Saturday, July 13, 2024

Vandross Hair Design Officially Opens At Sheridan & Sunnyside

Ald. Clay at Vandross Hair Design (46th Ward Newsletter)

We told you about Vandross Hair Design's imminent opening a while back. They are now open! 

This is their third location and we are so glad they chose to locate in Uptown in the beautiful new Portrait Apartments building at 4501 N. Sheridan.  Remember, they are looking for stylists to work at this location, so if you are an established stylist, they are offering 3 months of complimentary booth rental. 

Ald. Clay, who has something of a 'history' (ahem) in the hair business, recently stopped by to say hello and take the snazzy picture above. Hopefully they have pink ribbons!

You can read Ald. Clay's entire newsletter here.


Friday, July 12, 2024

She's Back: Fox To Be Appointed To Guard The Henhouse

(José M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune photo / January 29, 2011)

When Helen Shiller stepped down from her tenure as 46th Ward alderman in 2011, we wished her a happy retirement.

Assuming that she was done with city politics was a miscalculation. Not only has she acted as a mentor and advisor for current 46th Ward alderwoman Angela Clay, Ms. Shiller is about to be able to influence potential developments all over the city, if the latest Tribune story is to be believed.

According to reports, Mayor Johnson is preparing to appoint Ms. Shiller, who is now 76 years old, to a long-vacant position on the Zoning Board of Appeals, which has the final say on zoning decisions all over the city.

In recent months, the ZBA was in the headlines when Ald. Clay championed a proposal to convert the Bachelor Hotel on Wilson Avenue, a for-profit building owned by FLATS, into a fourth homeless shelter operated by Cornerstone Community Outreach, a non-profit closely associated with Jesus People USA (JPUSA). JPUSA, of course, was (and is) a long-time supporter of Ald. Shiller and was crucial to her efforts to hold power during her time in office.

The proposal failed when the ZBA voted 2-2 on the proposal. Three votes are necessary for passage, and there was a board vacancy at the time. Notably, one of the "yes" votes came from longtime Shiller ally Sam Toia. 

(Toia was president of the Illinois Restaurant Association at the time, and the shelter he voted in favor of would have put two locally owned existing establishments out of business -- Downstate Donuts and 2 Bears Tavern -- but politics, right?) 

Numerous neighbors and businesses in the area opposed the conversion of the building into a homeless shelter, citing the concentration of already existing shelters (it would have been the fourth homeless shelter in a one-block area); the inability of existing businesses in the building to renew their insurance if a shelter was built above them; and the imposition new ADA standards would have on existing establishments (an elevator would have infringed on the worship area of Uptown Church and put its own zoning variance at risk).

With the probable appointment of Ms. Shiller to the board, it seems like Mayor Johnson is putting his thumb on the scale and ensuring his Council allies (including Ald. Clay) will get their preferred outcomes on future zoning proposals. 

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Mangia! Anna Maria Pasteria Is Back

photo courtesy of the GoFundMe created for the benefit of Anna Maria's staff

photo courtesy of the GoFundMe created for the benefit of Anna Maria's staff

Just a few weeks after an out-of-control driver tried to turn Anna Maria Pasteria into a drive-through (and succeeded in wiping out the dining area instead), the fine folks who operate and staff this Uptown gem are back and ready to serve you delicious southern Italian food.

It may not be pretty (yet) on the outside, but the interior has been restored and the kitchen is up and running. We are told the storefront windows are on order, and soon the plywood board-up will be gone and the damaged signage will be replaced.

Regular hours are Tuesdays thru Thursdays 4:30-9pm; Friday and Saturdays 4pm-10pm; Sundays 4pm-9pm; and closed on Mondays.

Anna Maria is located at the northwest corner of Montrose and Clark.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Cafe Hoang Reopening in a New Space, Celebrating 25 Years

One of the OGs of the Vietnamese dining experiences in Uptown, Café Hoang has been a fixture at 1020 W Argyle from 1999 until its recent temporary closure.

Yesterday the owners' daughters, Gigi and Erin Hoang (who run First Sip Café at 1057 W Argyle) announced on Facebook that Café Hoang will be reopening soon, just doors down from their own restaurant, at 1065 W Argyle.

"27 years since our family of 7 immigrated to Asia on Argyle, Uptown, Chicago. 

Celebrating 25 years of Café Hoang, open since 1999, the place that gave us a lot of trauma, but ultimately the place that raised and fed us. 

Congrats to our brother Bao + our parents on 25 years and their move to a new space, on the same block, 3 doors down, in the same building as us. Wish us luck 🤞😅

Cafe Hoang reopening soon. Celebrating 25 years 🎂🎊

New location: 📍 1065 W Argyle St 60640"

We have seen ongoing work on the space (thanks for the tip and photos, reader GR) and this confirms the new tenant.

We look forward to eating the same delicious food in a new location (formerly Pho 777, for those who keep track of the Argyle dining scene).

