Falafel Spotting Just Got Easier: Falafel & Grill Now Open

If you love falafel, dolma (grape leaves), Jerusalem salad, and other Middle Eastern foods, you need to thank the real estate fallout for Wicker Park’s newest restaurant, Falafel & Grill, at 1317 N. Milwaukee Ave, which opened this past Tuesday in the former 7-D Restaurant space at the northeast corner of Paulina and Milwaukee, near the Jewel/K-Mart shopping complex.

When the building that housed southwest suburban Tinley Park’s Pita Wrap, at 159th and Harlem, went into foreclosure last year, owner/chef Baker Ali, a native of Jerusalem, whose been cooking his family’s unique recipes for over 10 years, needed to find a new home for his restaurant.

Baker wanted to move to the city, and since he shared the same beverage salesman as Wicker Park’s 7-D restaurant, owned by Grace, pictured, who closed her business about a year ago, he had an “in” to a long established high traffic location that perhaps needed a new and healthier kind of food to entice the health conscious eaters in our somewhat gentrifying neighborhood.

After a build-out that took six months, the newly named Falafel & Grill quietly opened this past week and already has attracted regulars, like Patrick of 826CHI up the street, who reported that he was already on his third or so visit this week!

We enjoyed a $3.75 falafel wrap, which was very different from our favorite neighborhood Middle Eastern standby, Sultan’s Market on North Ave. The wrap was, like Sultan’s, also curiously priced at $3,75. Whereas Sultan’s piles on generous smears of hummus which causes the pita to often break, Falafel & Grill’s wrap was cut into two neat portions, with the insides all blended together and then pressed (similar to Damen Avenue’s Babylon, now under new management), so that you could hold one half of the wrap in one hand rather than the two hands required to eat a pita from Sultan’s.

The falafel balls at Falafel & Grill were not as dry (or as heavily fried) as those at Babylon, as well as slightly larger.  They also contained a bit of a flavor kick, which we were told is a pickle juice, which gives the falafel a hint of natural salty brine to balance out the chickpeas, which can taste bland if not executed correctly. For the record, we believe that the falafel at F&G came very close to being as good as Sultan Market’s falafel, but not quite as good. Don’t trust our opinion, though…  Go ahead and make your own and let us know via a comment what your thoughts are on our ‘hood’s falafel options, all delicious in their own way. Check out Sultan’s Market (2057 W. North, Wicker Park), Babylon (2023 N. Damen, Bucktown), Ameer Kabob (1050 N. Milwaukee, in Noble Square), and newcomer Falafel & Grill (1317 N. Milwaukee, East Wicker Park).

Falafel & Grill, 1317 N. Milwaukee. Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11AM-12AM, Fri.-Sat 11AM-3AM. Ph: 773-292-8888. Delivery not yet available but coming soon.

“Momentum Wild” Cycles into Jackson Junge Gallery

“What’s that you say? The weather is just right; it’s time to break out the bike in honor of Bike-to-Work Week?”

It’s also time to take in one of the most spectacular art exhibits featuring one of this city’s perennial favorites, biking, as interpreted in the paintings of the talented and imaginative Chicago artist Brian Morgan. Mr. Morgan’s visual feast, “Momentum Wild” The Art of Urban Cycling is a gorgeous body of work that stands strong next to his other well known, tinged with political satire pieces and will be featured at the Jackson Junge Gallery*July 15th-Aug 28th.

“I feel my bike paintings are very connected to Chicago,” says Morgan [in a press release]. “From the riders’ physical motion to their intense facial expressions there is an aura of ‘nothing can stop me.’ Like the city, my art has a rough edge.  I don’t produce ‘pretty’ art but it is real…blunt, raw and individual.”

An avid cyclist himself, the artist will be on-hand for the opening reception Friday, July 15th 6-9pm.

Don’t just ride, take part in the art of what keeps you happily mobile!

-Harris Bell

*Jackson Junge is a sponsor of The Pipeline’s Week Ahead listings

Wicker Park’s Got First Ever On-Street Bike Parking, Just Watch Out for the Speedbump!

Last evening, around the same time as the ComEd transformer power outage (more on this soon), affecting most of the streetlights on the 1500 block of North Milw. as well as a stretch of Damen extending to Big Star, The Pipeline was taking photographs of the newly installed bright orange WPB SSA#33 bicycle racks in front of the Flat Iron Building/Bank of America complex, when a bicyclist nearly wiped out, having skidded over the mini-speed-bump installed in front of the racks, which could possibly be temporary and related to the installation, we’re not sure.

