Chicago’s new Riverwalk is worth a dip

IMG_5014From the Saturday,  June 20, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Freshwater is a wonderful resource.

Just ask California.

But as anyone still drying out this weekend along the banks of the swollen Kankakee, La Salle and Fox rivers can surely attest, water also poses problems.

Up in Chicago, for example, the lake truly is great – except when its cooling effect drops downtown temperatures into the brisk 50s while they’re in the balmy 80s out in the burbs.

The adjacent Chicago River is a similarly great asset – except when it transforms a gleaming new stretch of the city’s Riverwalk into a literal walk in the river like it did this past Monday evening when nearly three inches of rain hammered down on Chicago.

After a stormy Sunday, Monday’s sudden June monsoon caused floodwaters to rise high enough to submerge multiple tiers of steps along the new Chicago Riverwalk just days after it had officially opened. Once the water had receded by Tuesday morning, the Chicago Tribune reported that large swaths of the pathway were caked with a dark brown substance along with random debris such as baseballs, driftwood and liquor bottles.

In other words, the contents of Al Capone’s vault.

Where’s Geraldo when you need him?

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Home is inhospitable for Chicago baseball clinchers

sox_1906_fullTonight at the United Center, the Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time since 1938.

That’s a long dry spell.

But, then again, it’s next to nothing when it comes to the postseason series-clinching drought that our city is still enduring in baseball.

That’s because, as crazy as it may seem, Chicagoans have not seen a MLB postseason series clincher – of any kind – take place on city turf since way back in 1906, when the White Sox beat the Cubs in a World Series that never left Chicago.

In the century-plus since ’06, there have been seven other baseball postseason series victories by the Cubs and White Sox, but each and every one of them has been clinched outside the City of Big Shoulders. That history also includes four separate times – three in 2003, and one in 1945 – that the Cubs had an opportunity to secure a series championship on Chicago soil only to come up typically short.

Ponder the following list from Chicago’s bizarre history of only managing to win MLB playoff series when the Cubs or the Sox were playing on the road, and failing every time they had a shot to do so at home:

2005: The White Sox won the American League Division Series on the road in Boston, won the AL Championship Series on the road in Anaheim, and won the World Series on the road in Houston.

2003: In the NLDS against the Braves, the Cubs failed the clinch the series in Game 4 at Wrigley Field before going on to ultimately win the series in Game 5 on the road in Atlanta. In the NLCS against the Marlins, the Cubs lost two potential series clinchers – Games 6 and 7 – at Wrigley Field en route to losing the series.

1945: Facing Detroit, the Cubs lost the decisive Game 7 of the World Series at Wrigley Field.

1917: In Game 6 at the Polo Grounds in New York City, the White Sox won the World Series over the Giants.

1908: The Cubs won the World Series by beating the Tigers in Game 5 at Bennett Park in Detroit.

1907: The Cubs won the World Series by beating the Tigers in Game 4 at Bennett Park in Detroit.

Hopefully, the Blackhawks can get it done and win the Stanley Cup  in front of the home crowd tonight. But if they do, don’t blame Chicago’s baseball die-hards if they get a little jealous.

After all, we’ve never even seen a NLDS win in town, let alone a World Series.

One of these days …

June events in Chicago to make you swoon

1370464975-ribfest1-teaserFrom the Saturday, June 13, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

In Illinois, people train for months – or, at least, weeks – to get their “beach body” ready for summer (even if they’re nowhere near a beach). But then, Chicago’s summer arrives and threatens to ruin all that hard work in a single weekend.

Delicious food festivals can do that.

And if you’re looking to partake in some such events this month, here are my suggested selections. Just try to not cheat on your diet too much – or go ahead and do, if you’re in the mood.

June 13-14: Ribfest Chicago

Taking place this weekend from noon to 10 p.m. both today and on Sunday, the city’s longest-running rib fest is also widely considered its best. There’s good reason, considering how the 27th Annual Ribfest Chicago features up to 50,000 pounds of ribs and BBQ dished out by more than 30 restaurants.

Located at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Irving Park Road in North Center, Ribfest also offers a family area (open noon-7 p.m.) featuring live entertainment for kids, including inflatables and games.

For more information, visit ribfest-chicago.com.

