50 wards

50 Wards: Ward 39 is a Chicago Hidden Gem

Yep, 50 Wards is back! You didn’t really think I gave up on this project, did you? Because the 50 Wards are in Chicago, I had to take the winter off. Today, though, I explored Ward 39 (Alderman Margaret Laurino) which covers a large part of Chicago – Devon (north) to Belmont (south) to the Chicago River (east) to Cicero (West).  When I asked the Alderman’s office for suggestions last year, they gave me a huge list including:

  • The Korean businesses and restaurants on Lawrence Avenue, from Kedzie to Pulaski (Seoul Drive) and the Korean Street Festival in August
  • North Park Village including The North Park Village Nature Center
  • The Bohemian National Cemetery – one of only two cemeteries in Chicago that has received a national historical designation.  It is final resting place for Anton Cermak, one of Chicago’s Mayors.  They recently added a new section to the cemetery named Beyond the Vines, the final resting place for eternal Cubs fans.
  • Foster Avenue (3200-3400 West) with a number of small shops and restaurants and North Park University
  • Not to be missed, is Tre Kronor, 3258 W. Foster

Jeff and I were going to wait to do this ward in August but we did that last year and didn’t make it so we decided not to wait around for the Korean fest and began the tour of the ward. We have gone through the Korean area and along Foster Avenue many times (it’s near our house) so we headed over to the North Park Nature Center.  WOW – what a hidden gem! After parking the car, we went in the nature center and saw a turtle demonstration (if you have kids, you MUST visit this place!) and then hit the trails. Even though we were surrounded by busy streets all around us, we never knew it because it felt like we were in the middle of secluded woods. From the wildflowers to the lily pads and the unexpected sighting of a deer (really!), a walk through the North Park Nature Center gives Chicagoans an escape from the city chaos – in the city! My only complaint? The trail is not a long one so you may need to go around twice – but it’s worth it!

As you drive into the Nature Center, don’t be put off by the many buildings – you are in the right place.  You’ll find the Bohemian Cemetery right next door to the Nature Center, too. We didn’t actually drive in – the place is HUGE – but I see a return visit in our future. Oh, and the Alderman’s office is right – Tre Kronor is not to be missed – yum, yum, yum.

I’m looking forward to a return trip to the North Park Nature Center in the fall – I’m sure it will be magnificent! Thanks to the folks at the 39th Ward Alderman’s office for the tips!

Thanks for reading Bright-Yellow!  Please share with friends – I’m not sure what happened but the number of readers suddenly dropped – remember to share!

Welcome to Chicago’s 43rd Ward

DSC02299It’s time for another tour of the 50 Wards of Chicago.  I have been a little lax on this as I have started working but I promise to make my 50 wards tour a higher priority!

A couple of weeks ago, Jeff and I visited the 43rd Ward.  Like many Chicagoans, this was not our first visit to this ward – this ward is Lincoln Park.  Alderman Vi Daley and her staff had some great suggestions for us and, indeed, Jeff and I saw some new places!

We started with a trip to the Green City Market.  My first job in Chicago was DSC02296with Meals on Wheels which had an association with the restaurant industry and chefs.  Because of this, I remember when the Green City Market opened over ten years ago (as I recall, Gale Gand was a driving force for this) over by the Chicago Theater as a way for Chicagoans to enjoy the same local, organic produce, cheese, and meats that chefs (yes “Top Chef Masters” fans, this includes our beloved Bayless) choose from all the time.  A few years ago, the Green City Market moved to Lincoln Park (by the Lincoln Park Zoo) in the summer and the Notebart museum in the winter.  In addition to expanding to include a winter location, the Green City Market now runs 7AM-1PM on both Wednesdays and Saturdays.  And yes foodies, chefs still do a bunch of their shopping there – and some demos, too!

My word of advice – the expanded Green City Market has a ton of food vendors as well as samples at about every booth so come hungry!

DSC02303After loading up on peaches (remember my post about the yummy Eli’s Cheesecake Peach Cobbler?), veggies, and bread, Jeff and I hit the road and searched for The Bellinger Cottage (2121 N Hudson) which survived the Chicago Fire.  The cottage is adorable and, honestly, the house on the street where I told Jeff I’d like to live (before I realized it was the Bellinger Cottage)!