The biker, pretty fit, was able to pick himself back up after falling against the curb, though it looked painful. Magid, of Ash’s Buck Town Smoke Shop, was standing nearby, and also witnessed the wipe out. “If you are writing a story about this, be sure to tell bikers to watch out for the speed bump!” he said.

Speed bumps aside, we think the new racks are very cool, and present a great boon for cyclists who have limited parking in the area– just check out this photo, right, of how bicyclists parked their wheels during Wicker Park fest for one example, though that’s an extreme one considering WPF is only once yearly and these WPB racks are intended for bicyclists who work in the neighborhood, shop and dine here, and just need a place to park.

Grid Chicago, a site devoted to sustainable transportation topics, has an in-depth story on these racks, so tune in over on Grid Chicago to read all about the racks, the first of their kind in the city, made possible through a partnership between the Special Service Area (SSA) #33/WPB, first Ward Alderman ‘Proco’ Joe Moreno, and CDOT Bicycle Parking Program Manager Christopher Gagnon.

There will be a ‘Bike Away from Work + Park ribbon-cutting later today (Fri. July 29) at 5PM, followed by refreshments and mingling at Francesca’s Forno. Further details on the WPB blog.

Church School Built in 1886 Slated for Demolition Monday

It has not housed a school since 1970, and last year, according to this letter to parish members from Pastor Nick of St. Aloysius Church, the city had deemed the 125-year-old building at 1526 N. Claremont too unsafe for occupancy, as the church concluded that the cost to repair the 10-room schoolhouse constructed in 1886 would be too great of a burden to bear, and that one of its last remaining original structures must be sacrificed in order to make room for a larger and more usable Parish community center.

Part-time weekend church receptionist Luisana, pictured, who has worked at the church for five years, and is studying to be a social worker, confirmed yesterday that the building at 1526 N. Claremont is scheduled to be demolished this Monday, Aug. 15, 2011 at Noon. The Pipeline was alerted to the impending demolition by a sidewalk chalk “X” mark pointing to the structure, pictured.

Luisana, whom we’ve met on previous occasions along with other church members (full disclosure: in absence of having a patio or porch, The Pipeline has become a regular on the St. Aloysius’s garden’s bench over the past near seven years) expressed positive yet bittersweet feelings toward Monday’s demolition, which she confirmed, reflecting,”Something old will be torn down, but something new that will bring the community together will take its place.”

Though not sure when the building was built, Pedro, the church’s maintenance man whom was emerging from the building when we were walking by, said that he thinks that the building is from the 1890s. Curious to learn more, The Pipeline consulted local historian and Our Urban Times publisher Elaine Coorens’ book, Wicker Park from 1673 thru 1929, where we learned on page 93,excerpt pictured, that the building at 1526 N. Claremont was once a 10-room school house, built in 1886.

Pastor Nick is out of the country, and will not be present at the demolition on Monday.

Meanwhile, Elaine Coorens appears to be on the other side of Wicker Park, covering news on another 1500 block, this one Milwaukee Ave., writing about graffiti tags on a historic structure,”The People’s Light & Coke Company” building, home to Aldo shoes. The photo of “Coke Company” included in this post was snapped by The Pipeline back in ’09, which was a blip in history compared to 1886.

Rail Riders/Drifters/Beggars/Punks Incite Caring/Curiosity/Disgust/Fury

If you’ve walked around neighborhood streets over the past few weeks, you’ve likely noticed a few new visitors who look and smell like they haven’t showered in months. Maybe, like photographer Stephanie Bassos, you gave them $9, a bag of cat food, and two cans of Coors in exchange for snapping their picture, and sharing the humanity you saw in them with others, which we’re sharing here with Stephanie’s permission.  Or, perhaps like nearly 40 Bucktown and Wicker Park residents, you packed a room in the library at this past Thursday’s Beat 1434 CAPS meeting to express your frustrations over the youths.

Last night, as The Pipeline was walking back from a chamber networking social, we noticed at least three encampments of drifters on the sidewalk on Milwaukee Avenue. A girl was scribbling her thoughts into what looked like a moleskin brand journal. A guy next to her was just sitting on the sidewalk, people watching. In front of Bank of America near six corners, another youth was singing off key as her companion played an acoustic guitar. An open guitar case on the sidewalk in front of them contained two crumpled bills, some change, and a sign which said, “Traveling, broke, hungry.”

