Everything transportable about Thailand found itself at the cross sections of Chicago on 219 S. Dearborn St. through the collective efforts of these people. This morning I witnessed a proud sight as the opening drum parade made its way around the square, beckoning everyone in the vicinity to attend an event that gives back to the city of Chicago for its warm embrace of Thai culture over the years.
Traditional dances and music were ongoing as I walked about, a testament to Thailand’s said musical culture. Every 10 minutes a new band would grace the stage and offer up a whole new set of images. The ladies who performed the Serng Kala Dance did so in such a delicate fashion and extravagant dresses. Making use of their hands and elbows, while at the same time maintaining a certain posture, these girls were a visible art form. The music that accompanied the dances had my ear deciphering between the unusual instruments that were used. One instrument in particular produced sounds that were equivalent to two tea cups scraped against one another, but with a more elegant ring to it than you would imagine.
The most delightful part of the festival was seeing all of the Thai children, many of whose parents were either in the audience or in the acts, around the plaza dressed from head to toe in traditional Thai clothing. The boys sported drop crotch saggy pants that reminded me of Yul Brynner’s character the King of Siam from the 1956 classic The King and I and his known authoritative postures. These children were truly kings and queens for a day in their decorations and own respects. Organizers involved these little ones in a Thai Kid’s fashion show that had the mistakes and the smiles—all that is needed really—to win over the hearts of everyone at the gathering. Inclusion of what must have been the entire family, revealed to me the degree to which the Thai people went in their presentation. Thai festival was an opportunity for them to give Americans a genuine perspective of Thai culture.
The festival is an absolute steal, I bought a pair of sophisticated Thai chopsticks for only a $1. Granted they still need to be put to the test, my carry outs for the time being will now have a better purpose other than being just a means to an end. While browsing, I also saw an arrangement of colored silk scarves and flower pressed bookmarks that immediately made me think of potential gifts for my sisters and mother. I played it safe and went with the bookmark over the scarf, only to double back to the selection of chopsticks. Muay Thai boxing shorts were also being sold for $20, a small price to pay for an outfit that intimidates even the warriors in your self-defense class. Lastly, I cannot help but mention the Thai massage booth at the festival that had a masseuse curling his knuckles over and over again into the backs of people wearing blue and white button-ups. A good 15 minutes in that chair and lunch break will take on a whole new meaning.
Thai cuisine is renowned for its healthy characteristics that sacrifice hardly any taste. Several vendors have put together a menu of eats that take the tongue to the Far East and back. Massaman Kai hits you with the unexpected as fresh chunks of pineapple can be found alongside baby tomatoes and chicken under a thick spicy curry sauce. Forget about the consequences because for an early dessert try the Banana Sticky Rice, I mean it is only $3. This warm wrap contains slices of banana, gooey vanilla flavored rice and soft black beans. Make sure to stop yourself halfway through this indulgence as it is important to remember that the leaf is not edible! If you work up a serious thirst skip the widely available bubble tea and try some of the Lemongrass Drink as it is more so cool than it is sour.
Make sure to stay for the Muay Thai demonstration included in both Saturday and Sunday’s schedules as the old-school aesthetics of the art are something to relish in. Dating back 2,000 years, it was impressive to see how these fighters went at it even in the safest of ways with their sparring equipment. High kicks and hard elbows these guys took the crowd through all of the fundamentals. What interested me the most however was how before even going into it the fighters took a good amount of time in silence and ritual to pay respects to their teachers and those that have kept passing down the knowledge behind Muay Thai fighting. The sense of tradition is unparalleled as this fighting style continues to amaze modern audiences.
Representatives of the Thai Consulate and aides to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel were also in attendance putting a political stamp on the event and the friendship between the two cultures. Mayor Rahm wrote a meaningful letter for the event praising Thai input. Seeing the relationship come full-circle in every aspect, of which includes the political realm, made the Thai Festival that much more worth celebrating.