I admit to a little bit of cheating on this ward visit (look for this in future visits too!) because I have spent so much time here.  Alderman Daley’s office also recommended visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo (one of the last free Zoos in the country – I add to this that in the summer, try to go to a Jammin’ at the Zoo concert and in the winter, don’t miss the Zoo Lights!), the Caldwell Lilly Pool right by the Zoo (Cannon and Fullerton), check out the architecture in the ward (YES!), and the Chicago History Museum (I’m spending my birthday doing one of their new walking tours – can’t wait!).  I’ll add to this that the Notebart Nature Museum is fun for those with kiddos, the Lincoln Park Conservatory is a welcome winter escape, and the neighborhood is full of great eating (Twin Anchors), drinking (well, I’m too old for Lincoln Park drinking), and shopping (Lill Studios!) options!

If you have never been to Chicago, when you do visit, a trip to the 43rd Ward will definitely happen and if you live in Chicago, give the 43rd Ward another visit – I’m sure, like me, you’ll find something new to love there! Hey Chicagoans – got any suggestions to add to this?  Post them in the comments section!

Thanks for reading Bright-Yellow!

50 Wards: Ward 25 is for Eating!

50 Ward by 50 Aldermen: Ward 25

Daniel Solis has the best ward (25th) for eating in Chicago!  I know that is saying a lot and maybe I’m stretching it just a bit, but seriously, this guy has Chinatown, Pilsen, and Little Italy in his ward!

A couple of weeks ago, we had our friends Deb (from Grand Rapids, MI) and Donna (from Greenville, SC) in town for some Cubs games.  On the non-game day, Jeff happened to be off so I made everyone participate in my 50 Wards project – it wasn’tdifficult to twist anyone’s arm on this one!  Since the 25th Ward has so much great food in it, we decided to follow Alderman Solis’ advice, and eat, eat and eat!

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Our first stop – Chinatown.

While I guess Jeff and I should have taken the girls to somewhere we hadn’t been, we really wanted to go back to Laoszechuan (I posted about this restaurant when we visited the first time a few months ago). The seconDSC02276d visit did not disappoint.  However, Jeff and I learned our lesson after the first visit where we totally overstuffed ourselves and we practiced some serious restraint with our ordering!  That said, we were all champions of the clean plate club with the special noodle dish a clear winner.  Since Donna had never been to Chinatown, we explored the many gift/tschoske (I have no idea how to spell that – I just know it begins with a silent “t”) shops and sometimes smelly grocery stores (I still get a kick out of seeing the giant fish!).  Deb did manage to save a little room for a bubble tea and, even though I always thought I didn’t like lychee flavor, I found the tea to be quite good!DSC02282

Before long it was time to chop chop to our next destination – Pilsen!

Alderman Solis suggested strolling on 18th street between 1600 and 1800 which we did.  I wDSC02281ish I had done my homework on Pilsen because I feel like we missed a lot (for example, there is the fantastic Mexican Fine Arts Center which is apparently now called the National Museum of Mexican Art – another thing that changed in the last two years) but, then again, the self imposed rules of the 50 Wards project mean that I only visit the placesDSC02285 suggested by the Alderman.  Donna amended my rules and now I (and anyone with me) must consume some sort of food or beverage in each visit. So, after a brief stop in a pharmacy where the woman working screamed at me in Spanish for taking the photo of the candles, we sDSC02286et out for Nuevo Leon (pictured) for a cerveza.  Sadly, Nuevo Leon does not have a bar but they kindly pointed us to Taqueria Los Comales who took care of us with some spicy salsa and ice cold beer.  As we left, a group arrived and ordered margaritas.  I should have gone for the margarita – each one was hand made and delicious looking.  Ah – a reason to return to Pilsen!

DSC02288From Mexico we traveled to Italy – Little Italy – for Italian Ice or Italian Lemonade as Mario’s calls it.  If you live in Chicago, I hope you have enjoyed this summertime treat.  Mario’s Italian Lemonade is so refreshing that my mouth is watering as I write this!  As I tend to do, my eyes were bigger than my stomach (and I couldn’t decide between flavors) so I went for both lime and watermelon – yum, yum, yum!  And, again, Deb opened my taste buds to something new.  I really do not like coconut. Really.  However, Deb bought the coconut iced lemonade and I have to admit, it was pretty darn tasty!

So, Chicagoans, have you been to Ward 25?  If so, what are your favorite places?  Post them in the comments section, please!
Thanks for reading Bright-Yellow.  Have a great weekend and look for my next 50 Wards visit to be posted sometime next week!

