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Chicago Adventures in February

February 2019

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Ladies and gentlemen, February is already here.  It’s usually the snowiest month, almost as cold as January, so let’s do our best to stay indoors, but still share a month of adventure, shall we?

Start right in: in downtown Chicago there is a network of tunnels and passageways that experienced downtown commuters and explorers use to get around quickly and away from our inclement weather.  Want to know more?  Take an early lunch on Friday, February 1st, and meet us at 11am, at the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph, where Chicago Walking Tours will take us on a free, two-hour tour that will surprise and inform us about much of this unique system. Reserve a spot online today at https://freechicagowalkingtours.com.

Saturday, February 2nd, Intuit, the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, is calling us to visit and stroll through this very different museum.  We’ll take in “Chicago, Art Against the Flow” and “Chicago We Own It”, two exhibitions highlighting the vibrant and vital contributions Chicagoans have made to challenge social norms. Intuit is at 756 N. Milwaukee Avenue, and open Saturdays from 11am until 6pm. Admission is only $5.

This Sunday, of course, is the Superbowl. We’re spending it with friends and family, and trust that you will too.  No matter which team wins, let’s all have a joyous and wonderful day together with those we love and trust.

It turns out that Restaurant Week ends mid-week, so there’s only a little time left to grab spots at some cozy, warm, engaging little place, with a cuisine we only taste occasionally. Bistro Campagne fits the bill – they capture and express those ephemeral qualities found in favorite small neighborhood bistros in Paris and rural France: we’ll feel welcome, at ease, engage in fun conversation and, of course, enjoy truly excellent food,  making our choices from a seasonally changing menu of classic bistro fare that is based on the best ingredients. Locally, organically and sustainably grown ingredients are emphasized throughout the menu, and their accolades speak to the quality of their meals.  The setting is both cozy and romantic, so I’ll be taking my date on Tuesday, February 5th, for dinner, 4518 N Lincoln Ave., in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood.  If we act fast, we might still get reservations for the special Restaurant Week menu, https://www.opentable.com.

Chicago’s annual Theater Week runs from February 7th through the 17th, and let’s not allow this chance for great seats at excellent prices at over 100 participating theater companies throughout the whole Chicago area to pass us by,  https://www.choosechicago.com/events-and-shows. We are already planning to take in the Second City’s current review, “Algorithm Nation or The Static Quo” on Friday, February 8th, for the 8pm show.  As always, it’s hysterically funny; “frenetic, ultra-current, fall-down funny”. Second City, 1616 N. Wells St., Chicago, https://www.secondcity.com/shows/chicago/algorithm-nation-or-the-static-quo/

Máximo the Titanosaur, a touchable cast of the largest animal ever known to have lived on Earth, is now on display at the Field Museum of Natural History, on the Museum Campus, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., and seeing it, and a host of other dinosaurs, is absolutely free during the entire month.  Holy cow, this plant-eating behemoth was heavier than 10 African elephants, 122 feet (37.2 meters) long, with a head up so high it could easily look into 3rd story windows.  That’s big!  I’m glad it lived 100 million years ago.  Saturday, February 9th, let’s go in the morning and linger.  There are many more amazing displays, exhibits, and fun things to see and learn throughout the 480,000 square feet of exhibition space.  They open at 9am, we’ll be looking for you!

Happy New Year 4717!!!  It’s the Year of the Boar, and the Chinese New Year Parade starts on Sunday, February 10th, at 1pm, at 24th and Wentworth, in Chicago’s Chinatown, of course. https://www.ccc-foundation.org/lunar-new-year-parade/. We have not been out for real Chinese food in quite awhile, and there are hours worth of things to do and see so how about if we meet for brunch, about 11am? MingHin Cuisine, 2168 S. Archer, has the best dim sum in town, and that’s a marvelous way to start this adventure, don’t you think?

