Appreciating All Aspects of Innovation

Chicago’s startup ecosystem is starting to build.  People are actually coming to Chicago to start companies.  For years, it was the other way around.  Historically, it’s always been an innovative city.  The businesses were meat and potatoes type businesses, meaning they generated revenue.  That lunch bucket Midwestern work ethic mentality filters into other areas of Chicago.  Anthony Bourdain found as much on his recent trip to Chicago.

We appreciate good hard play.  The Bears defense.  A Blackhawks check into the boards.  A double play-or if you are a White Sox fan this year triple plays.  We loved Michael Jordan and the Bulls offense.  But, it was fun to watch Jordan, Pippen and Rodman knuckle down on defense.

When people think about our restaurants, they think steakhouses. Want to start a good fight?  Ask a Chicagoan where their favorite place is for steak, or where their hot dog stand is.  The city is more than just steak though.  It’s exploding with creativity from Rick Bayless to Stephanie Izard.

Since Charlie Trotter started his eponymous place in the 80’s, Chicago has been a hub of extremely creative gastronomy.  There are too many cutting edge restaurants to name in this post.  Here is something I have noticed.  The competition has caused restauranteurs to up their game.  They are getting highly creative.  Alinea might be the most creative place in the world-and recently they tore up their entire restaurant because of their commitment to creative destruction.  It’s re-opened now and the reviews are rave.

Like a good startup ecosystem where companies spin out other great companies, our restaurants are doing the same.

Personally, I see a lot of innovative companies.  But, it really helps me when I see people innovating in places I can experience.  Innovation doesn’t just happen in software.  Seeing it in pedestrian places gets your brain synapses firing.  Band of Bohemia did that for me last night.

My wife and I always try to go to a really cool place for our anniversary.  This year on the 23rd we celebrate our 29th.  I went to Tock and perused the restaurants.  I made a reservation.  Tock is a new restaurant reservation startup based in Chicago.

Last night, my wife and I went to Band of Bohemia.  The founders originally worked at Alinea.  They were traveling through Europe and came up with the idea of a very different kind of brewpub.  They molded and refined the idea for five years before it finally came to fruition.

It’s an understatement to describe this place as a really innovative and cutting edge spot.  Run, don’t walk there.  They are innovating at all levels-from the kitchen to the bar.

They have ovens, but they do a lot of cooking on a custom made cast iron wood stove.  Not only is the food incredibly creative, but the wine and the hand crafted beer they brew to pair with it is creative too.  I “Instagrammed” it here. Ever have a Scallop and hazelnut finished pork belly with a house made hand crafted coriander/coconut English bitter ale? I have and it worked.   I have never heard of jerk duck before, but they made it and paired it with a really unique white wine from Oregon that made the dish sing.

Jamaican Jerk Duck. This is amazing

A photo posted by Jeff Carter (@pointsnfigures) on

This is a can’t miss place in Chicago. It’s on the north side, northwest of Wrigley Field.  I took the CTA Brown Line and got off at the Damen stop. We walked 4 short blocks. You can also take the Metra North line there and walk three short blocks. If I lived on the north shore of Chicago, I’d hop the train down instead of fighting traffic.  I used Uber to go home and I only waited four minutes for it to come. If you decide to drive, there is plenty of parking there. Since it’s not in a central part of the city, it’s cheap to park.

If you are coming from out of town, this place is an easy trip from the hotel district. Yes, the neighborhood is safe.  It’s a very unique place to entertain clients. It’s one of my new faves in Chicago and I am sure we will be back.