spiced honey.

Summer has finally arrived in Chicago and Streeterville Social is celebrating all things summer. With a new menu, new cocktails, more seating, and a new weekend brunch service, Chicagoans can soak up the city’s favorite season at this urban escape that boasts sweeping skyline views.

Executive Chef Kevin Atkinson has created a menu of creative summer favorites ideal for sharing over summer sips.

Vegetarians and carnivores alike will savor the Chicken-Fried Mushrooms served with a black bean bbq sauce and green garlic aioli. For those seeking the classic flavor
of summer seafood, the Seafood Boil for two features crab legs, shrimp, mussels,
hot links, potatoes, corn, streeter spice and grilled bread.

Spiced honey, mango sesame BBQ lamb ribs. Photos by Streeterville Social.

The Summer Corn Flatbread with smoked fontina, red onion, pickled peach, and basil, as well as the Clam Stuffies made with whipped mortadella, wonder bread and celery are ideal for sharing over a glass of chilled rosé or a refreshing cocktail.

Streeterville Social’s new weekend brunch offers elevated favorites such as King Benny with Alaskan king crab, organic poached eggs and herb hollandaise, and Chicken and Waffle with crispy chicken thighs, sour cream waffles and a spiced honey.

Not-to-be-missed summer brunch dishes include the Avocado Toast with an organic sunny fried egg, miso mayo, bonito flakes, and an herb salad; the Peach Smoothie made with vanilla yogurt, lemon and honey (with an optional shot of bourbon), and the Gluten Free Wild Rice Pancakes served with marinated peaches, Burton’s maple syrup and nasturtium.

Toast to summer with #WeDrinkPink Wednesdays at Streeterville Social with $5-featured rosé by the glass and half price featured rosé by the bottle. With a nod to everyone’s favorite childhood frozen treat, Streeterville Social serves Boozy Bistro Pops in assorted flavors. Be sure to get there early as quantities each day are limited!

Streeterville Social
445 N. Park Dr.
Chicago, 60611
312.840.6617

Published June 5, 2018

Grown-up games entertain adults

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

When you’re young, your weekends are all about one thing–fun. Days are filled with arcades, amusement parks and sports.

As you get older, those opportunities to “play” seem fewer and farther between. Our schedules get bogged down with chores and responsibilities and our nights out are typically spent at restaurants and bars.

We set out to find genuinely fun activities for adults here in Chicago that bring back the childhood spirit of letting loose and having a good old fashioned fun time.

FTW Chicago, or For The Win, is basically a Chuck-E-Cheese for grown ups.

Located in Streeterville, it brings back a flood of childhood memories for anyone who ever spent a weekend eating pizza and playing air hockey.With neon lights, flashing game screens, and the sounds of laughter, pinballs dinging and skee-balls rolling, FTW is a great destination for all ages.

Storm Racer 6 at FTW.
Contributor photo.

Kids are allowed and little ones can enjoy the simpler, smaller games, but FTW is definitely geared toward adults. It has a restaurant and full bar, so you can sip on a craft beer or cocktail while you browse the entertainment.

You might want to put your drinks down for active games like the classic Dance Dance Revolution. This 2000s flashback will certainly make you work up a sweat as you stomp on an arrow-labeled foot pad in time with the fast-paced beats. Test out your NBA skills shooting hoops on the Bulls game or play your best piece on a giant, light-up piano.

A Kung Fu Panda-themed game gets you moving, too. As Po, the panda starring in
the Dreamworks animation, tries to master his kung fu moves, your reflexes will have
to be fast as you try to chop different foods and items that pop up on screen.

For movie fans, don’t miss the Jurassic Park simulator that puts you in the driver’s seat of a Jeep as you race off from pterodactyls and velociraptors; the immersive, spaceship style star wars pod; or the Alien shooter game.

For fans of more iconic, retro games, there are larger-than-life versions of Pac-man, Connect Four and Wheel of Fortune. The arcade also has two special features—a virtual reality activity and a full mini-golf course. The VR game requires a few extra game tickets to play in comparison to other options, but the experience is worth it. Step into the VR section by the entrance of the arcade and slip on the mask to be guided into an immersive
gaming experience.

The mini-golf course is great for tourists and locals alike. The course is set up like a tour through the city, with iconic buildings and sights like the Bean and the Art Institute lions. FTW is especially great for a date night or family night out, because the building it’s set in, at 322 E. Illinois St., is a destination in itself.

