Close this search box.

Winter in Chicago

James M. Rohner | December 2011

   The Midwest Clinic passes quickly, with non-stop concerts, clinics, and reunions with old friends. Although the venue for the clinic has changed in recent years, the Midwest continues to foster an unbeatable camaraderie that other conventions just cannot match. For many attendees it is almost impossible to find a few minutes to venture out into the frozen Chicago tundra and explore the city. However, for those with a hearty soul and a heavy coat, here are some places that bring joy to residents and visitors alike.
   The Jazz Showcase – Over the decades this venerable jazz institution has moved several times. When the club lost its lease a few years ago, it looked like the end of the line. Finally after more than a year, the Jazz Showcase reemerged in perhaps its most attractive location yet. For the week of Midwest, the club hosts the Bad Plus, an adventurous group unlike any other on the current scene. (
   The Green Mill – The Mill takes you back to another time. You can feel the history in this legendary jazz club and imagine that former owner Al Capone might walk in at any moment. The club offers jazz most nights into the wee hours with a lineup of local favorites, some of whom have become national stars. Occasionally, they book outstanding national artists coming through town. During the week of Midwest, respected tenor saxophonist and composer Bob Mintzer will front his organ trio. Come early if you want a seat. (
   The Girl and The Goat – Chef Stephanie Izard returned to Chicago a conquering hero after winning the popular cooking competition Top Chef. Televised cooking can be hard to evaluate as a home viewer, but Izard remained charming and unflappable during her season. When her West Loop restaurant opened in 2010, reservations became nearly impossible to get. I once described the ever-changing menu of small plates as “American tapas” and was told by someone that no such cuisine exists. Whatever the label, the food is remarkable. Although a table is frequently difficult to obtain, those willing to reserve one for very late at night sometimes find foodie bliss. (
   The CTA Holiday Train – Most of the time, riding public transportation in Chicago is slow and inefficient. The Holiday Train creates a momentary bit of fun with a six-car train elaborately decorated with thousands of twinkling lights and bows. Santa leads the train in an open-air flat car that carries his reindeer and holiday trees. I can’t tell you where to find the train while you are in town, but I can almost guarantee that it will run behind schedule.
   Weird Skating – Visitors from warmer climates are sometimes enchanted by the winter wonderland concept. The John Hancock building, a long-time fixture on the Chicago skyline, recently added a skating rink on the 94th floor. I cannot verify how fun skating in the sky might be, but when you fall on the ice as an adult, it hurts ten times more. You were warned. For those who want to slip closer to the ground, Wrigley Field offers a skating rink in the parking lot. This might be the most productive thing that has happened at the park all year.
   Of course, some of the old standbys in the city remain great: the Art Institute, the holiday exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, and concerts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Blues legend Buddy Guy continues to run his popular club. The Chicago weather may be frightful, but the city remains delightful. See you soon.

James M. Rohner
Editor/Adv. Manager