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Summer’s Midnight Baker: Tending to Business at Baghdad Bakery

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Baking bread at West Ridge's Baghdad Bakery.

Baking bread at West Ridge’s Baghdad Bakery/Photo: Sarah Conway

Faris Shlaimon, forty-six, an Assyrian Iraqi, describes summers after midnight in West Ridge from the counter of Baghdad Bakery at 2732 West Devon.

Summer is bad inside the bakery because it’s hot, but it’s the best season for business. Imagine it is thirty degrees hotter inside the bakery than the street. Sometimes, it’s 130 degrees in here. I have four working ovens so no matter the ventilation system or air conditioner, in summer it’s a sauna but my guys are used to it. Homemade bread, that’s why.
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Heralding Summer: The Indomitable Rainbow Cone

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The multi-colored Rainbow Cone. Photo: Scott Smith

The  signature cone/Photo: Scott Smith

By Scott Smith

If there was any justice in the world, the family name most closely associated with the greatness of Chicago would not be The Daleys.

It would be The Sapps.

Sure, the Daleys built O’Hare, Millennium Park and several other monuments to Chicago’s spirit of ingenuity triumphing over reason. But in 1926, when Old Man Daley was still finding his way around Bridgeport, Joseph Sapp and his wife Katherine built Original Rainbow Cone, a small store at 92nd Street and South Western Avenue that sold a unique, five-flavor ice cream treat of the same name. Some ninety years later, the store is in roughly the same location as when it opened and a Rainbow Cone remains one of the finest desserts known to man, woman or child.

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Forest Preserve Tales: Hunting Wild Onions

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It is late May in Chicago. Inside Cook County’s Forest Preserves, along the North Branch of the Chicago River, it is now warm enough to kayak absent the fear of freezing water. Pushing our boats onto the muddy shore for a beer break, we see another early summer tradition. Read the rest of this entry »

Real People: Real Italian Ice

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Chicago is brutal. There’s that saying that the two nicest days of the year here are spring and fall. It’s true that the weather is varied and vicious but even after the ice has melted and the trees have bloomed there is still time to wait until true summer arrives. This year that fact has been very apparent. It was eighty degrees in April, but since then it hasn’t risen above fifty-two. To some people that may be acceptable, but I need summer and I want it now.
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Ode to the Ice Cream Man: Mister Softee’s Song

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mister-softeeAs a kid, there was probably no sound of summer streets as alluring as the Pied Piper jingle-jangle of ice cream trucks. Good Humor had a little row of bells the white-uniformed driver would clatter, more a Pavlovian alert than a tune. Hearing the pre-recorded, vaguely nursery-rhyme-like song of Mister Softee, however, was both the mesmerizing harbinger and continuing soundtrack of summer. Though even as a kid I wondered how the Mister Softee driver maintained his sanity with that repetitive, almost baroque, plinkety-plink going on all day, for the brief moment that Mister Softee pulled up by the curb in front of our house, the song made us dance in anticipation of soft-serve ice cream in cones, shakes and sundaes.

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Our Elotero: Waiting For the Mexican Corn Man

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By Tiffany Walden

There weren’t too many outsiders voluntarily strolling through North Lawndale–bearing treats no less–in the 1990s. The area was (and still is, for now) an enclave of predominately black, borderline impoverished, hard-working grandparents, mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts with a sprinkle of your neighborhood dope boys.

We grumbled through the winters, happy at first and then mad at the mounds of snow that made our streets impassable. But as the days grew longer, skies bluer and weather hotter, the sound of a particular jingle would echo off the two-flats lining the 4000 block of West Lexington Street. That’s when we knew it was time to go outside.

No, it wasn’t the ice cream truck playing Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” that warm weather favorite across all socioeconomic lines.

It was the sound of the Mexican Corn Man, as he was so affectionately called by myself and the other kids. It was only when I grew older that I learned that, in his culture, he was an Elotero. I really can only remember him through a ten-year-old’s lens, and now I wish I’d talked more with him; learned more about him. Gotten a recipe. I moved away from North Lawndale, to the west suburbs, when I was a fifteen-year-old. But until that move, his presence was a mainstay of my summers.

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Summer Swill: Drunk Brunch

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I dream about it all winter, as my Brown Line halts and screeches through a December morning or I hunch my shoulders against a February night. One day—maybe not soon, but inevitably—the city will thaw, the birds will return, and we will have Drunk Brunch again.

When I moved to the city two years ago I had something to prove. I was newly twenty-three, working at a comic-book store, and I wanted to be treated like an adult. This was the inspiration for the inaugural Drunk Brunch, the apartment-warming party I threw in June 2012 with my roommate Paige. This was the perfect chance to show everyone our Albany Park apartment with its sloped floors and chipping paint, its front sun porch AND open back deck. Most importantly, it belonged to me, as long as I paid my rent.

I daydreamed my presenting life like a Martha Stewart magazine spread, a chance to flaunt my skill at assembling a strata. We would emerge from a life of undergrad immaturity, inheriting this new world of city sophistication. Twenty minutes into the party, I shotgunned a PBR on the back porch. Read the rest of this entry »

Signs of Summer: Finding the Perfect Brazilian Beach Food—in Chicago

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One of the things I miss the most about my native Brazil is its “beach food, ” preferably savored by the ocean, as waves hypnotically break within my sight. Stuff like crunchy fried shrimps; corn on the cob slathered in butter and salt; coconut water from an actual coconut, and its soft pulp afterwards; grilled “coalho” cheese on a skewer; and the ultimate calorie bomb, açaí na tigela. They’ll be sold by the humblest vendors at crazy low prices (especially if you’re not speaking English out loud), brought to you right where you happen to be, and they will taste like heaven. These delicacies might seem simple, but their perfect flavor, consistency, temperature and ambiance cannot be easily replicated; basically you’ll just have to drag your untanned gringo arse all the way down there—which I highly recommend, now that the Brazilian currency has lost so much value. But I hear you: it’s finally summer here, not exactly the right time to flee. So how about the next best thing, which is finding a few fairly decent substitutes within driving distance? Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Swill: How to Make the Perfect Margarita

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By Fred Sasaki

BASIC MARGARITA REVISED

Signs of Summer: Italian Ice the Greek Way

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There’s a sure way to know if it’s not cold in my neighborhood: just check out if Miko’s is open. In a world filled with frozen yogurt chains, the family-owned Italian ice store is an invitation to less standardized times, with personable service and quirky décor. One of their unique features is a bunch of tough-love signs placed on their walls, such as “Eat It and Beat It,” “Free Samples Only 50 cents,” and the popular “No Cry Babies.” Run by Greek-American brothers Mike and Rick Roombos and in business since 1997, they also have a third shop in Mobile, Alabama, where they migrate in the winter. There they taught the local population how to appreciate the more subtle flavors of their refreshing treat, always stating that “It takes a good Greek to make Italian ice.”  Read the rest of this entry »