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SUMMER 2010
Volume 1, Issue 2

 


In This Issue

Click on a title to jump directly to the story, or simply scroll down to read the newsletter in its entirety.

Spotlight On: Chilapan
Selling! Shopping! Socializing!
A New Look for Lucy Flower
Ask the Alderman


Spotlight On: Chilapan
Not Just Another Tired Taqueria!

The WindowBox asked West Bucktown residents Dan and Kelly Connelly to enjoy a night out at Chilapan, the neighborhood’s new BYOB Mexican restaurant at the corner of Armitage and Campbell. They ate, they drank, they learned a lot! And they reported back on their experience here. 
 
ChilapanWhen we first walked into Chilapan under the Blue Line “El” tracks, we knew immediately this wasn’t just another Mexican restaurant this side of Western Ave. It felt like we had been invited into the quaint kitchen of owners Jorge and Olga Miranda.
 
Make no mistake…this is one family-run business that really knows how to make its customers feel like family, too!
 
We were greeted with a smile by our waiter, had our wine promptly put on ice, and homemade guacamole was prepared for us on the spot. It was early, and the restaurant was still quiet. Olga, the restaurant’s matriarch, joined us at our table and offered to share the Chilapan story with us as we happily sipped our Sauvignon Blanc and munched on tortilla chips.
 
The husband-and-wife duo opened Chilapan on a rainy Thursday evening last March – their “longest and loneliest weekend,” according to Olga. Today, those initial quiet nights are but a distant memory for the Mirandas. Take a stroll past Armitage and Campbell almost any evening this summer and you’ll see the restaurant overflowing with patrons eagerly waiting for outdoor seating along the umbrella-lined sidewalks.
 
Jorge has enjoyed a long and successful culinary career in Chicago, including stints as head chef at Adobo Grill and most recently as the executive chef at Las Palmas. But he’s really hitting his stride now at Chilapan, which is the couple’s first restaurant venture together. They selected the West Bucktown location for its close proximity to their children’s school, and because they have family members who live nearby.
 
The Mirandas have worked hard to distinguish Chilapan from other Mexican restaurants in the area, starting with their rejection of the typical “hacienda” décor in favor of the warmer, more eclectic style of the traditional Aztecan culture they both grew up with. From the mismatched colors of the tables and chairs to their vibrant blue Chilapan logo and artwork, it’s all a reflection of their proud heritage.
 
Rollito de EspinosaJorge has taken the Chilapan menu in a different direction, too. It’s not overly extensive, and it doesn’t include standard Mexican fare like tacos, burritos and fajitas. Instead, he has deliberately opted to keep things simple in terms of the number of items available, and to focus on more elaborate dishes with rich, bold flavor profiles. This gives him the creative control to make adjustments based on patron’s feedback, as well as the ability to experiment more frequently – quite a departure from his previous restaurant experiences.
 
Chilapan’s signature dishes stay true to traditional Aztecan cuisine. The Molcajete in particular is experienced how the Aztecs would have prepared it – it arrives deconstructed with all components (cactus, Chihuahua cheese, arbol tomatillo salsa and chicken, shrimp or steak) in a smoldering volcanic rock. Mixed together, its vibrant flavors blend together perfectly. Delicious! Other popular house favorites include the Rollito de Espinosa (grilled skirt steak stuffed with spinach, Chihuahua cheese, and arbol tomatillo salsa) and Ceviche de Camaron y Mojarra (a seared shrimp and tilapia appetizer with red cabbage and a green vinaigrette citrus juice).
 
By the time we finished our chat with Olga, Chilapan was teeming with hungry customers and bustling with energy. As we drained our last glass of wine, the couple seated next to us congratulated Olga and pointed to a copy of Chicago Magazine, which included Chilapan in its list of the “Ten Places Everyone’s Talking About – And Dining At.” Olga smiled proudly and thanked them.
 
“We are overwhelmed and very grateful for the wonderful response we’ve had from the neighborhood,” she said.
 
Welcome to West Bucktown, Chilapan – we are very grateful to have you here, too!
 
