Critics Cite Traffic Concern for Location of Elmhurst Performing Arts Center

Elmhurst Centre for Performing Arts pic

by Dave Noble, City News Editor

ELMHURST – Increased vehicle congestion, a glaring lack of space outside of the building to host red carpet events, and the potentially arduous task of finding customer parking for Armand’s Tuesday night “buy one, get one free” pizza deal are among the concerns of Elmhurst residents who oppose a theater and performing arts center in the middle of town.

Slated to be built at 109-119 W. 1st St. and completed by early August, The Elmhurst Centre for Performing Arts will be a 50,000-square-foot, multistage facility and a “vibrant gathering place” that showcases tolerable homegrown talent, finer area talent, and hosts events like the yearly Elmhurst Mime Theatre Awards.

While critics welcome a new venue suitable for regional pantomime productions, area rap artist performances and local awards shows, they are opposed to its location along the single-lane, one-way street already teeming with vehicles in search of parking or taking the “drive of shame” to the Robert T. Palmer underpass after getting stopped by a passing train while traveling on Addison St.

“There’s nowhere near enough parking in downtown Elmhurst for a venue like this,” said local resident Cindy Sommers, seemingly unaware of four different existing parking garages within a three-block radius and a Metra train station directly across the street from the future performing arts center.  “I can’t imagine how chaotic that area will be when the Elmhurst Armpit Orchestra or some other big-name artist plays there.”

While many Elmhurst residents remain critical of the performing arts center location, proponents and artists point to a projected $809,000 in annual tax revenue and a study prepared by Chicago-based Johnson Consulting indicating that the average patron visiting the theater will spend $49.50 a night in restaurants, bars, and stores and an additional $25 in parking tickets.

“                                                                                      ,” said local mime Marcel Podgorski, indicating his excitement to perform at the arts center through a series of body motions, hand gestures and facial expressions.

In related news, the City of Elmhurst announced that the privately-funded arts center will result in a $150 tax increase for every homeowner in Elmhurst.

Six Paczki Day Options in Western Suburbs: Ranked

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by Tom Brooks, Elmhurst Funion Food and Dining Editor

ELMHURST – Although there are about 37 different acceptable pronunciations for the word “Paczki”, none of them sounds anything like how it’s spelled.  Regardless of how you pronounce it, a Paczki is a true Polish doughnut that should have a rich, eggy, brioche style dough with a sweet filling.

I know the traditional Paczki has powdered sugar, and that most of the legit Polish joints will dust them.  But the glazing is totally an Americanized thing, and is simply my preference.  The one thing I have real problems with is when a place decides to go traditional – yet wants to make the suburbanites happy – so they dump a quarter inch of powdered sugar on them.  It’s a mess, and the first bite sucks all of the moisture out of your mouth and you can’t swallow for 17 minutes.

Using the classic raspberry filling as a controlled variable, I’ve assigned a rating of 1-10 for the quality of the filling along with the body and the coating of Paczki’s available throughout various bakeries in the western suburbs of Chicago.  A “10” is being “manna from heaven”, and a “1” means that a Haggis (a Scottish dish consisting of a sheep’s or calf’s offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag) is a better doughnut.

My Paczki ratings do not include the following places, for the following reasons:

Mariano’s (678 N. York St, Elmhurst) did not have any available at press time. However, this was due to staffing issues and should be resolved by Paczki Day.

 Courageous Bakery (108 W. Park Ave., Elmhurst) will only have them available on Fat Tuesday, so I will not be able to add them to this project.  Their Pączki are highly regarded, and pre-ordering is recommended.

Whole Foods (215 S, IL-83, Elmhurst) did not have any in store due to inventory requirements. They are expected in, however one employee thought they would likely be on the same delivery as the Irish soda bread on the 6th.  The 6th is Wednesday, which could prove problematic for a Tuesday pastry.

Without further ado, here are my rankings for the Paczki’s I sampled.