Situated on the floor below an AMC theater, FTW is also right across from Lucky Strike bowling.At Lucky Strike, also at 322 E. Illinois St., guests can reserve individual lanes or host parties and enjoy pub-style fare and craft cocktails while they play.The venue has 18 bowling lanes, 11 billiard tables, quite a few flat screen TVs and three ping pong tables, so there’s plenty of entertainment to go around.

Safehouse, 60 E. Ontario St., is a spy- themed restaurant and bar on the Near North Side. It’s quite possible you’ve passed this spot a few times without even noticing, because it’s not marked. It is a safehouse, afterall. While the unmarked door is hardly visible, those who know where to look see the entry point into a very James Bond-like night.

When you walk in, you’re asked for a password. If you haven’t done your homework to get it, you and all the other guests standing in the entryway will have to answer a few questions and perform some sort of slightly embarrassing task to get in.

Here’s a hint—you’re on camera. Everyone in the restaurant and bar below can see you doing to YMCA on a giant screen by the bar.

Once you pass the test, a secret door opens and you’re led down a staircase to another secret door, where you’ll get your “Agent ID.” From then on, you’ll be treated like a spy. You’ll be called an agent for the rest of the night, and your bill is referred to as your “damage report” for the evening. The menu offers themed foods, like Fried C4 Cheese Curds, Blacklisted Chicken Tenders, The Spyburger, Spyghetti and Operation Hangover Recovery. An impressive cocktail list includes specials like the tropical Spy’s Demise and the chilled Cold War.

Make sure you check out the photobooth that transports you to destinations around the globe via green screen, and touch all the buttons and switches around the dining
area that say “don’t touch.”

Gadgets and replica spy gear decorate the bars. Don’t miss the comical posters and photos in the bathroom—make sure you read all the signs carefully on your way in and out.

It wasn’t easy to get in to the Safehouse, so don’t expect an easy exit. You’ll need a secret code and will have to sneak your way through a laser maze to make it back to Chicago.

For a totally unique experience that’s becoming quite the trend in cities across the country, take a risk at Bad Axe Throwing, 165 N. Loomis St., in the West Loop where their mission is “to bring the thrill of a traditional Canadian backyard pastime to
urban communities.”

This place is pretty much self explanatory—you throw axes. If that makes you a bit nervous—it probably should—here’s the gist.

Pick up your provided axe with a firm grip, like you would a baseball bat. Make sure the blade of your axe is aiming straight forward, toward the bullseye target and raise the axe up behind your head and lean back and, in one swift motion, bring your axe forward and let it loose.

This is an experience unlike any other. The world’s largest axe throwing club, Bad Axe Throwing was founded in Ontario in 2014 by CEO Mario Zelaya and now has locations in 23 cities in the U.S. and Canada, including Indianapolis, Denver, Minneapolis, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Brooklyn. Guests that walk-in will use a common area for axe throwing with any other participants that have joined the walk- in session.

Walk-ins cost about $20, or you can register for group visits with a private lane online in advance, prices vary from $35.00–44.25.

Published June 5, 2018

New development plans revealed for former Chicago Spire site

The proposed 400 Lake Shore Dr. development consists of two towers rising at the former Chicago Spire site. Rendering courtesy of Related Midwest

By B. David Zarley | Staff Writer

The development plan for 400 Lake Shore Drive—a parcel of land originally slated for the ill-fated Chicago Spire—was revealed to a packed ballroom at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Hotel on May 15.

Alderman Brendan Reilly and community group SOAR hosted representatives from developer Related Midwest, architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and engineering consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates, who detailed what the
alderman called an “ambitious” plan.

“This is one of the most prominent sites in the Chicago skyline,” Reilly told the crowd. “What you are going to see here tonight is a very ambitious proposal. There are a lot of moving parts that we are still negotiating as we speak.”

No longer a 2,000 foot spire, the new development will be designed by the firm behind iconic Chicago buildings like the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower.

The design will include a pair of residential towers that are staggered in height— the tallest topping out at 1,100 feet and its counterpart at 850 feet. They will be offset from each other and angle outwards to open up as the river empties into Lake Michigan. Fronted with terracotta, they will echo elegant, older buildings like the Wrigley.

“You look at it from the lake and you see these two forms … opening up as a gateway to the city,” said David Childs, the consulting design partner at SOM. A large courtyard will sit between the two.

The taller building will consist of condos and a boutique hotel on the lower levels, and the shorter building, containing rental units, will be flanked by a pair of pedestrian pathways which will allow access to DuSable Park.

Related Midwest’s proposal promises to build a long awaited park in the area and dedicate $10 million to the endeavor. They hope to complete this part of the project after the buildings are finished, since the park plot will be used as a staging area during construction.

