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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If you know where to look, April reigns in Chicago

From the Saturday, April 11, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

baconfest2013poetThe WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

There are some places you probably don’t want to find yourself stuck at in Chicago this month.

Chuy Garcia’s dinner table, for one. Heck, maybe Rahm Emanuel’s dinner table, for another. The bathroom lines at Wrigley Field, for certain.

However, as Chicago begins to make its long-anticipated turn toward spring, there are plenty of desirables spots to end up at during the month of April. And depending on you preferences, here are a few such options.

Neil Diamond
April 14

My wife loves the guy. And in spite of Neil Diamond’s often-excessive schmaltz (which tends to be a bit much for me), so do many others. If you count yourself among that sizable group, you’re in sweet (Caroline) luck as the 74-year-old crooner is scheduled to be in Chicago for one night only, performing at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the United Center.

According to Timeout Chicago, Diamond has stripped down much of the kitsch for his latest album, Melody Road, to fine musical effect. And while this current tour is in support of that album, Timeout predicts that the singer will favor a more hits-based act for his Chicago show.

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This coffee shop is a trip – back to the ’80s

DeLoreanFrom the Saturday, March 28, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Opened in 2010, The Wormhole Coffee Shop in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood was established in 2015. It says so on its front door.

And that’s all because of 1985.

Confused?

Well, you really shouldn’t be if you grew up during the 1980s, or simply are a fan of “Back to the Future” who’s dreamt of owning a silver DeLorean with flux capacitor. Which, as it turns out, you can actually find inside The Wormhole, a coffee shop that’s for lovers of the ’80s at least as much as it’s for lovers of coffee – and probably much more so.

Located at 1462 N. Milwaukee Avenue along an eclectic stretch of storefronts on the city’s North Side, The Wormhole – as its name suggests – is a trip back in time to the decade when hair was big, the Cold War was hot, and fashion was … well, it was something.

As a proud child of it, I still love the ’80s today. Anytime I stumble across one of the “Back to the Future” and “Indiana Jones” films on TV, I’ll stop and watch. I can still rattle off the starting lineups from the 1984 and ’89 Chicago Cubs as if they’re my Social Security Number. And I get a big retro kick out of seeing the on-point hairstyles, outfits and pop culture references from FX’s hit period drama, “The Americans,” as it chronicles the height of U.S.-USSR political tensions during the early ’80s.

The decade of my childhood brings back great memories for me, and this past weekend, I was hoping to stoke them when I visited The Wormhole on Sunday morning. Upon walking through the front door with “Est. 2015” painted on the glass – a cheeky nod to the once-upon-a-time futuristic year featured in “Back to the Future II” – I wasn’t disappointed as I encountered what could have been a junior high buddy’s basement.

Back when I actually was in junior high.

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It’s March Madness on – and off – the basketball court

GroceFrom the Saturday, March 21, edition of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

It’s that time of year when hope springs eternal.

Or, at least it is, unless your team has already been bounced out of the NCAA Tournament – or, ahem, already bounced out of the NIT.

Beyond any Cinderellas on the hardwood, spring training is in full swing promising hope for the summer. Elsewhere, spring football abounds promising hoping for the fall. And rumor has it that there may even be hope for warm weather soon.

Although, perhaps you shouldn’t hold your breath.

Instead, exhale as we take trip around the spring sports scene and check in on the Cubs, White Sox and Fighting Illini.

March Badness

The last time Illinois missed back-to-back NCAA Tournaments was 1991-92, and then only because the Illini were barred from the ’91 postseason due to NCAA sanctions. There are no sanctions this time around, but there’s plenty of frustration after Illinois was sent to the NIT and then failed to even show up in a 79-58 loss at Alabama.

“Certainly there’s some disappointment,” Illini athletic director Mike Thomas said after the loss. “We’d rather be playing in the NCAA tournament, and that’s our goal every year and any given year when we’re not playing in the NCAA tournament.”

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