#1 – Helen’s Deli (272 W. Irving Park Rd., Wood Dale)
After experiencing the mildly orgasmic pastries available from Helen, I had to evoke the Spinal Tap Clause and take the rating system to 11.  This is what heaven tastes like.  The dough is perfect: rich yet light, chewy yet melting-in-your-mouth butteriness. The raspberry filling; while seeded, surpasses all others as well, with a perfect balance of tartness over sweetness.  And while not glazed (to my momentary disappointment), the powdered sugar was not overdone.  If you need a Polish doughnut for Paczki Day, and can only have one, THIS is the doughnut to get.  Rating: 10.2

#2 – The Lilac Bakery (348 S. Main St., Lombard)
As the first “true” Paczki I had during this endeavor, Lilac holds a special place in my sugar-coated heart.  The body of their contribution is the rich dough that I have now come to realize is what a Paczki should be. Their filling, a respectable seedless raspberry jelly offering, provided a good balance of sweet, and a traditional powdered sugar coating was not over done.  In all, a good representation of what Granny Babcia might have made in the old country. (Editor’s note: veracity of the “Granny Babcia” character has not been verified),  Rating: 8.5

#2 – Leeza Spumoni & Desserts, Inc. (544 S. Spring Rd., Elmhurst)
Very rich egg-based dough, Lezza’s submission was good but held a mild “mass production” sense within the body of the doughnut. It was not so overwhelming as to take away from the overall enjoyment. Raspberry was not available on my visit, substituting strawberry.  A little high on the sweet scale, but good tartness, filling also had bits of strawberries.  Filling was light, but likely just a misfire on that one sample (other flavors purchased were well-filled).  Powdered sugar coating on all available samples except Bavarian, which had the classic chocolate.  Slight loss of points for no glazed option.  Rating: 8.0

 #4 – Central Continental Bakery (101 S. Main St., Mt Prospect)
First off, if I were to grade on appearances and availability, this place would be a runaway victor.  The choices available were staggering, and inventive, and all looked good enough to eat. Well, you know what I mean.  I have not tried any others besides the raspberry at this writing, so it is very possible other flavors would could be rated higher.  In a word, I was disappointed. The raspberry jelly was all sweet and no berry, and it tasted faintly of the 5-gallon plastic bucket I imagine it came from. The dough was more akin to an above average doughnut, lacking the richness and brioche-like essence I’ve come to expect.  And, while not as destructive to the pallet as the aftertaste from Kuppies, there was a lingering sensation of a fryer in need of cleaning.  A slight edge given for their hours.  CCB will be open ALL NIGHT Monday in case you run out several times throughout the early morning hours of Fat Tuesday.  Rating: 7.1

#5 – Clyde’s Donuts (available at Jewel)
A good doughnut body, but nothing special. They have the best filling of my earlier research efforts, seedless and tart but not overly sweet. Glazed for a more American appeal.  An early submission to my project, I have learned much since my initial sampling of Clyde’s.  Clyde’s are not a Paczki.  They are labeled as such, and the boxes are stacked to the ceiling at every Jewel in the weeks preceding Lent to cash in on the Polish phenomenon.  But they are not a Paczki.  A really good doughnut though, and financially one of the better pound-per-dollar options available this week.  Rating: 7.0

#6 – Kuppie’s Bakery (42 S. Villa Ave., Villa Park)
Tested their Bismark as their Pączki will not be available till later in the week.  I was told they are about the same.  Seeded jelly, more sweet than tart, but not overly so.  Body was average doughnut.  Glaze was good, also available in sugared which was less than good.  Both samples had an overpowering bad fryer oil flavor that killed the experience.  Rating: 4.5

“People are just doughnuts.  We might like a certain filling or frosting, but we are all beautiful fried dough.” – Tom Brooks

Elmhurst Husbands Descend Upon Jewel-Osco for Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts

Elmhurst Husband looking at Valentine's Day cards

by Dave Noble, City News Editor

ELMHURST – Frantically seizing discounted flower arrangements, stumbling through the housewares, cosmetics, and “seasonal” aisles with no regard to other shoppers, and breaking every rule of etiquette in the Express Lane Checkout line, more than 300 procrastinating Elmhurst husbands bombarded the 944 S. York St. Jewel-Osco late Thursday afternoon in search of last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts for their wives.