After today I understand why the Thai people compliment America, specifically Chicago so well. It is not so basic of an answer in that both the Thai and American flags are red,white and blue or how they look really good side by side on a cultural stage. I discovered my reasoning in how the Thai Festival is neither restricted to honoring only Thai culture. At the event, for every person holding a miniature Thai flag in one hand the stripes and stars were in the other. The festival acknowledges the heterogeneous we all find ourselves in and that is something to rejoice about. Thai Festival ends on Friday June, 21st so there are still two more days to get in on the action.
The restaurants featured at Thai festival are spread out across the city, so if you are at all looking for some type of concentration take the CTA Red Line toward Howard and get off at the Argyle stop. Below and around the station is a neighborhood that practices the ideas which Thai Festival has explained, only every day. Now listed under the National Register of Historic Places “New Chinatown” or “Little Vietnam” is a location of Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian spots. Everything on that street is worth a pop-in.
We have a new Concierge Correspondent!
In this short video, Anthony Gates of the Hotel Allegro tells us about his top three things to do in Chicago this week. So, what makes his list? He recommends the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s “Lights, Camera, Architecture!” tour, taking in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” and then treating yourself to delectable fare in the classic, clubhouse-like setting of the Tortoise Club.
Tags: Anthony Gates, Buddy Holly Story, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Chicago Movies, Concierge Correspondents, Hotel Allegro-A Kimpton Hotel, River North Restaurants, Theater in Chicago, Tortoise Club
Did you know that a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, in some ancient language that scholars have since lost all translations for and now is so seldom used that Indiana Jones couldn’t even find traces of its existence in the Library Catacombs on the Piazza San Marco or in the giant warehouse where they keep the Arc of the Covenant, that the word “Chicago” actually meant “gluttony”? Yeah and did you also hear that the Bulls are in talks to acquire CPIII, Lebron and bring MJ back to help D Rose next year? Oh yeah, and did you hear the Cubs are in FIRST PLACE?
So that might not be exactly accurate, but let’s face it, gluttony and our fair city do seem to walk hand in hand (sometimes very slowly, possibly while breathing heavily, on their way in to Yogurtland after a five-course meal that INCLUDED dessert).
I mean this as affectionately as possible; I am a man of excess myself. In fact, my brother and I are known to proudly declare our “husky” nature and our intent of eating and drinking to the point of misery on a regular basis. I suppose it’s just the Wagner Way….
Regardless, the point I’m trying to make is that Chi-Town loves to get down and we do it up right.
Long after shared poutine and three to four cocktails at The Gage, perhaps a little blues in Millennium Park for Downtown Sound, followed by drinks at the Treehouse at Tavern at the Park, a reluctant taxi ride to a BYOB Sushi joint on Milwaukee Avenue, and a late night, West Coast ‘Hawks playoff game viewing at The Anthem, if you’re anything like me, you’re still not quite satisfied. And if that’s the case, man, do I have a spot for you!
Venture through the tourists, suburbanites and generally fatuous folks that frequent the Rush and Division Corridor, and affix your eyes upon the glory and majesty of the greatest late night hodgepodge, comfort food buffet extravaganza in all the land. To be heard a la voice of John Hammond, booming from that storied island off of Costa Rica, “Welcome to Five Faces!”
Five Faces Ice Cream Shop, as it is officially named, epitomizes gluttony at its finest. Serving only one flavor of ice cream, contrary to its title, its specialties lie beneath the façade of its exterior’s familiar characters such as James Cagney, Elvis and an artists’ rendering of something that vaguely resembles Mike Myers. Five Faces’ fortes include gyros, fries smothered in Merkts cheddar, of course a Chicago Style, and basically anything else you could dream up that can be fried on a grill. As featured in Playboy, “you have to get gyros at Five Faces”, says America’s favorite Boy Wonder Chris O’Donnell. Heed his advice, or peruse the brightly-colored yellow menu that hangs above for yourself, but choose wisely as the line out the door late night may make jumping back in for those cheese curds very difficult. On weekend nights patrons wait in excess of thirty minutes for this gluttonous bounty, but as a loyal customer myself, I’ll let you in on a little secret… the trick is to call ahead. Shhhhh!
