Get a Taste of Chicago this July


From the Saturday, July 5, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

The fireworks may be over this July, but in Chicago the fun isn’t.

And neither is the food. Or the music, for that matter.

In fact, there’s perhaps no better month during which you can get a taste of Chicago – and not just at the Taste of Chicago. Beyond the city’s longtime signature food event, there are also three other “Tastes” around town this month to satisfy your summertime appetite.

So, fire up your taste buds, take out your ear buds and hang out with some of your buds at these July festivals.

Taste of Lakeview
July 5-6

Tucked in the heart of Chicago’s vibrant Lakeview neighborhood at the intersection of Lincoln and Belmont avenues, the Taste of Lakeview is expected to attract more than 35,000 fest-goers this weekend to sample summertime fare from the likes of The Pony Inn (a favorite among Blackhawks players), Dinky Donuts and Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro.

The fest, which asks for a $5 donation, also features four of the city’s most popular cover bands with Hairbangers Ball (7 p.m.) and Wedding Banned (8 p.m.) hitting the stage tonight, with 16 Candles (7 p.m.) and Too White Crew (8 p.m.) performing on Sunday evening.

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Chicago’s best baseball? This summer, it’s in Iowa

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


By Dave Wischnowsky

It’s 332 miles from downtown Chicago to downtown Des Moines, but from the doldrums that is Chicago baseball this summer, it’s a world away – and a worthwhile road trip.

Last weekend, my dad and I made the leisurely drive out to Iowa’s capital city in the hopes of finding a baseball team more compelling than either the Cubs or White Sox. We ended up finding just that in the Triple-A Iowa Cubs thanks to a roster now boasting the franchise’s top two prospects in third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Javier Baez.

Along the way, we also discovered a town even more fun than expected. And if you’re a baseball fan seeking an enjoyable “Chicago” version of the sport, here’s how you too can find it in the middle of Iowa.

Getting There

Getting to Des Moines is easy. Simply find your way to Interstate 80 and go west, young man (or lady).

After crossing the Mississippi River and zipping past Iowa City, you’ll eventually take I-235 West and wind your way through downtown Des Moines until you reach Principal Park, home of the I-Cubs, located at 1 Line Drive.

Several large parking lots ring the ballpark, but they seem to fill up quickly. Instead, I suggest seeking out the smaller pay lots downtown at the nearby intersection of 4th Street and Court Avenue.

At only $3 to $5, the prices are far different from Wrigleyville.

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Bring The IHSA Basketball Tourney Back Home

Gonzaga v Illinois

My June 28 column from …

(CBS) It’s been so long since the IHSA boys’ basketball state tournament left Champaign that when it was last held in town, the high school players in the Class of 2015 weren’t even born yet.

Neither were those in the Class of 2014, for that matter.

And that’s simply far too long.

“It should have never left,” Big Ten Network analyst and former University of Illinois point guard Stephen Bardo told Champaign’s WCIA 3 News last week when asked about the state tournament’s exodus to Peoria in 1995. “It was a huge draw.”

And after years of decreasing buzz and diminishing crowds, I believe the tournament potentially could be that again – but only if it returns to Champaign and the soon-to-be-refurbished State Farm Center.

Last week, the IHSA announced that it’s accepting bids from cities wishing to host the state championships from 2016 to 2020, which prompted the tourism bureau “Visit Champaign County” and the University of Illinois to say that they will be working together to bring the finals back.

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Bryant, Baez And A Weekend In Des Moines

kris-byrant-smileToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) It’s still in Iowa, but these days the Field of Dreams exists about 190 miles southwest of Dyersville, just outside downtown Des Moines.

Or at least it sure does for Chicago Cubs fans.

That’s because Principal Park, home of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs located at the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers in Iowa’s capital city, is also the current nexus of the franchise’s hopes and Cubs fans’ dreams.

Heck, the place even has a few ghosts floating around, to boot.

This past weekend, my dad and I road-tripped five hours west of Wrigley Field to Des Moines in pursuit of actual compelling Cubs baseball – a brand of the sport not seen at the Friendly Confines since before Lou Piniella retired.

With phenom third baseman Kris Bryant having been called up to Iowa last Thursday to join a fellow whiz kid, in shortstop Javier Baez – the organization’s top two prospects ranked No. 8 and No. 5, respectively, in Baseball America’s Top 100 list – we wanted to get a first-hand look at the future that Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein keep promising us.

And we came back home cautiously optimistic – although we didn’t exactly start that way.

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In Chicago, World Cup revolves around The Globe

From the Saturday, June 21, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


new-globeSoccer may be considered the world’s sport.

But in Chicago, it belongs to The Globe.

And on Monday morning when I walked into The Globe – the North Side pub that’s twice been voted the country’s best soccer bar by the U.S. Soccer Federation – all of the seats already belonged to somebody else.

Even though it wasn’t yet 11:30 a.m.

“The staff got here at 8, and we had already had a line of people wanting to get in by 9,” my bartender told me while she poured a pint of Spanish beer as the World Cup match between Germany and Portugal prepared to begin in Brazil. “I can’t believe how many U.S. fans are here already.”

The American team wasn’t set to play Ghana for more than five hours, but two guys next to me wearing U.S. soccer jerseys and stars-and-stripes scarves already were setting up Fireball whisky shots on the bar.

Viva, la futbol.

Located at 1943 W. Irving Park Road in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood, The Globe opened in 2004 as the brainchild of Scotland native Stuart Johnston, a former semi-professional soccer player who first arrived in the Windy City during the early 1990s to work for Accenture and couldn’t find a good bar where he could watch his favorite sport.

