Today we are joined by Rabbi Levi Notik of Chabad Uptown. Guided by the idea that there should be a place whose doors are open to persons of all backgrounds and affiliations, Chabad employs an open approach to Jewish community life. There is no membership, allowing participants to partake in whatever programs and services suit their individual or family needs. Offers educational and social events for Jewish families and young professionals in the Uptown neighborhood, you can find them at 1109 W. Lawrence Avenue.


Rabbi Notik met with Joelle and Laura at Transistor

“I grew up in a long line of Rabbis… and all I ever wanted to do was be a Rabbi. We have dedicated our lives to helping others in any way we possibly can.” – Rabbi Notik

Listen to Episode 52!

  • Rabbi Levi Notik is one in a large rabbinic family line going back several generations. All he ever wanted to was be a rabbi, to dedicate his life to helping others in any way he possibly can.
  • There was a need for the Jewish community in and around Uptown to have a place to come celebrate and experience Jewish life and culture. Rabbi Notik turned to his friend Alex Milovich, who agreed to share his resources, space, and time with the Chabad.
  • The Chabad opened on Lawrence Ave three years ago. The focus since its opening have been serving their ever-growing community with an emphasis on adult education and holiday celebrations. Much of the education is done in one-on-one sessions, where Rabbi Notik spreads what he calls “timeless wisdom for modern living.”


    The 2018 Purim Celebration

  • Many of the programs at the Chabad of Uptown are centered around celebration of Jewish life—like the Andersonville Hanukkah pop-up—and education through classes, lectures, and services. They also design their events so people of all ages have something to do or a way to participate, children through seniors.
  • The Chabad also hosts a Thursday night seminar on Jewish topics and how they apply to the modern day. Topics covered include: positive thinking, happiness, and how we view dreams.
  • While on the job, Rabbi Notik meets a variety of interesting people. He enjoys this very much, and often meets with them to share knowledge and wisdom from the Torah.

    “We look to the Torah as a guide with messages and inspirations on how to maximize on our life in today’s day and age”

    The Chabad of Uptown is not a membership organization—anyone is welcome to come to enjoy, learn about the Jewish faith, and grow personally and in their relationships. Rabbi Notik welcomes people to call or message the Chabad at any time, he meets people frequently and enjoys discussing his faith with others. He also often wants to leave people with a desire to learn more about happiness and meaning and the roles that those play in our lives.

  • When he is not working, Rabbi Notik enjoys chess and reading. He also has nine kids!
  • Want to get involved? Chabad Uptown is hosting a Grand Purim Party on Wednesday, March 20. The theme is black and white masquerade and there will be hor d’oeuvres, soup, toasts, and a special performance. They will be reading the scroll of the book of Esther (the Migillah) and sharing gifts with the poor. To learn more about Purim, click here.

    “Happiness is learned, meaning is learned; if there is one message it’s spend your time wisely and try to learn new things everyday.”

  • If Rabbi Notik could swap with any Andersonville business for a day, he would be happy working at any one of the five coffee shops in the Andersonville neighborhood.

Visit Chabad of Uptown on the following platforms:
Online: uptownjew.com
Facebook: facebook.com/UptownJew/



This week, Laura and Sara are joined by Olin Eargle otherwise known as Mr. Andersonville. Olin, an @properties real estate agent is ranked as one of Chicago’s top brokers citywide and is celebrating 10 years this year. According to one testimonial, “he is a hustler and a veritable real estate surgeon.” Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, contact Olin at olinsellschicago.com for all of your real estate needs.


Olin Sells Chicago at Midsommarfest 2018 – Olin is on the left

“If you find a property that is 80 percent what you love, 10 percent what you can change over time, and 10 percent what you can live with, that becomes your perfect property.”

  • Olin was born in South Carolina and lived in North Carolina from 8th grade to college graduation from Appalachian State. He holds a degree in Communications Advertising and a minor in theatrical arts. He moved to Chicago two weeks after graduation and now has been living here for almost fifteen years.
  • When he first moved to the city, Olin worked for HARPO—Oprah’s production company—as the executive assistant to the director of media and public relations. Everything media-related went through his boss and he was there for support at all times.
  • Because of his Carolina roots, he did have an accent. This is no longer thanks to his HARPO position. As someone taking direct calls and answering questions for clients he was asked to learn to speak more eloquently and pronounce things differently. He did, however, meet some amazing people and form some great relationships.


    Olin Sells Chicago at Midsommarfest 2018

  • Real Estate was a natural step after HARPO, as Olin had always had a passion for living spaces. As a kid he designed layouts with legos, he was a resident assistant in college, and his first job in college was as a leasing agent for an apartment complex. He had always enjoyed the work and was excited to get into it.
  • Olin has worked as a real estate broker for 10 years, and currently works at @properties, a real estate agency spread throughout the Midwest. Olin has been doing this for quite a while, and has found that the best advice he can give to anybody is to ask all of the questions they have on their minds.
  • Olin also suggests going through all of the steps of purchasing a house in the proper order: if you need a loan, contact your banker and make sure you have the money to make the purchase, then contact your broker. They will show you houses and help you find what you want where you want—this could be a week long process, or it could last three to four months. Your realtor will work with your mortgage lender, attorney, and inspector to make sure that everything runs smoothly. According to Olin, purchasing real estate is not as daunting as it turns out to be if you start at step one and go through each one in the correct way.
  • However, it is also wise going into this process with the mindset that no property will be 100% perfect. So, Olin suggests the 80-10-10 rule: if you find a property that is 80% what you love, 10% what you can change over time, and 10% what you can live with, that would be an ideal situation.
  • In order to ease the process Olin also has a master list of vendors he works with including  attorneys, mortgage lenders, inspectors, interior designers, and others on a frequent basis.
  • Another way to ease the homebuying process is to interview an agent before you agree to work with them. Asking questions like how long they have been in the business and how much they have sold in the past year could lend good insight into who they are and whether or not they have the motivation to help you find your dream home.