We’ll take our time ordering and eating and sharing the little bite-sized dim sum servings, then walk through the streets a bit before we find places to stand for the parade, and all the dances and performances that follow.  Let’s walk some more, while the crowds thin out; we can browse the many art and gift stores that line Archer and Wentworth streets.  Many have offerings that are quite spectacular, and each is just different enough from the last to make the visit interesting.  Afterward, we can sit down for an early dinner, because we just can’t leave before we try the food at Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, 2342 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, where are true bone broth boils at your table waiting for you to put your chosen ingredients in to cook.  Yes, that’s good, mmmmm.

Head’s up, gentlemen, this Thursday is Valentine’s Day!  Order the traditional flowers in advance, pick the love-of-your-life up after work, and take her someplace special.  Or lighthearted, or just plain silly.  White Castle, believe it or not, offers table side, white cloth service on Valentine’s Day.  Silly, yes. Inexpensive, yes. But it will be a dinner you both remember for many years.  Alternatively, Lou Malnati’s serves up heart-shaped deep dish pizza for the occasion, and even Portillo’s Hot Dogs bakes their famous chocolate cakes into heart shapes.  Take your pick!

You know, February in Chicago means the International Auto Show is in town and it’s not to be missed.  It won’t be quite so crowded, away from the opening weekend, so this Saturday, February 15th, is the day to go.  The doors open at 10am, and it’s so, so big that it takes the whole day, so let’s meet early, take one car, and get started. It’s the nation’s largest auto show, with beautiful cars and vehicles from around the world, wild concept cars, intriguing changes and new extras for current models, videos, test tracks, oh boy! The excitement just goes on and on.  There are always the new colors and special paint jobs, the gleaming engine compartments, sleek designs, both new and old, and knowledgeable industry people to converse with about all the “cool, new stuff”. It’s at McCormick Place, of course, 2301 S. King Drive. https://www.chicagoautoshow.com/default.html

Sunday, February 16th, is the last Chinese New Year celebration for the season.  It’s at Navy Pier, admission is free, and the kids will love it, as there are many kid-friendly activities on hand.  In the  Aon Ballroom we’ll see live dance, music, and other performances, plus traditional food, crafts and more.  Best of all, it’s all indoors, safe and warm, so the whole family can enjoy and be happy.

Did you know that this Friday, February 22nd, is National Margarita Day? Neither did we, but in the spirit of celebrating whenever possible, feel free to join us out in Naperville, Il, at Potters Place, 29. W Jefferson Ave., a small, excellent place where the food is tasty, properly cooked and seasoned, and quite satisfying.  You might like the Enchiladas, or a trio of Street Tacos, both offered with choices of fillings and sauces. Personally, I’m having the Fajita Combo Platter, to get a wide variety of flavors without overdoing the meal too much.  A variety of excellent Margaritas will no doubt make their way to our table.  Happy Margarita Day! We are so glad to take the evening Metra back home.  No driving tonight!

Lake Effect Brewery is a very small local micro-brewery. They make beer in small batches, with limited styles available at any time.  Located at 4727 W Montrose Ave, Suite C, Chicago, they have tours of the brewery every Saturday.  I don’t know about you, but, I’m really interested in seeing how a small local brewery operates, how grains, hops and malts are chosen and used, and how finished beer is bottled or kegged.  Join us this Saturday, February 23rd.

We will get an up close and personal tour with the actual brew master.  Tour includes an inside look at a working brewery, bottling area, and barrel room.  While there are three tours on Saturday, let’s grab tickets for the one at 3:30, http://www.lakeeffectbrewing.com/tours/. The Brewery tour is a mere $5 and includes a souvenir Lake Effect glass. I’m looking forward to tasting the “Falcon Dive IPA”, as well as the seasonal offering, “Lake Effect Snow”.

Since tours last about an hour, we’ll finish up in time to easily grab an early dinner at Smakosz, a wonderful Polish place that’s about ten minutes away, and features a full, varied menu of tasty Polish and European meals.  I’m already in the mood for Smakosz style pierogi, filled with cheese, buckwheat and mint, and really happy that the Polish Food Assortment – a large plate of stuffed cabbage, pork chop, baked pork, sausage, and potatoes also includes a few pierogi.  Smakosz, 5619 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, http://www.smakoszrestaurant.com.

We’re headed for March already? Really? The days fly by so quickly! Keep up the adventures, my friends, and until next month, stay warm and happy.