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Springtime Adventures in Chicago

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Spring is coming! Can you feel it?  The days are longer, the sun seems brighter, things are starting to get green.  OK, the weather still crazy, it snow again before winter lets go and spring is here for keeps, but we won’t let that stop us, will we, brave adventurers?

The Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents on Thursday evenings from 5pm – 8pm. But did you know that Institute has a Medieval armory and art collection that spans over 500 years of European history?  Me, neither, but we are certainly going and hope you’ll join us in the Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor, on Thursday March 7th.

Don’t you think it’s time for Jazz? This Saturday, March 9th, let’s make a night of it at the legendary Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway Ave. From 8pm until midnight it’s The Chi Town Jazz Festival, so let’s meet for dinner across the street, at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, 4801 N. Broadway, for a different cuisine, served in ways that are quite different as well.  There is a broad selection from which to choose, and our waiter will happily explain Ethiopian meals in ways that make everything easy.  The food is spectacular.  www.demerachicago.com

On to the show!  We can still get a good table or booth, order cocktails, and ask the staff about the amazing history of The Green Mill.  This place was a speakeasy during prohibition, complete with secret escape tunnels under the bar to let Al Capone and his gangster cohorts escape the occasional intrusion by police.  Who knows? Maybe Elliot Ness and his “Untouchables” tried to raid the place.

The club survived prohibition, the Depression, and remains open as one of Chicago’s finest jazz clubs.  It has the traditional long wooden bar, mirrors, and comfortable seating.  Needless to say, the music is always very, very good.  Tonight we’ll hear Jim Trompeter and the DePaul Band, the Mitch Paglia Band, and finishing up with the Eric Schneider Quartet.  This will be really just what we need at the end of a long dreary winter.  www.greenmilljazz.com

This is Chicago, where everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.  Officially, St. Patrick’s Day is the 17th, but the celebration, quite wisely, takes place on Saturday, March 16th, starting at 9am when the Chicago River turns really, really bright green.  It’s a vegetable based dye, and if we happen to be standing anywhere along the Riverwalk up to Columbus Dr. we can watch the progress of the green flow towards Lake Michigan.  We’ll then amble south on Columbus Dr. to somewhere between Monroe St. and Balbo St., where we’ll find a spot to watch the Parade at noon.  It promises to be a genuine showcase of Irish culture, complete with kilt-clad bagpipers, high stepping dancers, and host of local and visiting dignitaries.

Hey, whew! I don’t know about you, but we’re hungry and thirsty. Chief O’Neill’s, 3471 N. Elston Ave., has been named “one of the 10 best Irish Pub’s in the World”, and rated “4 forks” by the Chicago Tribune.  Today they’ll have a giant heated tent in the garden and be serving a traditional roasted pig, as well as other Irish delicacies, buffet style.  www.chiefoneillspub.com.

Holy cow! It’s here!  This Wednesday, March 20th marks the First Day of Spring; let’s do something about it right now! Garfield Conservatory, one of Chicago’s glorious landmarks, is hosting the annual Spring Flower Show, this year entitled “Understory: Layers of Light”, which explores the plants and flowers that thrive beneath the canopy of forest leaves.  Always beautiful, always enlightening, the show is to be savored and relished, especially today.  Afterwards, there’s a “Windowsill Herb Garden” class where we will make 3 self-watering planters and learn to grow our own mint, basil and parsley to use fresh at home. Spring show is always free. Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., https://garfieldconservatory.org.

How about a beer?  Even better, let’s take a tour!  Half Acre Brewery, 4257 N. Lincoln Ave., has tours every Saturday at 11am, where, for merely $10.00, we’ll get a full 2-hour tour, samples of three different beers, and a Half Acre pint glass to take home.  Cheers! We’ll be there Saturday, March 23rd, 10:30am, or so, as the tour fills up, so please don’t be late. https://www.halfacrebeer.com.

There is only one place in Chicago where the late Princess Diana, and Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, have taken High Tea.  It’s time we did, too, in the Palm Court of the Drake Hotel, on Sunday, March 24th,  at 1pm. Full service lasts until 5pm.  It’s quite the popular destination, so we’ll make our reservations in advance; please let me know if you’ll be joining us, Sunday, March 24th, 1pm, to be sure we are all seated together.  This is high tea, after all, so dress up for the occasion.

The Drake Hotel, 140 E. Walton Place, https://www.thedrakehotel.com/dining/palm-court.

How about if we finish the month with something quite different from our usual action-packed activities?  Saturday, March 30th, a visit to Pullman, the town on Chicago’s South Side that was named “the world’s most perfect town” in 1896, will enlighten us to this significant part of local history.  It’s now a National Monument, and we can take a self-guided tour (my favorite kind) from the Information Center to take in The Florence Hotel and other sites dating back to the original vision of George M. Pullman.  One of the best things to come out of Pullman was the formation of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first all-African-American union in the country. The Visitor Center opens at 11am, keep in touch, and we’ll meet you there!

Until next month, dear friends and readers, enjoy Chicago!