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Oak + Char: Wood-Fired Restaurant in River North

Oak + Char may be simply named, but that is where the simplicity stops. I had the opportunity to tour and photograph the space for Eater Chicago prior to its opening, and whether you're rating the restaurant on its design/atmosphere or by the culinary output and experience of its staff, its most definitely a place to experience. I appreciated the detailed work that went into the construction, and the great organizational apparatus behind the restaurant in MBL Hospitality and Grapevine PR. Be sure to check out the entire article at Eater Chicago!

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The Kitchen Chicago: River North Restaurant With A Consciense

"Community Through Food". This is the mantra of The Kitchen, a Boulder-based restaurant group and charity focusing on community wellness through food. Just a few steps into The Kitchen's first midwest location in the historic Ried Murdoch building on the banks of the Chicago River, you can feel the mission-focused atmosphere. It certainly wouldn't be fair to reduce this feeling simply to strong branding, its much more a sense of purpose. Purpose in the creation of over 100 community learning gardens at schools across Chicago, and educational programs to encourage healthy eating and home cooking. I'm looking forward to trying some of the great dishes crafted by former Telegraph chef Johnny Anderes, especially their Monday night family-style community dinner benefitting The Kitchen Community. Be sure to check out all of Eater Chicago's coverage of The Kitchen Chicago here!

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Recognize that big blue glass beauty across the street? That's right, it's OneEleven, Related Midwest's luxury apartment development. Check out my tour of that building here!

Catalyst: West Loop Luxury Apartments

Catalyst; a person or thing that precipitates an event. While Marquette Companies' new development in the West Loop may not have precipitated the West Loop boom, it is most definitely entering the luxury apartment market at the right time. The 19-story tower designed by Brininstool + Lynch sports 223 units, and stands out in my mind for its clean furnishings and consistent design concept. I had a chance to take a tour last week and make some images for Curbed Chicago, be sure to check out their great coverage!

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Umami Burger Wicker Park: LA Burger Chain Enters The Midwest

In search of a straight-to-business high end burger joint in Wicker Park? The quest is over. Los Angeles based Umami Burger is now open to the public on Milwaukee Ave. The wildly popular chain has expanded from coast-to-coast and now has a foot in the Midwest market. First up on my list is the "Truffle Burger" with truffle a aioli, cheese, and glaze. Be sure to check out the full coverage on Eater Chicago!

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Yusho Hyde Park: Matthias Merges' Newest Chicago Restaurant Offering

Walk into Yusho Hyde Park on the slightly quieter end of rapidly developing 53rd Street, and you can immediately tell this bold and colorful little space is going to pack a serious punch. Chef Matthias Merges (Charlie Trotter's Executive Chef of 14 years) has taken the "yakatori-inspired" restaurant from Logan Square to Las Vegas, and his newest Yusho outpost is now open to the public. I've been finding myself making the trip down to Hyde Park much more often as of late (check out my previous coverage of Promontory), and I can't wait to try the "Japanese Loaded Fries w/Bacon & Kimchee Gravy!

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Baker Miller: Lincoln Square Bakery & Millhouse

"We call it toast, because it is toast. You won't see us calling them tartines or anything like that." It may seem like semantics, but Dave Miller's simple distinction eloquently captures the new approach of the Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse in Lincoln Square. Dave & Megan Miller came to fame with the founding their Logan Square landmark, Bang Bang Pie. After 4 years of meteoric growth, the Millers found themselves looking to move back to the basics. Enter the Baker Miller concept. Dave and Megan will be hands-on throughout the entire baking process, from milling their own wheat to hand-rolling oats. In just the few menu items that I had the opportunity to speak with Millers about and photograph, one could tell that they were carefully crafted and more importantly created by someone having fun doing what they love. Baker Miller will be opening its doors to the public on September 22nd, and I will surely be making many trips over to Lincoln Square to get my baked good fix! Make sure to check out all the coverage on Eater as well!