    The Mr. Andersonville team

  • Olin—a long-time resident of Andersonville—describes it as a charming corridor with a small-town feel.
  • Olin also performs with The Cabaret Project as a form of artistic outlet. He and a few others started the band the Feathered Beaus in 2018 as a sort of cabaret and burlesque fusion. They have performed in Missouri, Wisconsin, and are travelling down to Mexico soon. Locally they’ve performed at the Drake Hotel, the former Green Dolphin, and in Mary’s Attic. They also do private shows.
  • If he were not working in real estate, Olin would definitely want to perform on Broadway. His dream role is Mark in RENT.
  • If Olin could swap with any Andersonville business for a day, he would choose either the Swedish American Museum (5211 N Clark)—Karin’s team is excellent and, seeing as he got married there, he would love to be part of someone else’s big day—or The Wooden Spoon (5047 N Clark) because he loves to cook and it would be a fun and interesting experience.

Learn more about Mr Andersonville on the following platforms:
Online: olinsellschicago.com or mrandersonville.com
Facebook: facebook.com/olin.eargle
Instagram: @olinsellschicago
Twitter: @OlinSellsChi

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes for Episode 50 with Ann-Louise Haak of First Slice Pie Cafe

Today we are joined by Ann-Louise Haak, Executive Director of First Slice Pie Cafe. First Slice is all about good food for good people and as a nonprofit organization provides high quality meals to people living on the margins of society. Proceeds from purchases at each of their three locations on the northside of Chicago and one in Evanston, go toward providing healthful, farm-to-table meals to Chicagoans experiencing homelessness. You can find First Slice here in Andersonville at 5357 N Ashland.


Sara, Andy, Ann-Louise, and Laura met at Transistor to record episode 50 of #AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast

“Haters gonna hate, burglars gonna steal, and dang it,
First Slice is gonna keep making pie and feeding folks who need to be fed”
-Ann-Louise Haak

    • Ann-Louise grew up on the East coast. She grew up with the Amish in Lancaster, Pennsylvania until she was ten, then her mom remarried and relocated to the suburbs of Washington DC. She originally came to the Midwest for college, and hasn’t left since – her twentieth anniversary of Midwest living is coming up this fall!
    • Unbeknownst to many, Ann-Louise is actually an ordained member of the clergy as well as a Baptist minister. Though she can officiate weddings, she chose not to for a long time because she was unable to give the same blessings to all couples. She lead ceremonies without signing licenses for a while, but her mindset shifted when she was married to her partner a few summers ago. Though she is more willing to encourage the married lifestyle now, does make her couples do premarital counseling before their big day.

      First Slice Jar Desserts

      Believe it or not, First Slice has desserts that are not pie. Who knew?

    • First Slice was started by Mary-Ellen Diaz, a classically trained French chef and mother of two. When she was on maternity leave for her second child, she realized how difficult it was for her, a professional chef, to get dinner on the table most nights. She came up with the idea of a meal subscription to help ease the dining difficulties of others. It launched in 2004 and is still available.
    • How it works:
      • You sign up for the subscription.
      • A new menu is released every Friday.
      • Subscribers pick three entrees, each menu has a set list of sides – and a pie of course – to accompany the meals.
      • First Slice cooks, packages, and freezes the meals; you stop by your local cafe (5357 N Ashland if you’re in Andersonville) to pick up the food at your leisure.
      • You are free to mix and match sides all week long; all you need to do is warm it up and dig in!
    • Currently, there are an estimated 75 households participating in the subscription program.
    • Another facet in First Slice’s mission came from Mary-Ellen’s experience volunteering at local soup kitchens. It was through this work that she realized two things: first, the meals they were serving at the kitchens, though helpful, were filled with starches, fats, and, while filling, had very little nutritional value. Second, her cooking skills were appreciated far more in the soup kitchens than at her place of work – people that don’t have access to good food regularly appreciate it far more than those that do not have to worry.

  • When people hear “first slice,” they usually assume that the cafe’s award-winning pies are the inspiration for the name – this is not the case. First Slice is a name inspired by their mission: “…Our commitment [is] to give the first slice – the best cut – to folks who are hungry and in need rather than just giving them what’s leftover at the end of the day.”
  • First Slice feeds about 700 people per week through partnerships with local nonprofits and patrons that come into the cafe. Food insecurity is a very immediate need; First Slice is working to lessen that need with good, quality food.
  • One of the many perks of signing up for First Slice’s meal subscription service is that some of that money goes towards providing meals to the hungry. First Slice saves money when they cook in bulk. So, if they were to prep chicken parm for 100 subscribers for a particular week, it would be just as easy and just as expensive to make 150 portions. The extra meals 50 meals they are able to make for the same price go to the hungry.
  • First Slice works with several local nonprofits for their outreach work:
    • StreetWise: Likely First Slice’s biggest outreach partner, they provide a free, hot meal to all vendors during the week. Whenever they go to the office to participate in the program, meet with a social worker, or update their resume they know they’ll have something to eat.
    • The Crib: A nighttime drop for street-based youth. First Slice provides warm dinners to kids staying there.
    • Broadway Youth Center: A daytime drop in for street-based youth. First Slice brings lunches there.
    • Common pantry: On Wednesday nights, Common Pantry opens their doors to people in the midst of food emergencies. The neighboring church, Epiphany United Church of Christ, also opens up its doors and serves First Slice food so people can bring their families to do their shopping and eat dinner together.
    • Lakeview Presbyterian Church: First Slice works with Lakeview Presbyterian to provide lunches to low income or economically unstable senior citizens during the week.

