Street Smart Chicago

Spicy Smackdown: Turning up the heat in the South Loop

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Chutney Joe's

Chutney Joe's

By Michael Nagrant

With all the truth-seeking, moneyed, mid-life-crisis-experiencing entrepreneurs “climbing” Mt. Everest, it’s surprising there hasn’t been a nationwide boom in Nepalese cuisine. After all, in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the counter-culture got tired of smoking peyote and mainlining Mexican mezcal, they returned to the States bearing larded beans, chimichangas and burritos as big as your head. But, while young reformed hippies needed to build a life and make some money, flush hedge-fund managers don’t quite need sidelines beyond month-long sojourns to the Turks and Caicos or weekend benders at Maybach dealerships. And so our nation suffers a culinary debt.

And as the nation goes, so does Chicago, or at least the South Loop. Despite the confluence of affluence gathering in newly sprung high-rise condos off of South Michigan Avenue, or the density of cultured denizens living in former printing warehouses off Dearborn, the South Loop has been one of Chicago’s stalwart ethnic-food deserts. But, in the last month, with the addition of the Indian and Nepalese-skewing Chicago Curry House and the McDonald’s-meets-the-Maharaja, fast-food-slinging Indian diner, Chutney Joes, it’s now ground zero for all things sambar and spice. Read the rest of this entry »

Fall Forward preview: Beat It, Columbia College does Kerouac

Lit, Museums, South Loop No Comments »

When Jack Kerouac began the marathon writing session that produced “On the Road,” he connected twelve-foot-long hunks of paper end to end so he could feed a continuous stream of paper into his typewriter. What emerged was one of the great works of the countercultural Beat Generation of the 1950s. This October, the original manuscript comes to Columbia College’s Book and Paper Arts Center, where it will serve as the centerpiece of two months of programming. “And the Beats Go On” will include film screenings, performances, exhibitions and a symposium October 10-11 on the Beat Generation.

The symposium’s main organizer is Tony Trigilio, a professor in Columbia’s English Department and an executive board member of the Beat Studies Association, an international scholarly organization. “We wanted to have a conference for scholars who work in the field,” he explains. “That was right when I found out that the Kerouac scroll was going to be here at Columbia.” For many reasons, now seems like a perfect time to look back at the Beats. In the past ten years, according to Trigilio, “There’s been a convergence of new ideas on the Beats, new ways of looking at the Beats.” The stereotype of the Beat writer, what Trigilio calls “the guy in the beret with the bongo drums,” is being challenged by modern scholars. “I didn’t say the woman in the beret,” Trigilio points out. “For years people just assumed that the Beats were all men.” Now poets like Joanne Kyger and Diane Diprima —both of whom will give readings at the symposium—are getting their due. Panels on diversity will also include questions about race, according to Trigilio: “What was going on in beat communities with writers who were people of color, what were they doing, what were their artistic relationships like?” And of course, one entire panel will be devoted to the book at the center of it all. “‘On the Road’ really was able to marry popularity and experimental writing in a way that you don’t usually get in the arts,” says Trigilio. Perhaps that’s why, fifty years later, we’re still talking about it. (Sam Feldman)

“And the Beat Go On,” October 10-11, Columbia College’s Book and Paper Arts Center

Boarding School: Five years is way too long

Essays & Commentary, Politics, South Loop No Comments »

“Usually I’m the torturer,” says 16-year-old Kristen Brooks. “This is the first time I’m being tortured.”

March 20, the five-year anniversary of the Iraq War. Brooks, a Mother McAuley High School student, is participating in a protest against waterboarding, the controversial interrogation technique that the Bush administration claims is within the limits of the Geneva conventions, but which many condemn as torture.
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411 Seven Days in Chicago: We All Scream

News etc., South Loop No Comments »

Ice cream can satisfy a sweet-tooth craving, but for a Chicago couple, this frozen treat is the answer to a much deeper desire—they want to make enough money so they can run a large non-profit of their own. “The facility has been a dream for years,” says Renee Richardson, who manages the new South Loop Marble Slab Creamery with her husband, Glen. The decision to manage the franchise was based solely on their urge to help others. “It was time to get focused,” she says. The couple will donate twenty percent of profits from the shop to their charities, one of which Renee founded and helps run for women and teenage girls. They plan to build a “mega-facility” with an educational space to teach the women of Renee’s charity, as well as open a prisoner rehabilitation center. And it doesn’t hurt, Renee says, that she likes the ice cream.

Review: Spertus Institute

Museums, South Loop No Comments »

One of the most impressive buildings in Chicago’s recent history was unveiled last week, much to the delight of organizers as well as those in attendance. After witnessing the magnificent façade of the Spertus Institute’s new facility for months, it can now be confirmed that it more than lives up to the expectations set by its challenging exterior. Designed by the highly touted Kreuck + Sexton Architects, the firm which also designed the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park, the ten-story building is not only beautiful but also environmentally friendly, as it is LEED certified. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum review: Maps: Find Our Place in the World

Museums, South Loop No Comments »

Amidst the recent rise in popularity of Mapquest and the overwhelmingly intricate Google Earth, the Field Museum’s simply titled “Maps” sets out to show that maps were once hand-written and delightfully flawed. Historical heavy-hitters like Charles Lindberg’s New York-to-Paris flight chart and J.R.R. Tolkien’s imaginary depiction of Minas Tirith highlight the exhibit, but nearly all the pieces exist within their own subjective realm. Read the rest of this entry »