Best South Loop venues for watching the Bears

By Dan Patton | Managing Editor

The best way to experience a Chicago Bears game without actually buying a ticket is to watch it in a bar next to Soldier Field. That means hunkering down in the South Loop, the neighborhood that the team has called home since inaugurating the official gridiron with a 17-15 victory over the Pittsburgh Stealers in 1971. Here’s a Journal selection of establishments within walking distance of the stadium that tune into the action every Sunday afternoon.

Aurelio’s Pizza on Michigan Avenue — the latest addition to a 55 year-old, 41-store chain that spans six states — is the only bar and restaurant within punting distance of Soldier Field that dedicates every square inch of its space to fans of all ages. (read more)

Kroll’s, the Papa Bar of Bear-watching venues, is as close as you can get to bellying up with the team — literally. “We’re right across from the Soldier Field 18th Street Pedestrian Bridge,” says General Manager Caesar Douglas. “We open up at 9 o’clock in the morning on game days.” (read more)

The Weather Mark Tavern plays hard when the Bears are on TV: every screen in the nautically themed American bistro is tuned to the game and the music is dialed down to make way for the broadcast. Unless the team scores a touchdown. (read more)

The Vice District Brewing Company definitely understands the needs of Bears fans. On game days, two large paintings are removed from the walls to make way for the high-definition flat screens behind them. (read more)

Flo & Santos Chef Mark Rimkus has successfully combined the flavors of his Italian grandfather and Polish grandmother to make the world’s first, uniquely Chicagoan Italish restaurant; but Manager Phil Shanks insists that the bar, restaurant and outdoor patio do not mix loyalties when it comes to football. (read more)

Spooky legends of the South Loop

By Corey Bealeart | Community Contributor

Chicago has had its fair share of tragedy, both past and present. Massive fires that razed the city, gang violence and ship disasters.

According to Windy City occult theorists and horror story enthusiasts, those who met their tragic un- timely demise return in ghost form, in a creepy at- tempt to create a new legacy by scaring the wits out of an unsuspecting chum. One location that sticks out in paranormal tales is the Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Ave.

Built in 1893 to accommodate visitors to the World’s Columbian Expo, the Congress Plaza Hotel has had a long history of presidential tenancy and stories about Al Ca- pone’s secret residency. Yet amidst the historical significance, there is a dark and possibly evil side to the property. From serial killings to a construction worker supposedly buried within the walls, a roaming ghost child and a one-legged home- less man’s murder, this dwelling is rated the number one most haunt- ed building in the city by multiple sources including Have you booked your room yet?

cp1Want to check it out? All you need for a paranormal journey is a credit card and Expedia. Just hope they don’t give you room 441. According to guests, a shadowy female figure is said to stand at the end of the bed and kick people awake.

After you check out of your room at the Congress Plaza, head down to Prairie Avenue to continue your search for the supernatural.

Entrepreneur Marshal Field, founder of the department stores that carry his moniker, lived on Prairie Avenue, as did industrialist Philip Armour along with many political players, and those who have influenced Chicago’s current laws, culture, architecture and economy. Of the 90 mansions that once stood in this area, all but 7 remained as the area changed with the times. “Many of the homes that are standing on Prairie Avenue were eventually torn down and rebuilt,” says Nanci Gasiel, who works at the Glessner House Museum, 1800 S. Prairie Ave.

Some claim that the haunting of Prairie Avenue is due to the houses being built on a mass Indian grave from the Fort Dearborn Massacre in 1812. “There are a lot of stories and no one is quite sure what kind of things may be running around,” says Gasiel.

With Chicago’s share of tragedy there could be more than meets the eye in an old building and historic neighborhood. Discover more about these local haunts during the Hallows Eve season via various haunted tours.

1001 South State a tower of benefits

By Dan Patton | Managing Editor

The South Loop is less than a year away from welcoming hundreds of new residents and two new retailers into a tower of curved glass and steel at 1001 South State Street. Beginning next July, the neighborhood will be home to a residential mid-rise combining nearly 400 rental apartments and a three-story lobby that soars more than four hundred feet in the air.

legacy.skyscrapercenterThe 41-story, Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) design was brought to life by a partnership between Chicago real estate firm Golub & Company and LA fund manager CIM Group, the company that helped finance Block 37. CIM Principal Avi Sheemesh cited the area’s likelihood for “economic expansion” and its proximity to “solid infrastructure and transportation networks” among the reasons that his company chose to help cover the tab.

Chicago-based Walsh Construction Group broke ground on the project last December. Since then, 1001’s emerging graceful geometry has been ranked on’s “building boom” list and described by as a “wonderland of lines and colors.”

The perks within the building include an 8,500 square-foot “amenity level” directly above the three-story parking garage. It will contain an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness area, a lounge and a manicured birch grove with fire pits and various nooks for socializing.

IMG_9510iThe individual units will offer an abundance of amenities as well, most of which cater to the modern city dweller. Equipped with a full gigabyte of bandwidth supplied by Everywhere Wireless, they will boast “the fastest internet service in Chicago,” says Everywhere EVP Keegan Bonebrake.

The connectivity is part of an effort to “future proof” the property, says Golub leasing manager Michael Canon, who enthusiastically explains that, “we’re putting a lot of technology into the building.”

This initiative includes Golub’s mission to achieve Silver Certification from the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) organization, which means that the project must “satisfy prerequisites” for things like building materials, energy efficiency and community consciousness.

Walsh Construction is currently executing the “build-out phase” of the project, says Project Manager Ken Chura. The installation of highly efficient, coated glass windows on the residential floors is a substantial part of the process, and the number of workers onsite will increase from 125 to 200 during its completion.

IMG_9504iAll of this is great news for local business owners like Tommy Bezanes who, along with brother Dino, opened nearby restaurant Standing Room Only on South Dearborn Street in 1993. Starting with a small room and twelve seats, the brothers have since increased the restaurant’s capacity almost tenfold, added an outdoor patio and assembled one of the largest displays of Chicago sports memorabilia in the city.

“Any new development is good for businesses because it brings more density,” says Bezanes, who is also a real estate broker with Jameson Sotheby. “As empty lots become developed, so better for the commercial tracts on each of these corridors.”

Likewise, along with the beautiful architecture and the environmental friendliness, so better for the people who call the South Loop home.

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