REMINDER! Don't forget to stop by the 1st Ward Office tonight, March 24, at 7 pm to "vote" for your WBNA President (Jennifer Yu), Vice President (Alexa Halbert), Secretary (Amy Ewaldt) and Treasurer (Eric Sledgister). While they're technically running unopposed, this is your chance to meet a few of the people who have stepped up to serve as our representatives in the community!
Click on a title to jump directly to the story, or simply scroll down to read the newsletter in its entirety.
In This Issue...
It Takes a Village
Table Donkey & Stick Gets a Spring Makeover
Sticky Rice: A Neighborly Review
Lucy Flower Update
Ask the Alderman: Graffiti and Potholes
It Takes a Village
For more than five years, 32-year-old Rosie Quasarano had been squirreling away money from her job as an advertising creative to help finance her childhood dream of opening a small coffee shop. She envisioned a cozy café serving coffee, tea, pastries and other light fare that would attract locals, serve as an artistic hub for the neighborhood, and help foster a true sense of community. So powerful was her vision that she was willing to continue her systematic saving and wait patiently for just the right location to open up.
But when that perfect spot finally materialized, Quasarano found she was still some $15,000 shy of the funding needed to get her shop up and running. She didn’t have the required collateral to secure a traditional small business loan, or an “angel investor” to turn to for help.
So she turned to the people instead – the very same people she hoped to one day call customers.
“On North Avenue, just west of Western, there's an amazing block, surrounded by interesting shops and many passionate people,” she wrote in her Indiegogo fundraising campaign appeal. “Cup & Spoon is my dream for the neighborhood. It’s a place where people can meet over a great cup of coffee for conversation, work, collaboration and laughter. I need your help to make it happen.”
Crowdfunding, or raising small amounts of money from a large pool of people, typically via the Internet, is a relatively new alternative to traditional bank financing. The platform first made headlines with a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that appealed to Veronica Mars fans to finance a movie based on the cancelled TV series. In a very real sense, crowdfunding is serving as a bridge between today’s entrepreneurs and wannabe philanthropists.
Armed with her inherent creativity, a refreshing sense of honesty, and clever puns about “spilling the beans” and “thanks a latte,” Quasarano hit her fundraising goal in less than 30 days. She now has much of the upfront capital needed for the build-out of Cup & Spoon, which will be housed in the front room of Dreambox Foto Studio at 2415 W. North Ave. The money she raised will be used to help offset various plumbing, electrical, and equipment costs associated with transforming the gallery space into a coffee bar.
For folks like Quasarano, crowdfunding is nothing short of a godsend.
“Community is absolutely central to the whole concept of Cup & Spoon,” she insists. “So a collaborative funding effort seemed like a no-brainer to me. It was empowering to see all those individual contributions roll in, and to know that so many people – some of them complete strangers, no less – had faith in my ability to bring my dream to life. It makes me more determined than ever to see this business succeed!”
Quasarano’s campaign attracted 160+ contributors, with donations ranging from $10 to as much as $1,000. Depending on the amount pledged, donors will enjoy a range of “perks” (pun intended) – from single drink vouchers, to free coffee for a year, signed coffee table books, and an invitation to an exclusive Founders Party when Cup & Spoon opens its doors this spring.
Though very much a modern approach to financing, crowdfunding still has a bit of that “Wild West” feel to it – and for many people, that’s a very real part of the appeal. For Max Stein, a 10-year resident of West Bucktown, it was knowing his family could help bring interesting, useful businesses into the neighborhood that prompted him to contribute to Quasarano’s campaign.
“This is the kind of business I want to have within walking distance of my home,” he says simply. “The notion of neighbors pulling together to influence what types of shops get to hang a shingle in West Bucktown is very intriguing. Hopefully, this means we will see more businesses like Cup & Spoon and others that have recently located to that stretch of North Avenue.”
Quasarano also feels that crowdfunding gives her donors an emotional stake in seeing her coffee shop succeed. “I’m blown away by how incredibly helpful people have already been in spreading the word about Cup & Spoon, and we haven’t even opened yet!” she says.
