Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: Michael's Fresh Market on 47th Street

posted by Elizabeth Fama

The new Michael's Fresh Market on 47th Street (between Woodlawn and Lake Park) is finally open. It takes the place of the ill-fated Co-Op Supermarket in the Lake Pointe Park Shopping Center.

The space is cavernous. The product selection is something between Village Foods and Treasure Island, and the prices for what I purchased weren't much lower than those at Treasure Island. There are lots of non-perishable aisles, but not much variety in produce, meats, or fish. Some aisles are mysteriously small, with little diversity given the space, like the cold cereal aisle, the bread aisle, and the selection of baby diapers and wipes. There are no upscale imported cheeses, there is no "unusual" fresh produce like rapini, and there are only a couple of brands of yogurt. But it's not all Target stock: you can find some common import brands like Bonne Maman jams, and Mestemacher German pumpernickel (near the deli).

The barbecue sauce, steak sauce, and condiments aisle.

The produce left something to be desired.

I'm not an expert in Asian foods, but that aisle is relatively big, with large bags of rice (Calrose, Thai) and bottled sauces (mostly Asian-American brands, though). There's an Indian section with bulk spices that seems more substantial than that of any of our existing Hyde Park-Kenwood stores.

A portion of the Indian aisle.

There's a taqueria just inside the front door.

By and large this is the sort of store where even the frozen pizzas tend to be Connie's and Stouffers, not Annie's or Puck's or even California Pizza Kitchen. But in a neighborhood verging on a food desert, Michael's is a welcome addition.

**Addendum, 8/2/2010: I revisited Michael's today, and had a much better experience. I think in the week since I've been there they have continued stocking, and there were noticeable improvements. There are still things missing, like fresh-baked loaves of bread, but perhaps those, too, are gradually on their way.**

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Herald's Chicken: Shoreland, Sutherland, Heartland, Who?

posted by chicago pop

Hyde Park Herald Headline Confuses the Shoreland Hotel with
Sutherland Apartments

This week's botched Herald headline makes us think that Dr. Seuss is running the news desk, or at least has his hand in everything the paper writes that has to do with the Shoreland Hotel: "Antheus buys Shoreland from Heartland."

Aside from being completely erroneous -- Antheus already owns the Shoreland -- this headline has the Seussian virtue of being a fun nursery rhyme, especially when you throw in the Sutherland Apartments, which the Herald habitually confuses with the Shoreland, as they did in their banner headline of September 9, 2009.

Dr. Seuss says: Shoreland, Sutherland, Heartland, Who? You said Shoreland, and Sutherland, Too!

Maybe a repeat of this gaffe twice in one year is why the Herald website is still running the July 7, 2010 issue?

Or perhaps everyone was just too giddy over the journalistic coup achieved with the wonderfully dramatic headline over Sam Cholke's banner article having to do with the preservation of the Chicago Theological Seminary in its pristine state, stained glass windows included:

Hyde Park Hyperbole, Volume 128, Issue 28

Tabloid journalism of the purest sort: behold the University as executioner, it's face hidden in the shadow of a cowl, ready to raise its skeleton arm in order to drop the axe of demolition across the neck of the old Chicago Theological Seminary building. Or, is it the CTS, which wanted to move its own stained glass windows from the old to the newer building? Would moving pieces of the building around be an execution, or just a desecration? Or, since the University's decision to buy it is the reason the building isn't going to be completely razed, perhaps the University is executing itself? Just who is the executioner, and what is being executed?

Certainly not an informative, fact-based headline.

Mr. Cholke, or whoever came up with this headline, was undoubtedly drunk with the poetic euphoria of a wildly inaccurate though colorful metaphor, enough so to botch the execution of the Sutherland headline on page 3.

The chicken at Herald's is deep fried and crispy this summer, for sure.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Message to the University Architects: Cafe ECC.

posted by Elizabeth Fama

Istria Cafe enlivens the corner of 57th and Lake Park, despite all odds.

Last week, alumni, parents, and "friends" of the U of C Laboratory Schools got a letter from David Magill, Director, saying that the University of Chicago's Board of Trustees had given the Early Childhood Center (among other Lab projects) the green light.

In my opinion, the Lab campus should not be split into two locations. Nevertheless, the cogs of institutional construction are in motion, and there is probably no turning back. So I'm introducing a challenge to the University and the Lab Schools: use the new Center to enliven Stony Island; resist the urge to plunk an isolated, car-oriented fortress on an already desolate block; create a public eatery and gathering space in the front of the school that will define the new culture of that school.

You read that correctly: I challenge the architects and administrators to incorporate a lovely cafe, right at the streetfront of a nursery through grade 2 school, and to keep it open for nighttime business.

A public cafe would:

1. encourage parents to mingle before and after drop-off and pick-up, thereby discouraging an exclusively "drive-by" use of the building for families (see the Booth Cafeteria at these hours for proof)
2. provide a great meeting place for parents and their children (of all grades) after school (again, see Booth)
3. provide an informal meeting space for teachers (see Booth)
4. give University employees, students, and community members another neighborhood amenity on the east end of campus (see Istria)
5. enliven that stretch of Stony Island, both during the day and after 5 PM.

Numbers 4 and 5 are for the benefit of the neighborhood and the University as a whole. For the Lab Schools, numbers 1 through 3 would go much further toward integrating the two separate Lab campuses and creating a school community than the shuttle buses Mr. Magill plans to operate between the two campuses. Just look at how the Lab Schools have planted their own culture in the Booth Cafeteria -- that's the market in action; that's how the schools' population chooses to socialize.

Naturally there would be security concerns about a public space inside a school with young children. But since they're designing the ECC from scratch, the architects should be able to arrange it so that strangers in the cafe won't have access to the main part of the school. The cafe could funnel into the school through one door, with a permanent security guard stationed there. There could also be alternate school entrances that bypass the cafe entirely.

During the school year, the Booth Cafeteria is full of Lab students, parents, teachers, and administrators, along with other University and community members. The ECC architects should try to mimic that success.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Alderman Hairston's VIP Fireworks Parking

posted by Elizabeth Fama

57th St. Beach and fireworks, 7/4/2010.

Yesterday the Tribune reported that 5th-Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston reserved the 63rd Street parking lot on July 4th for an "afternoon anti-violence event." She said she distributed the spaces to "local organizations, vendors, and workers." Ordinary people driving to the fireworks were out of luck if they hoped to park there, even if they arrived early for the celebration.

So apparently free parking along the lakefront isn't a right, as Hairston has ballyhooed for more than a year, it's a privilege. I'd really like to know precisely who in her judgment merited permit parking at the beach on the 4th of July.

From the Tribune: "Hairston said....that she modeled the event after the Air and Water Show, where people have to walk to the area and have few parking options."

"'It's a bunch of bull,' said Alex Hall, 39, who arrived early hoping for a parking spot at the beach, where he has been celebrating the holiday since he was a child. 'We should be able to park and have our own Independence Day.'"

So much for Ms. Hairston's claim in April that spaces in the 63rd Street lot should be as accessible as possible to all Chicagoans, regardless of their means (Maroon, April 30, 2010). So much for her insistence that beach parking should be free. So much for her worry that installing meters is what "discourages people from using the parks."

And so much for the City's goal of making the fireworks more accessible and reducing congestion by moving the display from Grant Park to three separate locations along the lakefront.

I guess since Hairston paid an estimated $77,000 out of her discretionary funds to subsidize summer parking at 63rd Street, she figures she can be queen of the lot.