Greeting cards, kitchen utensils, and expired pints of Driscoll’s brand strawberries were among the most frequent purchases by Elmhurst husbands, who desperately employed butcher counter staff to wrap gifts and asked pharmacists to recommend romantic body soaps during a frenzied two-hour period starting shortly after 4:00 p.m.

“It’s a madhouse in here,” said S. Euclid Ave. husband Joe Seaver, holding a 3-foot long box of Russell Stover Pecan Delight Assorted Chocolates in the wine aisle while trying to remember if his wife prefers Barefoot Moscato or Woodbridge Pinot Grigio.  “Looks like I’m not the only husband in town that waited until the last minute to buy presents for his wife.”

While many husbands put a lot of thought into eleventh-hour gift choices like cast iron fryer pans, moisturizing facial scrubs and Revlon hairdryers, others showed haste in their purchases.

“I just grabbed an oven thermometer, which is probably what I bought her last year,” said Stratford Ave. husband Jerry Lincicome, holding an unread Valentine’s Day card for this wife while rummaging through a sparse collection of candles and debating whether he should just buy a lavender and chamomile scented Air Wick refill instead.  “She said didn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day, so I’m sure she’ll be impressed that I bought some stuff anyway.”

At press time, police were called to the Redbox kiosk outside of Jewel-Osco after a fight broke out among husbands all trying to rent “The Notebook”.

Wow Condo! ‘The Hill’ is a One-Unit, Five Story Condominium Under Construction in Downtown Elmhurst

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by Dave Noble, Real Estate Editor

ELMHURST – Nearly 56,000 square feet of living space, seven full-time employees paid for with your monthly assessments, and breathtaking views of the post office and the Union Pacific railroad tracks are all yours when you purchase “The Hill”, a single-unit, five-story condominium space under construction at 105 S. Cottage Hill in downtown Elmhurst.

At an asking price of $28,000,099, The Hill’s only unit in the building features elevated ceilings, two spacious bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, and an underground parking garage with ample room to store your automobiles, boats, and Christmas decorations.

There’s a gourmet kitchen, a dramatic fireplace, and high-end details throughout the unit.  The master bedroom boasts a private bathroom, a large walk-in closet, and a basketball court.

The rooftop terrace has a swimming pool, a gas grill, and enough room for up to 40 guests.  You can gaze upon the 164-unit Opus apartment complex built for those not rich enough to own The Hill, or you can take a mere 60-second trip in your private helicopter over to the top level of the Schiller St. parking garage and then have a nice dinner at Subway or Livia.

This one-of-a-kind condominium is listed by The Schiller Team, a local real estate brokerage group that is developing the property.  According to Schiller listing agent Mike Sparrow, the building will be at 100% capacity once someone purchases the unit.

“This is sophisticated, yet comfortable living,” said Sparrow, speculating that the building’s lone resident will often contemplate whether to utilize the elevator or the escalator to reach the doorway of his or her unit.  “You won’t find another condo in Elmhurst that has a concierge, easier access to the post office, and is walking distance to Wilder Park, a handful of yoga studios, and singles bars like The Club and FFC.”

While the property taxes have not yet been established, Sparrow believes that the $28,000 in monthly assessments is fair based on the amenities of The Hill.

“Helicopter pilots and elevator operators aren’t cheap,” said Sparrow, noting that basic cable is included with the unit.  “But let me be frank:  If you have to ask how much assessments are at The Hill, then you probably can’t afford to buy The Hill.”

Two retail spaces on the first floor have already been leased to a pawn shop and a tobacco paraphernalia store.

‘Just Ask Kevin’: Does Elmhurst Have Any Fitness Centers?

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by Kevin Flanagan, Elmhurst Funion Opinionist

 Dear Kevin:  “My family and I may be moving to Elmhurst later this year and I was wondering if there are any fitness centers in town?” – Buff Bod from Brookfield.

Dear Buff Bod from Brookfield:  Are there any fitness centers in town?  Do trains always seem to come through Elmhurst whenever I have to drop my son off at preschool on the other side of the tracks?  The answer to both these questions is:  Absolutely!

