Think You Know the Best of the Cultural Mile? | 10 Hottest Restaurants in the Chicago Loop

1 December 2017

If you’re a foodie, you’ll know that there’s no shortage of outstanding restaurants in the Chicago Loop.  But with all those options, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Whether you want a delicious weekend brunch, a quick lunchtime bite, or a sophisticated dinner, we’ve included the best of the best below, all located within a mile of 1000M.

1)    Acanto – 0.8 miles

This Italian restaurant knows its wines – as a winner of the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence and the Fine Wine World’s Best Wine List (both two years running), there’s an option for every wine enthusiast.  Paired with some unusual takes on traditional Italian dishes, including a delicious Lamb Rigatoni, it’s a standout amongst Chicago Loop restaurants.

2)    The Gage – 0.8 miles

Paneled in rich, dark wood and accented with muted subway tiles, The Gage’s atmosphere calls to mind an old-fashioned study that’s anything but traditional when it comes to the menu.  The House Poutine rivals Quebec’s finest, and for carnivores, a variety of game including elk, bison, and duck dishes are on hand to satisfy.  Don’t miss their award-winning dessert program as well, including a Roasted Pear and Almond Croustade.

3)    Niu B – 289 ft

This hidden gem is conveniently located a block from 1000M and serves varied Japanese and Asian-fusion bites, from Honey Sesame Chicken to Korean short ribs.  Asian-inspired cocktails and traditional sake are ready to complete the meal.

4)    Kurah Chicago – 0.4 miles

A colorful, upscale atmosphere brings an authentic Mediterranean menu to the Chicago Loop.  Classic hummus is sure to hit all the right notes, and the Grilled Kabob Platter won’t disappoint.  And how can anyone resist freshly baked pita bread?

5)    Mercat a la Planxa – 0.2 miles

Mercat a la Planxa defies the stereotype of mediocre hotel restaurants and delivers great Spanish cuisine daily.  Located in the Blackstone Hotel, it boasts a tranquil atmosphere, which allows dishes like a delectable Serrano Ham and Fig Salad and Paella de Carnes to shine.

6)    Seven Lions – 0.7 miles

Across from the Art Institute, this Chicago Loop restaurant takes classic American fare to new heights.  Spacious and industrial inside, the Seven Lions boasts something for everyone, from old-fashioned burgers to Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower.  Come early for brunch and grab their Blueberry and Poppyseed Pancakes.

7)    Remington’s Restaurant – 0.9 miles

A nice steak or seafood dinner starts at Remington’s Restaurant.  Rustic yet sophisticated, they offer classics like filet mignon and crab cakes, all cooked to perfection.  It also makes a great lunch meeting destination.

8)    Cindy’s − 0.8 miles

Cindy’s is a standout amongst restaurants in the Chicago Loop for a particular reason – it’s spectacular views of Millennium Park. Perched atop the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, the hip bar, and restaurant is home to some of the best and most unusual cocktails in the area.  Nandini Khaund is the resident “Spirit Guide” at Cindy’s, pouring such mixtures as the Western Cape, a peachy version of a Moscow Mule, and the Howl at the Jun, made from a Tibetan form of kombucha.

9)    Terzo Piano – 0.7 miles

Host to Chef Tony Mantuano’s signature Italian cuisine (you might know him from his restaurant Spiaggia), Terzo Piano is a must for art enthusiasts and foodies alike.  Diners can take in the Modern Art Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago while enjoying freshly prepared seasonal pastas, and for the more adventurous, Charred Octopus or Spanish Mussels.  Large windows offer a view of Michigan Avenue to accompany the meal.

10) Bongo Room – 0.2 miles

Last but certainly not least, Bongo Room’s offerings hit the spot for a weekend breakfast or brunch.  Breakfast burritos and classic omelets are a savory and satisfying way to start the morning, while seasonal pancake flavors like Cranberry and Orange are perfect for those with a sweet tooth.  Get there for a Sunday brunch and try the Deconstructed Lobster Roll Benedict, their spin on eggs benedict.

Any one of these eateries would make a great addition to your restaurant rotation, and are just some of the fantastic locales you’ll find in the 1000M neighborhood.

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Discover City History on Lake Michigan | Columbia Yacht Club

28 November 2017

While residents of 1000M will enjoy incredible views of Lake Michigan from their luxurious homes, imagine getting even closer to the lake by taking advantage of the nearby Columbia Yacht Club.

A year-round home for lovers of the lake, sailing enthusiasts or people who enjoy good food in a relaxed atmosphere, the Columbia Yacht Club has been around for 125 years.