June 13-14: Andersonville Midsommarfest

Also taking place today and on Sunday, Midsommarfest is a misnomer since summer technically hasn’t even begun. Nevertheless, the 50th anniversary of this bash created to celebrate Andersonville’s Swedish heritage, Midsommarfest will have summer in full swing as it celebrates old Sweden’s world traditions – including a dance around the Maypole.

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Blackhawks looking fantastic – and maybe dynastic

HawksFrom the Saturday, June 6, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Ming, Tudor, Duck … Blackhawks?

Outside of China, England and the Reality TV lineup on A&E, dynasties are a pretty rare thing. But here in Chicago, we’ve been spoiled.

During the 1990s, we reveled in Michael Jordan’s Bulls capturing six rings. And now tonight in Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks could take another step toward establishing their own Windy City dynasty when they face the Lightning in Game 2 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. If Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane & Co. ultimately turn their current 1-0 series lead into another title, it will be the team’s third crown in the past six seasons.

That’s remarkable. All the more so considering that prior to 2010 it had been such a long time since the franchise’s last Stanley Cup in 1961 that some claimed the Blackhawks were cursed. Now, however, they’re just three wins away from joining the Bruins and Red Wings as the only NHL clubs to have hoisted the Stanley Cup six times or more.

So maybe there really is hope yet for the Chicago Cubs.

Jordan’s 30 for 30

Speaking of dynasties, a new exhibit outside Field Museum was unveiled last week that features 30 over-sized photos of Michael Jordan shot by legendary former Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss.

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The best roofs to top off Chicago’s summer

view-during-day.0From the Saturday, May 30, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

I like to think of Chicago as Summer’s Favorite City.

For my money, there’s no town in America more beautiful during the year’s warmer months. And I’d bet big money that there’s no town on Earth that cherishes its sunny days more than the Windy City.

We can thank our wicked winters for that.

With that in mind, there are few better ways to enjoy Chicago’s architectural beauty and sunshine – or moonlight, for that matter – than atop one of its many downtown rooftop venues.

This summer happens to be a banner one for such hotspots with new ones opening, while existing ones have upgraded their offerings. So, if you’re looking to “top” off a summer day in Chicago soon, consider these.

Cindy’s at Chicago Athletic Association
12 S. Michigan Ave.

Once an exclusive Venetian Gothic palace that served as a private playground for Chicago’s business elites such as Marshall Field and William Wrigley, the Chicago Athletic Association has been transformed into a resplendent hotel for all that just opened this past Wednesday.

Atop its 13th floor of sits Cindy’s, a new indoor/outdoor space sporting a beach-house feel with picnic-style seating and two fire pits. Facing the lake, Cindy’s offers gorgeous views of Millennium Park and the Art Institute, all from beneath a glass rooftop framed by steel.

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Navy Pier trading its schlock for sleek in redesign

NavyFrom the Saturday, May 16, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

It’s the most well attended tourist attraction in the state and offers perhaps the best view of Chicago’s skyline that you can get with your feet planted on the ground, but Navy Pier has felt like a sinking ship for years.

It’s been that heavy with schlock.

Wading 3,000 feet out into the waters of Lake Michigan, the pier originally was envisioned as part of legendary architect Daniel Burnham’s celebrated 1909 Plan of Chicago.

However, over time, it crumbled into disrepair and largely remained that way until 1995 when, at a cost of $225 million, Navy Pier was completely remade as a mix of souvenir shops, sprawling exhibition halls, cultural attractions and public spaces.

That ’90s-style renovation, heavy on carnival-style kitsch and loud colors, proved appealing enough for Navy Pier to begin drawing more than 8 million people a year, re-establishing it as Illinois’ top tourist attraction, an honor the pier also held during the ’50s, when 3.2 million visited annually.

But as the pier closes in on its 100th birthday in 2016 having seen attendance dip a bit in recent years, it’s long been in dire need of a 21st-century makeover. And after visiting earlier this month, I can say that it’s finally getting one so good that I believe will stand the test of time.

And not just a couple of decades.

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Is Chicago ready to put the ‘Win’ in Windy City?

From the Saturday, May 9, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

RoseBy Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

Besides the Blackhawks’ highly notable exception, you know they don’t call Chicago the Windy City because its sports teams actually win.

But could that soon change?

