About the Town in August



By Philip Vidal

Although the “dog days of summer” actually refers to the Dog Star, Sirius, which appears during the summer, I like to think it also refers to the hot dog days of summer, as Chicago has always been a hot dog kind of town.

Hot dog stands around the city have cult followings and are mourned when they close. I saw a book recently about the long-lamented Hot Doug’s. Several years ago, when Kevin Hickey (now at The Duck Inn in Bridgeport and named chef of the year by the Chicago Tribune) was the chef at the Four Seasons Chicago, he created a hot dog and condiments from scratch. When he left the Four Seasons, the hot dog was taken off the menu. There was such a backlash that it was again offered, almost immediately. Chicago even has its own hot dog historian. Roosevelt University professor emeritus Bruce Kraig has written not one, but two books about the hot dog. Do your own research at the Chicago History Museum’s Chicago Hot Dog Fest, August 5–7, LaSalle and Stockton, (chicagohotdogfest.com).

“Dogs and suds” could mean washing your pooch, but it also happily applies to the dog-friendly tap room at the new Dovetail Brewery, 1880 W. Belle Plaine Ave. (dovetailbrewery.net). Though I enjoy double entendre, it is refreshing to find a brewery that is naming its beers with sensible names that you can say in mixed company.

Another summer staple is ice cream. When I was growing up in the East Lakeview neighborhood (it was called New Town then), friends and I would meet at either Baskin-Robbins/31 Flavors or at the soda fountain at Woolworth’s. Both were on Broadway just north of Belmont. If we had been really good, which was not often as I recollect, my parents would take me and my sisters in our Mercury Colony Park station wagon to the Buffalo Ice Cream Parlor on Irving Park Road just east of Pulaski.

My mother, who grew up in the Portage Park neighborhood, remembers saving her allowance so that she could splurge at Buffalo. The Buffalo Ice Cream Parlor is gone, as are the Baskin-Robbins and Woolworth’s on Broadway, but the Original Rainbow Cone in Beverly is celebrating its 90th anniversary. Margie’s Candies has been serving ice cream at its original location on Western near Armitage for over 90 years. My old neighborhood now has Paciugo and Bobtail Soda Fountain at 3241 and 2591 N. Broadway, respectively. I have heard great things about Black Dog Gelato at 859 N. Damen. I am glad that they are opening a location closer to my home in the Loop’s new all-local food hall, Revival Food Hall at 125 S. Clark. All of these creameries serve wonderfully rich (read high butter fat content) ice cream in flavors that my sisters and I would have never imagined possible when we were told to be still in the back seat of our parent’s car.

If you enjoyed hanging out with wildlife while having a glass of wine at last month’s Lincoln Park Zoo Ball, then continue the tradition every Friday and Saturday evening at the beer-and-wine garden at the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo through August 13 (czs.org).

My good friend Doris Timmen was thrilled to find an eponymous cocktail, “The Doris,” at the new cocktail bar The Sixth located at 2200 West Lawrence(thesixthbar.com) in Lincoln Square, which was named best new cocktail bar in Time Out Chicago. To her dismay, she learned that it was named for the owner’s grandmother, and not for her.

What is it about the color orange? Orange Skin, the contemporary and modern furniture store at 223 West Erie Ave. (orangeskin.com) was on Architectural Digest magazine’s “10 Chicago Shops You Don’t Want to Miss.” Orange Moon, 2418 W. North Ave. (anorangemoon.com), which sells midcentury modern furniture was in the July/August Departures magazine. Chicagoan Mary Jean Kneen, of Kneen & Co., has also been getting a lot of press. A Nymphenburg porcelain goose egg vase by Ted Muehling was featured in the “Discoveries – All Wrapped Up” feature in the November Architectural Digest magazine. Kneen & Co. was also mentioned in the cover article, “The Best of the City,” in the January/February issue of Chicago Social (kneenandco.com).