Further community benefits in the proposal include the completion of Founder’s Way and the Ogden Slip walkway, and roughly five acres of new, public green space throughout the development. The developer will also pledge $2.67 million dollars for the creation of affordable housing.

Curt Bailey, president of Related Midwest, expressed gratitude for the community’s cooperation with the project. “All of you showing up tonight, thank you,” Bailey said, “This process makes the project better and makes us better.”

Reilly encouraged his constituents to contact him with questions or concerns. His office plans on sorting through residents’ feedback over the next few weeks before negotiations begin.

Email the 42nd Ward office at office@ward42chicago.com or call (312) 642-4242.

Published June 4, 2018

Proposed Aon Center Observatory will put tourists over the edge

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

Aon Center will soon be able to flaunt its jaw-dropping views with an observatory, glass elevator and “pod ride” that is coming to its 82nd and 83rd floors.

On May 14, The Chicago Loop Alliance and Alderman Brendan Reilly met with community members at The Mid-America Club to discuss plans for an observatory to cap the Aon Center tower located at 200 E.Randolph St.

Representatives from developers 601W Companies, architectural firms SCB and The Hettema Group, and engineering consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates presented designs for the observatory, highlighting the effect the family-friendly attraction will have on Chicago’s tourism industry.

“[The observatory] would also have a very positive impact on the area,” said Mark Karasick, managing director of 601W Companies. “We commissioned a study which found that more than $900 million in direct economic impact will be generated over the next 20 years due to this venture.”

Slides shown at the meeting detailed how the new observatory will transform Aon Center into a world-class destination and help maintain the building’s financial health and iconic real estate status.

To get to the top, visitors will take the external glass elevator—which will be the tallest in the U.S.—traveling at 1,200 feet per minute. The elevator will be accessed via a separate entrance pavilion on the east side of the building that takes visitors down escalators to a walkway at lower level three near Lower Randolph Street, according to SCB design principal Martin F. Wolf. Once at the base of the elevator and on the way up, “views will be quite spectacular,” Wolf said.

Visitors will experience floor-to-ceiling views with interactive multimedia attractions, along with other activities, snacks and drinks, according to Phil Hettema, president of The Hettema Group. They can also check out the Sky Summit pod ride which will lift visitors seated in a see-through capsule over the south edge of the building.

“You will get an absolutely unforgettable view of Millenium Park,” Hettema said. “We just want to give you an experience that’s unlike anything anybodyhas ever seen.”

Many of the residents at the meeting voiced concerns about the tourist attraction’s impact on traffic in New Eastside.

Peter Lemmon from Kimley-Horn and Associates shared the results of a traffic study and proposed widening sidewalks by the pavilion entrance along Columbus Street by 15 feet to accommodate the increase in foot traffic, re-striping crosswalks and establishing a dedicated bus zone. Both Reilly and Lemmon assured residents that options to improve traffic in the area, both related and unrelated to the Aon Observatory, are being considered.

More information about the Aon Center Observatory can be found at aoncenterobservatory.com

Published June 3, 2018

Balbo Drive renaming proposed

By Taylor Hartz Staff Writer

The decades-old debate to rename Balbo Drive gained attention at a Chicago City Council meeting last month, when two aldermen proposed an ordinance to rename the street after Ida B. Wells.

On May 23rd, New Eastside Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Ald. Sophia King (4th) held a joint press conference alongside other elected officials, community leaders and groups to announce the change of name for the Loop street. Other elected officials, community leaders and groups joined in the announcement.

Rather than honoring Italian aviator Italo Balbo, the aldermen introduced the idea of recognizing Wells, an African-American investigative journalist who brought attention to the lynching of African-Americans in the 1890s.

Wells joined other African-American leaders in calling for the boycott of the World’s Columbian Exposition 1893. She died in Chicago in 1931.

“Balbo is to be named after an individual whose advocacy and life’s work will continue to have an historical impact that is timeless,” said a joint statement from the aldermen on May 23.

If the ordinance is approved, this will be the first time a street in Chicago has been permanently renamed since South Parkway was changed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in 1968, according to the aldermen’s statement.

The street, which runs from Lake Shore Drive to State Street between Harrison Street and 8th Street, will also be the first in the Loop to be named after an African-American woman.

Published June 4

We all scream for…

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Ice cream season has officially begun and we’ve set out to find the tastiest, most interesting flavors in the city.

Whether you’re chasing down your local ice cream man, looking for a treat while watching a ballgame or headed out for a date night centered around what’s atop your cone, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re looking for variety, Jeni’s Splen did Ice Creams, 1419 N. Wells St., takes the cake—and the cake-flavored ice cream. The team at Jeni’s focuses on the atmosphere and experience just as much as the flavors and quality of their creamy cups and cones.