It’s certainly a possibility with the Bulls, led by a resurgent Derrick Rose, showing flashes of being a legitimate NBA title contender as they wage battle with LeBron James & Co., while the Blackhawks once again look like the team to beat en route to the Stanley Cup.

Meanwhile, on the baseball diamond, the Cubs are assembling a formidable collection of young talent that could finally end their eternal title drought … some day.

It’s unlikely, of course, that Chicago will crown three champions during 2015, but it’s not ridiculous to think the city could end up with a couple of them. If it did, Chicago would join elite company, as in the history of major North American professional sports (NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL) a single city/metropolitan area has been home to multiple champions in one season only 14 times, most recently in ’04 when the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox respectively won the Super Bowl and World Series.

Detroit is the only city that has hosted more than two major sports champs in a single season, which happened way back in 1935 when the Lions, Red Wings and Tigers all captured their league’s crowns.

So, as Chicago shoots for its own sports glory this spring, I wanted to fire off a few of my own thoughts about the city’s bustling sports scene.

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May Days: There’s more than football in Chicago

American-Beer-SmallFrom the Saturday, May 2, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Chicago isn’t the Windy City this week. It’s Draft Town.

But for the rest of May, it’s back to being itself – and that’s a pretty great thing if you’re looking to visit soon to enjoy all that Chicago offers during the springtime. Here are a few suggestions for the coming weeks.

May 9: American Beer Classic

If you’ve ever been there for a Chicago Bears game, a concert or any other kind of sporting event, you may have had a beer at Soldier Field.

But have you ever had a beer on Soldier Field?

It not, you can on Saturday, May 9, during the American Beer Classic at the venerable stadium. Featuring more than 30 participating local and national breweries serving up 200-plus beers, the ABC enables you to taste your way around the nation by simply covering 100 yards.

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Chicago cooks up its first-ever Food + Wine Festival

Inaugural-Chicago-Food-Wine-Festival-600x300From the Saturday, April 25, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

Before I met my future wife, the Michelin rankings I knew were for tires, not restaurants, I was much more likely to shuck an oyster than actually eat one, and my idea of fine dining probably consisted of opting for Chipotle instead of Taco Bell.

OK, well, maybe I wasn’t that bad. But I wasn’t too far off.

Four years later, however, my wife Debbie – who developed her dining acumen growing up in Manhattan (New York, not Illinois) before sharpening it into a knife (nay, cutlery) during 11 years in Chicago – has elevated my palate to the point that she jokes about creating “a monster.”

Now, I wouldn’t go that far – salads and subs still dominate my weekly diet – but it is true that these days I have developed a great appreciation for great food. Especially when it’s from the Windy City.

And that’s why I was excited to learn that inaugural Chicago Food + Wine Festival will be rolling into town this summer. Organized through the collaboration of the promoters behind Lollapalooza, celebrity chef Tim Love of Texas, and Food & Wine Magazine, the Chicago event was announced on Tuesday and will be held Aug. 28-30 in Lincoln Park.

One year ago this month, Debbie and I attended the Austin Food + Wine Festival along the banks of the Colorado River deep in the heart of Texas. Surprisingly rollicking but without the overwhelming masses that you’ll encounter at, say, the Taste of Chicago, the Austin fest served as a very fun and very approachable way to dive into the world of upscale food.

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Feeling out the Draft for NFL fans in Chicago

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 4.46.46 PMFrom the Saturday, April 18, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Without an enclosed-roof facility and with the bone-chilling draft along Lake Michigan every February, it’s unlikely that Chicago ever will – or ever should – host a Super Bowl.
But it will hold a Draft this spring – and it’s super-sized.

After 51 years in New York, the NFL Draft relocates to the Windy City April 30-May 2 when the league stages its reimagined extravaganza inside the historic Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Parkway).

Like planned no-shows Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, you won’t be able to find yourself inside the theatre for the Draft (tickets are no longer available), but that hardly means you can’t be part of the festivities.

And if you want a Draft experience, here’s what you need to know.

Where to go

With 4,000 seats, Auditorium Theatre can only fit so many people. But at Draft Town, the so-called “three-ring circus” that will sprawl across adjacent Grant Park, there will be no such issues.

Covering 900,000 square feet – equal to 15 football fields – Draft Town is open to the public and will feature an arched structure built on Congress Plaza to house Selection Square, where team tables will be and where team representatives will call in their picks.

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