Kiddo Travel & My Visit to the 19th Ward

This is an early morning post because Jeff & I are heading to Summerfest in Milwaukee (embracing the travel theme, I guess) for the day. Trying to find the upside of unemployment…

Today’s travel tip comes from my friend, Kerry, who is a mom to an adorable little boy. I have to rely on the moms for the family travel and fun tips! This one, though, is good even if you don’t have kids but want to be a kid at heart. The site Go City Kids gives parents (and non-parents) suggestions for things to do when visiting a new city or even your own city! The link above takes you to the Chicago page so that you can see how a city page is laid out. To visit a different city, here is the link to the general page. Go City Kids highlights upcoming activities like festivals and museum exhibitions as well as restaurants and classes. What I really like is that Go City Kids also gives an age range for each location – very important to parents. In fact, you can even search for places based on age (great for those with the pre-teens!). When I perused the site, I found that Go City Kids had a diverse selection of places and nice details for parents (and non-parents!). Check it out.

50 Wards by 50 Alderman: Day One
Yesterday I began my 50 Wards adventure. As I said earlier, I emailed all 50 Alderman to ask for their suggestions for where to visit in each ward. So far, only about 10 Alderman have replied but that is enough to start the adventure!

My first ward visit was to the 19th Ward which is down in Beverly (for a detailed map, click here). Alderman Virginia Rugai oversees this ward and she provided me with a fun and beautiful tour of her ward. Jeff and I began our tour with lunch at Top Notch Burgers (after an “interesting” drive to the 19th ward – I have now seen the end of the red line…) which looks like a typical diner but has super yummy burgers and super nice servers! I had a turkey burger that was delicious but Jeff’s beef burger was the the winner (although I’m not sure I’m up to eating a whole beef burger yet). If you’re heading to Beverly, a stop at Top Notch is worth the trip. Alderman Rugai’s also recommended Cafe 103 for lunch which we considered but we saw that Top Notch had been on Check Please and got great reviews.

After some fuel (and finding a police three-wheeler on the sidewalk by our car – only in the 19th ward?), we hit the rest of the tour. The 19th ward has absolutely beautiful homes along Longwood Drive as well as historic bungalows on Walter Burley Griffin Place (many designed by Walter Burley Griffin who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright – do you think Frank made Walt use three names, too?). Since rain could arrive at any moment, we made the houses a drive by and headed to the Irish castle!

Yes, there is an Irish Castle at 103rd & Longwood (now it’s a Unitarian Church)! While there, we met a caretaker who told us the brief history of the castle. The castle was built by an Irish immigrant who wanted to impress his girlfriend and persuade her to marry him. She did marry him and they lived in the castle for many years. After that, another family lived there and then the castle became a school. While it was a school, a young girl who was boarding there died on pneumonia and now haunts the castle! The caretaker told us that he knows a man who was raised in the house after it was a school (after the school, it again became a private home and then the church that it is now), and he has seen the ghost and so has the man we met!

If you have not been to the 19th ward, it’s worth the trip. I’d go back on a sunny day so that I could enjoy the beautiful walk on Longwood and I’d definitely hit Top Notch Burgers again!

We have to hit the road so I’ll add the photos tomorrow!

More Travel in Your Own Backyard (Chicago)

I guess this week’s theme is travel. In a few minutes, Jeff and I are heading out to begin our (maybe that should be “my” since he is sort of going by default) tour of Chicago’s 50 Wards. I’ll post our adventure tomorrow.

In the meantime, Chicagoans (and those planning a visit or are just curious about Chicago), check out The Local Tourist if you have not already. I found The Local Tourist on Twitter (a fun follow). The Local Tourist is just what it says – a local’s take on Chicago. However, while Theresa Carter came up with the idea (I think) and manages the site, anybody can contribute to The Local Tourist once you become a member (free – just create a profile. Hmmm… maybe I’ll add the 50 Wards project?). Some parts of The Local Tourist are better than others. The Neighborhoods and Transportation sections give just enough detail and have some fun facts but I found the Shopping area lacking significant information. Again, the site is basically built by locals so maybe locals just don’t care very much about shopping!

One more Chicago tip… Last night, my friend, Cheryl, was kind enough to invite me to be her guest for the opening of “Boleros for the Disenchanted” at the Goodman Theater. I can’t say enough good things about this show – just go see it!!!! Seriously – FANTASTIC production!!!!

Thanks for reading Bright-Yellow! Don’t forget to add to the comments section!!!