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LeBron Is More Chamberlain Than He Is Jordan

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 6Friday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) LeBron James isn’t Michael Jordan.

Even if he lived up the bawdy proclamation that he issued four years ago upon taking his talents to South Beach and was to actually win, “Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” NBA championships for the Miami Heat, James still wouldn’t be Jordan.

No one is. Or likely ever will be.

It’s not just because Jordan won six NBA titles that his all-time greatness is so deeply ingrained in the minds of most basketball fans. It’s also the fact that once he got to the NBA Finals, Jordan never lost there.

Not once.

That sterling 6-0 record in the championship round is almost impossible for any player to duplicate — and certainly for James, whose personal record in NBA Finals now sits at a lackluster 2-3 following the Miami Heat’s loss to San Antonio on Sunday.

Fair or not, many will judge James’ all-time greatness in comparison to Jordan by how well he fared on basketball’s biggest stage. Based on those results thus far, a friend of mine this week made the analogy on Facebook that “Jordan is to Russell what LeBron is to Chamberlain.” And while I’d never viewed LeBron James’ legacy through that historical prism before, once I did, I couldn’t have agreed more.

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Spending Dollars To Extend Samardzija Makes Sense

jeffToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) With trade rumors swirling and scouts descending upon the games he starts, it seems as if almost every team in Major League Baseball is interested in Jeff Samardzija these days.

So, it’s nice to reportedly see the Cubs interested in him, as well. And not just as a trading chip, but as a long-term piece of their puzzle.

Late Monday night, Chicago Sun-Times beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer reported that the Cubs have resumed talks with their top pitcher about a multi-year extension.

The offer is rumored to be for the same five years that the Cubs and Samardzija had previously discussed, but for more cash than the $60 million-$65 million that’s said to have been on the table. To keep Samardzija, it likely will take something close to the $17.5 million annual value in the the six-year contract that Cincinnati signed Homer Bailey to during the spring, according to Wittenmyer.

Over five years, that would equate to an $87.5 million deal to keep Samardzija in Chicago. Others may disagree, but to me, that price tag sounds reasonable, even if Samardzija ultimately winds up as a No. 2 starter for the Cubs. However, since the news of potential contract negotiations broke, I’ve also had more than one person say to me that such a pricey extension for a pitcher Samardzija’s age – he turns 30 in January – is too much.

But, really, it isn’t.

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With Wrigley Signs, City Must Avoid Being ‘Trumped’

trump-signFriday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) It’s been called a “wart.” It’s been called a “desecration.” And it’s been called as “subtle as Godzilla.”

And those actually are probably some of the kinder things that people have been saying about the gaudy new “TRUMP” sign that now mars not only the façade of its handsome 96-story namesake tower, but also the entire treasured cityscape along the Chicago River.

With Mayor Rahm Emanuel and billionaire Donald Trump preparing to possibly butt egos over the issue, you know that the controversy over the Trump Tower sign has gotten big.
But up at Wrigley Field, could the uproar actually be a sign of things to come?

After all, enormous signs at the Friendly Confines threaten to blight another of the city’s most precious visual treasures – and much like Trump, we might not realize just how badly Wrigley’s beauty will be impacted until it’s too late.

With the backlash over the Trump sign hitting a fever pitch this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel reportedly “thinks the sign is awful,” according to a city spokesman, who has told the media that the mayor is exploring the city’s options to remove it.

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It’s a Great Lake, but it could be even greater

lakeFrom the Saturday, June 14, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


It’s so impressive that last summer when one of my wife’s friends visiting from the East Coast laid her eyes upon Lake Michigan for the first time, she shouted out in a Boston accent as thick as a bowl of chowder, “That is not a lake, no sir!”

But, yes, indeed it is.

And while Chicago’s massive inland “ocean” inarguably is the city’s greatest natural resource, one could actually argue that Chicago doesn’t use it enough as an entertainment resource. And I would agree.

However, one local entrepreneur wants to change that.

This week, Beau D’Arcy floated his big idea about how he wants to provide Chicagoans with a new way to enjoy Lake Michigan by creating a floating oasis about a mile off the shore complete with sundecks, restaurants, bars, shops, a swimming pool and room for plenty of boats to dock. Called Breakwater Chicago, the $23 million project sounds pretty wild. And it is. But I also think it’s an intriguing way for Chicago to start making its Great Lake even greater for both residents and visitors.

Because, unless you own a boat, have a friend that does, or are willing to drop big bucks to charter a cruise, most people don’t really get a chance to enjoy the lake beyond dipping your toes in it from a beach.

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The Windy City Deserves To Feel An NFL Draft

NFLToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) With its brutal winter weather and a stadium that’s far too small, Chicago has no business hosting a Super Bowl.

But an NFL Draft?

Well, yes, the Windy City absolutely should host that. And come 2015, NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt believes that it indeed will.

“If I were an oddsmaker, I would say Chicago is where it’ll be next year,” Brandt told SiriusXM NFL Radio about the 2015 draft after the league sent letters last week to Chicago, New York and Los Angeles requesting information about their capabilities of hosting the coveted event.

The nation’s three biggest cities are expected to submit proposals later this month, with NFL officials planning to visit every draft site and make a decision at some point this summer. A league spokesman has stressed that more than 12 cities remain in the mix to host the 2015 draft, but that Chicago, New York and L.A. were the first to be sent formal letters.

Considering that, I’d say you can expect the host city to emerge from that trio. And when it does, it absolutely should be Chicago.

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