‘Faces’, as it is affectionately called, is a true community experience. Like some of its Chicago Style competitors, there is no seating; only leaning. And with staff that remembers your order, calls you by name, and has even called to sing you Happy Birthday on that special day, this place is a fat kids’ regular “Cheers”. Bring your money, cash only, and please don’t forget to tip.
I once heard the phrase, “Go to bed, Chicago. You’re drunk.” My advice? You better get “Faced” first!
About the Author: Sean Patrick Wagner is a concierge at the Wit hotel and contributes to the Chicago Travel Blog each week uncovering hidden gems around town.
80 years is an accomplishment. This Wednesday, June 19th, from 10-10:30 a.m. the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) invites the public to join in its celebration of the Museum’s 80th anniversary. The occasion will feature remarks from the Museum president and the grandson of MSI founder Julius Rosenwald. Both speakers will relate the day’s significance to the audience and what the Museum has given back to the city of Chicago during its tenure. Following the talk will be a tour of the museum’s new 80 at 80 exhibit. Lastly, to justify its 80th birthday, the museum’s own Wanger Family Fab Lab has created an innovative cake to be eaten.
Along with the praise comes something refreshing. Unveiled at the commemoration will be a new exhibit at the Museum titled 80 at 80, which is set to include 80 artifacts from the Museum’s extensive collection. Most of these antiquities have never been revealed, until now.
Get acquainted with the modern-day GPS started with the 1909 Jones Live Map Meter, a milestone that still probably gets you around town better than a Tom Tom. A select few of the artifacts however will also be reminiscent of the Museum’s past exhibits. To put into perspective the changes that are happening right now the collection will also include a modern spin. The unpronounceable acronym and therefore breakthrough sensor navigation system Velodyne LiDAR, used for 3D mobile data collection, will be demonstrated as part of the exhibition.
Whatever your relation to the sciences is, this exhibit is a great introduction to the technological advancements of our times that the museum continues to appreciate. Individually chosen for their compliments to the mission of the museum’s founder, every object will detail the technological progress and about how science tailors to societal needs. The 80 at 80 is planned to run through February 2014 allowing re-visits for those who are truly captivated.
Reward those that have kept the Museum going for 80 years by showing how much you value the sciences. The Museum of Science and Industry has for some time now educated city-dwellers on the central aspect of this generation. Technology has affected us in the most profound of ways. The new 80 at 80 exhibitions will move the museum forward as it attempts to explain this evermore realized concept. Both ceremonies will encourage a look back at how far we have come.
To augment your understanding of the 80 at 80 event, two lectures will be held Sunday June 23rd. Named “Exploring the White City (11 a.m.)” and “Building a Century of Progress (1 p.m.)” these lectures are geared toward informing the public about our roots in the progressive 1893/1933 Chicago Worlds’ Fairs.
For more information make sure to visit www.msichicago.org/whats-here/events/ where the whole offering is explained. The Museum of Science and Industry is located at 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.
West Randolph Street was vibrant Friday afternoon as the Taste of Randolph placed the surrounding neighborhood on display. I arrived early, allowing me the luxury to see the merchants and vendors as they organized themselves. Within minutes however I was not the only one walking about. Less than half an hour in and the turnout really took shape, testing the area’s ability. To an outsider it is easy to count out Randolph as a venue for such an event. After all it is no Grant Part. Nevertheless, what I realized that day was how there really is no set capacity when a community-like the West Loop-embraces its visitors. Even if five people had showed up on Friday, locals remain determined to promote the West Loop and in doing so have really put together something extraordinary.