The company describes their design as “really great ice cream served perfectly in a sparkling and beautiful space, with attentive and in-the-moment service,” and they
aren’t exaggerating.

Jeni’s is sold in a sleek, orange and white shop adorned with twinkling white lights, and a team of employees who are willing to let you sample as many flavors as your heart desires.

Despite the sampling, it’s hard to pick a flavor from their long list. But luckily, you don’t have to. Jeni’s offers ice cream “flights”—scoops of three flavors for $6. (Pro tip: an additional scoop is just $1, so spring for the $7 option to try four flavors. That’s what we did—twice.)

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams offer an array of delicious flavors, with four scoops served in a tray as part of their “ice cream flights” for $6. Photo by Taylor Hartz

With two four scoop flights, totaling $14, we enjoyed brambleberry crisp, goat cheese with cherries, honey pie, ricotta toast with jam, coffee with cream and sugar, wildberry lavender, salty caramel and blueberry lemon frozen yogurt. That’s right—cheese in ice cream. Isn’t that something we all want to try?

Goat cheese with cherries was a perfect mix of savory and sweet with chunks of perfectly flavored fruit, while strictly sweet flavors like honey pie were buttery and delicious.

Though the flavor options could be talked about all night, the texture of these scoops is a whole other topic to explore. Jeni’s ice cream is unbelievably smooth compared to most ice cream brands, it makes you wonder what you’ve been doing all your ice cream-loving life.

Each scoop offers “a uniquely smooth texture and buttercream body, with bright flavor and clean finish,” according to Jeni’s. The company doesn’t use any synthetic flavorings, dyes or pre-made mixes, but instead opts for stabilizers and emulsifiers that create a unique consistency and leave you with a clean palate after every bite.

If you’re looking for a romantic, inexpensive date idea this summer, you can’t beat the iconic Riverwalk. Strolling along the Chicago River is a must-do in the warmer months and there are plenty of fun destinations popping up along the path for drinks, dinner and dessert.

At Frost Gelato, 151 W. Riverwalk, you can check out a stunning display of whipped, swirled, colorful gelatos adorned with exotic flowers as you choose from their lengthy list of flavors to put the cherry on top of your night out by the water.

On their regular menu, gelato lovers can choose from more than 60 flavors, ranging from bubble gum and toasted marshmallow to marble black cherry and cinnamon apple pie.

The shop also features flavors of the month to keep things even more interesting. The specials for May included margarita, mango green chilli and spicy chocolate.

Margarita isn’t the only drink-inspired flavor they’ve got either, with flavors like root beer, pina colada, green and chai teas, Guinness, Bailey’s buttercream, eggnog and espresso offered daily.

As if the extensive list of gelato flavors didn’t make the decision hard enough— there’s more. The shop also has a few dozen sorbet flavors for those with a fruitier palate. In
addition to blackberry, kiwi and green apple, the shop offers some unexpected fruit flavors, like papaya, pear riesling and strawberry champagne.

Frost Gelato isn’t open yet for the season, as it is revamping its space for a new, bigger location on the Riverwalk—the “Water Plaza” section between Wells and LaSalle streets.

They expect to open their doors by mid-July.

Just a few blocks away in River North, stop by Firecakes Donuts at 68 W. Hubbard St. for a snack that’s even sweeter than ice cream. At Firecakes, you can still get your ice cream fix, wedged between two donuts. That’s right, the specialty here is a donut ice cream sandwich—a slab of vanilla, chocolate or coconut ice cream in between two glazed donuts covered in hot fudge.

Last but not least, we checked out Cone Gourmet Ice Cream at 1047 W.
Madison St. Flavors like the bright blue Cookie Monster are a perfect way to brighten up your summer day with a little color, while flavors like “snickering apples” (Snickers ice cream with apples) and “leprechaun tracks” are one of a kind.

We tried the super sweet “Netflix and Chill” and the tart orange “Zootopia” filled
with rainbow sprinkles. “Delicious.”

The shop also offers a variety of hand-scooped ice cream sandwiches and has non-dairy options, like watermelon sorbetto, available every day.

All ice creams at Cone can be served in a cup, on a cone, or on cookie cones or waffle cones and can be smothered in a variety of toppings, like gummy worms, graham crackers, Irish flake pieces or reeces, or be served “shamrock style,” covered in Lucky Charms.

Also, don’t miss their other cool treats like the frozen banana or frozen cheese- cake on a stick.

Published June 4

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