The club’s current home, a 372-foot former icebreaking ferry called the MV Abegweit, is moored at the foot of Randolph Street just east of North Lakeshore Drive. The Abby, as it’s known to the club’s 921 members, has been the club’s home since summer 1983 after operating in Canadian waters from 1947-1982.

While The Abby still looks like a working ship from the outside, once you take an elevator up to the lower salon lobby you’re transported into something more striking. The lobby, bar and library, where members gather to relax, have been gorgeously restored with wood paneled walls and display cases showing the histories of the ship and the club along with ephemera from sailing competitions.

The Sailing Club Dock

The Abby also houses five restored areas used for meetings and private events like wedding receptions: the rail deck, aft deck, upper salon, board room and bridge. The Columbia Sailing School operates from the forward hull of the ship and the dock area just south of The Abby.

The member dining room serves American bistro fare that includes newer items as well as dishes Chef Alberto Garcia and his staff call “Columbia Classics.” The Short Rib Stroganoff with sautéed onions and mushrooms, for one, is unforgettable.

“It’s like eating a hug,” said the club’s general manager, Nick Philp.

Like The Abby, the Columbia Yacht Club itself is steeped in history — a history that’s tied to Chicago’s own progress through the years.

A group of yachting enthusiasts — many who were city planners working with Daniel Burnham — established the club just a year after the Great Chicago Fire of 1891, as the city was rebuilding while preparing for the Columbian Exposition of 1893.

They named their club after the upcoming Exposition, and gave it the same welcoming spirit that drew nearly 27 million people to the Exposition.

“The club’s always been very open to all ethnicities, walks of life, religions,” Philp said. “The club has a history of not discriminating against anybody from any background, for any reason, which was especially in the yacht club world pretty unique. We’re fortunate for that. We continue that to this day.”

So if you’re worried you’ll need to don an ascot, blue blazer and stuffy attitude to join the fun, don’t. Two fairly recent guests for brunch agreed that members of the Columbia Yacht Club are anything but pretentious.

The Steering Wheel of The Abby

For Philp, that relaxed and friendly nature of the members sets Columbia Yacht Club apart from other private clubs in the city. Members sponsor numerous philanthropic events, and host member-employee events to create whet he calls “a unique atmosphere.”

“The people really are the best thing about this club,” Philp explains. “As far as the club’s operation, we’re probably 50 percent professional and 50 percent volunteer. A lot of people are very personally invested in the club. That creates a unique environment for progressive thought and for positive, forward thinking.”

But Philp doesn’t think you should take his word for it. He encourages anyone who is thinking about joining to experience the club for themselves. The club offers weekend passes to potential members that allows them to wine, dine or just hang out on The Abby.

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The Columbia Yacht Club // 111 N. Lakeshore Drive // www.colyc.org

Think you know the best of the cultural mile? | Classical music with a mission

8 November 2017

With blues clubs to the south and the summer concert scene at Grant Park and Millennium Park to the north, 1000M sits in the center of a diverse musical world. But residents need stroll just a few blocks to the Chicago Symphony Center to see the performances of the Chicago Sinfonietta, which bills itself as the most diverse orchestra in the country.

“There is beauty in diversity, certainly in what you see onstage and in our audience, but also in the kind of music that we present and how we do that. It runs the gamut,” says Courtney Perkins, the Sinfonietta’s director of development and operations.

The 30-year-old Sinfonietta still adheres to the mission of its pioneering founder and first conductor, Maestro Paul Freeman. He wanted to create an orchestra that provided opportunities for musicians, composers, conductors and soloists from all backgrounds and also hoped to build an audience that reflected the diversity of Chicago.

Paul Freeman (left) is the founder of the Chicago Sinfonietta where Mei-Ann Chen (right) is the Music Director.

“The first time [Freeman] ever saw an orchestra, he sat in the balcony—which was the segregated section for people of color,” Perkins says. “And even then it made such an incredible impact on him, how the conductor pulled the sounds out of his musicians. He was always drawn to that and he wanted others to have the same experience.”

Despite the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—one of the best orchestras in the world—already being based in the city, Freeman went to work. Freeman wooed potential supporters “one coffee at a time,” eventually creating a founding board, many members of whom still are subscribers today, Perkins says.

Through mentoring programs for minority musicians and conductors and its community outreach programs, the Sinfonietta promotes classical music to many who would not get a chance to experience it. Since its inception in 2008, the Project Inclusion Orchestra Fellowship program has mentored more than 45 musicians of color who have gone on to perform around the country. Seven of the eight conductors who have gone through the program have been placed on podiums as assistant conductors or music directors, Perkins says.