Your greatest companion for Taste of Randolph has to be Wishbone’s watermelon lemonade. Make no mistake about the combination. This drink has a loveable tart and is piled high with chunks of fresh watermelon with the seeds still in them! Honestly, grab a drink of any kind because even just the action of taking generous sips as you browse feels rejuvenating. I personally hate coffee, but the Vietnamese version offered at Belly Q had me momentarily believe otherwise as I found more energy for overlap. Owning up to its festival’s name, Randolph offered a strong resume of eats. From roasted Pork to Belgian chocolate covered grapes, caramel popcorn to veggie burgers the exhibition was impressive. Alhambra, an Indian restaurant, managed to tailor its dining to Randolph with their affordable chicken kebab and rice. Everything was so appetizing; I had to stop myself from habitually reaching for my pockets.
Drinks and food aside, it was comforting to see that behind most stalls there were not only employees excited to meet new customers but also family members working the shifts. The teenage angst was there even from a distance but a smile with braces took me back to the days of frequenting such events as a kid with my family.
As I did, I recommend using the divider to stop every now and then, whether it is to eat or just simply take a breather. Maybe find a spot under the trees to setup a basecamp with your friends? Watching on as everyone made their rounds was such a measurable contrast to the sidewalks of State Street’s done-up regulars. Tables are also available for larger groups. Again, to separate yourself from what you are used to I persuade you to fall back into the grass as native Chicago bands play rock tunes that literally roll up the avenue only to later filter out through the cracks in the pavement.
I simply cannot stress enough how much it felt like being in a space as I walked up and down that road. Event organizers did such a great job of separating the people from the locomotion of Chicago. Everything was removed, but at Taste of Randolph I was still right in it whatever you believe “it” to be. With the recognizable Willis Tower off in the distance I could not help but put things into perspective. There I was out in the West Loop, considered to be the outskirts of Chicago in light of Michigan Avenue, but it took on a relatable position in Chicago for me.
That evening on Randolph had some sun but a lot more shade. Not nearly as presentable as its counter-part Taste of Chicago, Taste of Randolph has value in the specific. Professional food tickets are nowhere to be seen as the community does not shy away from its rudimentary qualities. 20$ is all that is needed to enjoy even the most expensive of the offering’s aspects. Do not expect a flock or the commercial at the Taste of Randolph, but rather a group of individuals who openly celebrate what they bring to the table. It’s across the river but you are mistaken if you think there is a divide, this place and its people are Chicago to the core.
Taste of Randolph controls a good portion of West Randolph Street. With certain streets blocked off for the event the smartest method to attend the occasion is by leaving the car keys at home and taking the green line to the Morgan-Lake stop on Chicago’s “L”. From the station walk two blocks south and Taste of Randolph will appear with multiple entries. There are still two more days to attend Taste of Randolph of which include this Saturday and Sunday (June 15th/16th) 12 p.m.-10 p.m.
Amanda Cooper, concierge at The James Hotel, tells us about her top three things to do this week. From where you can experience the oldest and only traditional bathhouse left in Chicago to the best spot to gorge yourself on fried chicken and enjoy a negroni slushy, it’s all here in this short video clip.
Looking for a fun distraction that takes you away from the already photographed skyscrapers of Chicago’s downtown? If so then find time to head over to SausageFest Chicago in the Lake View neighborhood this Saturday and Sunday (June 15th and 16th), where a catalog of macho meats await.
Returning for its third year, SausageFest Chicago hosts an arrangement of exclusive vendors that continue to display their craftsmanship in an open market setup. Masters in every sense of the word, these retailers will best any stomach.
Known by its association with the historic Wrigleyville area, SausageFest Chicago is accessible by taking the Red Line to the “Addison” stop on the CTA’s “L” system. Hopeful attendees/commuters will find themselves enticed by the hints of smoke coming from West Addison Street. Live entertainment is also included, providing a backdrop to the sizzling grills. These sights and sounds, coupled with some tickets to the exciting matchup between the Cubs and Mets this weekend, make for a unique evening in Wrigleyville.
For those feeling a bit more masculine than the rest of us, the title for “Sausage King of Chicago” is up for grabs and is fit with an entire crowning ceremony. The title encourages at both times boasting and appreciation among only the most serious of meat lovers. In some respects it has the ability to rival even the most deserving of awards.
