About the Town in July




By Philip Vidal




One way to appreciate Chicago even more, and to find out what is going on, is to host out-of-town guests.  My cousin from Germany, Isabella, and her boyfriend, Matthias, will visit Chicago this month.  This is their first trip to the United States.  The German language has wonderful, long compound words, and my cousin’s visit brings to mind the wordSehenswurdigkeitenwhich literally means “things worth seeing,” and refers to the sights of a town or city.  But what are the things worth seeing in Chicago?  Where to start? Of course, there are the ‘must-see’ sights like Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago.  I also hope that we will visit a number of sights that I have not seen in a long time, as well as some new ones.  I have not been to the “606” trail, and I have heard that the plants and trees have started to fill in….

On a terrific trip to San Francisco in April organized by the Art Institute’s Sustaining Fellows, our farewell dinner was at renowned chef Michael Mina’s eponymous restaurant.  One of the managers said that Chef Mina is opening a French restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, just a few blocks from my apartment.  Two Mina Group restaurants are actually planned for the hotel.  Petit Margeaux –a café – is already open.  I recently stopped in for a piece of French pastry.  A manager from San Francisco, Nishaan Chavda, was there and remembered me. The restaurant Margeaux Brasserie is slated to open July 10, just in time for Le Quartorze juillet.

Thinking of new restaurants always occasions recollections of those I have enjoyed.  I have fond memories of the Blackhawk Restaurants when there was one on Wabash downtown, and one on Pearson near the Water Tower.  I want to seeThe Food’s the Show,” an exhibit of artifacts from the Blackhawk Restaurants at the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago, 801 S. Morgan, floor 3, through December.

I also have fond memories of the German restaurants and shops along Lincoln Avenue.  Friends invited me to the new restaurant Entente at 3056 N. Lincoln last month.  The food and cocktails were creative and delicious.  We had a table by the window, and glancing across the street I remembered that my German grandmother’s favorite shop was Kuhn’s Delicatessen at 3051 N. Lincoln.  It is long gone, as are most of the German restaurants that lined Lincoln Avenue, such as Heidelberger Fass, Zum Deutschen Eck, Schwaben Stube.  But there is still a small enclave of German shops and restaurants on Lincoln just south of Lawrence.   

There are two street festivals along Lincoln Avenue this month that will feature, music, food and kids’ activities.  The Square Roots festival (July 7-9) is on Lincoln between Montrose and Wilson.   The Old Town School of Music is a co-presenter of this festival and is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.  The Taste of Lincoln Avenue (July 29-30) is on Lincoln between Fullerton and Wrightwood. This year’s festival marks an inaugural fest within a fest, “Sausage Fest.”  I think my German grandmother would expect me to sample some of the ‘wurst’ at the fest and compare it to what we enjoyed from Kuhn’s.

My grandmother was born and raised in a little town very close to  Düsseldorf, which is the starting point for this year’s most prestigious cycling race, the Tour de France (July 1-23).  While not the same, the Tour de Fat on Northerly Island on July 29 combines bikes, food, beer, and live entertainment from The Roots, the hip-hop group and house band for “The Tonight Show starring with Jimmy Fallon.”

Northerly Island is also the venue for a Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac concert on July 3.  In my last column, I mentioned that this summer had a great line-up of concerts, especially for people of a certain age, like me.  Some of those are:

Natalie Merchant at the Chicago Theatre, July 9

Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band at Wrigley Field, July 15

James Taylor with Bonnie Raitt at Wrigley Field, July 17

Paul McCartney at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, July 25-26

Lyle Lovett and his Large Band at the Chicago Theatre, July 29

There are also several music festivals. The Pitchfork Music Festival (July 14-16) is probably the most popular, but if you are looking for alternatives, in addition to the Square Roots Festival (July 7-9), there are West Fest and Ruido Fest that same weekend, and Wicker Park Fest is July 29-30. The Chicago Latin Jazz Festival is July 14-16 in Humboldt Park and at Navy Pier.  The Grant Park Music Festival and the Ravinia Festival continue through this month.  Violinist Joshua Bell’s concert on July 12 will be one of this month’s highlights at Ravinia. Violinist Itzhak Perlman will perform at Ravinia festival’s July 29 Women’s Board gala.