      First Slice Pie Case

      The First Slice bake case featuring some long-time favorites: Traditional Apple and Polka Dot Pies

  • Outside of the meal subscription service and their outreach, First Slice also serves incredible pies (obviously). The favorite is Traditional Apple – Food and Wine Magazine called it one of America’s best apple pies – but Michigan Sour Cherry is also a popular choice.
  • Another outreach event First Slice participates in is Empty Bowls. This national fundraiser is happening on Friday March 8 from 5-8PM; it is a way to help battle hunger in the United States. Ceramic artists throw handmade bowls and donate them, First Slice makes a lot of soup, when guests arrive they get to choose their own bowl, and they eat soup to their heart’s content. When guests are ready to leave a volunteer helps wash out their chosen bowl and they get to keep it forever as a reminder of all the empty bowls they helped fill that night. Tickets are $25, more details are available here.
  • Because Ann-Louise in the First Slice team are so involved in the community, they are always looking for extra hands to help out. If you’re interested, the volunteer form is on their website – they need people to serve at their multiple outreach outlets, help at Empty Bowls, work their stand at the Andersonville Farmers Market, and even help in critical administrative activities like marketing and IT.

    IMG_9908 (2)

    First Slice mural at the Andersonville location

  • Despite two recent burglaries of their Andersonville location, First Slice is still working hard and going strong. Though Ann-Louise wouldn’t recommend it as a team-building exercise, the staff pulled together to see the silver lining and the community rallied around them to support the team and their work.
  • If Ann-Louise could swap with any Andersonville business for a day she would choose Women and Children First (5233 N Clark). She has loved the store since she moved to the city and working there was actually her first job after she graduated from college.

Thank you for joining us today and thank you for listening to Always Andersonville: the podcast. For more information about First Slice, please visit firstslice.org. Show notes on today’s episode can be found at andersonville.org.


Visit First Slice on the following platforms:
Online: firstslice.org
Facebook: facebook.com/FirstSlice
Instagram: @firstslice
Twitter: @FirstSlice

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes for Episode 49 with Chef Fred Ramos and Julia Zhu at Bar Roma

This week Laura and Joelle are joined by Chef Fred Ramos and Julia Zhu of Bar Roma. Bar Roma specializes in house-made pastas, a variety of meatballs, and other Roman inspired dishes. They also feature a daily happy hour from 5-6:30PM which offers half-priced appetizers and meatballs. You can find this Zagat rated “Must Try” Italian restaurant at 5101 N Clark.


Chef Fred Ramos and Julia Zhu met with us at Bar Roma to tell us about how their partnership came to be and what it has been like working together these past three years

“I really feel like the success we have is because of the patrons in this neighborhood
and the broad base of diverse people.”
– Julia Zhu

  • Former commercial banker and Co-owner of Bar Roma, Julia Zhu opened the restaurant with business partner Howard Davis 3 years ago. Many have wondered why she, a Chinese woman, would want to open an Italian restaurant; there are several reasons that she and her partner decided to do so:
    • First, Italian restaurants are recession-proof (as said by Mr. Davis after the 2008 recession).
    • Second, people can eat Italian food two or three times a week – it just doesn’t get old!
    • Third, noodles are key in dishes in several cultures. The earliest mention of noodles comes from the Han Dynasty in China; the pasta phenomenon is thought to have travelled back to Europe with Marco Polo after he visited China in the 13th century. Learn more about the history of pasta here.
  • Chef Fred Ramos has been working in Chicago restaurants since he received his degree in International Culinary Arts from Kendall College in 2000. His resume includes work such as Maggiano’s Little Italy, Peli Peli, and Angelina Restaurante.
  • Bar Roma has a diverse menu, and includes things like hand made pasta, wood grilled meats, and their most popular: the meatballs.There are five variations on the menu: beef, pork, veal sweetbread, chicken, and vegetarian.


    Bar Roma’s beef meatball, available for half off when you come in from 5-6:30PM

  • The handmade pasta – particularly the spaghetti – is definitely one of the more popular items on the menu; they get about 240 orders every week. Their other options include pappardelle (broad, flat ribbon noodles), black fettuccine squid ink, tortellini with seasonal filling (currently butternut squash), and potato gnocchi.
  • Chef Ramos uses three different kinds of flour to make his pastas: semolina, durham, and double zero. They also use a lot of eggs.
  • Undoubtedly, the most popular item on the menu is Spaghetti Pomodoro, an Italian classic that people know and love. Chef’s favorite dish to make and eat is either the pappardelle with braised oxtail ragu or the butternut squash tortellini. Julia’s favorite is Cacio e Pepe (pictured below), a simple pasta dish made with spaghetti noodles, pecorino cheese, and a dusting freshly cracked black pepper on top; her favorite meatball is the veal sweetbread.


    Cacio e Pepe, one of Julia Zhu’s favorite Bar Roma meals, is a simple mix of spaghetti, cheese, and pepper.