Ginza Festival 2016, the 61st annual Japanese Music and Crafts Festival, takes place August 12–14 at the Midwest Buddhist Temple, 435 W. Menomonee (ginzaholiday.com). That same weekend is Festival Cubano in Riis Park, 6100 W. Fullerton (thecubanfestival.com). Festa Italiana is August 18–21 on Taylor between Ashland and Racine (chicagofestaitaliana.com).

The super suave Bryan Ferry will perform at Ravinia on August 6 (ravinia.org). More suaveness and sophistication can be had at Ravinia on August 17 for “Anything Goes,” Cole Porter’s 125th birthday celebration.

Cole Porter attended Florence Foster Jenkins’ sold-out recital at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 1944. Jenkins was a wealthy New Yorker who styled herself a soprano, but was a terrible singer. Meryl Streep portrays Jenkins in Florence Foster Jenkins. The film, which opens August 12, concentrates on the time just before Jenkins’ Carnegie Hall recital. In May, my friend Susanne Sedlmayer and I saw the French film Marguerite, which was also based on Florence Foster Jenkins and starred Catherine Frot, who won the César Award, the French Oscar, for Best Actress. Will Meryl Streep win her fourth Oscar for this role?

The Chimera Ensemble performs the Chicago premiere of Colette Freedman’s “Sister Cities” about four estranged sisters (August 20 through September 18, Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee, chimeraensemble.com). I have heard it will soon be a feature film.

The 25th annual “Dance for Life Chicago,” to benefit The Dancer’s Fund and AIDS Foundation Chicago, is August 20. Chicago’s top dance companies, including Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Joffrey Ballet, are slated to perform at the Auditorium Theatre (chicagodancersunited.org or 312-922-5812).

Hugh Hefner founded Playboy magazine in Chicago in the 1950s. Just down the street from my apartment is Honorary Hugh M. Hefner Way in front of the former Playboy headquarters at 159 E. Walton Place. See how architecture and design play a key role in establishing the Playboy brand at “Playboy Architecture, 1953–1979” at the Elmhurst Art Museum through August 28 (elmhurstartmuseum.org). The museum is partly housed in the Robert Hall McCormick Jr. home that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed.

While in Elmhurst, take a look at “But Wait, There’s More! The Story of Inventor and Innovator Ron Popeil” at the Elmhurst History Museum, through September 18 (elmhursthistory.org). He created the Pocket Fisherman and the Chop-O-Matic. I can still remember the TV commercials. While in Elmhurst, also head to the York Theatre to see the small museum that is part of the Theatre Historical Society of America. The society might be moving the museum to Pittsburgh.

The Summer Olympic Games are in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5–21. A throwback to the past, “Nazi Olympic: Berlin 1936” is at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie through August 28 (ilholocaustmuseum.org). Jesse Owens, after winning four gold medals at the 1936 games, raised his family here in Chicago. Through September, the National Hellenic Museum is hosting a small exhibition, “Olympic Revival: The 1896 Olympic Games,” about the first modern Olympics, 333 S. Halsted (nationalhellenicmuseum.org). Avery Brundage has been the only American to be president of the International Olympics Committee (1952–1972). While living in Chicago in the 1920s, he built several apartment buildings along Lake Shore Drive.

Always a highlight of summer in Harbor Country is Lambda Legal’s annual “Into the Woods” fundraiser. This year it is on August 27 at the home of Leo G. Aubel and Aaron J. Dennison in Three Oaks, Michigan,( lambdalegal.org/woods). My neighbor and friend, Steve Winters, is national co-chair of Lambda Legal.

I will close by quoting Daniel Burnham: “Make no little plans.” Washington, D.C., is not the place to visit in August, but when temperatures cool down, I want to take Amtrak from Chicago to Washington to see the recently restored and re-gilded Main Hall of Chicago architect and celebrated city planner Daniel Burnham’s 1907 Union Station. I also plan to head east to Boston to see his final design, the flagship store and headquarters for Filene’s Department Store, which has been converted into a mixed-use office and retail complex. Burnham also designed the Macy’s building downtown — which most Chicagoans will always remember as Marshall Field’s. [Sigh]