Tag Archives: downtown

Chicago Cultural Center

michigan avenue chicago cultural center arthur mullen raven beauty 3rdarm sunset

My friend Pierce has been doing sound check at the summer dance series that runs every summer in Grant Park: I have been many times to dance in the park throughout the years but only visited the Chicago Cultural Center itself in the past month. The building is worth a visit alone, with its impressive architecture and inspirational art collection. I remember one piece that got me thinking, saying something about how there is no halfway when it comes to respect: you either respect another person, or you do not.

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The reason for my first visit was to go with Raven Beauty to the exhibit, “Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen.” What an interesting conceptual piece to bring in to the center: good job to whoever curated this. Like the strandbeests themselves, walking the beaches by power of wind, I hope there are similar works making their way to the Chicago Cultural Center. And I hope everyone who visits knows the proximity to Shake Shack burgers and milkshakes!

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Nueva Mañana

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Before I went on my journey to Portugal, I had been asked to hang out with one of the servers at Xoco. Despite my impending ocean crossing, the offer had seemed stuck in my mind. Was I being asked out? With my Xoco days behind me, I suddenly had time to hang out, without there being a conflict of interest.

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Raven Beauty’s ex-husband Gonzalo had recommended her for the job at Xoco. When I think back to hiring her, I knew she was special right away. My actions gave me away: a 2 hour tour of the restaurant, offering her one of my special Aztec brownies within her first week of employment. Maybe it was Raven’s positivity or I just liked the way she said “Arthur”… a year later when we started dating, my energy started to change.

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Throw Out Your Gold Teeth And See How They Roll

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I had a lot of fear about getting my bottom wisdom teeth out. Despite the necessity for my health, I put the act off for more than a decade. The recent Diane Rehms conversation with Stephen King was a masterpiece. The reason I bring this up is that remembering all the Stephen King stories of my youth convinced me that I should not go under for the procedure. There was too much to chance entering the void, risking a forever tether to the dark side. I did a decent job explaining the whole Stephen King thing to the nurse while I was on laughing gas. I know she understood that I was silly and afraid.

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The other thing is, the laughing gas is amazing. I had entered the surgical center with a woman quite advanced in age. Later, I learned the other patient was over 100 years old. Dr. Johnson and his team made sure I was totally comfortable for the extraction, and it was over so fast. In between teeth, I began making noises, and the doctor said, “He wants to speak! Take everything out!”

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They got my mouth clear of all the stuff, and I asked, clearly high on laughing gas, “I’m all turned out: did you say that woman was 100 years old or that she had 100 wisdom teeth?!” And because of the laughing gas and the novocaine, I did not even feel the stinging slap of rejection in the stone faces of the team as I slowly stopped giggling, and like a child of wonder slowly arrived at the realization of being totally alone in my amusement. The healing went really well with great instructions and support from my older sister.

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Hippies Use SideDoor

 roly poly maine coon cat orange prime rib lawrys sidedoor sandwich cat yawning 3rdarm arthur mullen 

In the fantasy episode of Check, Please! that exists only in my dreams, I get to explain how I feel my pick has a certain gravitas, coming from the manager of one of the city’s best sandwich spots (I am the manager of Xoco.)

 roly poly maine coon cat orange prime rib lawrys sidedoor sandwich cat yawning 3rdarm arthur mullen 

My favorite sandwich in Chicago is found here at Sidedoor: the prime rib sandwich.  There’s nothing quite like the combo of prime rib, horseradish, softly-toasted bread and jus!  Today was one of my first outings since last fall, a picture perfect spring day in the sixties, blue skies, birds chirping.

 roly poly maine coon cat orange prime rib lawrys sidedoor sandwich cat yawning 3rdarm arthur mullen 

Here it’s my day off, it’s early afternoon and I am already back home from an amazing lunch (prime rib sandwich, handmade Idaho potato chips,  lemonade because I don’t drink although they have a fantastic craft beer and cocktail list, excellent service from Scott who talked about Game of Thrones, creme brûlée) with an extra prime rib sandwich to-go in the fridge, kicked back in my chair by the breezy window, digesting delicious Lawry’s prime rib, my brow slightly moist from the meat sweats.

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Chicago Architecture

chicago architectural tour etta kostick effie kostick 3rdarm merchandise mart

Chris said that the more we understand the design that surrounds us, the better it all gets. Merchandise Mart was the largest building in the world, as measured by floorspace, until being surpassed by the Pentagon.

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It got cold on the boat as we approached the Chicago Harbor Lock: I gave Effie my sweatshirt. There was sister to sister snuggling.

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The Cruise

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On Sunday, Effie, Etta and I walked over the Grand Ave bridge to the Doughnut Vault. We got some doughnut holes at the vault, for the cruise.

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For the first time, I got on a boat in the Chicago River. We took the architectural tour on Chicago’s First Lady, run by the non-profit Chicago Architectural Foundation.

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Surprisingly, the docent who lead the 90 minute tour was an acquaintance of Etta. Chris, from nearby RR#1, an apothecary turned gift shop that carries Etta’s jewelry. He was a great bearded guide.

