"Chicago" by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders

-excerpt from the poem "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg (1916)

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline
The Chicago Skyline from a Near West Side highrise

Monday, September 19, 2011

Breweries in Chicago

Seemingly overnight Chicago has transformed from a major city with one lone microbrewery into a beer-lover’s paradise.  As American tastes have leaned towards more craft brewing, Chicago has not let go an opportunity to put itself on the map.  While we don't yet have microbreweries to the extent of, say, Portland, the growth of the Windy City’s brewing industry has happened in the blink of an eye.

What’s interesting is that this isn’t the first time Chicago has been a beer-brewing juggernaut.  One hundred years ago, the City of Big Shoulders was as crucial a beer-making metropolis as any.  Even though Prohibition killed this industry in Chicago for a long time (as it did for a lot of other cities), the Siebel Institute in Lincoln Park has managed to remain an institution of higher brewing for generations.

This article will provide a synopsis of the breweries that are open or opening soon, how to get to them, and their respective tour details.  So why is this important?  Well it’s a great sign that, even in these difficult economic times, there is a major industry growing in Chicago creating jobs and wealth for the city.  Secondly, it's another reason that Chicago is a destination.  A few weeks ago, we waited in line for 90 minutes outside the Half Acre Brewery (article coming soon).  Two people beat us there, beer tourists from Toledo.  Getting tourists to spend money in Chicago helps our economy, and virtually any reason to get people to spend their money here is a good thing for the city.  Lastly, it’s another cultural thing to do!  If you love trying new beers, what better way to discover something than taking a brewery tour?  Besides, the beer doesn’t get much fresher than drinking it where its made.

So if you have an interest in what exciting things Chicago breweries are doing, please read on!  One more thing to note: this article covers breweries and not “brewpubs”.  [A brewery sells and distributes their product whereas a brewpub serves house made beer, but you can only find it at that location (or maybe in a growler in your fridge)].  So you won’t find places like Revolution or Piece in this entry.  Not saying there isn’t a place for brewpubs; they’re awesome too, but for the sake of conciseness we’re just sticking to the big boys for this one.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Logan Square/Palmer Square

The Breakdown
Colorful architecture lines the streets of Logan Square
An overview: Logan Square is definitely one of the neighborhoods that has attracted a ton of buzz in the past few years.  It seems as though it’s not the next hot Chicago neighborhood, but the most recent one.  Counting Bucktown (which is actually the eastern portion of the Logan Square community area), the boundaries contain three Michelin Star restaurants.  Only Lincoln Park and the Near North Side can make a bigger boast than that.

The predominant demographic out here is Hispanic, and their influence can be seen especially in the restaurants.  In addition to Mexican cuisine, Logan Square hosts a handful of Cuban joints, and one of the few Panamanian restaurants in the entire City.  It’s also probably no coincidence, partially due to its proximity to Wicker Park, that Logan Square has become quite the hipster haven.  Eccentric boutiques and taverns line the major corridors and simultaneously beautiful/grungy buildings house the artsy crowd as well.

The boundaries: The community area of Logan Square is bordered to the north by Diversey Avenue, the Chicago River to the east, Bloomingdale Avenue to the south, and the Milwaukee District North Line Metra tracks to the west.
An eagle sits atop the Illinois Centennial
Monument, overlooking Logan Square

There are two smaller neighborhoods located within the Logan Square community area.  Bucktown is the one we covered a few weeks ago.  The other is Palmer Square.  Although the boundaries of Palmer Square aren’t officially determined, they are generally Fullerton Avenue to the north, Armitage Avenue to the south, Milwaukee Avenue to the east, and Kedzie Boulevard to the west.

The focus of this entry will be Logan Square west of Western Avenue, incorporating Palmer Square, as well as the rest of the Logan Square community area.  The area east of Western Avenue is considered Bucktown.  You can read about our Bucktown entry here.

Population make-up: At the 2000 Census, Logan Square was the fifth largest community area at 82,715 residents.  With the 2010 Census results in, Logan Square has fallen to the seventh most populated community area, being passed by the Near North Side and Belmont Cragin.  Today its population is 72,791, a loss of nearly 10,000 residents, and a population decrease of 12%.

As for the area of Logan Square west of Western Avenue, the population as of the 2010 Census is 55,391.  This is a decrease of nearly 8,000 residents since 2000 when the population was 63,253, and represents a 12.43% decline.  The area’s racial make-up is 57.1% Hispanic, 33.4% white, 5.9% black, and 2.1% Asian.

A brief history: Logan Square was first settled by farmers in the 1850s, and shortly thereafter became home to numerous factories and immigrants (notably of German descent, especially within the modern day boundaries of Bucktown).  Eastern European immigrants began to rapidly move into the area post-World War I, helping Logan Square’s population to boom.  Some of the neighborhood’s character was lost with the construction of the Kennedy Expressway in the 1950s, following two decades of population decline.

Today, Logan Square is often seen as a) Chicago’s next hot neighborhood, or b) Chicago’s current hot neighborhood.  The community area, and especially the Bucktown neighborhood that makes up Logan Square’s eastern 1/3rd, is a haven for artists and is notable for its diversity among both its residents and its housing stock, where mansions and small apartments alike line the streets.

The beautiful, tree-laden Palmer Square.
Getting there: The blue line will get you to Logan Square easily.  There are three stops (listed from southeast to northwest): Western, California, and Logan Square.  Go just east of the Western stop and you’re in Bucktown, go just west and you’re in Logan Square.  The California stop will put you along the eastern border of Palmer Square.  The Logan Square stop drops you right off at the public square for which the community area is named.

Metra is also an option.  The Healy stop on the Milwaukee North District Line (from Union Station) will put you on the western end of Logan Square.  There are plenty of opportunities to get there via bus as well.  Going east-west: Diversey (76), Fullerton (74), and Armitage (73).  Going north-south: Pulaski (53), Kimball (82), California (52), and Western (49).  The Milwaukee bus (56) will also get you there via its northwest-southeast route.