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Roasted Capon Chicken Grain Bowl. Seasonal grains with pickled carrots and greens. The Millers searched extensively for a source for this particular type of heritage chicken while developing this dish.

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Three of the Miller's amazing toast offerings. At left: Nova Lox (pickled in beet juice) with House-Made Chevre. At right: Prosciutto & Poached Egg with House-Made Chevre and Dandelion Greens. Below: Radish & Poached Egg Toast with House-Made Chevre, Kale, and Blake Flake Salt.

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Popovers, Whole Wheat Cookies, and Hand Pies. Oh My!

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Vegans can definitely be happy about this next point. After careful experimentation, the Millers were able to re-formulate their pie crust recipe without lard! As you can see below in their classic apple pie, not a single bit of the golden-brown flaky goodness was lost either.

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73 East: High Rise Apartments In The Heart Of The Loop

Walking into the lobby at 73 East really sets the tone for the rest of this 42-story apartment tower in the heart of the loop. Its colorful and modern look is a thread that connects the building common spaces and amenities to the actual rental units themselves. I was lucky enough to tag along on a private tour of the building for Curbed Chicago, guided by RMK Properties President Tony Rossi Sr. It was a whirlwind tour on a VERY misty and cloudy August day, but as always a really great experience.

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Bar Takito: Latin American Bar & Restaurant Opening In Fulton Market / West Loop

Taco aficionados rejoice! Bar Takito is expanding upon Takito Kitchen, its Wicker Park sister restaurant, in the Fulton Market neighborhood of the West Loop. Adding to the veritable restaurant boom that is happening in the area, Bar Takito will offer a bright and colorful dining alternative. Having just sampled my first tacos at Takito Kitchen a couple of days ago (Oxtail Tacos with an amazing fresh corn salsa), I'm really excited to give this new place a try! Even while completely empty, the space on Morgan St. was uplifting and fun to be in. I'm sure it will be a great atmosphere when it is buzzing with diners too. Be sure to check out the whole article from Eater Chicago here!

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Soho House Chicago: Fulton Market Hot Spot

London, New York, Berlin, Toronto, Miami, Hollywood, and now Chicago. Soho House, a private member's club for those in the film, media, and creative industries, has just opened the doors to its newest "house" in Chicago's Fulton Market neighborhood. I photographed the site for Curbed Chicago back in March when there was still scaffolding on the facade and plenty of snow on the ground, so spending some time documenting the nearly completed space on a sunny August day was a treat. Check out the full article here!

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As to be expected, especially at the $2,000 price point for membership, the design and furnishings inside the Allis Building (formerly a factory building producing rubber belts) were gorgeous. My favorite part about the space though was the subtle use of the wood behind the front desk and around the elevator bay. The wood came from the water tower that used to sit on top of the building, and if you look closely you can still see some of the original lettering!

The lobby/lounge space, although a bit narrow, was soaked in beautiful bright light. I could definitely see it as a nice place to do some work and have a cup of coffee, cocktail, or small bite to eat. This space, as well as the Soho House's two restaurants Chicken Shop and Pizza East, are all open to the public.

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The Soho House will be adding 40 hotel rooms to the West Loop marketplace. The rooms, available in three sizes (small, medium, and medium-plus) are available to the public starting at $240 a night. The space pictured below is a medium-plus, and felt quite spacious. The furnishings were nice and very consistent with the style of the lobby/lounge.

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The Promontory, Hyde Park's newest Restaurant & Live Music Venue

Longman & Eagle, The Empty Bottle, Duseks, Thalia Hall, Punch House, Beauty Bar, and the list goes on. Chicago bar and restauranteur Bruce Finkelman, along with his partners Craig Golden and Chef Jared Wentworth, can now add The Promontory to their growing list of awesome places to eat/drink/hang out in Chicago. I had the great opportunity to spend some time taking a tour with Bruce, and photograph the space for Eater Chicago. Make sure to check out the whole article here!