Chilapan, 2459 W. Armitage Ave, (773) 697-4597. Posted hours: 3 – 10 pm Monday-Thursday; 3 - 11 pm Friday & Saturday; closed Sunday. Hours may vary; call ahead to confirm. Carryout available; cash and credit cards accepted. BYOB, no corkage fee.

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Selling! Shopping! Socializing!
Yard SaleEarly morning thunderstorms and a few lingering gray clouds did nothing to dampen the spirits of the more than 200 people who showed up for the West Bucktown Community Yard Sale and BBQ at Maplewood Park last Saturday.

Hosted by the Maplewood and Lucy Flower Park Advisory Council (MLFPAC), the annual yard sale enjoyed its best turnout yet, raking in more than $500 to help fund initiatives at West Bucktown parks in the coming year.

“It’s great to see the neighborhood coming together like this in such a fun and social way,” said WBNA Co-President Brad Fiorito, whose own 1960s-era cork lamp was one of the first items to get snatched up during the sale. “There’s something about spreading your past life out on a table that really breaks the ice and gets people talking and laughing together.”

The event was truly a family affair, with something to offer everyone. Bargains abounded at the tables, where Jumpy Housebuyers and sellers engaged in spirited negotiations before sealing their deals. The food tent served as a central gathering place for folks to enjoy free hot dogs with a side of friendly conversation. And if the many orange-stained smiles dotting the crowd were any indication, the children couldn’t get enough of the cookies and drink so graciously donated by McDonald’s.
Circus Arts
Over in the kid’s corner, where a jumpy house served as a total kid magnet, Cortland Preschool introduced little ones to the art of making mono-prints, while Easel Art Studio painted their faces and helped craft colorful masks. Children lined up in droves to guess the number of candies in a jar, each hoping their entry would win them the $25 gift certificate donated by Margie’s Fine Candies & Ice Cream. Back in the main selling area, Almas Meirmanov and acrobats from MSA & Circus Arts wowed the crowd with their amazing demonstrations of tumbling, strength and balance.

The BBQ and children’s activities were organized by the WBNA Events Committee, but it was the day’s volunteers who really get the credit for making this event such a success. Special thanks go out to:

Greg Bottjer for keeping a steady supply of hotdogs coming off the grill.
Luke Preczewski for serving up those 200+ dogs with a smile.
Kelly Preczewski for single-handedly managing “Tattoo-Palooza” for the kids.
Stephanie Miller and Rodney Gansho for running a tight ship at the jumpy house.
Kathy Szybist for documenting the day in pictures.
Chris and Whitney Kreutzer for tirelessly running around and pitching in wherever needed.
 
If you’d like to see more of these kinds of neighborhood events in the future, please consider joining the WBNA or renewing your dues today. Our website (www.westbucktown.org) is currently under construction, but you can click on the “Pay Now” link and use your credit card or PayPal account to make your payment. Annual membership is just $25/household and helps fund the many activities and initiatives spearheaded by the WBNA throughout the year. Thank you for your support!

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A New Look for Lucy Flower
Spend a few minutes chatting with West Bucktown resident Amy Ewaldt about organic gardening, and you’ll swear she’s capable of coaxing a basil plant to grow out of a crack in the city sidewalk.


Yeah…she’s that passionate about the subject. And she’s currently fixed her sites on Lucy Flower Park, the small playground at the intersection of Rockwell and Moffat.
Amy Ewaldt
The high-energy Preschool Director moved into the neighborhood last December with plans to open the Cortland Preschool in her building, a mixed-use Victorian at the intersection of Cortland and Talman. With construction already underway (she hopes to be open for business next Spring), she has teamed up with the WBNA Environmental Committee, the Maplewood and Lucy Flower Park Advisory Council (MLFPAC), and the Chicago Parks District to help make Lucy Flower Park a true “kid’s garden” for neighborhood children to care for and enjoy – including the students who will eventually attend her school. 
 
