Friday, March 06, 2009

Something's Brewing in Downtown Elgin

It was 1995. The era of flannel shirts, combat boots and a posthumous love of Kurt Cobain. The music was grunge. The fashion was androgynous. And the beer was microbrewed.

This was the year that Prairie Rock Brewing Company brought their artfully brewed beer and rustic elegance to downtown Elgin.

Just a year after the Grand Victoria began sailing the shores of the mighty Fox River, Prairie Rock rolled the dice on downtown Elgin. They were sort of a lone shark out there on the south edge of downtown, surrounded by the ghosts of car salesmen on what was once dealers’ row.

And the City took a gamble on Prairie Rock, too. It was more than a restaurant. It was a major player in the revitalization of Downtown Elgin.

And “P-Rock,” as I affectionately call it, played the role well for many years, becoming a favorite downtown destination and helping to shape downtown’s identity.

I have a lot of personal, special memories of P-Rock. Here are just a few . . .

. . . Having dinner with a group of friends before Elgin High School’s Turnabout Dance.

. . . Seeing one of Janus Theatre’s first performances up in the second floor loft space with the man who is now my beloved husband.

. . . Dancing like an idiot at my friend’s wedding reception in that same second floor loft space.

. . . Having a great time at the early Brew Fests when they were still on Prairie Street. Yeah, I don’t remember much else about that.

. . . Talking to people I never talked to in high school at my 10 year high school reunion.

. . . Singing “I will survive” with the girls on their famous Wednesday karaoke night.

. . . Plus many great lunches and dinners with new and old friends, paired with my favorite Vanilla Crème Ale, along the way.

Thank you to the owners, the staff, the brewmasters, the patrons and the City for 13 wonderful years. Prairie Rock’s slogan is so true, not only for the restaurant, but for what they did for the downtown . . . great beer really was the just the beginning.

In typical downtown fashion, as one door closes another one opens. There’s something new brewing in downtown. But it’s not beer . . . it’s wine.

Red Bar Winery and Bistro opens this month at 74 S. Grove Avenue, just down the street from the new Mad Maggie’s and Fountain Square condos.

Red Bar is an eclectic mix of restaurant, retail boutique and do-it-yourself winery. Owners Jim and Doris Canfield have created a unique destination where you can enjoy, purchase, learn about and make your own wine. They have completely transformed the space into a cozy and elegant lounge, complete with a red marble bar for which the place is named.

Please stop in and welcome Jim and Doris to the neighborhood. To learn more about Red Bar, give them a call at (847) 695-1659.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gasthaus Updates (From Evelyn at Gasthaus)

Get ready this Friday, March 6th as country music fans are in for a treat with the original sounds of Tracylyn and 55 South. Recently signed to a Nashville contract Tracylyn is one to watch! Her back up band 55 South is also the sound of Blackened (Metallica tribute) Some very talented musicians!

Then Saturday, March 7th local Rock Cover band XDoubleCrossX will take the stage and rock out to all your favorites like Journey, REO, new Kid Rock, & Rick Springfield as well as some of their own originals...

Next Weekend March 13th and 14th is BLUES Weekend at the Gasthaus... Friday March 13th Universal Slim and the Blues Kangaroos followed on Saturday by Big City Hot Shots (a side project of Blue Plate Special who has the number 3, 4 and 7 spots on the Billboard top Blues songs in Chicago)

Where else in Elgin can you hear live Country or Blues Music? Live music every weekend in YOUR neighborhood bar..... Come on down and Rock Da HAUS at 15 N. Grove Avenue!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"I love the nightlife, I like to boogie..."

Have you ever been sitting at a bar watching people sing karaoke and notice that some of them are just way too into it?

I mean eyes closed, body swaying, stretching their vocal cords to the max to some Shania Twain song, totally living out their pop star dreams with the help of a little liquid courage.

How do I have so much insight into the psyches of these so called “karaoke people,” you ask?

Because (gulp) I am one of them.

I have been known to bring the house down to Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About.” And if the night gets particularly rowdy, I bust out Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll.”

Everybody has that one signature karaoke song. My mom’s is “Son of a Preacher Man.” My husband’s is “Cecelia.” One of my girlfriend’s is “Eye of the Tiger.” And yeah, it is as hilarious as you are imagining.

If you’re looking for a place to live out your rock star dreams, downtown Elgin is your stage almost every night of the week.

Karaoke people have your pick of Douglas Street Sports Bar & Grill at 231 Douglas Avenue (no, that’s not a typo) on Thursday nights. And the newly renovated Gasthaus Bar at 15 N. Grove Avenue is starting karaoke on Wednesdays in March.

If you consider yourself a semi-serious musician, downtown also has open mic nights throughout the week. Elgin Public House at 219 E. Chicago Street is bringing in good talent and crowds on Thursday nights. Gasthaus Bar offers a stage and a full band setup with mics, guitars, drums and a sound guy also on Thursday nights. Martini Room at 161 E. Chicago Street offers a unique lounge atmosphere for open mic on Sunday nights, and Mad Maggie’s at 51 S. Grove Avenue opens up their stage and fully-equipped sound system on Wednesday nights.

If you’re more of a music lover than a music maker, Villa Verone at 13 Douglas Avenue offers live jazz on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and Gasthaus and Elgin Public House bring in bands on Friday and Saturday nights. Mad Maggie’s is making a name for itself with live music six days a week (soon to be seven) with a different genre of music each night.

And if you want to show off your knowledge about music and more, come out to Elgin Public House’s new Trivia Night on Wednesdays. You can bring a team of friends, or just show up and join a team.

So come on down, and rediscover nightlife in downtown Elgin. And tell ‘em Joan Jett sent ya.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Main Street 2.0

Our dynamic duo of Tonya and Jennifer will be absorbing knowledge at the National Main Streets Conference in Chicago this week. You can follow the action on Twitter by searching for #mainstreet09

I will be presenting "30-Minute Crash Course: Facebook" on Monday at 3:30 and Wednesday at 8:30. It covers putting more faces on Main Street using Facebook.

UPDATE: You can also learn more at the Live Blog