About the Town in November



By Philip Vidal



Lawry’s The Prime Rib on 100 East Ontario is set to close December 31. Photo by Lawry’s A La Cart.


Over forty years ago, when I was still being carded, I had my first taste of Château Lafite Rothschild at the Chicago outpost of  Lawry’s The Prime Rib – as their tagline says, ”A Chicago Classic since 1974.”  In addition to prime rib served from huge silver art moderne serving carts reminiscent of a Flash Gordon movie, the restaurant was famous for its steaks, Yorkshire pudding, and the spinning bowl salad. During the holidays, carolers clad in Victorian costumes strolled through the restaurant.  Lawry’s at 100 East Ontario closes December 31.


If you stand on Rush Street and look at Lawry’s, you can still see the 1889 orange brick L. Hamilton McCormick mansion rising above the limestone façade of the restaurant.   At one point there were so many McCormicks (known for the McCormick reaper and International Harvester, later Navistar) living in the area that it was called McCormickville.  In addition to the L. Hamilton McCormick Mansion, the Cyrus Hall McCormick mansion stood at 675 North Rush Street. The 1875 double house for Leander McCormick and his son Robert Hall McCormick still stands at 660 North Rush Street.  It housed the Chez Paul restaurant for many years.   Cyrus McCormick’s son, Harold. F. McCormick, married Edith Rockefeller, the daughter of Standard Oil founder John Rockefeller in 1895. They had a mansion that stood at 1000 North Lake Shore Drive.  I’d like to read the new biography Edith – The Rogue Rockefeller McCormick by Andrea Friederici Ross.


The L. Hamilton McCormick mansion housed Kungsholm, a Scandinavian restaurant, and the Kungsholm Miniature Grand Opera, a puppet opera theater.  The Fred Harvey chain then took over the restaurant and theater for a time.  Ultimately Lawry’s opened their own restaurant in the space, closing the theater.   In late October, I went on an informative and fascinating tour and saw vestiges of the mansion, Scandinavian restaurant and puppet theater. For information about the two-hour tours given Tuesday to Sunday through the end of December, contact Shannon Tauschman at stauchman@lawrysonline.com or (312) 787-5000.


Order a loved one  a Pop-Up Puppet Gram, a puppet show delivered right to your door, porch, lobby or yard. Photo by Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.


I don’t remember going to the Kungsholm puppet theater when I was a child, but Heather Black recalls going there when she was just a wee lass.  I do remember watching TV shows produced in Chicago featuring puppets such as “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” and “Garfield Goose and Friends.”  Puppetry still lives in Chicago.   After the Kungsholm puppet theater closed, its artistic director, William Fosser, founded Opera in Focus in Rolling Meadows (currently closed due to COVID).   Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival offers three live, online puppetry workshops this month.   Their pop-up puppet-grams (like singing telegrams) featuring Mark Blashford have been extended through November.   It’s a novel way to wish someone a happy birthday or anniversary with a puppet show of 5 to 8 minutes delivered to their front door, lobby, porch or backyard.


Now extended through November 8, the Chicago Children’s Theatre’s  hosts”Beatrix Potter Drive-in Theatre Experience”  in their West Loop parking lot. Photo by Chicago Children’s Theatre.


A mix of puppetry and live theater, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s “Beatrix Potter Drive-in Theatre Experience” has been so popular that it’s been extended again through November 8.  The production is projected outdoors on a 30-foot screen in their West Loop parking lot.


The last meal that I had indoors (outside my apartment) was on March 12 in Munich. It was a great one at a three-star Michelin restaurant. Back in Chicago, with the exception of home-cooked meals, I’ve been dining outdoors.  The weather is turning cold so I need to look for options.   Happily, there are several Chicago-centric cookbooks on offer to take home-cooking to another level.


Reader Recipes: Chicago Cooks and Drinks at Home from the Chicago Reader offers recipes from the city’s top chefs and bartenders.   Fifteen percent of the book’s sales go to the Comp Tab Relief Fund, which helps hospitality workers laid-off or furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic.


From the editors of Chicago Magazine, The Chicago Cookbook features fifty signature recipes from the city’s prominent chefs. Photo by Chicago Magazine.


When I saw advertisements for  The Chicago Cookbook from the editors of Chicago Magazine, I thought it might include recipes for classic Chicago dishes such as Chicken Vesuvio and Shrimp de Jonghe.  It doesn’t.  Even better, it has fifty great recipes from prominent Chicago chefs.   If you do have a hankering for classic Chicago dishes like Shrimp de Jonghe and Chicken Vesuvio, then consider Avvio Restaurant, which recently opened at 4358 North Elston.  Avvio’s chef/owner was the former chef at the now-gone old-school Italian restaurant Sabatino’s on Irving Park Road.  Under the new restrictions, indoor dining at restaurants in Chicago is banned, but Avvio offers pick-up and is planning on offering delivery.