Let it all go once in a while. This weekend allow yourself to indulge in the likes of kielbasa, polish sausages, BBQ pork, hot dogs, roasted duck and the rest that are sure to be as hearty as you are faithful in being a carnivore. The ridiculousness that is sure to ensue and the comfort of taking it easy for a day in Wrigleyville make SausageFest Chicago worthwhile. Running from noon to 10 p.m. the festivities should be convenient and rewarding for families, friends and even the occasional passerby.
Let’s face it. You’ve done the ties, the homemade cards and you have royally screwed up breakfast in bed. Before you grab your paper and scissors to make the ever so popular coupon book, consider picking up the phone and taking Dad out to brunch. If he didn’t like that golf shirt you got him last year, he will definitely find a special meal to enjoy at one of Chicago’s myriad eateries. Here’s a sampling of what’s happening around town this Father’s Day weekend:
Bring dad to one of Chicago’s best brunch spots: ZED451. Having brunch here runs $29 but gives you access to an endless supply of anything on the brunch menu, which includes breakfast standbys like chicken and waffles as well as fancier dishes like buttermilk herb sirloins. Brunch at ZED451 starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.
The Publican is a European beer hall inspired restaurant located at 837 W. Fulton Market. This restaurant focuses on keeping its food as simple as it is delicious. The Publican serves brunch between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the weekends and includes many seafood and pork dishes as well as a sizable drink menu.
It doesn’t get much manlier than beef, bourbon and beer. At least that’s what the Ritz-Carlton’s deca restaurant believes and we concur! Treat your dad to a smokehouse-inspired buffet which also comes with their choice of a complimentary beer or bourbon cocktail. After brunch, continue the fatherly celebrations at The dec where beautiful views and cocktails can be shared 12 stories above the Magnificent Mile. The brunch begins at 11:30 a.m. and goes until 3:30 p.m. with cost at $79 per person. For reservations call 312-573-5160 or visit their website.
According to Frontier’s Executive Chef Brian Jupiter, nothing says “I love you pops” like a porketta carving station at their Father’s Day Brunch Buffet. Enjoy the pork among other delicious bites at the buffet or opt for something a little larger for the family, like a whole, house-smoked suckling pig with several sides which is perfect for groups of 8-12 and will feature the discounted rate of $250. The brunch will cost $25 per person and will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For reservations call 312-869-4803 or visit Frontier’s website.
The J. Parker
Still regretting that ugly tie you bought Dad in the ‘80s? Now it could actually be worth something at The J. Parker’s “tie one on” where they will be giving out free drink tickets on Father’s Day to those adorned in hideous ties. Select from their large array of specialty summer cocktails by mixologist Tony Selna or have a brew and reminisce of the horrible fashion trends on a beautiful rooftop above the Hotel Lincoln. Visit them online or call 312-254-4747 for reservations.
Starting on Saturday, June 15th, guests will enjoy a two-hour cruise that will fill their soul with delicious food and live gospel music performed by Tecora Rogers and the Chicago Spirituals which makes for a perfect afternoon getaway.
The cruises will continue to run on select Saturdays throughout the summer until October 12th with tickets beginning at $27.95 for children and $46.90 for adults. Guests may choose from two different cruises with the Early Gospel Lunch Cruise which boards at 11:30 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. or the Afternoon Gospel Lunch cruise which boards at 3:00 p.m. and ends at 5:30 p.m. All cruises depart from Navy Pier.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit the Spirit of Chicago’s website or call 866-273-2469.
For many folks, summer in Chicago is synonymous with a lot of things and Navy Pier’s bi-weekly fireworks displays are most definitely one of them!
Running now through Labor Day, Navy Pier lights up Chicago’s lakefront with a dazzling pyrotechnic display set to music every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10:15 p.m. Best of all? It’s free!
Whether viewing from the dock or on board an evening cruise, fireworks are the perfect way to round out your night. For those looking to make a day of it at Navy Pier, make sure to check out the family-friendly and thrilling Cirque Shanghai: Dragon’s Thunder at the Pepsi Skyline Stage. On Saturday, performances take place at 2 p.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m.