5.02.2012

Self-Guided, Half-Assed Gangster Tour of [The North Side of] Chicago

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This weekend was my birthday. Perhaps you recall my ridiculous dancing at work video... well, here's what transpired the rest of the night! No, there is no recipe in this post... just a healthy dose of humor, alcohol, and speakeasy gangster bars. Pretty much all you need... right?

Wrong. Because I forgot to mention my lovely birthday guests... my parents and aunt and uncle. Yes, I'm from one of those families where we can go out for drinks with our parents. Yes, it is wonderful!

The original plan for the evening had been to go on The Untouchables Gangster Tour of Chicago. Because, ever since I began watching Boardwalk Empire, I've been obsessed with Prohibition (Can I have a Great Gatsby themed wedding some day? Please?)... but, as it turns out, some of us (you will not be named) had already been on the tour... and it sounds like a lot of sitting around, anyway, which I can assure you I am quite bad at (I fail at just about anything involving silence and/or sitting). And so, with a bit of research and a whole lot of gangster ambition, we embarked on the "Self-Guided, Half-Assed Gangster Tour of [The North Side Of] Chicago."



Stop One: "The Apartment"
We started the night with cheese and drinks (or, as I like to call them, dranks). No, my friends, that is not a glass of rose wine with ice in it (that would be wrong on so many levels... unless you, yourself are a fan of watered down rose wine, in which case it is perfectly normal!)... we made Old Fashions. And beer and tequila. Yeah, we may have been doomed to a painful Saturday morning from the start.

Why is this part of a Self-Guided, Half-Assed Gangster Tour of [The North Side Of] Chicago? Because we drank Old Fashions. And because you gotta have some place to start!




We devoured said cheese and drinks at Justin's apartment in Wicker Park... which has changed quite a bit since the makeover we gave it a few months ago. Notice the beautiful faux-leather futon? Yep, it's fancy. Yep, it's from Wal-Mart. Yep, I'm proud of it.




Remember Hazel? She's pretty much the Supermodel of dogs (although her eyes look quite wonky in this picture...). And my Aunt Betsy is pretty much the Supermodel of aunts. Am I right?



Did I mention Hazel likes to rest her head in odd places? Like right under my dad's feet. Weird kid...


It wouldn't be a Birthday Party without the obligatory group pictures... would it?! Of course, having 3 is better than one... and candid is better than staged...


The next one is my favorite. Everyone looks so happy... and here I am, distracted by the dog, smiling down at her as she spins in circles to make sure my dad doesn't stop petting her. I totally understand you, Hazel. I would be doing the same thing.


And with a group picture, we were off to the second stop of our "Self-Guided, Half-Assed Gangster Tour of [The North Side of] Chicago" (can I get that name trademarked already?).

Stop Two: Lottie's Pub. 
Back in 1934, Walter "Lottie" Zagorski ran the pub. "Lottie" was a "flamboyant transvestite, and possible hermaphrodite, who stood six feet tall and could personally 'escort' unruly patrons out the door single-handedly." 

There was a gambling ring in the basement, which could be accessed via a secret door, and was run by a syndicate gambling and loan shark boss. 


According to the Lottie's website, "A simple knock on Lottie's private basement door opens a world of escape and debauchery -- lively parties, strip tease dancers, horse betting, and all-night poker games to those deemed worthy." (History from this site)


Did I mention the wings at Lottie's were amazing?



Stop Three: The Green Mill
After having dinner at Lottie's, we squeezed 6 of us into a cab, stopped at Jewel for some 5 hour energy, and were whisked back in time to The Green Mill.

During the 1920s, The Green Mill was mobster territory. Al Capone's henchman, Jack "Machinegun" McGurn, was given partial ownership of the club in exchange for "persuading" a comedian and singer from moving his act to a rival club (McGurn managed to convince Lewis by slitting his throat and cutting off his tongue. Miraculously, Lewis recovered, but his songs never regained their lush sound). (History from here)



The whole place has now been restored to its speakeasy, mobster splendor. Just check out the decor... and the old fashioned cash register!


Oh, and did I mention Sinatra used to visit during the mid to late 50s?  I suppose we shouldn't be surprised, then, that the Green Mill stage is now home to phenomenal jazz music and delicious cocktails...


Stop Four: The Red Line Tap


Okay, I should admit... this wasn't originally part of the Self-Guided, Half-Assed Gangster Tour. We were standing around at the Green Mill (that place is CROWDED!) when my mom and aunt suggested that we ace the place in favor of another venue... in fact, this "other venue" was The Red Line Tap, where their friends from college were playing with their band.

But you know what? Real gangsters roll with it. And real gangsters know the band. So, somehow, I feel like this fits.

Also, as it turns out, the bar has been around since the 1900s... so it, at very least, survived Prohibition... which is gangster, in itself.

And so is partying with your parents (see below).


Midnight rolled around and there was a chorus of "Happy Birthday"s (we were out the night before my official day, so midnight marked my true birthday).

Oh, and somebody gave my uncle 3D glasses. Obviously a good idea.


Step Five: The Next Day...


Breakfast in bed...


Beautifully wrapped presents (Justin wrapped that all by himself!).


...and a new lens! Get excited for some even-more-delicious-looking food!


...leftover beer... and 3D glasses...


And "A Book of Luminous Things," a whimsical book of poetry my Aunt and Uncle had given me the day before...


...which turned into my very own poetry reading, done by none other than my very own handsome man :) 

I have to say, as weird as it may sound, this was a wonderful moment. Here I was, looking at the sweetest man through the lens he had just given me... and he was reading me poetry. The light was coming in perfectly. It was so dreamy. I mean... he is dreamy :)


And then there was... food!


And Sweet Potatoes! And Asparagus! And Filet Mignon! Oh, My!



And semi-healthy German Chocolate Cake! (Using this recipe for the base and a homemade pecan/coconut frosting!)





And at the end of the weekend, I had a bouquet of flowers :)



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