Trademark Concert, Chicago Sinfonietta - 9/18/17 Photo by Chris Ocken Copyright 2017 - ockenphoto.com
The Sinfonietta’s 2017 Trademark Concert

The Sinfonietta’s mission of diversity—which earned it a $625,000 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2016—extends beyond the makeup of the orchestra’s players.

Called “the city’s hippest orchestra” by the Chicago Tribune, the Sinfonietta finds its joy in breaking down the wall of intimidation that blocks potential fans from attending classical concerts. Through innovative partnerships with other arts groups, it presents eclectic programs that present classical music in creative new ways.

Conducting the Sinfonietta since 2011, Maestro Mei-Ann Chen continues the group’s unique musical performance tradition. Looking at the current season, the Sinfonietta has performed or will perform with the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, NIU Steelband, NewMoon Chicago, the Roosevelt University Conservatory Choirs and punk marching band Mucca Pazza.

For its annual Martin Luther King Tribute concert, Maestro Chen will mix orchestra, opera, jazz vocals, spoken word, archival audio samples and video. The ensemble blends classical mainstays with new works it has commissioned from four diverse women composers to premiere during the season and be recorded as the orchestra’s 16th album in 2019.

The Sinfonietta’s 2017 MLK Tribute Concert

Perkins explains that most of the Sinfonietta’s concerts are created around a theme, and the organization creates an audience engagement experience around that theme that extends beyond the performances.

Organizers might invite groups to speak with concert-goers before the performances and at intermission. For an LGBTQ-themed concert, the Sinfonietta invited several local groups that work with the LGBTQ community to make presentations.

“We try to create an open space through the umbrella of classical music to talk about something totally separate from the music,” Perkins says. “This is a really special thing and I don’t exactly know what the word for it is —but somehow a community is built. It’s really special.”

The Sinfonietta season consists of five programs that the full orchestra performs twice—once at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., and once at a suburban location.

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Chicago Sinfonietta // Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. // www.chicagosinfonietta.org.

Photos by Chris Ocken Copyright 2017 – ockenphoto.com

Dîner en Blanc | Seeking Beauty In The Unexpected

6 November 2017

Guests attend Dîner en Blanc at Chicago’s Theater on the Lake on Thursday August 24, 2017. Photographer: Christopher Dilts / Sipa USA

Dîner en Blanc is an experience like little else. Combining mystery, prestige and absolute elegance, the event is an exceptional opportunity for residents of 1000M to connect with beauty.

Dîner en Blanc, which translates to Dinner In White, began in France with François Pasquier in 1988. Pasquier was inspired by the simple but powerful motivation to share an elegant meal with close friends. One day, he spotted a couple in all white enjoying a bottle of champagne at a picnic table.

“There was the spark,” says Roger Hobby, one of five hosts or organizers of the Chicago Dîner en Blanc. Nearly three decades later, this spark has spread to more than 70 cities around the world, with nearly 120,000 guests participating globally each year. Chicago has participated since 2012.

Dîner en Blanc distinguishes itself with its peculiar guidelines. For starters, attendees must dress completely in white. “Why white? To recognize each other as being part of the party!” Hobby explains. Guests are also required to bring many of the essentials of a traditional dinner party, including tables, chairs, cutlery and napkins (no paper or plastic allowed; only the real stuff). They can also bring a gourmet meal or enjoy a picnic basket from the party’s caterer. And everything — food as the exception — must meet the color code. Finally, the party’s location is not released until the day of.

 

The annual event sparks lifelong friendships.

“There’s something magical about coming upon the venue and discovering it, as opposed to knowing where it will be all along,” says Hobby of the mystery surrounding the location.

Roger Hobby began attending Dîner en Blanc 17 years ago in Paris. “A friend sent me an email one day asking if wanted to go to dinner and if I had all white clothes. A passion was born that night.” He adds that he was captivated by the connection guests make at Dîner en Blanc. “People start lifelong relationships with new friends, job networks and yes, sometimes even romance.”

Hobby has played a pivotal role in ensuring that Dîner en Blanc thrives in the Windy City. In 2012, he heard the planned Chicago party was being cancelled. Hobby was committed to keeping his passion alive in his adopted hometown. So with no budget and barely six weeks, Hobby and a group of like-minded friends joined together to create the first Dîner en Blanc in Chicago under the international banner. This premier Dîner en Blanc was celebrated by about 500 guests in the South Garden of the Art institute of Chicago, right in 1000M’s neighborhood. Today, Dîner en Blanc Chicago has grown to include nearly 4,000 participants.

 

Chicago has celebrated this international tradition since 2012.

