I love sports. If the Cubs or Illini basketball are on the tube, then I’m glued. But for the most part, I like my pubs TV-free. I am a traditionalist when it comes to the conversation. Pubs are places to enjoy talk and company - that's their history. The Olympic Games, however, are a different story. Their history of athleticism are almost as gripping as the competition we get to witness. So, as the XXII Winter Olympics are now underway in Sochi, Russia, how can we connect to them via Chicago saloons besides the obvious viewing parties or food and drink specials?
Named after the first Olympics that took place in Olympia, Greece, in 776 BC, the ancient games involved representatives of various city-states that engaged in both athletic competitions and combat sports. The games were closely affiliated with religious beliefs and festivals for the cult of Zeus.
Greek immigrants began arriving in Chicago in the 1840s and settled downtown. At the beginning of the 1900s, settlement shifted to what is now known as Greektown. Over time, the area flourished - and floundered - only to see a recent renaissance.
Get in touch with Greek history by visiting the National Hellenic Museum (333 S. Halsted) and then head down the block to Spectrum Bar and Grill. Opened in the 1980s by a couple of brothers from Cyprus, the saloon is a sports lovers mecca in the heart of Chicago’s very own Hellenic Republic. It’s a thriving neighborhood tap that caters to both locals and city-wide visitors. Its success led Andreas and Angelo to travel back to Cyprus and open Spectrum Pub in Protarus.
Ok, so enough about the first Olympics because these are the Winter Games after all. The first frosty competitions were hosted in 1924 and took place at Chamonix, France amidst the French Alps. The U.S. Hockey team was as B.A. as you would expect them to be, outscoring their opponents 52-0. Women’s hockey, on the other hand, didn’t exist.
A Chicago staple since 1972, La Creperie has dished out amazing French cuisine in a causal - yes, casual - setting. Pull up a chair and partake in some great wine, the perfect crepe, delectable escargot or hearty onion soup. In August 2013 Chicagoans were shocked that the establishment was closing. And just a few months later, the little French bistro that could, quietly reopened this past December creating a new culinary opportunity for unaware Chicagoans. La Creperie is France and Chicago in one.
One of the missions of the Olympics is to create peace through sport. Athletic competition is, after all, a fair way to settle disputes. You win, fair and square. Whenever I eat at Piece, I feel like a winner. A champ, in fact. The pizza is awesome and their beer-making gold medals are almost too many to count. But for our purposes, lets chat sportsmanship.
Owner, Billy Jacobs, and Brewmaster, Jonathan Cutler, are all about playing nice. They love Chicago and other small business owners and for that reason you’ll see many a collaboration, like this month’s feature with Three Floyds. Their beer, Marketing Ploy, an American Pale Ale, is solid and it gets re-released this month. But February first place might go to their partnership with Honey Butter Fried Chicken. Yes, you read that correctly, you can get fried chicken on your pizza. Only in February. Two amazing partnerships happening only in February, happening only in Chicago. You might call it Olympic.
Photo: Arnold Klein
Vodka is Russia. And its one of the hottest and fastest selling sprits out there. Whether you’re boycotting the Russian stuff because of the LGBT cause or if your’e wanting to support local product, then CH Distillery is up your alley. The vodka, along with other kinds of liquors, is made onsite using nothing but the finest Illinois grown grains. They are milled in the facility, processed and stored in stills that are visible to anyone that walks through the doors. But you don’t just want to see big shiny silver tanks and wonder what’s inside, do you? No, you want to taste it, so make your way to the cocktail bar and make like James Bond...shaken, not stirred. It’s from Chicago, With Love.
Nearly all cultures throughout history have engaged in the practice of
visiting large cleansing palaces known as baths. Sweat. It. Out. The
Romans, Turks and Russians are famous for them so it's no surprise that
Chicago had them scattered throughout the city in the 19th and 20th Centuries. A
Russian-style bathhouse has been operating at 1914 W. Division
Street since 1906.
Named after the famous public space in Moscow, Red Square Chicago opened last year and was revamped, remodeled and refurbished to offer an assortment of spa ammenities. And after you're finished getting pampered, head up to the bar to partake in a Moscow Mule to pair with some top-notch borscht or fine caviar. Really.