“I feel so fortunate to live in a city that truly values gardening,” said Amy, noting that the official motto for Chicago is “urbs in horto,” which is Latin for “city in a garden.”


“As far as city parks go, Lucy Flower has a ton of potential,” she emphasized. “It’s virtually a clean slate in terms of general landscaping, and there’s plenty of room to build some raised beds for organic gardening or to set up a composting system. This park could serve as a wonderful way to give kids hands-on exposure to the growing process – from seed to table – and to help them understand farming practices and where food actually comes from.”

The first step in the process – establishing the Lucy Flower Garden Club – was completed earlier this summer.

“Having an official Garden Club up and running enables us to apply for city grants to help fund improvements to the park,” Amy explained. “What we really need now are volunteers with the energy and enthusiasm to help us turn Lucy Flower into an urban oasis for West Bucktowners.”

The transformation of Lucy Flower Park is just one of many projects being organized by the WBNA Environmental Committee and MLFPAC to promote the greening of the neighborhood – and each of these initiatives requires a team of dedicated volunteers to be successful. MLFPAC

“We’ve had an active Garden Club at Maplewood Park since 2008,” explained Darcie Trier, who along with neighbor Kathi Pruett leads the MLFPAC charge to ensure that West Bucktown’s parks continue to function as hubs for neighborhood children, not magnets for gang-related activity. “We’ve focused the lion’s share of our attention on Maplewood simply because it’s the larger of our two parks. And we’ve made great strides in terms of organizing activities and securing grants from the city for its upkeep. But when it comes to the actual planning, purchasing, planting and pruning necessary to keep the parks thriving, both Maplewood and Lucy Flower could benefit from more green thumbs to help us out!”

If you have a little “sweat equity” to contribute, or want to share your own vision for Maplewood and Lucy Flower Parks, the Environmental Committee and MLFPAC would love to have your input. Amy is hoping to pull together a Lucy Flower planning meeting for all volunteers later this summer. Email us at environmental@westbucktown.organd we’ll happily add you to Team Green!

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Ask the Alderman

WBNA has asked 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno to field a regular question-and-answer column in the WindowBox to address issues and concerns from West Bucktown residents. If you have a question that you would like to see covered in a future issue, please send an email to windowbox@westbucktown.org.  All submissions will be kept strictly confidential.
 
Today's Question:
What is being done about the vacant lot at Cortland and Campbell?

 
My staff and I are aware of the unsightly state of this vacant lot and have been working on improving its overall condition and appearance for the last two months.
 
Unfortunately, our efforts to engage the owners of the Phoenix Fastener Company in a practical and constructive discussion have not been reciprocated. To my knowledge, their intent is to sell the entire business – including this land – for a substantial price.
 
Given the current economic environment, I find it highly unlikely that they will be able to sell the company for the price they are asking. So for the foreseeable future, the owners of this and other vacant lots must take responsibility for their property… beginning now!
 
Chicago city code states, “It shall be the duty of the owner of any open lot located within the City of Chicago to cause the lot to be surrounded with a noncombustible screen fence” and that“The owner shall maintain any such fence in a safe condition without tears, breaks, rust, splinters or dangerous protuberances” (Municipal Code of Chicago 7-28-750).
 
It is clear that the owners of the lot at Cortland and Campbell are not in compliance with the code. Therefore, on July 29th I directed my Ward Superintendent to issue citations for this lot.
 
I prefer to work cooperatively with owners of vacant properties in the ward. We have had numerous successes by engaging and even assisting owners to make their lots safe and clean. In some instances, we have gone beyond simply maintaining lots and implemented gardens and green space. However, these measures can only be accomplished with cooperative owners.
 
Going forward, I will be using more punitive measures with these owners until they come to the table with me and assure me that they will be responsible property owners.

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Many thanks to Kelly and Frank Baldassare of 1740 N. Artesian, whose beautiful windbox is featured on this issue's masthead!


The next issue of the WindowBox is tentatively scheduled for distribution in early October. If you have a story idea or would like to contribute an article, please email us at windowbox@westbucktown.org.

 


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