  • When Bar Roma was about to open three years ago, Julia wanted to make it feel like visiting was going over to a friend’s house. She really feels that the success she has is because of all of the different people that visit. She also said that she feels the Chamber of Commerce has been incredibly helpful and supportive of her work.
  • Having previously worked in several downtown restaurants, the smaller neighborhood is a big change for Chef Ramos. He does enjoy Andersonville’s smaller neighborhood feel as this gives him an opportunity to get to know the customers that come in regularly.
  • Bar Roma is one of twenty-two restaurants participating in Andersonville Restaurant Week, which ends on March 3rd. They are offering a $30, four course prie fixe menu consisting of winter veggie minestrone, cacio e pepe with the patron’s choice of meatball, chicken parmesan, and warm panettone bread pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert.


    Panattone Bread Pudding is offered with Bar Roma’s four-course prie fixe menu during Andersonville Restaurant Week 2019 (2/22-3/3)

  • Bar Roma also offers brunch on Sundays from 10:30 AM-2 PM. Mimosas accompanied by tiramisu french toast, eggs benedict with smoked salmon, or carbonara pasta with an egg and pancetta creme on that patio is an excellent way to wake up on a sleepy Sunday morning.
  • When asked what advice Chef Ramos would provide culinary students, he suggests getting a job in a kitchen before attending culinary school – keep an eye on postings in the area here – as well as expecting to work as a cook before working as a chef. For young entrepreneurs Julia recommends being prepared for a challenge seven days a week, and building a proper foundation. Expanding too quickly can mean the demise of a business.  Finally, they both recommend finding people you work well with – they key for the Bar Roma has been a the great team that Chef and Julia have assembled
  • If they were to swap with another Andersonville business for a day, Julia would choose the Chicago Magic Lounge (5050 N Clark) because it’s fun and attracts a lot of people to the area; Chef Ramos would choose Anteprima (5316 N Clark),the other local Italian restaurant, or Hopleaf (5148 N Clark) because drinking beer all day sounds wonderful.

Thank you for joining us today and thank you for listening to Always Andersonville: the Podcast. For more information about Bar Roma, please visit barromachicago.com. Show notes on today’s episode can be found at andersonville.org.

Visit Bar Roma on the following platforms:
Online: barromachicago.com
Facebook: facebook.com/BarRomaChicago
Instagram: @barromachicago
Twitter: @BarRomaChicago

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes for Episode 48 with Martin Cournane

This week, Laura and Sara are joined by Martin Cournane of Munster Restaurant Group. Martin is the co-owner of Lady Gregory’s and Octavio Cantina and Kitchen in Andersonville, as well as LG’s Bar in Old Town and Wilde in Lakeview. Lady Gregory’s, an Irish Gastro Pub located at 5260 N. Clark, serves up a delicious menu and proudly boasts over 300 whiskeys.  Located just up the street at 5310 N. Clark, Octavio is a love letter to Mexico and serves modern Mexican food from the heart.

Martin 2

Martin recording in Transistor’s Studio C.

“Dream big, don’t give up, and start with your heart”
– Martin Cournane

Listen to Episode 48 with Martin Cournane!

  • Martin hails from Ireland. Having traveled over in 1994, he was one in a late wave of immigrants travelling to America. He came to Chicago with a bag and some money, and slept on a friend’s couch for his first few months in the area.
  • He started working in restaurants when he was sixteen years old and has done everything from dishwashing to bartending. Martin’s first Chicago job was Kitty O’ Sheas in the Palmer House Hilton; since then he has worked in a variety of hotels and Irish bars. He also worked as a General Manager at The Kerryman. In this position he made decisions about the menu, chose staff uniforms, and helped put the restaurant together. He learned a great deal about what makes a good restaurant; this was a huge stepping stone to open his own business.

  • In 2006, Martin started Munster Restaurant Group (MRG) and their first location – Wilde Bar and Restaurant – opened the same year. His business partner worked in construction, and they worked together to create original designs for each restaurant they opened. While working on Wilde, Martin learned a great deal about working with the city and having a flexible timeline.
  • Five years later, MRC opened up Lady Gregory’s in Andersonville. Being a constant patron and resident in Andersonville, Martin says that he was always hoping to open something up in the area. Becoming a part of the fabric of the neighborhood was an exciting experience.

    image2 (4)

    The fire damage at Lady Gregory’s in 2011

  • However, six weeks before they were supposed to open, there was a fire. This was a devastating shock; thankfully there was no structural damage. This did set them back a few weeks, and they opened on the Friday of Andersonville Midsommarfest in June 2011.
  • Martin and MRG name their restaurants after authors, and Lady Gregory’s is no exception. Isabella Augusta (a.k.a. Lady Gregory) was an Irish theatre manager and playwright specialising in drama and folklore. She also produced several books retelling stories from Irish mythology in common terms. Martin compares her to a woman running a pub in old Ireland: tough, and not to be trifled with. Lady Gregory also inspired several other Irish writers like W.B. Yeats and James Joyce.
  • MRG’s fourth and most recent restaurant, Octavio Cantina and Kitchen, is named after poet and activist Octavio Paz. In the back of the restaurant there is a portrait of him by local artist and LG’s bartender Cecilio Garcia. The map mural on the wall is by another local artist, Chris Silva.
  • Octavio was a big step away from Martin’s usual repertoire – he had to learn to create an entirely different menu and a fresh, new atmosphere. The result is a beautiful, open concept restaurant with excellent natural light and a homey, welcoming feeling.

    Octavio_ChickenFajita (1)

    Octavio Chicken Fajitas are being offered on their prix fixe menu during Andersonville Restaurant Week

  • Four restaurants later, Martin is still passionate about what he does. The advice that he wants to give to young entrepreneurs is to start with your heart – ask yourself what you love, and work from there. If you’re passionate about something, the rest will follow.
  • If Martin had the opportunity to trade places with any Andersonville business for a day, he would choose Lost Larson (5318 N Clark St) because of the obvious passion they have for their work and the delicious pastries.

