Tag Archives: southside

Tilted Grid

3rdarm bridgeport south side chicago tilted grid slanted william archer avenue rectilinear street system buffalo path

The Great Fire of 1871 never blazed south of the river. To walk through Bridgeport today is to glimpse part of a city as it looked a century ago. Many streets defy Chicago’s quadrants with their own private logic (all streets are designated “south” even though they might run east/west). My neighborhood is on the “tilted grid” set up in 1836 by Col. William Archer.

3rdarm bridgeport south side chicago tilted grid slanted william archer avenue rectilinear street system buffalo path

Where I stay, I am aligned with the former buffalo path which is now Archer Avenue. The tilted grid, patterned when the canal digging began, does not follow what Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago calls the “rectilinear street system.” Rather, it follows the logic of the river and Indian trails.

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New City

3rdarm chicago arthur mullen south side bridgeport tilted grid archer avenue buffalo path

I went with New City for my recent move to the South Side. This was a beast of a move: my old apartment was on the 3rd floor of an old building on the West Side, and new place is a 4th floor walk-up in Bridgeport. Fortunately, New City provided the ace team of Richard, Cruz and Santos.

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Even with all the physical labor, these guys were still smiling and in good spirits. We were talking about how every apartment, no matter how good it seems at first, there is always “the catch”. Thank you guys for the hard work and great job!

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Me Voy Enamorando

raven beauty harper 3rdarm chicago sunset

Now that I am all set up above the dojo and officially a South Sider, when I reflect back on the hard week behind me, I’m just gonna remember the good stuff like taking in this last rooftop sunset… falling in love, etc.

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Via Crucis

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It was a particularly interesting and beautifully brutal week of Easter. Large crowds began to line 18th street early the morning of Good Friday, selling crosses made of palms and steaming hot cups of champurrado. Around noon a procession of Roman soldiers walked Jesus to the park, where he was crucified before the thousands assembled.

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I worked Saturday and Sunday with no busser, no food runner, no support whatsoever, doing hundreds of covers, sometimes even needing to run the dish machine, never having enough of anything: we have a lot of work to do for our service! The unexpected moments, like Roly Poly sitting for tacos with Raven, or a mariachi singer just showing up and belting out requests in the middle dining room, brought pleasure along with the pain.

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La Michoacana

La Michoacana pilsen chicago 18th blue island 3rdarm arthur mullen mangonada

The intersection of 18th, Loomis and Blue Island is the perfect place for an ice cream stand, and La Michoacana fits that role like destiny.

La Michoacana pilsen chicago 18th blue island 3rdarm arthur mullen mangonada

The place is brightly lit and clean, but we all know the real reason to go is La Michoacana’s amazing mangonadas (sweet, refreshing, spicy, limey, salty, damn) and liquados… nevermind so many flavors of delicious paletas!

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Mount Bridgeport

mount bridgeport palmisano park chicago arthur mullen 3rdarm spring 2016 raven beauty

Right down Archer Ave from the dojo is Henry C. Palmisano Park. Now covered in prairie nature, this was the former home of Chicago’s first limestone quarry.

mount bridgeport palmisano park chicago arthur mullen 3rdarm spring 2016 raven beauty

After almost a century of extraction, enough limestone had been carted off to create a nearly 400 foot hole in the ground: that’s what makes the park’s lake surrounded by steep limestone cliffs.

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At the turn of the millenium, designated a future park, what had become a landfill was buried under topsoil, creating a high point with spectacular views of the neighborhood that is now referred to as Mount Bridgeport.

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South Sided

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I looked for an apartment on craigslist every day but it was clearly a competitive moving time: every listing was taken within an hour of being posted. Raven and I drove around Pilsen eating carnitas, my free hand on the wheel while she phoned the numbers off of, “For Rent,” signs. We had no luck with that tactic and yet her coaching was ultimately crucial to the success of my move. Raven suggested I take a page from the old school Chicago playbook.

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When I finally saw an apartment listing that seemed just right, I jumped on it and offered a little money to see the apartment before anyone else. It was in Bridgeport, next to Pilsen, one of the South Side’s oldest neighborhoods where Mayor Daley’s family hailed from. The 4th (top) floor above a dojo on Archer Avenue, one of the original non-grid diagonals from back in the days of the Indians. I brought along a wad of cash and threw down my deposit that same day.

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Mano Derecha

pink sky 5 rabanitos south side chicago pilsen sotelo miguel angel west town tavern 3rdarm

As Chef Alfonso’s right hand man, I started working the weekends as a dishwasher, and pushed harder for 5 Rabanitos social media content. We started listening to my mix of cumbia covers called, “Me Juegas,” every Saturday. Chef decided I would be more valuable as a server, and I integrated with the team on the floor.

pink sky 5 rabanitos south side chicago pilsen sotelo miguel angel west town tavern 3rdarm

Raven and I started spending lots of days in each other’s company. I wanted to show her some of my favorites before I had to move. Together we hit up all the best spots in the old neighborhood for bites: Filipino style breakfast at Uncle Mike’s Place, Cuban medianoche sandwiches at Nini’s, Italian pan pizza at D’Amato’s Bakery, New Mexican chile sauced sopapillas at Flo.

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Rabanitos Style

5 rabanitos alfonso sotelo 3rdarm jamie sotelo pilsen mexican family owned restaurant 3rdarm arthur mullen

The photoshoot I had helped with at Chef Alfonso’s restaurant, when I met the bruja, had been for the Chicago Tribune’s forthcoming review of 5 Rabanitos. I have learned not to get too excited about a restaurant’s first review: when a restaurant opens, that’s when there’s the most room for improvement. First reviews are notorious for nerfing any highlights with a few negatives. #thestruggleisreal, at the least.

5 rabanitos alfonso sotelo 3rdarm jamie sotelo pilsen mexican family owned restaurant 3rdarm arthur mullen

The Chicago Tribune, however, must have LOVED Chef Alfonso’s food at 5 Rabanitos because they published one of the most effusive restaurant reviews ever. The business started to pick up in a big way. Having shed most of my darkness, and with feelings taken root and starting to grow in my heart, I turned towards the shining: I decided to stay in Chicago with Raven Beauty, and lend a hand to my friend Chef Alfonso.

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Quiero Suerte

3rdarm arthur mullen roly poly geese migrating mexican blanket 3rdarm

With my job coming to an end, I was ready to take it easy for a month. The plan was to maybe help out Chef Alfonso a little, mostly by taking another photoshoot before the move to California. When I went to his restaurant, 5 Rabanitos in Pilsen, it was clear that chef was feeling the stress of his own business: he had lost weight.

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Chef Alfonso asked if I would be interested in waiting tables, to help train his staff and make sure the front of house was running well. I was non-committal, but I could see the strain on my friend’s face. We were taking food photos in the sunlight up by the front windows, and a table asked to speak to a manager: chef sent me over.

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