Even the theater and exhibits seem to be music centric this month. “Exhibitionism,” an exhibit of Rolling Stones artifacts, continues at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall through July.   Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s “How to Be a Rock Critic” is at Steppenwolf Theatre Company (July 6-22).  The show will feature a rotating cast of Chicago singers and musicians during its run.  I am anxious to learn more about 1960s-1980s rock impresario Bill Graham, who promoted rock stars such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center’s new exhibit “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” (July 16-November 12).

Just like the song “Dancing in the Street,” there will indeed be dancing in the streets, alleys, parks and other venues this month across Chicago. Thodos Dance Chicago presents “New Dances” at the Athenaeum Theatre (July 15-16). Chicago Dance Crash performs “The Brick Layers of Oz” at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts (July 28 – August 5).  The 27th annual Chicago Human Rhythm Project is at various venues (July 17-22).  Learn to dance at SummerDance in the Parks (through September 10 at Grant Park’s Spirit of Music Garden and July 13-September 14 at various parks throughout the city), or be a spectator at Dance in the Parks (July 11-August 5).  Dance in a downtown alley at Chicago Loop Alliance’s “ACTIVATE” on July 26.

Chicago seems to be one big set for television shows and movies. “Widows,” starring Viola Davis, Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson, was recently filmed in front of my Streeterville apartment building. Next month, Comedy Central will begin shooting the pilot for a new series, “South Side.”

While growing up on the North Side, we had German shepherd dogs, so that breed has always had a soft spot in my heart.  Our German shepherds, Prince and his son Duke, were big dogs, but from July 23 to Labor Day there will be some really big dogs around town, most 54” high.  “K-9s for Cops” is a display of 200 statues of German shepherd dogs to honor slain police officers and their families. The proceeds from the sale and sponsorship of the statues goes to provide financial help to families of fallen officers and those wounded.  PAWS Chicago will also get a portion of the proceeds.

You can bring your canine companion to the PAWS Chicago’s Beach Party at Castaways Bar and Grill at North Avenue Beach on July 20.  If Fido or Fifi would prefer being on the water instead of in the water, take them on Mercury Cruise’s Canine Cruise this summer (Saturdays and Sundays, July 8-September 24).  If Fido or Fifi is a theatre hound, perhaps they would like to attend “The only theatre in the Chicago area where you can bring your dog,” the Oak Park Festival Theatre, which is playing “The Fair Maid of the West” (July 27 to September 2).  I understand that not everyone is a dog lover, but if you love animals in general, consider supporting the Lincoln Park Zoo by attending the Women’s Board of Lincoln Park Zoo’s 40th annual gala, Zoo Ball 2017: The Mane Event, on July 14.

You can help support the Newberry Library by picking up a used tome or two at their Newberry Book Fair (July 27-30).  The Newberry Library’s renovation of their first-floor space begins in January.

I would like to see the DePaul Art Museum’s “Stranger Things” exhibit, which features art from mostly Chicago based artists, including Jim Lutes and Richard Rezac, through August 6.

A couple of popular plays are reprised this summer.  “Moby Dick,” which won four Jeff awards, is back at Lookingglass Theatre Company in the Water Tower Works, through September 3.  Broken Nose Theatre’s “At the Table” also won four Jeff awards and is back with the original cast at the Den Theatre, through July 28.   Friends gather for a weekend without cell phones and the Internet, and drama ensues.

There will again be fireworks on Independence Day.  Just before the fireworks at RiverEdge Park in Aurora, the crowd will mark the end of the 25th anniversary celebration of the movie “Wayne’s World” by attempting to establish a new world record for the largest number of people headbanging to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  Party On!