Visit Lady Gregory’s and Octavio on the following platforms:
Lady Gregory’s:
Online: ladygregorys.com
Facebook: facebook.com/LadyGregorys
Instagram: @ladygregorysandersonville
Twitter: @LadyGAville

Online: octaviochicago.com
Facebook: facebook.com/octaviochicago

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes for Episode 47 With the Steep Theatre Staff

In honor of Chicago Theatre Week and the Year of Chicago Theatre, this week Laura and Joelle are joined by six members of Steep Theatre in their newly opened Boxcar venue. Steep is the quintessential storefront theatre and is committed to producing new and under-produced plays that tell the stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Their current sold out production Red Rex is about a small theatre company embarking on an explosive new play with the hope of finally breaking it big and has already been named one of Chicago Tribune’s top 10 Chicago shows for 2019. Located at 1115 W. Berwyn, you can find this intimate theatre just two doors down from the Berwyn El Station.


From left to right, back: Peter Moore, Thomas Dixon | Front: Sophiyaa Nayar, Ryan Kling, Sasha Smith, Kate Platt-Eckert

“Watching other people battle these demons [on stage] helps us understand and work through things without having it be about us.”
– Kate Platt-Eckert

Listen to Episode 47 with the Steep Staff!

  • Laura and Joelle visited the Boxcar on-site this week to talk with six employees of the Steep Theatre. Get to know them below:
    • Kate Platt-Eckert: Daughter of a theatre manager and lifelong thespian, Kate found Steep when working as a stage manager in 2006. She took a break from theatre for a few years after that job, then came back to work as the Executive Director five years ago.
    • Peter Moore: Inspired by film, Peter acted in high school and college theatre as much as he possibly could. One of the founding members of Steep, the artistic director, and an actor, Peter has been with the company since 2001.
    • Sophiyaa Nayer: Growing up with the magic of Bollywood film, Sophiyaa has been putting on shows ever since she could remember – the earlier ones had costumes made of pillow cases and an audience made up of her family. She ran into Steep six months ago, fell in love with it, and recently started working as the Program Coordinator.
    • Sasha Smith: Growing up with an actor dad and a comedian mom, Sasha received the full breadth of theatre growing up. Her childhood destined her for Steep, where she has been working for almost two years as an Artistic Curator and an ensemble member.
    • Thomas Dixon: Artistic Curator and Sound Designer at Steep since 2006, Thomas was first inspired by his visits to the theatre with his Grandma. Originally wanting to be in Star Trek, he realized when in college that he also had a passion for sound design.
    • Ryan Kling: As the Bar Manager, Ryan has been helping cultivate a menu with a distinct feel for the Boxcar. He grew up in Chicago, has been working for restaurants for 20+ years, and is excited to be able to work with Steep. He’s often inspired by the magic of production and loves the people that populate theatres.


      Laura and Joelle sit and discuss Steep’s history with the staff at the Boxcar Theatre.

  • Steep Theatre was founded in 2000 by three actors that banded together to have more creative control over the shows they were in. Their first show – “Life During Wartime” by Keith Reddin – featured about ten actors and a simple set. In total the production was a few thousand dollars. Although it was a small, low-budget production, “Life During Wartime” was a show that lead to the consistent use of ensembles at Steep because “the stage felt alive with so many voices on it.” View all past productions here.
  • The Steep ensemble continued to work and find their aesthetic at their first space in Wrigleyville from 2005-2008. As their budgets grew, so did their cast and audience until they expanded into their Boxcar Location on 1115 W Berwyn in 2018.
  • It has been the mission of Steep since the beginning to produce theatre that challenges the audience’s beliefs, offers relatability, and ventures into life’s dark, dusty corners without fear. Steep’s staff works to make their work a personal and accessible experience through the shows they offer and their small, intimate space that seats only fifty-five people.
  • Theatre is often considered to be “practice for life.” In shows like the ones performed at the Boxcar, people can look at the problems they grapple with through the eyes of the character. Discussing characters and their experiences can help audiences to better understand themselves and their own experiences.


    From Steep Theatre’s “Red Rex.” Photo by Lee Miller

  • This transcendent, vicarious experience can be found in “Red Rex,” which tells the story of a theatre company and their conflicts with gentrification, racism, and ownership. It is very much a story of the theatre scene in Chicago, which generated self-examination for many of the staffers at Steep. Tickets are sold out, but are the possibility of purchase is not lost – there is a waitlist that will put you next in line if there is a cancellation.
  • After “Red Rex,” there are two more shows to watch out for in the 2019 season: “First Love is the Revolution,” opening in April, and “Pamona,” which comes out in July. Learn more about the writers, directors, and the stories they are going to tell here.
  • The Boxcar was opened thanks to a money-raising campaign. The space features a full bar, cozy seating, and free performances on Sunday and Monday evenings.
  • Steep is also attempting to fulfill their mission through non-theatrical performance modes such as music, comedy, storytelling, lectures, and free willing discussions. Local band “The Winchesters” will be playing the fourth Monday of every month until April; there will also be visual artists featured, with a new exhibition coming in every four months.

    IMG_5624_Edited (1)

    The current visual artist on display at the Boxcar is Ken Ellis. He has worked exclusively with quilts and dye paints for the past thirty years.