And we'll again take the opportunity to say how much we love that the second generation of Argyle restauranteurs are firmly establishing themselves. First Sip, La Patisserie P, Sun Wah, and Ba Le are run by adult children of parents who opened up shop on Argyle.

To read more about the history of Cafe Hoang and its founders, Doán Thị Sinh and Hoàng Dố, click here.

Key Chicago Commission Approves TIF Funding for Wilson Avenue Theater Restoration, and Double Door Opening

If we've learned one thing in doing this blog for many years, it's that Everything Goes Slower Than We Are Initially Told It Will. 

In a big city like Chicago, projects have to navigate tons of red tape and go through various committees, including the Department of Planning and Development. City permits and permissions move at a glacial speed, despite every mayor (to our long memory) proudly saying that he or she has 'eliminated' much of the red tape.

Case in point: the rebirth of the Double Door at the site of the former Wilson Avenue Theater. We've been reporting on it for literal years. It might have seemed like it's at a standstill, or not happening at all, but this is yet another red tape cautionary tale. 

Yesterday we got proof the process is still going on, but moving slower than the Kennedy during summer (aka "construction season"). 

The Chicago Department of Planning and Development considered the Double Door's application and gave it approval yesterday, approving $5,000,000 in Wilson Yard TIF funds for the project. 

Here's the confirmation tweet from the Department of Planning and Development on Tuesday evening:

"CDC [Community Development Commission] approved up to $5 million in TIF assistance for Double Door Liquors 2.5 LLC's planned restoration of the former Wilson Theater at 1050 W. Wilson Ave. in Uptown. The $10.4 million project will reopen the 115-year-old building as the Double Door Theater music venue."

We are told multiple local stakeholders submitted letters in support, including Uptown United, the Black Ensemble Theater and the People's Music School, with the BET and People's Schools pairing with the new Double Door on free music programs. 

The Alderman also submitted a letter in support, and preservationists spoke in favor of the project, including representatives from Preservation Chicago

With the $5,000,000 allocation (the Community Development Grant we reported about a few weeks ago), financing appears mostly done. The owners are contributing approximately half of the funding for rehabilitation, and this grant, plus $125,000 in Adopt-A-Landmark funds, will pick up the balance

We hear that approximately $8,500,000 is going to the physical rehabilitation of the building, which is not unexpected given its age.

Here's hoping for another update, and maybe even renovations, beginning soon. We'll be watching closely.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Jose Lopez, Entrepreneur and Founder of BadaBing Wings, Has Passed Away At Age 42

We were shocked and saddened to learn that the exuberant, ambitious owner and founder of BadaBing Wings, Jose Lopez, passed away suddenly last month, at the age of 42.

Mr. Lopez, who opened the popular restaurant located at 4754 North Clark in January 2022, never knew a stranger and had just opened a second location in Blue Island.

If you went to BadaBing Wings and encountered him, you knew he loved to talk and entertain, and you'd leave with a delicious meal, as well as great memories of chatting, laughing, and listening to his stories.

It's not going to be the same without him, and we hope the restaurant continues its success with someone new at the helm.

If you'd like to support BadaBing during this undoubtedly trying time, we're sure they'd appreciate it. The hours are 3pm-9pm Tuesdays through Thursdays; 3pm-10pm Fridays, 1pm-10pm Saturdays; 1pm-9pm Sundays; and closed Mondays.

In an interview with Block Club Chicago in 2022, Mr. Lopez said, "I just want to make great food and be a part of the community." We think he exceeded expectations on both parts of his goals.

Our condolences to those who knew and loved him.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Foodies' Hub Dead, Reborn as Firebird

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the short lived Foodies' Hub has been reborn, now going by the name "Firebird Piri Piri." The newly opened Firebird Piri Piri opened this weekend in the strip mall at 4546 N. Magnolia.

Courtesy Firebird Piri Piri Grill Facebook Page

Piri piri (or "pepper pepper" in various African dialects) is a now-world famous sauce for chicken, first commercialized in the U.S. by the South African born UK chain Nando's.

Firebird Piri Piri looks to build on, rather than fully replace, Foodies' Hub. Photos from the Google Maps business page (click the first link above) show a range of different foods from burgers to gyros to catfish, just like the old Foodies' Hub. The new "Piri Piri" section of the menu offers grilled and fried chicken done up "piri piri" (or peri peri style) with piri piri sauce in a range of spice levels. 

While we barely knew Foodies' Hub, we wish the proprietors well with their new endeavor. One of us will make it over there soon, but until then let us know how the piri piri is in the comments.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

GoFundMe For Anna Maria Pasteria Staff After Long-Time Restaurant Site Devastated By Car Collision

Anna Maria Pasteria, located at Montrose and Clark, has been a cherished part of the community for decades.

This week the interior of the restaurant sustained heavy damage when an out-of-control vehicle crashed inside, less than an hour after closing time.

While there were thankfully no injuries, and the restaurant is insured for damages, it is closed for the foreseeable future.

The Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a GoFundMe to help the restaurant staff of six people who find themselves with no income through no fault of their own, and to help owner Anna Spinelli with out-of-pocket expenses while the red tape is being sorted out.