Pick your poison.  We have well-known locales such as Orangetheory Fitness, Courts Plus, LA Fitness, and a Fitness Formula Club, to name a few.  We also have other lesser-known locations that resemble a vacant storefront where someone threw down floor mats and free weights and wants to charge you $25 a session to grunt in unison with their cult.  Elmhurst is slowly becoming the mecca of fitness centers, and not all of the residents are happy about it.

While on his nightly patrols, I caught up with outspoken critic and Arlington Avenue Neighborhood Watch Block Captain Tom Wolfe, for his thoughts.

“I’m sick of having a gym everywhere you turn in this town, transforming all my neighbors and even my family into fitness freaks.  You know why I go on these nightly patrols?  Partly because that Sullivan kid down the block is a little shady and I have keep my eye on him, but mostly because I don’t want to hear about how many splat points my wife Julie got today at Orangetheory, or how many floors my daughter Allie climbed on the stair climber.  We have stairs at home.  Pay me $99 a month and you can climb them as much as you want.”

I may not have the same sentiments as Captain Wolfe regarding the plethora of fitness centers around Elmhurst, but do agree they seem to be everywhere, and I wonder if all these options are sustainable in this small market.

I think back to my Econ 101 class and the law of supply and demand.  There is certainly no short supply of fitness centers, and whether or not the demand is there remains to be seen.  I’d like to see Elmhurst be proactive in addressing this problem though.  As my neighbor Mary Gnadt says, “When life gives you lemons, you either shove them in the mouths of babies for the amusement, or you make lemonade.”

What if instead of using those TIF funds to attract more fitness centers, we use them to subsidize gym memberships for Elmhurst residents to the current locations?  That would stimulate the demand to hopefully be in line with the existing supply.  Perhaps we qualify it for individuals with a BMI of 25 or greater so my fat ass gets off the couch?  I’m sure we can tie in a promo for the new Culver’s being built and throw in a complimentary shake when it opens as a sweet-treat reward for their first workout.

I asked Captain Wolfe what he thought about that idea as he finished his patrol.

“You want to talk about shakes?  Last summer, my son Ben was on his way home from the gym and asked if I wanted a shake.  Please keep in mind he knows I like those chocolate shakes from Hamburger Heaven.  They’re not as good as the chocolate cake shakes from Portillo’s, but I get aggravated when a cake crumb clogs my straw.  Anyhow, he walks through the door and hands me some green concoction.  It was a ‘Matcha Smoothie’.  What the (expletive) is Matcha?  Where’s my shake?  I’m sorry, what was your question?  Hold on….there goes that Sullivan kid.”

So to answer your question Buff Bod from Brookfield, yes, Elmhurst has plenty of options for fitness centers.  Also, I would steer clear of Arlington Avenue at night if you want to avoid being harassed by the Neighborhood Watch.

Elmhurst Police Chief Credits ‘Summer Patrol Unit’ for Drop in Crime Rate

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by Dave Noble, City News Editor

ELMHURST – Gushing over the latest statistics that show a sharp decrease in local crime over the last few months, Elmhurst Police Chief Michael Ruth told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the department’s “Summer Mobile Patrol Unit” – comprised of officers who ride on one of ten performance hybrid bicycles or drive a tricked-out electric golf cart purchased from River Forest Country Club two years ago – is responsible for bringing order and safety back to the city.

According to Ruth, the mobile patrol unit has been instrumental this summer in reducing the number of local bank robberies, shootings and carjackings while serving as a crime deterrent at historically-violent Elmhurst events like “Block to Block” and “Music at the Gazebo”.

“The officers who work the mobile unit are out on the streets and bike paths every day, preventing crime and ensuring the safety of our citizens,” said Ruth, noting that the unit’s capabilities go beyond crowd control.  “They’re chasing leads, shaking down suspects, and rendezvousing with informants just like the rest of our officers.”

Despite its overall success, the Summer Mobile Patrol Unit has seen its share of unique challenges in crime prevention.  The department was forced to cancel its “Mobile Unit Ride-Along” program in early June after several participants fell from the handlebars of police bicycles during routine neighborhood patrols, and public records reveal that the department has accrued more than $400 in Uber charges this summer transporting suspects back to the police station.