  • The bar dances on the line of a theatre bar and a neighborhood bar, as their local clientele is steadily building – especially with the free Sunday and Monday performances. They feature local brews, like Empirical beer, and have several craft cocktails on the menu. The special during “Red Rex” is the Red Line Boulevard: a mix of Four Roses Bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and a mist of Ardbeg single malt scotch.
  • To celebrate the Year of Chicago Theatre, Steep is hoping that every Chicagoan will take the time to see at least one show sometime this year – perhaps during theatre week! There are several shows throughout the city every weekend, and there are very few nights where there is not a show happening somewhere.
  • However, if you’re unable to attend a show at Steep or anywhere else, there are other ways you can support the theatre itself: donations are extremely helpful and very appreciated.
  • If the Steep Staff could work at any other Andersonville business for a day, they would choose as follows:

“The real magic of theatre is based on humans”
– Sasha Smith

Visit Steep Theatre on the following platforms:
Online: steeptheatre.com
Facebook: facebook.com/steeptheatre/
Instagram: @steeptheatre
Twitter: @SteepTheatre

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes For Episode 46 with Terry Opalek and Michael Frontier

This week, Laura is joined by Terry Opalek and Michael Frontier. Terry and Michael founded Terry’s Toffee in 2002 and sold the business in 2015. Currently they co-facilitate a variety of workshops using their many years of life and business experiences to help others connect with their place and purpose on this planet. Both Terry and Michael are also certified Reiki Masters.


Michael (left) and Terry (right) in Studio C at Trainsistor.

“It’s what I did, but it wasn’t who I am.”
– Michael Frontier

“Worry is the biggest waste of your imagination”
– Terry Opalek

Listen to Episode 46 with Michael and Terry!

Here are some references from the show you may want to check out:

  • Terry and Michael both attended a class titled “The Artist’s Way” in 2002. Based off of a book by author Julia Cameron, this twelve-week course reawakened their creative spirits and helped them realize they were not living the most fulfilling versions of their lives. Because of this class, Terry left a twenty-year-long career in the California State Chamber of Commerce. Nine months later, both he and Michael worked to open up Terry’s Toffee – an Andersonville business that has been a staple for several years.
  • One of the many ways that “The Artist’s Way” class has helped Terry and Michael is through their morning pages – a writing ritual introduced to them by this class. Most mornings they write three pages of their stream of consciousness; grammar and eloquence do not matter – they just write whatever is running through their mind. Both of them said that this ritual has provided them with better mental clarity throughout the day, and has helped them realize how needless worrying about the future really is.

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    Michael (left) and Terry (right) co-owned and ran Terry’s Toffee for 14 years.

  • Terry’s Toffee was a culmination of Terry’s past food experience, his grandmother’s toffee recipe, and the desire for creative and spiritual fulfillment. He and Michael ran the business for fourteen years, and ended up selling the company.
  • Selling Terry’s Toffee was a shocking move to many at the time, but there were legitimate reasons behind this decision: The desire not to impede on the growth of the business, a feeling of finality and completion of his passion, and a desire to return to full-time Reiki work.
  • Since then, Michael and Terry have been hosting workshops that expand on “The Artist’s Way” class that changed their lives – “The Artist’s Way and Beyond.” Terry also helps people change their perception of wealth in his class “Developing a Healthy and Wealthy Life.” Michael has continued with his clairvoyant readings and teaches classes on intuition.
  • An excellent local example of these workshops in action is that of George Bezera, former trainer at Cheetah Gym (5248 N Clark). Terry and George started working together in 2016; George, who had always wanted to open his own gym, learned to trust his intuition,opened his first gym in 2017, and currently has several branches in the city with plans to expand.
  • Both Terry and Michael have put a great deal of work into mental clarity and centeredness; they are excited to share their findings, help others learn to trust themselves, connect them to their imaginations, and push them to live with purpose.
  • Terry and Michael work on a podcast called Jumping the Fence with their friends Mary Pat and Jen. Every Wednesday they come out with a new episode where they discuss living a healthy lifestyle in every aspect: physical, mental, financial, and so on. The podcast is available on Stitcher and Apple Podcasts.
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    Left to right: Terry, Jen. Mary Pat, and Michael meeting for their podcast “Jumping the Fence.”

  • If Michael could work at any Andersonville business for a day, he would work at Cowboys and Astronauts (1478 W Summerdale) because he really loves the shop’s energy and merchandise. Terry said he would want to work at Reza’s Restaurant (5255 N Clark), as it would fit well with his food experience and he would love to talk with all of the customers.
  • For more information about Terry and Michael and their upcoming workshops please visit their respective websites at terryopalek.com and michaelfrontier.com.

#AlwaysAndersonville: The Podcast – Show Notes for Episode 45 with Amy Giordano of Gus Giordano Dance School

This week, Laura and Sara are joined by Amy Giordano, owner of Gus Giordano Dance School located at 5230 N. Clark. The school offers a variety of dance programs, from classes in all styles & levels including ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, contemporary, musical theater & more for children from age 2 to 17, as well as drop in classes for adults and summer camps and intensives.

Amy is honored to continue the school her parents, Gus & Peg Giordano, started in Evanston in 1953.Amy moved the school from Evanston to Andersonville in 2011 to fulfill her father’s dream of having his school in Chicago. Amy loves being located here and she knows her parents would have loved the wonderful atmosphere in Andersonville.

Amy also runs the Gus Giordano Jazz Legacy Foundation which aims to create the same culture, uplifting spirit, and dedication to spreading the joy of jazz that her parents Gus & Peg gave to thousands of people. The Legacy Foundation funds scholarships to dancers of all ages, and sponsors performances and master classes to schools in the Chicagoland area.