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Right off the bat stepping into The Promontory, you can see what elements were most important in the minds of Finkelman, Golden, and Wentworth when designing the space. Humongous tall ceilings with a front facade that slides almost entirely open gives this place a serious open-air feel (not to mention the huge amount of actual outdoor patio seating). You're greeted not only with a full bar teeming with fresh herbs and fruit, but also with the campfire-like smell of the hearth cooking. It was a combination of senses that really made you want to pull up a chair and hang out, and of course then stuff your face with amazing food and drinks.

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Its incredibly important as a photographer to be able to taste the cocktails your shooting in order to be able to capture the full experience ;-) I'm glad Dustin Drankiewicz, Promontory's Mixologist extraordinaire, agreed! The two cocktails pictured are the "Thursdays on 53rd" and the "Promontory Paloma", and they were as delicious as they look. If you're into cocktails I'd highly recommend a trip down to Hyde Park to make your way through this incredibly creative drink menu.

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A kick-ass restaurant and cocktail bar not quite enough for you? How about an entire floor as a live music venue? It wasn't totally finished when I got the tour, but it definitely seems like it is going to be a unique spot to see a show. I'll be excited to see what the show lineups will be when they're announced.

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OneEleven: Downtown Chicago Luxury Highrise Apartments

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Ever since James Thompson first surveyed the city in 1830, Chicago has been known for its grid system of planning. This system has many benefits, one of being that one can quite quickly pinpoint the location of a building just by hearing the address number. So when I got the call from Curbed Chicago to check out 111 Wacker, I knew we were going to be dealing with a unique type of apartment building. Check out the entire article and tour here!

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The 60 story tower on the bank of the Chicago River has long been in the works, but since 2011 developer Related Midwest has been at the helm. The sleek LEED Silver tower by Handel Architects, coupled with stunning interiors designed by Kara Mann make OneEleven a truly fresh offering to the Chicago luxury rental market.

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One of the most exciting parts about shooting opening tours for Curbed Chicago is the speed at which we move through the building. For the most part we will spend no more than 5 minutes in a particular room or space, so quickly visualizing images becomes very important. Its a great exercise that sharpens me visually. This specific shoot, for instance, lasted just over an hour. We viewed all of the common spaces and amenities, as well as 6 different model units! The final article was a monster photo post running with 96 images! Despite how mentally exhausting it can be, I get so much gratification out of working in an environment such as this.

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Trunk Club Chicago HQ Tour

I'm sure many of you (or at least the guys) have seen Trunk Club's stylish clothing advertisements make their way onto your Facebook news feed. There may even be a few of you out there who are actual customers. I've got to admit, up until this week when I got a chance to tour and photograph Trunk Club's River North headquarters for Curbed Chicago, I didn't know much about the operation than what I'd gleaned from their ads.

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Despite the sheer square footage of the place (45k sq ft), the second you walk into the lobby from the elevator you can feel the hustle and bustle of stylists, tailors, clients, and countless other people. The day of the tour was beautifully sunny and mild (at 20 degrees that's relatively speaking) which allowed the interior's abundance of light brick and rich wood floors and ceilings to give off a nearly palpable warmth. The space, designed by Chicago native Kara Mann, does a spectacular job of creating a trendy high-end feel with just the right amount of hominess. This is a space that, at least in my opinion, exemplifies the importance of details in pulling off a larger feeling or style.

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Much like Trunk Club's mission statement, the space is designed to be very experience oriented. There are fitting rooms for each of their flagship brands that are tailored (pun intended) in their design to that particular brand. I found this to be a really effective approach because once you stepped into that particular brand's room you could immediately grasp the aesthetic/lifestyle they were going for, great for someone who may not know much about the many different brands out there.

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If having your own personal stylist and tailor looking after all of your sartorial needs is not enough, they've also got a full service bar that you can belly up to and get a drink! All in all a very cool place. With their subscriber numbers growing at fever pitch, I'd wager that we'll be seeing much more of their signature brown trunk boxes in the future.

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