Lest anyone think Quasarano is simply giving lip service to embracing the power of community, she’s walking the talk in any number of ways. For starters, she lives just a block away from her business, where she’s already benefiting from the camaraderie and support of her fellow West of Western – or “WOW” district – shop owners. She is partnering with landlord and friend Iwona Biedermann (owner of Dreambox Foto Studio) to attract an eclectic cadre of artists to feature at the coffee shop. Artist Tom Robinson, whose studio is right across the street, is building a unique wooden coffee counter for the 1000-square-foot space, which is expected to seat about 25 people. She has commissioned a custom neon sign from nearby Fishtail Neon. And she’s keeping it local with her drink offerings, as well – she’ll be brewing up Metropolis coffee and tea, which is roasted in the Edgewater area.
But it was her 4-month stint as a pop-up coffee shop with The NOSH at the Logan Square Farmers Market that really opened Quasarano’s eyes to the true value of community. “This was my training ground,” she says of the opportunity to hone her craft while networking with experienced food vendors-turned-mentors. “I learned so much about what it takes to launch a retail shop. The hands-on experience, the advice I received, the contacts I made – all of it helped fine-tune my business plan.”
So how will Quasarano know when Cup & Spoon is successful? “By traditional measures, if I can turn a slight profit the first year, most people would call that a financial success,” she explains. “But I’ve got my own ideas about how to gauge the coffee shop’s progress. When I start seeing regular customers, and when I’m holding art shows, open mic poetry readings and music events regularly, THAT’S when I’ll know that Cup & Spoon has truly arrived!”
If all goes according to plan, expect Cup & Spoon to hang up its welcome sign come April. In the meantime, follow her on Facebook and stay on top of the shop’s progress!
Back to top
Table, Donkey and Stick Gets a
If you’ve been meaning to pop into Table, Donkey and Stick to try some of their fabulous alpine-inspired burgers, charcuterie, crusty bread, and brandy – don’t plan to do it this week! The neighborhood restaurant will be closed the week of March 23 for renovations that promise to bring a whole new look to the main dining room.
Table, Donkey and Stick was initially conceived as an Alps inn – the kind of place where skiers, locals, and weary travelers could gather after a long day for food, drink, and conversation. According to Matt Sussman, managing partner of the 14-month-old eatery, the changes they have in store for the front room are designed to bring the restaurant even closer to that original vision. The old service station is being ripped out to make way for a huge sit-down bar topped with refurbished lumber. The new bar will run almost the entire length of the front room, with a wraparound area to accommodate a chef-staffed charcuterie station. And the existing communal tables in the rear dining room will remain, further reinforcing the restaurant’s “gathering place” vibe.
When Table, Donkey and Stick reopens on April 3, executive chef Scott Manley will introduce a revamped bar menu with a focus on sandwiches and snacks, including an Alpine burger and the house’s popular “Wanderteller” meat platters and cheese plates. Expect a beefed-up drinks menu as well, with new cocktails, wines and beers.
With warmer weather just around the corner, West Bucktowners will be able to enjoy both the new bar and outdoor patio this Spring. For the uninitiated, the restaurant’s back patio is particularly comfortable and cozy, with a blazing fire pit to take the chill out of the air and additional blankets available for the asking. Perfect for date night or after-dinner drinks!
Table, Donkey and Stick also offers “industry specials” every Monday evening – creative $5 plates from the kitchen that revolve around a featured burger-of-the-week. And you can wash down those burgers with $.50 PBRs, $3 bourbons, and a rotating cocktail/punch special. Looking ahead, the restaurant has plans to be open for weekend brunch in the near future, which would make for a wonderful addition to the local dining scene this summer.
As a special offer for West Bucktown residents, mention this article and receive a free drink at the new bar with the purchase of a small plate or entrée, valid Sunday through Thursday only.
Table, Donkey and Stick was named one of Chicago Magazine’s 2013 Best New Restaurants. The 50-seat eatery at 2728 W. Armitage serves dinner from 5:30 to 10:00 pm (11:00 pm on Friday and Saturday). The new bar will open at 4:00 pm and remain open until midnight.
Back to top
Sticky Rice Chiang Mai:
A Neighborly Review
By Deborah Bottjer
Most restaurant reviews are written by people with adventurous palates. Folks well-versed in international cuisines, who can tap into extensive culinary vocabularies for words like acerbic, dulcet, and piquant to describe what they’re eating.
Yeah. That’s so not me.