Now available on Hulu, a five-part documentary series “City So Real” set against the 2019 Chicago mayoral run-off election. Photo by National Geographic.


Just as I’ll forego dining outdoors and dine only indoors, entertainment moves indoors too.   It’s election month.  The National Geographic TV Channel aired “City So Real,” the five-part documentary series set against the 2019 Chicago mayoral run-off election, on NatGeo on October 29.  Streaming on Hulu starts on October 30.  Academy Award©-nominated Steve James also directed the highly acclaimed documentary “Hoop Dreams,” again set in Chicago.


The 52nd annual Jeff Awards celebrates the best of Chicago’s Equity theaters from the 2019/2020 season. The awards ceremony is November 9.  Steppenwolf Theatre starts its streaming service this month.   For a one-time $75 fee, you can stream all of its NOW virtual stage productions through August 2021.  Their first offering is James ljames’ “What is Left, Burns” on November 11.


The Gene Siskel Film Center’s 26th annual Black Harvest Film Festival goes virtual this year, from November 6-30.  If you missed the documentary “Belushi,” which opened the Chicago International Film Festival last month, you have a second chance to see it when it airs on Showtime on November 22.  Belushi was the Chicago-born Second City comedian and star of “Saturday Night Live” and “The Blues Brothers.”


Learn from Chicago’s Blues Hall of Fame Artists through Chicago Blues Network’s At Home Chicago Blues. Chicago Blues Network will also host their Trading 4s virtual concert series on November 5 and 19. Photo by Chicago Blues Network.


Speaking of the blues, the Chicago Blues Network’s Trading 4s virtual concert series performances are the first and third Thursdays of the month.  This month they’re November 5 and 19.


Catch Grammy Award winning Chicago jazz singer Kurt Elling in the last performances of two series. “Kurt Elling Cocktail Hour, 25th Anniversary Virtual Concert Tour” celebrates his 25th anniversary with Blue Note records on November 13.  On November 14 he hosts “Saturday Night at the Green Mill.” Both series are a great way to support jazz in Chicago.  The Green Mill cocktail lounge, which opened in 1907, is Chicago’s oldest nightclub in continual operation and a Chicago landmark.


“Chicago from the Air with Geoffrey Baer” shows Chicago landmarks filmed entirely with a drone camera. Photo by WTTW and Ken Carl.


You’ll see lots of Chicago landmarks…from the air… in a new special, “Chicago from the Air with Geoffrey Baer,”  that debuts November 19 on WTTW11.  I have fond memories of my own Chicago-from-the-air experience.  In the early 1970s I rode in a helicopter following the shoreline of Lake Michigan with my father, a fishery biologist, counting fishermen.


Back here on earth, if you’re looking for something that’s not virtual or online, then check out Apollo’s Fire, the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, which will perform a live concert billed as “ALLURE: The Three Amandas” at the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston on November 13.  The concert features two sopranos and a mezzo-soprano, whose first names are all Amanda.


You can also see exhibitions in person.  Recent works by more than 70 local artists are featured in “The Long Dream” that runs November 7 to January 17 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.  “Cuts and Beats: Cecil McDonald, Jr.,” a solo exhibition that runs November 15 to March 17 at the Hyde Park Art Center, showcases the work of this Chicago artist.


I met Chicago artist Michael Hernandez de Luna when he as a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).  I saw his solo exhibition “Philatelic Adventures” at Carl Hammer Gallery in 2016.  I recall that he courted controversy with the United States Postal Service for creating fake postage stamps.  The current show at Carl Hammer Gallery, which runs through November 28, is “Sincerely….,” an exhibition of works by two Pop artists, H.C. Westerman (also a SAIC grad) and Ray Johnson.  One of Ray Johnson’s works features a photo of actress Bridget Bardot with postage stamps.


Featuring postcards from the public, the Elmhurst Art Museum hosts “Art in the Post” through November 22. Photo by Steven Koch.


The Elmhurst Art Museum hosts “Art in the Post” through November 22.  The public is asked to contribute postcards to this installation reflecting their lives during these challenging times.


Another exhibition at the Elmhurst Art Museum is “A Space Problem: Organized by David Salkin,” an exhibition that displays works by local artists and architects alongside mid-century furnishings and design objects.  It closes November 15.   The exhibition and museum incorporate the McCormick house designed in 1952 by Mies van der Rohe.  Cantigny Park in Wheaton is on the estate of Colonel Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune and cousin to L. Hamilton McCormick.  After their Near North Side McCormickville mansions were torn down or repurposed, a number of the McCormicks moved west.


Dates, times, locations and availability are subject to change.  Please stay healthy and safe and keep up with the latest COVID-19 information.