Chief Ruth believes that the unit will overcome its deficiencies and continue to succeed in preventing crime.

“We look forward to growing the unit even more,” said Ruth, who revealed that the department is finalizing a deal with an undisclosed traveling carnival for a pair of Percheron horses and eight unicycles to boost the Summer Mobile Patrol Unit in 2019.  “Giving our officers a height advantage over crowds will allow them to observe a wider area.”

Mayor Morley’s Self-Portrait Collection Steals the Show at ‘Art in Wilder Park’

by Dave Noble, City News Editor

ELMHURST – Universally praised by art critics from the Elmhurst Artists’ Guild, The York High School student newspaper and Hobby Lobby, Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley’s expansive collection of self-portraits on display this weekend at the 22nd Annual “Art in Wilder Park” drew large crowds and overshadowed the works of more than 125 other artists.

A whopping total of 48 pieces portraying the mayor – comprised mostly of paintings, abstract line drawings, and sculptures created using raw materials sourced from Salt Creek and the Elmhurst Quarry – covered numerous artistic styles and were quickly purchased for $250 to $14,000 apiece. A renaissance piece titled “Mona Morley” Morley donated to the Elmhurst Art Museum and a screen print titled “Morley Monroe” purchased by The Elmhurst Park District were among the critics’ favorite pieces.

“I see a man-child crying out for love – an innocent orphan in the post-modern world,” said Elmhurst Artists’ Guild President Cassie Swierenga, staring at an oil painting of the mayor posing in a wide-collared leisure suit. “He disgusts me. Yet, I can’t look away”.

Held on Saturday and Sunday outside of Wilder Mansion, “Art in Wilder Park” drew thousands of thrifty Elmhurst residents eager to “bargain with gypsies”. The outdoor event featured live music, food vendors and children’s activities.

Artists from throughout the Midwest who took part in the event were reportedly in “stable” condition Sunday evening after being exposed to Elmhurst for two full days.

Trader Joe’s Announces They Will Never Open a Location in Elmhurst

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by Dave Noble, City News Editor
ELMHURST – Stating that the courtship from both residents and City Hall has grown “tiresome” and that the town fails to meet both the social and economic standards required by his company, Trader Joe’s Chief Executive Officer Dan Bane issued a press release Tuesday morning stating that the “fresh format” grocery store will never open a location in Elmhurst.

The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the community and was met with disappointment by the Elmhurst Economic Development Commission, who was convinced that Trader Joe’s would eventually open a new location in the mid-sized suburban town that already has a Whole Foods, a Mariano’s, two Jewels, and a population of fault-finding grocery shoppers.

“They’ve made it very clear with this statement that they don’t want to open a grocery store here,” said Assistant City Manager Mike Kopp, who noted that he has reached out to Trader Joe’s executives on “dozens” of occasions over the last year or so to gauge their interest in various properties that are available in Elmhurst. “I just called them last week to see if they wanted to take a look at the old location of Rainbow Restaurant. There’s not much parking on the site, but there are a couple of parking garages within a few blocks.”

Elmhurst residents were devastated by the news.

“I had my heart set on Trader Joe’s opening in Elmhurst,” said resident Julia Formari, eating a $15 egg salad sandwich and a drinking a $7 organic juice at the Whole Foods café on Route 83. “Frankly, I’m not satisfied with Whole Foods’ selection of organically grown, environmental-friendly products with no genetically-modified ingredients.”

The decision to eliminate Elmhurst as a potential future location was an easy decision for Trader Joe’s, according to Bane.

“There are dozens of reasons why we would never open a store in Elmhurst,” said Bane, who declined to comment on a rumor that the Economic Development Commission offered to amend some zoning ordinances for Trader Joe’s to open a 25,000 square foot store adjacent to “The Hub” at Berens Park. “The residents are very picky, and they have a reputation for asking a million questions about the origin of products. On top of that, Elmhurst is a revolving door of businesses that open and close.”

Bane added that he is close to completing two separate deals that will bring Trader Joe’s grocery stores to both Bensenville and Schiller Park.