When I decided to review the new Sticky Rice Chiang Mai restaurant at 1746 N. Western (in the former Dunkin’ Donuts space, next to the Snappy convenience store and Mobil Gas), it was with the full realization that I wouldn’t be imparting any particularly insightful wisdom about their Northern Thai menu to my West Bucktown neighbors. My ratings system is pretty simple: If it tastes good to me, it gets two thumbs up!
I took my husband and 8-year-old daughter to Sticky Rice Chiang Mai for dinner on a Thursday evening, about a month after it first opened its doors. I had heard through the grapevine that the restaurant was packed most nights, so we went on the early side – around 6:00 or so. When we arrived, the place was practically empty. But by the time we left an hour and a half later, business was brisk. We also watched as a steady stream of locals cruised in and out to pick up takeout orders. Our waitress told us they accept reservations – and you’d be wise to make one, especially for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night.
Now, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about how it would feel to dine right next door to a gas station, in a space that had served my daughter a frosted donut with sprinkles every Saturday morning for the last five years. Admittedly, Sticky Rice Chiang Mai isn’t much to look at from the outside. But once inside the doors, you quickly realize the owners have done a great job renovating the space. The interior of the 1500-square-foot, 55-seat restaurant is paneled in rich, dark wood from floor to ceiling, with authentic Thai decorations like colorful umbrellas hanging upside down above the service counter. The overall ambiance is one of warmth, so I was able to overlook the fact that I could easily run next door for a Coke and a bag of Doritos if the service was slow.
Fortunately, it wasn’t. I’m sure it helped that there were only a handful of tables seated when we arrived and placed our order, but our waitress was clearly hustling throughout the evening and serving food to other diners at a pretty brisk pace. Despite some early Yelp reviews to the contrary, the restaurant appears to be working through the predictable “just opened” service glitches.
I had also heard that Sticky Rice Chiang Mai would only feature about half the number of food items as its original location further north at 4018 N. Western, so I was surprised to find an extensive, 10-page menu of appetizers, soups, salads, noodles, curries, fried rice, and entrees. Predictably, my family played it pretty safe. We started with our favorite Thai appetizer – Crab Rangoon – followed by Tod Mun Shrimp (fried ground shrimp patties served with cucumber salad and ground peanuts) and grilled squid with a spicy lime sauce. I’m pleased to report that my daughter insisted on trying the squid and pronounced that it “tastes like chicken” – pretty much a rave review from any second grader.
For our entrees, we ordered Pad See Ewe (another family favorite), Basil Fried Rice with Shrimp, and Shu Chee Salmon. We sampled freely from each other’s plates, and I can honestly say that everything was delicious. It’s clear to me that Sticky Rice Chiang Mai prides itself on using only the freshest ingredients (the shrimp was possibly the best I’ve ever had in Chicago) paired with intensely flavorful sauces. Our total bill came to just under $75 with tip – pretty darn good considering the amount of food we received. But much to my daughter’s dismay, she wasn’t able to save room for the mango ice cream she had been eyeing up on the menu. And my husband and I will just have to wait until our next visit to sample the Kluay Buat Chee, a dessert made with bananas in coconut milk.
My only real complaint of the evening is that two of our orders got mixed up somehow between our table and the kitchen. This can probably be chalked up to a simple language barrier (apparently I suck at ordering Thai!), and the mistakes were quickly fixed and the correct meals returned to us. Still, I’d suggest using the numbers listed next to each menu item when ordering, just to avoid any potential confusion.
Oh, and did I mention that Sticky Rice Chiang Mai is BYOB? With no corkage fees? SCORE! They also recently started delivering for a $3 service charge and a $10 minimum order. Delivery boundaries are Kedzie to Ashland, and Division to Fullerton. You can check out their complete menu here.
So while I may not be able to speak to the authenticity of their dishes or how they compare to the original Sticky Rice location (I’ve never been), what I can tell you is that Sticky Rice Chiang Mai has definitely earned a spot in my family’s local restaurant rotation. West Bucktown has been waiting a long time for another yummy restaurant to venture inside our borders – so make sure to stop in and welcome them to the ‘hood. And try the fried rice while you’re at it! I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Sticky Rice Chiang Mai is open from 11 am to 10 pm Monday through Thursday; 11 am to 11 pm Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to 10 pm Sundays. Phone (312) 818-1810.