Dîner locations are selected based on size, accessibility and, of course, the location must define iconic Chicago beauty. The party’s location let’s “people rediscover their own city, especially parts of it they may have passed by thousands of times, but have never truly seen,” says Hobby.

One of Hobby’s favorite traditions is the event’s unwavering commitment to preserving each Dîner location. After the party concludes, guests leave nothing behind — no trash, no footprints in the grass, no stray streamers or balloons. Hobby remembers the Director of the Palais-Royal in Paris looking on in amazement when she realized the venue was more pristine after the Dîner than before. The guests were “even picking up old cigarette butts,” remembers Hobby.

After all his years participating, Hobby is still fascinated and charmed by the annual event that provides such a mysterious elegance. “It is an event like no other,” he emphasizes. “Your first year you should be prepared to be overwhelmed and amazed.”

Perhaps this year, the Cultural Mile will act as the stage for the 2018 Dîner en Blanc. 1000M’s neighborhood is a perfect location for this unique expression of beauty. Interested parties can sign up to learn more about the 2018 Dîner en Blanc at: https://chicago.dinerenblanc.com/register.

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Dîner en Blanc // Clandestine Location // 2018 TBD // Chicago.dinerenblanc.com

Think You Know The Best of The Cultural Mile? | A Cocktail With A Story To Tell

27 October 2017

1000M’s unrivaled amenities package has a host of options for celebrating your favorite beverages, including a Wine Tasting Room with private wine storage, and Club 1000 with its full-service bar. But when the 1000M’s neighborhood’s collection of bars, pubs and tasting rooms calls on your inner cocktail nerd, you might find yourself drawn to the Milk Room at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel (CAA).

Pete Smiler, the Director of Outlets at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, describes Milk Room as a singular experience guided by incredibly knowledgeable bartenders. “My personal favorite part of Milk Room, beyond the space, beyond the selection, is the one-on-one time with a knowledgeable bartender.”

The Chicago Athletic Association's Milk Room
The bartender experience at the Milk Room with Paul McGee.

Milk Room, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel’s ultra-intimate bar, isn’t a run-of-the-mill craft cocktail experience. It has a touch of performance art and a commitment to history rare in the ubiquitous craft cocktail scene. Once a Speakeasy during prohibition, members of the Chicago Athletic Association would discreetly drink booze in a glass of milk at Milk Room, away from prying eyes of the prohis. Today, Milk Room is a quick-service coffee and pastry café during the day and, at night, a sanctuary for cocktail lovers or anyone craving a liquor experience unlike any other in Chicago.

Entry is not by reservation, but by buying a ticket online that requires a $50 deposit, which is later applied to your bill. The eight-seat space does reserve two seats for walk-ins.

Drinks at the Milk Room in the CAA.
A specialty cocktail at the Milk Room in the CAA.

“Milk Room creates a sense of exclusivity by limiting access only to guests who are drinking and dining with us,” Smiler explains. “There won’t be anyone ‘popping in’ or giving historical tours while you’re enjoying you experience with us. This temporary escape from the hundreds of people in (CAA’s) other restaurants gives you the feeling that you’ve found something that no one else knows about.”

Milk Room elevates a night at the bar to a tasting session of rare and historic spirits and liqueurs. Single drinks range from $26 to $100. A Dollarita at Applebee’s’ they are not. Some of the liquors date back to pre-1900 when the distilling techniques were unique from the modern day, translating into a truly singular taste.

Rare and historic spirits and liqueurs at the Milk Room.
Rare and historic spirits and liqueurs at the Milk Room.

The rarity of the spirits is coupled with breathtakingly-broad bartender knowledge. Smiler believes the intimate seating lends itself to conversation and education. The personalized interaction between guests and the bartender “adds integrity to the cocktail… you’ll enjoy it better knowing why we do what we do.”

Not a cocktail connoisseur? A little overwhelmed by the intricate menu? Not a problem. Smiler suggests visitors less familiar with the world of spirits simply put their menu down. “Ask (the bartender) what they’re nuts about, or tell them what you normally drink. They’ll ask you the easy questions from there and narrow down a cocktail crafted especially for you.”

With a versatile and exciting neighborhood to explore, Milk Room at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel is just one of many unexpected thrills near 1000M.

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Milk Room // 12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603 // Chicago Athletic Association Hotel // milkroom.tocktix.com

Photography by Clayton Hauck, courtesy of the Milk Room.

Discover Where Nature Meets the City | An Avian Treasure Hunt

10 September 2017

The silhouette of a warbler

Bird watching is a year-around treasure hunt that can take you all the over the world. Luckily at 1000M, you don’t have to venture far from your home’s porte-cochère to begin this unique pursuit. Grant Park, Chicago’s and your personal front lawn, has some crazy good opportunities for bird watching.

