January 27, 2021

Winnemac Park in Lincoln Square

I needed a nature visit, but did not have much time to drive someplace. Winnemac Park, which shares a parcel of land with Amundson High School and Chappell Grade School, sprang to mind.

Technically considered part of Lincoln Square, the park’s boundaries are Damen, Foster, Leavitt and Argyle. The Winnemac parking lot entrance is south of Amundsen H. S. on Damen Avenue.

At just over 22 acres, the park has a children’s playground and several open meadow areas for sports activities. There are prairie plantings in the interior of the park which feature footpaths amid the grasses and foliage.

Spring, summer and fall are the better times to visit this urban nature oasis, but there is a stark beauty to the now brown prairie garden areas. Winter snow will offer yet another lovely character to the park.

Look for the giant willow trees in the south side meadow bordered by Argyle.

Adults, children and dogs can be seen throughout Winnemac Park. This is not a dramatic recreational area, but a wonderful addition to the neighborhood for those needing a quick nature fix.

https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/winnemac-park

JB’s Deli in Andersonville

This is my blog day for writing about things I had avoided but have eventually come to love. JB’s Deli in Andersonville is located in a pharmacy which telegraphed “quirky” to me. I walked past the place for a good twenty years, not giving it a second glance.

A neighbor recently showed me a roast beef sandwich from this Andersonville delicatessen. The generous portion of sliced beef looked delicious ensconced in bread, tomatoes, lettuce with a dill pickle and side dish.

I finally made the trip myself. There is limited seating in the deli area, but renovation is in progress for a side room with additional seating.

The menu boasts all of the items you expect to find at a good deli; pastrami on rye sandwiches, lox platters, matzo ball soup and freshly made bagels. The prices are a little high, but the enormous sandwiches are worth every shekel.

Andersonville is about to make Catalpa from Clark to Ashland into a town square. This will undoubtedly increase traffic to this little deli since it is across the street from this future development. In the meantime, when in the mood for a pile of pastrami or beef, head to JB’s Deli for a heroic sandwich. Mazel Tov!

Magic Lounge in Chicago’s Andersonville

If you want a most unusual and fun evening, call now for tickets to see a show at the Magic Lounge, in Andersonville’s SoFo neighborhood (south of Foster).
Be forewarned that weekend tickets need to be ordered weeks in advance as the venue has exploded in popularity. And rightfully so.

The exterior has no official signage but there are some poster images of magicians to mark the 5050 N. Clark Street entrance. Upon entering the vestibule, commercial washers and dryers make one question the address. Please persist for one of the machines is actually a door leading to a delightful bar with a magician doing tricks for cocktail patrons. If you are lucky enough to secure a show ticket, you will be ushered through another trick door that leads to a surprisingly spacious cabaret-style theater replete with a red-curtained stage, a theater organist, banquette and bar seating along with a petite balcony for celebratory groups. This venue is a big draw for bachelor, bachelorette and corporate parties, but you will also see local couples, small groups of friends and people of all ages out for a good time.

While waiting for the show to start, one can order nifty cocktails and very tasteful small bites and I mean that in both senses of the word. Imagine prosciutto wrapped dates with gorgonzola cheese, pork belly or beef tenderloin sliders, potato pancakes with apple mustardo and caraway yogurt, or a sausage board with cheese, peppers, caperberries and rye bread. Then again, your sweet tooth might enjoy a Katherine Anne Confection Truffle with flavors like Creme de Menthe, Hazelnut, Sea Salt Caramel, Citrus or Vegan Raspberry Champagne.

During the pre-show, a handful of magicians go from table to table giving up close sleight-of-hand displays. To set the mood, an organist plays tunes that are so square they are hip, and dons the hat of emcee to introduce both an opening act and a featured entertainer. The night we were there, both entertainers were not only adept at magic, but laugh-out-loud funny. Selected patrons are invited to the stage to participate in several of the tricks which adds to the hilarity.

What we saw was the Signature Show, but the Magic Lounge also offers David Parr’s Cabinet of Curiosities on Wednesdays, a Family Show on Sundays, Music and Magic on Mondays and Tuesdays. For an additional charge, after the Signaure Show, you can move to a smaller theater called The 654 Club behind the Blackstone Cabaret for a more intimate magic experience.

What can I say? The Magic Lounge’s offerings would be a perfect evening for anyone who wants an extraordinary experience with comedy, music, food and magic. When can I go back?

https://www.chicagomagiclounge.com/welcome/

Chicago Grind in Andersonville

A favorite coffee bar hangout in the Andersonville neighborhood is Chicago Grind, at Berwyn and Broadway, featuring coffees and teas from Metric Coffee Roasters and Benjamin Tea.

Husband and wife team, Reem and Jim Dababneh are frequently behind the cash register and food counter as they fill orders for beverages, pastries and savory food items. My favorite meal option is the vegan quinoa kale salad with nuts, cranberries and red peppers. They have even brought the “to-go” order outside when I have my dog.

The artisanal flatbread sandwiches have been top notch with gluten-free options available. Gourmet salads are another meal option, along with all sorts of enlightened treats from Maier Bakery, Alliance Patisserie and the gluten-free Defloured Bakery.

The Dababnehs are also owners of the very successful Pizzeria Aroma, just east near the Berwyn el stop. They will be moving that restaurant to another spot in the ‘hood, so I will keep you posted.

Chicago Grind is a handy spot for business meetings, lunches, breakfasts on the run or casual beverage breaks in the outdoor cafe. That is if it ever warms up enough to sit at sidewalk tables again!

http://www.chicagogrind.com/

Defloured, baking gluten-free goodies for Chicago & Milwaukee

My dog Ralph turned me onto a bakery called Defloured. On walks, he would bee-line to this storefront and routinely use his paw to knock on their front door. Johanna, the baker/owner has become one of his favorite neighborhood friends, due in no small part to the treats he receives from her and her staff.

Defloured is a gluten-free bakery and creates sweet treats that suit many restricted diets. These are not your cardboard tasting health foods, but delectable brownies, bars, cakes, cupcakes, cookies and whoopie pies.

Not only do they sell delicious products from their Andersonville shop, but their baked goods are sold at some of the more discerning coffee bars, grocery stores (Whole Foods) and restaurants in Chicago and Milwaukee.

They also create custom cakes for events and cookie or bar trays for parties. Not only can they do gluten-free bar and cookie trays, but Defloured also can do vegan or dairy-free cookie trays.

Ralph and I both agree that this bakery deserves a big high-five paw up.

http://deflouredbakery.com/

Early Voting in Chicago (and in states that allow it)

usflagI strongly recommend casting your vote early if you live in a state that allows it. My wait was only 20 minutes at 4:30 pm on a weekday. Chicago has early voting up until the day before the election. With multiple voting locations and convenient hours, you have no reason to miss doing your civic duty this November.

To find your local Chicago voting venues:

http://www.chicagoelections.com/en/early-voting.html

If you live in the 48th Ward in Chicago, one of your voting options is:
Edgewater Library, 6000 N Broadway
Monday, Oct. 31 to Friday, Nov. 4: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 5: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, November 6: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Monday, November 7: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For other states:
https://www.vote.org/early-voting-calendar/