Back to top
Lucy Flower Update
With the hint of Spring finally in the air, many of you have asked about the status of the Lucy Flower Park Renovation project. While we still don't have a firm start date, we wanted to reassure everyone that the project is still on track to be completed this year. The Maplewood & Lucy Flower Park Advisory Council has been in regular contact with the Chicago Park District over the winter months, and they have been told repeatedly that work will begin as soon as possible once the weather cooperates. Hopefully we'll see demolition activities start up any week now! Thanks for hanging in there — we promise you, the new park will be well worth the wait.
Back to top
Ask the Alderman
For this issue of the WindowBox, we asked 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno a few questions about everyone's favorite warm-weather gripes — graffiti and potholes!
Where should I report graffiti first? The 1st Ward Office or 311?
Generally speaking, calling 311 is your first line of defense against graffiti. But the 1st Ward office can help expedite and prioritize the process if the graffiti is particularly offensive or vulgar (hate crimes, gang symbols, etc.), located on a sensitive property (such as a church or school), or if you are not getting a timely response from 311. We have invested in eco-friendly cleaning supplies and paint (dollars I've raised, not your tax dollars), and the 1st Ward Graffiti Removal Team can help in removing graffiti that can be easily painted over, such as white or brown garage doors or walls. We can also help in cleaning smaller tags on stop signs. We will inform the city if the graffiti needs to be blasted (i.e., it is on brick).
What information do I need to file a graffiti report?
Whether you are reporting to the 1st Ward or 311, you will need an exact address. Other important information that is needed includes: Is the graffiti more than 6 feet from the ground? Does it include profanity or look like a hate crime? Is it on a church or school? What type of surface is it on (e.g., unpainted brick, a white or brown painted wall, garage door, wood, siding, etc.)?
A garage door in my alley was tagged months ago, but still hasn't been cleaned. Clearly the owners don't care. Can I report graffiti even if it is on someone else's private property?
Yes. Graffiti on a garage should always be reported.
What about smaller graffiti on signs and lampposts — the kind that's often written with metallic markers. Should this also be reported?
Yes. The city's Graffiti Busters will remove graffiti on signs, but they rarely remove graffiti from lampposts unless it is really extensive. It's best to report this kind of graffiti directly to the 1st Ward office. We'll need to know the specific address and type of sign where the graffiti is located. Pictures are also helpful and can be e-mailed directly to email@example.com
. Because graffiti on signs can be difficult to remove in subzero temperatures, this type of work is usually done during the spring and summer months.
How do I go about reporting a monster pothole? Do I call the 1st Ward Office, 311, or both?
You can report potholes either to Jerry Mandujano at the 1st Ward office (773-278-0101 or firstname.lastname@example.org
) or by calling 311. You'll need to provide the address and location of the pothole (traffic lane, curbline, etc.). If you can get a picture of a particularly nasty pothole in the 1st Ward, please email it to Jerry and he will try to expedite the process.
Is any effort being made to prioritize potholes in the 1st Ward?
There are two things to consider when filling potholes: 1) fill as many as possible and 2) prioritize the worst ones. What makes one pothole worse than another is a combination of factors, including its size, location in the street, the number of cars that travel on that street, and the speed at which those cars are traveling. Our goal is to prioritize the worst potholes on the busiest streets, while also being efficient with our time and resources.
Will the city ever get around to fixing potholes in alleyways? Many alleys in West Bucktown look like swiss cheese.
Alleyways are a lower priority because they see the least amount of traffic at the lowest speeds of any roadway. That means they have less of a chance of causing damage to cars or causing accidents. If your alley is beyond repair, you can call the 1st Ward office to submit a repaving request to our Aldermanic Menu.
If I get a flat tire as a result of a pothole, will the city reimburse me? How do I go about filing a claim?
First, file a police report and get two estimates to repair your tire. If you have repairs done, save your receipt. If you go through your insurance company, make sure to get a claim number. Then go to http://chicityclerk.com/programs-services/claims/
or to the City Clerks office in person to fill out the claim form. All paperwork should be submitted to the City Clerk's office: Office of the City Clerk, Attn: Claims, 121 N. Lasalle St., Room 107, Chicago, IL 60602-1295.
The next issue of the WindowBox is tentatively scheduled for distribution in July.
If you have a story idea or would like to contribute an article, please email us at email@example.com.