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Amy Giordano (2018) & Gus Giordano (1953) in the studio at Gus Giordano Dance School

“I truly believe that it was a gift that was just born in him; [My dad] wanted to dance more than anything… His mind was always creating; everywhere he went, he was creating.”
Amy Giordano

Listen to Episode 45 with Amy Giordano!

Here are some references from Episode 45 that you may want to check out:

  • Amy Giordano is the daughter of Gus Giordano, who is known as the godfather of Jazz Dance. Before receiving this title, Gus served in the marines to pay tuition to the University of Missouri, where he met his wife and Amy’s mother, Peg.

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    Gus Giordano with wife, Peg Giordano, 1989

  • Though he did not study dance in college, Gus had been dancing since he was five years old. He saw his cousin tap dance while visiting New Orleans, and his enthusiasm only grew. His parents got him some shoes and wood for their basement, where Gus would hold classes for the neighborhood kids at a nickel a piece.
  • His love of dance persisted through his time in the marines and college. After graduating Gus and Peg moved to New York, where he danced in the show “Wish You Were Here.” When the show was taken off of the stage, they moved to Evanston, IL to start a dance school. Thanks to their efforts, jazz dance became a burgeoning movement in the Chicago and throughout the country.

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    Gus Giordano

  • Amy had been dancing for as long as she could remember. But, at the age of fifteen, she was a passenger in a car accident. This resulted in a shattered knee bone, years of casts and surgeries, and her attendance at Tulane University in New Orleans instead of continuing to study dance. She received her degree in marketing and design and  continued to help out at her parent’s studio while working full-time until her mother died of a heart attack.

    Gus and daughter Amy in Neice, France 1969

    Gus & Amy Giordano in Monte Carlo, France 1969

  • After her mother passed, Amy took her position at the studio. She worked full-time behind the scenes, doing everything from producing to helping younger students put on their shoes. It was not until she took her mother’s position that Amy realized the impact that her father had on the world of dance – jazz dance had become a national movement because of Gus’s persistence and generosity. He passed away in 2008, and Amy took over the business.
  • After her father’s passing and several health problems, Amy decided to move the studio closer to the city. She found Andersonville while driving, and looked at the school’s current building – which used to be inhabited by a beauty school. Immediately sensing that this was the place to move, she signed the lease.

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    Gus Giordano & his daughter, Amy

  • Soon after deciding to make the move to Andersonville, Amy underwent knee replacement surgery. Despite being bedridden and having to work from home, she had no doubt that this would be a great place for her school to flourish. The Andersonville location opened in June of 2011.
  • Gus and Peg were always extremely generous people, a trait which Amy received as well. She has solidified her family’s legacy of jazz dance and giving hearts through the Gus Giordano Jazz Legacy Foundation, which she created in 2017 to provide more scholarships to students who want to dance.


    Amy Giordano with GUS Youth Company Dancers

  • In the summer of 2018, the Jazz Legacy Foundation gave 50 scholarships for a full week of camp to children from many of the CPS schools. They also have many partnerships with a variety of CPS schools. Amy also works to give each of the students all of the attire they need for their uniforms. This includes proper footwear, hair kits, transportation and even helping kids learn how to properly put their hair up.

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    Amy Giordano & Master Jazz Faculty during JAZZ Intensive at Gus Giordano Dance School

  • Interested in learning more? Read more about Gus Giordano and his continuing legacy here.
  • If Amy could trade places with any other Andersonville business for a day, she would want to work at Vincent (1475 W. Balmoral).. She enjoys meeting all different kinds of people and would love the opportunity to welcome them warmly and get to know them better.9 Gus Face Logo

    “Long live jazz!”
    – Amy Giordano

Visit Gus Giordano Dance School on the following platforms:
Online: gusgiordanodance.com
Facebook: facebook.com/gusgiordanodance
Instagram: @gusgiordanodance
Twitter: @gusgiordanodanc
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/gus-giordano-dance-school


This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by Grant Kessler. Grant is a Chicago Market owner and sits on the Board of Directors. Established in 2013, Chicago Market will be a big, bright, beautiful community-owned grocery store which exists to rebuild the connection between food producers and consumers. While Chicago Market is not open yet, it will be coming to the Wilson CTA Station in Uptown in the 13,000 square foot, restored historic Gerber Building.


Grant Kessler in Studio C at Transistor.

“This is an open grocery store and welcomes all people in the community; we want everybody shopping there.”
– Grant Kessler

Listen to Episode 44 with Grant Kessler!

Here are some references from Episode 44 that you may want to check out:

  • Grant loves to cook at home and cooks with local sustainable foods. Over time he connected with farmers and became a local food advocate. Grant is also a food photographer, so his passion and work intersected in this wonderful way and his interested aligned with the mission of the Chicago Market. You can view his food photography work here: Grant Kessler Photography

New owners are given the Chicago Market tote upon joining.

  • Chicago Market is a co-op driven by mission and vision. They are not beholden to profit margin like larger chain grocery stores and will work to best meet needs of community due to their grassroots ownership. Chicago Market is open for all.
  • Grassroots ownership means Chicago Market is owned by the community. Owners of the market live, work and own businesses in the community.
  • Chicago Market will be considered big for a coop at 13,000 sf. once open, but they will still carry a smaller footprint than traditional grocery stores which are usually 75,000 sf.
  • Chicago Market seeks to make a strong impact on farm community and bring healthier foods into the city. Chicago doesn’t have a strong local food distribution system and Chicago Market hopes to improve this and connect people back to their food.

The Gerber Building in Uptown.