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The Rumble

millennium park meghan etta 3rdarm chicago

It’s been hard to work so many hours and still hang out with friends in real life. Most of my days off are either on the road or in front of the computer.

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It made me so happy to get a chance to spend the evening with Meghan! Unfortunately it was the only Monday of the summer that they did not have contemporary music in Millennium Park: instead it was the young adults orchestrating West Side Story.

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That did not deter our plans! Meghan brought amazing wine, as well as spicy ginger beer and special sweet treats for me. The chocolate with mezcal and salt was fantastic. Etta brought a gigantic focaccia sandwich from Bari.

millennium park meghan etta 3rdarm chicago

My favorite part was rolling around in the grass in my blue sweatshirt and laughing with Etta and Meghan.

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SideDoor

Lawry's side door prime rib 3rdarm Etta

Etta and I had walked to the cinema to see Grand Budapest Hotel. It was warm in the afternoon but the streets were wet with rain when we emerged from the movie house. I was ready to spend two hundred dollars on fish so we started to walk up Rush St towards Nico. As we crossed Ontario St I caught a whiff of L’Air de Panache or maybe it was roast meat aroma and we entered SideDoor instead.

3rdarm lawrys Sidedoor Chicago sandwich prime rib

I recently found out that a close acquaintance who happens to be a music producer used to dine at Lawry’s three or four times a week. Thats my dream. I love prime rib like a sick cocker spaniel loves prime rib: when I take a bite of prime rib the whole world brightens up a little bit. I loved the prime rib sandwich at SideDoor. It was perfect Lawry’s prime rib, on a well buttered, crispy soft roll. Creamy horseradish and a dip into jus and that’s my personal heaven. Etta got the half pound prime rib meat board recommended for tables to share. That’s my other favorite thing: more prime rib later that night and the next day. The beer selection was well curated and the service was on point. The column in the bathroom and the photos showing its history was a thoughtful touch that adds gravitas.

Lawry's Sidedoor prime rib 3rdarm

SideDoor is an irresistible little restaurant, a hidden gem built into the historic mansion that houses Lawry’s, just a block off Michigan Avenue. The way the open kitchen and carving station gleams before the wooden tables, to the integration of the inner windows with Lawry’s bar, SideDoor is well designed and the food is well executed. Yes the seafood salad was also delicious with smoky scallops and sriracha, warm bay scallops and shrimp over green goddess dressed cabbage. But for me the prime rib sandwich is king: instantly in my top three sandwiches in the city of Chicago, with I don’t know, maybe Xoco and Bari. I dipped the entire thing in the jus and meat tripped out of my gourd for the next four hours, dilated pupils, heavy meat sweats, slurred speech. It was amazing.

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Nico Osteria

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I had brunch at Nico with Etta and Leslie. The bottom line: come for the food and service and enjoy Viagra Triangle people watching. There were moneyed folk about on a sunny spring Sunday.

Wrinkly men wore futuristic frames and I did a double take to check if it was Google glass. An older woman dined solo in a Sunday hat befit for the Queen of England. On the street well heeled families pulled by in horse drawn buggies. Tiny pure breed pups swaddled in handbag papooses looked out to the small park at State, Rush, and Bellvue, and then up to the face of their owners with pleading googly eyes.

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The dining room and raw bar where we sat was bathed in afternoon sunlight, with windows facing the famous triangle named for erectile disfunction. If the little blue pill doesn’t work as advertised, I think Nico’s brunch pastries may do the trick. I felt the love for the best chocolate croissant, and other juicy flaky goods, one containing salty ham. On the side is vanilla honey, cannoli filling and one other dipping sauce: I ate mostly the cannoli filling and honey.

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If I wasn’t “in public” I would have eaten all the cannoli filling and vanilla honey. In the presence of elites, I put forth my most civilized manners and waited for my egg sandwich.

The server, who with his assistant busser were a flawless team, informed me all about the interesting Italian named caper / anchovies aioli on my egg sandwich. It balanced the rich, fatty roasted pork very well. He also told me how the pork is made in house: I remember that it’s brined, wrapped around the loin, roasted off.

etta and leslie 3rdarm

Ladies loved the beef tongue and hangar steak. The music was terrific: some tune from Bob Dylan’s self portrait got stuck in my head. Can’t wait to be back for dinner (and actually try some Italian seafood!)

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Lawry’s The Prime Rib

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For her 30th birthday I took my meat-loving lady to Lawry’s, a classic dining room housing the city of Chicago’s finest prime rib. She squealed at first sight of the meat cart.

meat cart etta bday lawrys chicago prime rib 3rdarm

My favorite part of the meal was the meat itself. Soft, rich, perfectly pink and juicy in an indescribably addicting rich meat gravy with super soft mashed potatoes. I cleaned my plate.

etta 30th birthday lawrys prime rib chicago 3rdarm

Etta got a much bigger portion of prime rib, called the Diamond Jim Brady cut. Her favorite part of the experience was the service. Our server, in old fashioned uniform with a bow on the back, was gracious and informative. The busser was amazingly efficient and did things that I did not think were possible, like cleaning and crumbing the table of forty seven different things in ten seconds. It was a deliciously old school meaty experience!

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