A resident named Richard posted various candid photos of the youths on the Bucktown Facebook Page Wall.

We sent R.  a message asking if we could share his photos “of the homeless kids.”  He responded, “Calling them ‘homeless kids’ is dishonest. They are scum drug addicts. The answer is no.”

R’s very strong reaction got us thinking about the wide range of emotions these youths are eliciting from the community, ranging from people who would drive them out of town with burning pitchforks if they could, to those that have offered them clothing, given them dog food, or are just curious as to why they are here and where their families are.

In this week’s pipeline e-newsletter we included a few photos of the drifters snapped by Stephanie. A Bucktown resident named Jennifer wrote in with her thoughts, below.

“I am so curious about these drifters that wander into our neighborhood each spring and summer.  Where are they going?  Where are they coming from?  How long are they staying?  Do they travel the same route each year?  Why in the name of Pete do they not keep themselves clean?  What’s with the all dark clothing?   I often buy their dogs food.   I chat with them a bit but most seem hesitant to talk to me.  It’s as if someone will reprimand them for talking to the lady with the stroller and the two big dogs.  They all look like they would benefit from a hug.   And a nice chat with their mothers as well.  Never have I mustered the courage to ask them what they’re all about.  Does anyone know anything more about these kids?   For whatever reason, I’m dying to know.

Thank you. 

Jennifer J” 

Linkypoos, a Local Links Column

Finally! The new Lush Cosmetics on Damen will open Friday at 11:00 a.m., according to this Racked Chicago post. The company sells handmade naturally derived soaps, creams, gels and other personal products for men and women.

Police patrolling the 1300 block of N. Ashland Ave. last Friday night, approached four men who fled upon seeing the officers. The police gave a short foot chase, when one of the suspects allegedly pointed a gun at the officers, prompting them to return fire. The suspects fled but were apprehended in 1300 block of N. Bosworth after calling an ambulance. All four men were taken into custody and a weapon has been recovered. Read more about this story.

According to this post on Reddit, there was a home invasion near Oakley and Shakespeare in the Bucktown neighborhood on Oct. 21. Two men knocked on a door and then rushed in a beat the person who answered. Please be aware of crimes like these happening in the neighborhood and report suspicious persons to 311 or 911.

Interior Designer David L. Smith bought this historic, 5 bedroom Bucktown home at 2156 W. Concord Place in April 2000 for $925,000. The home was recently put back on the market for a whopping $4.4 million! As reported in this Chicago Blockshopper article, Smith is an interior designer who’s had his work featured in Decor, Traditional Home and the Chicago Tribune. From the looks of it, he sure used his expertise to spruce the place up!

Brian and Fred Rosen, the guys who brought you Sam’s Wines and Spirits, are bringing more top-notch booze to the hood with Evolution Wines and Spirits opening at 1704 N. Milwaukee Ave. The store will carry wines from around the world, craft beers, and other liquors.

The Feast Chicago features this article about yet another Pan-Asian BYOB in Wicker Park, Thee Asian at 1811 W. North Ave. Getting your drink on should be easy, with Cellar Rat and Life’s a Cabernet so close by.

Guy Fieri, host of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives popped by Wicker Park’s Irazu. Check it out in this YouTube clip, and if you haven’t been to Irazu lately, you can still dine outside even when the weather turns cold, due to a new insulated patio!

CeCe Suggests… Last minute DIY Halloween Costumes

Hey, last minute shoppers!  Are you like me and waited until the week before Halloween to pick out your costume?  Have n0 fear! DIY costume ideas are here!

I make mine a week before Halloween almost every year.  Not just because Party City is completely sold out of everything.  I’m sick of having to decide between nurse, Playboy bunny, and other degrading, unoriginal costumes that don’t even cover half of my body.

I’m also sick of showing up to a party and seeing someone from head to toe in the exact thing as me.  So, I’ve opted to put together my own costumes.  This is a guide to picking a character and putting together a costume that you friends will say “How the heck did she/he come up with that?” (in a good way…hopefully).

If you’ve got a handful of pins or tape and preferably an all black ensemble, you can use some household items to make an awesomely unique outfit. A couple packs of sponges pinned all over and an overly made up face, paired with an overly egotistically ‘tude, and you’ve got “Self Absorbed”. Another great costume I’ve seen before is bowls and boxes of cereal worn as hats or taped on the body, with a knife through the breakfast products, as a “Serial Killer”. You can also take the sex appeal out of being a “Pin Up Girl” by actually pinning up things on your shirt.

