Meet Uncommon Ground

Recently rated the “greenest eatery in the U.S.,” Uncommon Ground is a unique attribute to the Rogers Park neighborhood. Conveniently located on Devon Avenue, just two blocks west of Loyola University’s Lakeshore Campus, Uncommon Ground offers something for everyone. Owners Michael and Helen Cameron first opened a location in Chicago’s Wrigleyville, and their success motivated them to open another location in Edgewater. The restaurant has earned top ratings in many areas including:

  • Energy
  • Food
  • Water
  • Waste
  • Disposables
  • Building and pollution production

Chicago Magazine also recognized it as the “Best New Restaurant” in 2008, and Uncommon Ground has recently won awards like Mayor’s Landscape award.

The local hot spot is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with nightly bar service. Uncommon Ground serves American cuisine, but it highlights fresh, seasonal, regional and organic ingredients in its dishes. The restaurant actively supports sustainability and healthy eating. They started the first organic roof top farm in the United States, where they grow their fresh seasonal vegetables.

Now, let’s take a look at their creative menu.

For breakfast, Uncommon Ground offers variety for every type of early morning customer. For the health conscious, they serve eggs, oatmeal and everything in between. Uncommon huevos are a unique feature on their menu. They’re over easy eggs on a black bean corncake with ancho-chili sauce and Chihuahua cheese. And for those who need a sugar boost in the morning, Uncommon Ground makes pancakes and French toast. They serve a dish called tres leche French toast, which is a cranapple- apricot compote doused in maple syrup and powdered sugar. Uncommon Ground has many morning beverage specials as well, like the cinnamon bun. This is an espresso drink mixed with cinnamon and a monin, steamed milk and six press pot coffees Peru balcones (a light roast) with hints of maple and apricot.

Lunch customers won’t be disappointed with their choices either. Uncommon Ground makes good use of their freshly grown vegetables in their sunshine salad: organic greens, seasonal vegetables, sunflower seeds and sprouts beneath apple cider vinaigrette. They also serve dill and zatziki, spinach and red onion falafel and their market vegetable sandwich, which arranges tomato, grilled squash and zucchini, roasted red pepper, turnips, arugula, green goddess dressing and onion marmalade on whole wheat bread.

For meat lovers, Uncommon Ground has dishes like a classic BLT or their dietzler farm burger, which is a burger with cheddar cheese, fried egg, tomato, red onion and cherry wood bacon.

Uncommon Ground sets another scene for dinner guests. They serve a variety of salads and appetizers along with a broad selection of entrees. Some interesting selections include grilled trout served with sweet potato hash, squash risotto, bacon wrapped meatloaf and the quinoa burger served with shiitake mushroom and squash ketchup toppings. Every Friday Uncommon Ground offers a special $16 fish and chips dinner.

If you can save enough room to order dessert, Uncommon Ground will be sure to give you a delectable treat of peach brown butter cake, s’mores tart and many more.

The eatery has more to offer than just delicious dining. They also have a live music show every night. Uncommon Ground is a popular venue for local Chicago bands, so shows do sell out. They post a calendar with band listings and cover charges on their website. Uncommon Ground also features a local artist every few months. From December to March they’re showing work by Mark Vandervinne.

Another attribute that makes Uncommon Ground one of a kind is its sustainability efforts. In addition to increasing sustainability by growing their produce on their roof, they also rely on solar panels for energy and use old fryer oil as fuel.

Edgewater Beach Apartments: A Past Revisited

As I shopped for apartments this weekend, I couldn’t help but picture myself in my dream apartment building- the famous “pink building” seen from Lake Shore Drive. The pink Edgewater Beach Apartments are planted on Sheridan Road between Foster and Bryn Mawr. To Rogers Park residents, the building stands tall to signal that they’re almost home from busy downtown. Although its address is actually in Edgewater, the Edgewater Beach Apartment building is also a staple for Rogers Park occupants and a historic remnant of North Chicago’s past life.

The Edgewater Beach Apartments opened in December 1927, as a part of the illustrious Edgewater Beach Hotel. The 1920s- inspired structures sat beside the shore of Lake Michigan. The hotel was formed in the shape of a “croix fourche” or forked cross. There were four bisecting wings laid out in an X design, so most rooms had a lake view. Benjamin Marshall designed the Edgewater along with other high class Chicago landmarks, such as The Drake and Blackstone hotels. He styled the Edgewater with  Spanish stucco and a pink exterior, making it easily visible and eminent.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel’s popularity skyrocketed in its first few years. It started with 400 rooms in the first X-shaped building when it was built in 1916, but the complex quickly expanded to include another 600 room building, what we now know as the Edgewater Beach Apartments, in 1922. A three- block beach promenade lined with alluring shops connected the two buildings.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel thrived on its grand quality and celebrity for many years. From the 1920s to 1940s, the Edgewater was one of the most prized places to be. Managers hired big bands to play for parties and guests’ entertainment. The most famous American figures, such as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Babe Ruth, stayed at the Edgewater. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared at the hotel. The hotel manager was known for booking top names in entertainment, which became a major part of the Edgewater’s appeal. It was a musician’s dream to be booked at the Edgewater. And, staying at the hotel was a guest’s dream. Besides the lakefront set up, the hotel also provided a pool, a radio station, print shop, chocolate factory, a heliport, and a film studio. And to further secure the guests’ happiness, The Edgewater Hotel’s famous green carriages were always prepared to cart guests downtown.

In the 1950s, the Edgewater took a hit. Simply put, it couldn’t keep up with the times. Another influence on the drop of the Edgewater was Chicago’s decision to extend Lake Shore Drive north. Lake Shore Drive cut The Edgewater Beach Hotel from its most attractive feature- the lakefront. From there, the hotel faced a steady decline in popularity. The original owners sold it in the late 1940s. The new owners kept the hotel running until December 1967 when they abruptly shut it down. It was reopened as a dorm for Loyola University’s Rogers Park campus for a short time, but it was eventually demolished in 1970.

Now, The Edgewater Beach Apartments is the last structure standing on the original property. The 20-story apartment building has landed a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. It houses 300 lavish apartments with many accommodations for its residents. Accommodations include:

  • 60-foot indoor pool
  • Party space
  • Weight and exercise rooms
  • Library
  • Craft room
  • 2-acre garden
  • Gazebo
  • Shops

They also offer a floor of guest apartments for rent. Residents view the lake, downtown Chicago, and the city’s northwest side from their windows. The Edgewater Beach Apartments are surrounded by a community of 1920s Art Deco style buildings. The community serves as a reminder of the glamorous life that once took place at the Edgewater.

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