  • Owner rights which come with both direct and indirect benefits. Ownership begins with coop selling shares to the community. There are two levels of ownership: Cultivating and Founding ownership, and shares are purchasable online or at Chicago Market informational events. Learn more here. 
  • Direct Benefits of ownership include: voting rights in the business, a patronage refund which consists of a percentage of profit given back to owners at the end of the year if no major expenses are incurred, discounts in store on products and workshops, and a Chicago Market tote bag to shop with.
  • Indirect benefits of ownership include: hiring locally and providing jobs to the community by helping to open the store. Chicago Market has a strong commitment to hire in the neighborhood.
  • Chicago Market is sustainably-oriented and participate in sustainability efforts like #SheddTheStraw. They don’t have their market space yet by will keep straw use down.
  • Chicago market will carry bulk food with an emphasis on reducing plastic. They will also carry beer, wine, liquor, olive oil, and coffee from sustainable roasters. They will carry as much as possible from local regional growers and makers.
  • They will also host workshops and cooking classes on how to cook with the food they sell. One class might even feature making fruit preserve. Chicago Market is developing a partnership with neighboring Truman College to hold classes and events.

Grant at a Chicago Market recruitment event.

  • Currently, Chicago Market has 1500 owners and has upcoming recruitment session to encourage new owners and reach their spring goal of 2,000. Chicago Market will host their next Market Owner Info Session this coming Saturday, January 26 at 5PM at TrueNorth Café ( ). Learn more here.
  • Business can also become owners of Chicago Market! Currently, featured Andersonville business owners include: Big Jones (5347 N Clark) , Candyality (5225 N Clark), The SoFo Tap (4923 N Clark) , Meeting House Tavern (5025 N Clark), and the Andersonville Farmers Market
  • Chicago Market is hosting a Mixer at Meeting House Tavern on January 31 from 6-8PM.
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Rendering of Chicago Market’s new home in the Gerber Building.

“We are super excited about the location; it is just beautiful.”
– Grant Kessler

  • Chicago Market is set to open in April of 2020 in the Arthur Gerber Building which was built in 1923. It is a beautiful terra cotta beaux arts building. The CTA renovated it left empty when it moved the Wilson El station across the street. The location for the Chicago Market is highly accessible, transit friendly and has a parking lot. Click here for an article about the historic Gerber Building
  • Grant chose Big Jones as the business he would trade places with. Grant may not be a commercial kitchen person, but loves to cook at home and wants to learn from Chef Paul. Paul has a strong ethos around local food sourcing, as does Andersonville as a neighborhood in general. For example, Lost Larson (5318 N Clark) is buying grains from the mill at Janie’s Farm, and Vincent (1475 W Balmoral) and Hopleaf (5148 N Clark) also source from local farms.
Chicago Market Opening Graphic

Save the Date!

Visit Chicago Market on the following platforms:
Online: chicagomarekt.coop
Facebook: facebook.com/chicagomarket
Instagram: @chicago_market
Twitter: @ChicagoMkt
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/chicago-cooperative

2019-20 Andersonville Neighborhood Guide – Contributor Content Open Submission


In 2018-19, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce released a beautifully redesigned version of our annual Neighborhood Guide. What once was strictly used as a directory for the neighborhood, has now become a coffee-table quality publication with an editorial approach to showcasing Andersonville and its businesses in a photo-forward manner. Guides are distributed locally, to downtown Chicago tourism destinations and hotels, and are mailed to out-of-state visitors who request copies in advance of travel.

This year, we are seeking contributor submissions for the 2019-20 edition of the Guide from local residents, writers, artists, and photographers, whether professional or hobbyist. We are looking to add additional pages of featured content, and hoping to showcase the neighborhood from a local or visitor’s perspective. This contributor content request is open to all ages. People of color, women, persons with disabilities, and persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming or intersex are encouraged to submit.

Anticipated release of the 2019-20 Andersonville Neighborhood Guide is May 2019.

We are looking for the following:

  • Andersonville Neighborhood Photography
    • We know many of you LOVE taking photos of our iconic Water Tower, Dala Horse, Puppet Bike, local shops, streetscape, and more. Submitted neighborhood photos will be considered for the cover of the 2019-20 Guide as well as interior features. All photos chosen for publication will credit the photographer on our Guide table of contents.
  • Neighborhood stories or editorial features, both fiction or nonfiction
  • Neighborhood Reflections such as:
    • Tell us about what you love most about Andersonville.
    • What is the first thing you noticed about this neighborhood?
    • If you could trade places with an Andersonville business for a day, who would it be?
  • Neighborhood illustrations, graphic design, or local artists features


    • Submission Form: All applicants must complete the entry form here. If you are choosing to submit a Neighborhood Reflection, the form is the only thing we need!  
    • Photo and Artwork: If your submission includes photography or artwork, please email  print-ready high resolution images in jpeg, PSD, EPS, or TIFF format sized at 300 dpi to jscillia@andersonville.org. For cell-phone photographers who may have captured the perfect shot of Andersonville, but aren’t sure of the size or quality, please submit to us the original photo file at full-size, unedited.   
    • Written Content: If your submission includes written content, please submit proofread and edited work in a PDF format with author(s) credit.
    • File Format: Label all submitted files with your name, title of the work, and numeration (lastname_firstname_title_1).
    • Deadline: The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce will accept submissions through February 15, 2019.


Andersonville Chamber of Commerce fosters a vibrant environment in which Andersonville businesses can thrive by attracting a diverse customer base; providing business support services and advocacy; and engaging in business attraction, long-range planning, and economic development.