Celebrities are hugely popular every year. But don’t only be relevant. Be different! For the first “celebrity”, you’re going to need black face paint, black clothes, a black knitted cap, and an ipod. Instant iPod commercial, which is totally current since the unfortunate death of Steve Jobs. Another homage to his late, greatness is grabbing a buddy and going as “Mac Vs. PC”. Or stock up on glitter, white face paint, and fangs and go as one of the Twilight vampires. If you’re a guy, your hair has to be purposely gelled to resemble bed head. For the ladies, just stutter and act like you’re a terrible actress, ala Kristen Stewart! I have a feeling Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga are going to be huge this season, for their bright hair, rainbow makeup and outrageous fashion sense make it seem like they celebrate Halloween all year round.

Couples costumes are either so original, you do a double take, or so adorable its nauseating. Keeping to the DIY style I mentioned first is “Milk and Cookies”, where all you need is to cover one partner in Chips Ahoy and the other has to make a cardboard milk carton. Unlike the Lady Gaga meat dress, this costume is delicious, cute, and doesn’t smell like rotting steak. Also, picking your favorite TV show and going as a couple from that show. Examples: Nucky and his mistress from “Boardwalk Empire”, Eric and Sookie from “True Blood”, or just pick up a couple of Harley Davidson vests and channel “Sons of Anarchy”. My absolute favorite couples costume is the “Marilyns” where the girl dresses as the fabulous Monroe, and the guy dresses as the uber-goth Manson. Just skip the M&Ms costumes, its in the nauseating category.

But if none of these ideas are to your fancy, just use the most basic rules of DIY. Use your resources and make it cheap. It doesn’t matter if the celebrity or public interest is current, just so long as its funny or original. And sometimes going for unique is better than the usual “girls in pretty much underwear” look. Plus chances are, no one will be dressed exactly like you! So have fun making your costumes, watch your drinks, eat lots of candy, and have a Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

-CeCe Sees aka Caitlin Carroll
About CeCe: CeCe, age 22, is a former Wicker Park thrift shop shop gal, and suburbanite, currently looking for new gigs in the restaurant or retail industry, preferably in Wicker Park so that she can move to the city soon and have even more fun working on pipeline stories! For the record, this Halloween CeCe will be attending two different parties and will be dressed differently for both, so if you see a sexy Hans Solo or Jessica from True Blood wandering around Berwyn, say “hi” to Cece!

Now Open: Rebel Rebel Roller Derby Skate Shop

This past May, Thia Penta was hanging out at Sunrise Cafe in UK Village with a friend and said,  “Somebody should open up a skate shop for Roller Derby Girls.”

Penta’s friend turned the tables around and asked, “Why not you?”

Through the process of researching, Thia, a member of the Windy City Rollers league– she goes by Wreck ‘n Shrew on the Manic Attackers team— with a background in professional photography, and retail (she most recently worked at Wicker Park’s Broken Cherry Boutique with former Roller Derby Girl turned entrepreneur Remey Rozin), began to realize that being a merchant might be her calling, and, this past Thursday, Oct. 20, Rebel Rebel Roller Derby Skate Shop opened its doors in Logan Square, at 2048 N. Milw., just south of the Congress Theater and next to Gran Discover Clothing.

The mannequins weren’t quite dressed and/or standing tall yet when The Pipeline popped by, having been alerted to the opening by the proprietor of Gran Discover, but we got a look at the merchandise: roller skates, pads, protective gear, T-shirts with attitude, plenty of helmets, shorts, tights, and socks, pretty much anything a derby athlete would ever need, along with equipment service and repair, with the added convenience of Rebel Rebel being located in a storefront rather than going online to shop, where Thia says most of the derby community get their merchandise.

Thia reported that she chose Logan Square because many of the derby girls live in the neighborhood, and the storefront, long vacant, looked like it needed a tenant.  She also wanted to stress that the shop isn’t just for those in the derby, but pretty much anyone who uses wheels or skateboards and needs gear.

Next in Rebel Rebel’s Pipeline: Ice skates, at affordable price points. And, with winter right around the corner, and long lines at Humboldt Park’s rink for skate rentals, we’d like to think she’s on the perfect track to success.