Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fire Destroys Bronzeville Spots; Where to Go Now

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"Game Night" at Blu 47. (Photo: Blu 47)


A three-alarm fire destroyed a commercial building in Bronzeville early Thursday morning that was home to a number of thriving hot spots, including Blu 47, Spoken Word Cafe and a fifth Uncle Joe's Jerk Chicken location—which was set to open any day now.

This really sucks because it's a known fact that there's always been a lack of cool South Side places for young professionals to hang, so we're crossing our fingers that they're able to rebuild quickly.

We couldn't reach any of the business owners, but Blu 47 posted a message on its Facebook page, "Please keep our Blu 47 family in your prayers," which generated more than 50 messages from well-wishers.

We did catch up with Art Sims, a Bronzeville resident and regular contributor to "You and Me This Morning with Jeanne Sparrow," which airs weekdays on WCIU-TV. He's also known for putting on lively events at a few of the venues that were damaged.

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Art Sims' "Relationship Chat" networking event at Spoken Word Cafe. (Photo: Art Sims)


He says that the loss of these businesses is a blow to the neighborhood.

"It's a tremendous loss because we lack upscale places in our community, and that corner was the place to go," he says. "It offered everything: comedy, poetry, upscale dining. For many years, it was the home of my Original Real Deal Relationship Chat.

"I just hope they're all able to rebuild as soon as possible."

As a frequent diner in Bronzeville as well as nearby Hyde Park, Sims offers some other places to eat in the area:

The Big Easy: "'Hell's Kitchen' alum Chef Jen is bringing something good to the Hyde Park community with her take on Louisiana cuisine, but they still have some kinks they need to work out."

Cedars Mediterranean: "So fresh, and I love their chicken schwarma and hummus. They're located in Kimbark Plaza, so it's easy to park."

Chant: "It's really nice, Pan-Asian-inspired food. They do lobster rangoon and tempura vegetables, and are vegetarian friendly."

Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles: "It's a warm, relaxing spot where you can veg out after their famous chicken and waffles. It's extremely packed on weekends."

The Sit Down: "A sushi bistro that's really good. In addition to sushi they also have Italian fare and sandwiches."

Hyde Park location for Uncle Joe's Jerk Chicken: "The jerk chicken is very good, and the fish is always fresh."

Think Warm Thoughts . . .

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The interior of Uncle Fatty's in Lakeview will make you feel as though you're on a beach in Mexico. (Photo: Uncle Fatty's)


Think Brazil. Think Australia. Think Mexico.

Think about anywhere warmer than this cold-ass weather that's got me contemplating wearing three layers of coats this weekend.

It seems to have just snuck up on us, so if you cannot get away, there's no harm in pretending like you're somewhere with more tropic-like temperatures.

Uncle Fatty’s Rum Resort in Lakeview, for example, gets it right when it comes to a warm-weather theme.

Island-style cocktails, beach-y decor (including private cabanas and sandbox) and a rotating list of high-energy, local cover bands are certain to make you feel like you're on vacation.

Through Sunday, Uncle Fatty's hosts its first-ever Winter Music Fest, featuring hip and poppy bands Two White Crew (Thursday), Mike and Joe (Friday), 16 Candles (Saturday) and The Spazmatics (Sunday). Expect large crowds and drink specials.

We wouldn't recommend showing up in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts though.

Music starts at 9pm; $5 cover.

More spots to warm your body, your mind and your soul:

THURSDAY

Deejays spin classic reggae, dub and hip-hop at new Jamaican joint Mr. Brown’s Lounge, in Ukrainian Village. You'll get jerk chicken, oxtails, beef patties and curry goat that tastes like it came right out of Kingston, but you'll also get a little bit of American flair in the dining room that's casual, but clubby.

The guys behind Tango Sur have a hit on their hands with another Argentinean-themed resto in Folklore. The menu is similar, with well-marinated cuts of meats and poultry, but what sets it apart from the original is that it has a full-service bar. Deejay Shon Dervis spins slinky, exotic beats on some nights.

Former "Hell's Kitchen" contestant Jennifer Gavin goes for New Orleans flavor with The Big Easy in Hyde Park. Expect traditional Cajun and Southern food like fried green tomatoes, Louisiana crab cakes, jambalaya and freshly made beignets.

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Traditional Caribbean cuisine sets up shop in Ukrainian Village with Mr. Brown's Lounge. (Photo: Urban Daddy Chicago)


FRIDAY

For a kitschy, Hawaiian theme, it's time to get busy at Trader Vic’s, which serves up traditional pu-pu platters, Mai Tais and more. We love this spot for after-work shenanigans, because after a few of these strong-ass cocktails you'll be up for almost anything.

Bucktown's Rinconcito Sudamericano, however, is a bit more laid back, offering authentic Peruvian fare and flair. House specialties include the ceviche, sweet potatoes and an absolutely divine dish called Aji de Gallina, which has shredded chicken, walnut cream and Peruvian spices served over white rice.

Pick your favorite vino (preferably at next door Lush), and head to Habana Libre for heaving plates of Cuban food. Their signature Arroz con Pollo can easily feed a family of four, but make sure you call at least 45 minutes in advance to put in your order.

SATURDAY

Nightlife-inspired Chicago Fashion Brunch hosts its second event at Tocco with a Capri theme. Akira owner Jon Cotay has teamed up with local fashion insiders to transport diners to the exotic coast of Italy. DJ Madrid spins sexy sounds as guests indulge in Italian wine flights, a Bellini bar and delicious brunch items. Of course there will be a fashion show! 11am-4pm. Reservations required at RSVP.fashionbrunch@gmail.com.

More Cuban's in the mix at Cafe Laguardia, which has been at its Bucktown location for almost 40 years. Go for the paella, Cuban sandwiches bursting with thick slices of ham, and shredded beef over mounds of fluffy rice. Most nights feature Latin bands.

Mercadito's superb lower-level retreat Double A offers one of the best tequila lists in the city, plus their award-winning mixologists make exotic elixirs like Caipisutra (Leblon cacha├ža, pineapple, grapefruit, lime, garam masala), Shuga Daddy (Bacardi Select, spice syrup, kumquat, Champagne, orange bitters) and Down South (Averna liquirizia, strawberry, guava, lemon and Champagne). Deejays spin music to make you hot.

SUNDAY

And Coobah serves up a Latin-inspired brunch with offerings like breakfast empanadas (filled with egg, sausage and aged Manchego cheese), blue corn buttermilk pancakes (dripping with Mexican canela-cinnamon butter and dark Ancho rum maple syrup) and a three-egg breakfast burrito. Also, go crazy with pitchers of sangria that's made from a secret Dominican Republic recipe. 10am-3pm.