Breaking: Elmhurst Police Department Cancels Controversial ‘Boo-tiful Saturday’ Activities


Dave Noble, City News Editor

ELMHURST – Bowing to enormous pressure from the community and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the Elmhurst Police Department this morning announced the cancellation of today’s activities for children that were to take place at the station as part of Elmhurst City Centre’s “Boo-tiful Saturday”.

After receiving negative feedback from Elmhurst residents with regard to the inappropriateness of a “meet and greet” with incarcerated individuals from the community and an overnight program for children 8 years and older called “The Scared Straight Adventure”, Elmhurst Police Chief Michael Ruth told reporters that being forced to cancel both activities is “unfortunate”.

“This would have been a great opportunity to teach kids that being a criminal is not cool,” said Ruth, who added that common pranks like “Ding Dong Ditch” and peeing in the Millennium Fountain outside of City Hall are “gateway crimes” that often lead to more serious offenses. “But we heard from a lot of parents this week who were worried about certain aspects of our planned activities.”

While some parents expressed concern over their children running into a friend of the family during the “meet and greet”, others pointed out that picking up their kids late Sunday morning from “The Scared Straight Adventure” would cause them to miss soccer practice. However, not everyone was pleased with the police department’s late announcement.

“My kids were really excited about participating,” said Elmhurst resident George Callahan, waiting in line outside the York Theatre with his three sons for a free 9:30 a.m. showing of The Exorcist. “Ace Hardware is letting people carve up scarecrows with a chain saw, so what’s the big deal?”

At press time, Ruth said the department will still be offering adults the opportunity to be shot by a Taser gun in the police department’s parking lot.

Elmhurst Residents Lay Siege Upon Kohl’s with Myriad of Amazon Returns


by Dave Noble, City News Editor

ELMHURST – Osetra Russian caviar, hissing pet cockroaches, and a “Cat Dressed as Rambo Riding a Fire-Breathing Unicorn Mouse Pad” were among the unique and infinite number of items taken in during the first week at the new Amazon Returns Service desk located inside of Kohl’s as Elmhurst residents descended upon the department store with their unusual and unwanted online purchases.

Caught off guard by what has become an “endless” line of customers returning products they ordered from Amazon.com, employees from both Amazon and Kohl’s are scrambling to find solutions for making Amazon’s return service run smoother while ensuring that regular Kohl’s customers and shoplifters are not inconvenienced by an estimated increase of 500 customers in the store each day.

“There has been a constant line for returning things since the day we opened, and there are people walking all around the store with boxes of items they wish to return,” said Amazon service manager Mark Janikowski, who also oversees the “Amazon Boutique” adjacent to the returns desk where customers can purchase voice-activated personal assistants and government listening devices like Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot. “I can’t see how anyone could have imagined that combining Amazon and Kohl’s in Elmhurst would have this type of fallout.”

Introduced at the Elmhurst Crossing store last week and at a handful of other locations around Chicagoland and in Los Angeles, the service allows customers to return items purchased from Amazon.com free of charge. For many Elmhurst residents, the convenience of returning merchandise at a place where they frequently shop anyway is a “win-win”.

“I’m really excited about this new service because I’m here all of the time anyway,” said Elmhurst resident Meagan Cromwell, waiting in line to return two pairs of Christian Loubouton Crystal Platform boots after intentionally ordering sizes of 6, 6 1/2, and 7 from Amazon.com for the convenience of trying them all on at home. “I just wish they allowed Amazon Prime members like myself to move up to the front of the line.”

While the Amazon Returns Service has had to enforce their “no return” policy numerous times thus far on items such as wine, fresh flowers, and flammable liquids, customers have been allowed to return almost anything else they purchased from Amazon.com regardless of whether or not they still have the original packing materials.

“They’re certainly trying to make it easy for returning things,” said Elmhurst resident Blake Stone, waiting outside of Kohl’s in one of the designated parking spots for Amazon customers after deploying his 12-year-old son to run inside and see how long the line is before unstrapping the 394 gallon hot tub from atop his Range Rover. “But I just don’t like long lines. So if there’s more than four people waiting, then I’m probably just going to donate this to Goodwill.”

Officials from Amazon and Kohl’s have vowed to solve all of the issues involved with having a “store within a store” as quickly as possible.