For more information, and to donate, click here.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Future Pan-Asian Food Hall On Broadway Gets $2 Million Grant From City

Rendering courtesy of

Current view of 4833 N. Broadway (courtesy Google Maps)

Some time ago we got an unsourced tip about a food court hall opening in Uptown [thanks for the correction Reader DT], but we heard nothing further. We were quite surprised to see that the rumor is in fact true, and it appears a cool new food hall is about to get started at 4833 N. Broadway (next to Silver Seafood, in the building that housed Sunlight Nail Supply for quite some time).

On Thursday, Mayor Johnson announced that $1.98 million in Community Development Grant money was awarded to help make the project a reality.

"The Uptown Food Exchange project stands as a transformative initiative poised to rejuvenate the Uptown neighborhood while honoring the authentic culinary heritage of the Asian community.  

The project’s core focus revolves around establishing a vibrant food market, showcasing an array of food stalls representing diverse Asian countries and heritages including Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Laotian. 

The development will serve as a crucial bridge, strategically connecting Uptown’s Asia on Argyle corridor with the Uptown Entertainment district, aligning with the vision of community leaders and fulfilling a longstanding need of a more connected Uptown. 

The proposed design reinvigorates a vacant two-story commercial building situated at the heart of the Uptown Entertainment District. The distinct architectural approach not only pays homage to its Asian heritage but also serves as a cultural bridge connecting the Uptown Entertainment District and Asia on Argyle."
We hear at least one, and possibly up to three, owner/operators of longstanding and critically acclaimed Chicago Thai restaurants are behind this new project, and this is not the first foray into pan-Asian food for the owner(s). More details are still coming in and we will update as we learn more. Sounds like the founder of Chicago's Strange Foods Festival and proprietor of the Strange Foods Instagram account is also involved (h/t Reader BV).  

Additional renderings are below.





We are so excited to see this happen! We'll follow its progress and keep you informed.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Double Door Moves Another Big Step Closer

It's been a long time since we broke the news that the owners of the famous Double Door were seeking to reopen at 1050 W. Wilson

There have been significant steps forward along the way, the most significant of which was the City approving plans for restoration of the historic structure and giving the green light to build in January of this year.

Financing such a large build has been a bit tricky, but this evening the Double Door was brought much closer to reality, as it was announced that the City has contributed $5,000,000 to the project as part of the Community Development Grant initiative

And in more great news, another development grant is ending up in Uptown, with $1.98 million going to the Uptown Food Exchange. Stay tuned for a story on that exciting plan...

Thursday, June 6, 2024

MORE Movies in Buttercup Park

Buttercup Park (on Sheridan between Ainslie and Argyle) will be holding its seventh year of free outdoor movies beginning this Saturday!

All movies begin at dusk.

Here's this year's line-up, curated (as always) by Victor Herrera:

Start Making Those Independence Day Plans!

Shake out the blankets, start planning your picnic, or launch a charm offensive towards your friends in high-rises: The Saddle & Cycle Club, at Foster and Marine, will be holding its annual Independence Day fireworks display beginning at dusk on Thursday, July 4th.

While only members of the club and their guests may watch from inside the club grounds, the fireworks can be seen in the surrounding areas for free, and we are extremely grateful to have tony neighbors like Saddle & Cycle. 

In the past, readers have watched from Kathy Osterman Beach, Foster Avenue Beach, Margate Park, and from friends' homes along Marine Drive and Foster Avenue.

There won't be any official Chicago fireworks shows this year, but you can watch the Navy Pier fireworks all summer on Wednesdays and Saturdays

UU Note:  If you'd like to know more about our very low-key 130-year-old neighbor, Uptown Update did a "Flashback Friday" feature about the Saddle & Cycle Club.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Parts Of Uptown To Have Sidewalks Snowplowed As Part of Pilot Program

If you loathe shoveling snow and/or walking on sidewalks where the residents don't bother to shovel, there's some welcome news!

Parts of Uptown will have their sidewalks plowed this winter as part of a pilot program by the City of Chicago.

The pilot area includes the blocks bordered by Foster Avenue to the north, Marine Drive to the east, Montrose Avenue to the south, and Damen Avenue to the west (sorry southern Uptown and Buena Park!). 

Why us?  

Uptown and Lincoln Square were chosen due to the high population density and the large number of elderly and disabled residents (the highest on the North Side)

Additionally, the report says, "the area features many community amenities like schools and several significant commercial districts such as the Uptown entertainment district."

Under the targeted program, the report reads, "City and/or contractors will provide sidewalk snowplow services to any block where a residential property with four or fewer units is located. Vacant lots will also be plowed under this approach." 

You can check the map above to see if properties on your block qualify it for plowing.

However, "larger residential, commercial, industrial, and other non-residential buildings will be encouraged to continue clearing their sidewalks."

As dedicated haters of shoveling (but we all do it anyway), we are thrilled to be part of this pilot program!