The Museum Campus, walking distance from 1000M, is perfect for searching for native Illinois birds on an early morning, before the influx of museum visitors. From Soldier Field to Burnham Harbor, be on the lookout for warblers, thrushes, sparrows and vireos that dart from tree to tree.

A little farther east, Northerly Island, which is traditionally less crowded than the Museum Campus, promises some of the best opportunities in the city for spying birds. Surrounded by water, the Island is ideal for seeing ducks, loons and rare gulls as well as grassland birds like sparrows and wrens. The short-eared owl, an owl with spotted and streaked plumage and, as its name suggests, tiny perked ears, can be spotted flying in a floppy line due to its irregular wing beats.

Birding in Grant Park, like anywhere, requires patience and time. As a new birder, don’t plan on discovering your favorite avian right away. Pick a bird (be mindful of the time of year and the bird’s feeding schedule) and take a long morning to explore Grant Park. It is an ideal opportunity to dive into the natural beauty right outside 1000M’s doorstep.

Discover Where Nature Meets the City | A Change in Flight Plans: From An Airport to Bird Paradise

7 September 2017

The 12th Street Beach on Northerly Island, a short walk from 1000M/></p>
<p>1000M’s location captures the mantra <em>where nature meets the city</em>. Nestled within walking distance of the best the Cultural Mile has to offer and Grant Park, today 1000M enjoys an <a title=exceptional location with a storied past.

Keeping Grant Park pristine and unobstructed began after the initial declaration of natural preservation of Chicago’s lakeshore in 1836. Northerly Island, walking distance from 1000M, once housed Meigs Field Airport, which, after operating since 1947, came to an infamous end in 2013. While the controversial legacy of its nighttime shut down continues to raise eyebrows, new wings take to the sky on Northerly Island, which has become the best bird watching opportunity in Chicago’s bustling Loop.

Following the airport’s unexpected end, Northerly Island has been transformed into a quieter extension of Grant Park. A natural ecosystem is being painstakingly introduced into the area, along with public artwork. The old airport terminal has been repurposed as a visitor’s center. At the northern end of the island, the Huntington Bank Pavilion is a redeveloped music venue.

Joggers, bikers and beachgoers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the transformation. More than half of all bird species found in Illinois have added Northerly Island to their migratory routes, creating a bird watching paradise. The extensive list includes varieties of ducks, thrushes, owls and more. Birders have also spotted rare birds such as Brants, a type of sea goose, Sage Thrashers and Brewer’s Sparrows. The combination of fresh water, a manmade lagoon, a restored native ecosystem and relative silence make Northerly Island an ideal nesting place for a wide variety of birds.

Birds species found in Illinois have increased roughly five percent in the last 50 years, the growth often concentrated in urban areas where species have adapted to city environments, and benefit from maturing tree canopies and the growth of bird-feeding as a hobby. The increase of parks in city areas, such as Northerly Island, has also contributed to the boom.

Jeff Walk, the Director of Conservation at the Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and co-author of Illinois Birds: A Century of Change, sees the rise in park space and the restoration of natural ecosystems as critical to conservation efforts and the increased diversity of birds in urban areas.

“Spaces like Northerly Island give birds pit stops to rest and refuel on their migration routes,” Jeff explains. They also provide an excellent marketing opportunity for conservation. “These places give people living in urban areas a connection to nature they otherwise would not have.” He added the introduction of wetlands and native plants on Northerly Island give Chicagoans the chance to experience an authentic and beautiful ecosystem.

Northerly Island is equipped with a wildlife rehabilitation center that specializes in injured and orphaned birds. The only wildlife rehabilitation center in the city, the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has drastically decreased fatalities due to head injuries caused by birds striking Chicago buildings.

Jeff encourages amateur or hopeful birders to try their luck on Northerly Island. “Even a moderately invested birder can see over 100 species in a year.” He added, “When bird watching, don’t just look for birds. Look for movement. It’s difficult to spot a motionless bird, but the eye is good at tracking movement when birds fly from one perch to another.”

Today, it’s hard to imagine an airport ever existed so close to 1000M. Along with bird watching, Northerly Island is now the perfect spot to enjoy lake breezes as you pedal along the bike paths. On weekday mornings, the tranquil island can be perfect for a stroll along the 12th Street Beach or simply gazing out at Lake Michigan.

Think You Know the Best of the Cultural Mile? | Chicago Golf Guide

26 February 2017

With Grant Park and Lake Michigan as your front yard, 1000M’s neighborhood offers virtually endless outdoor possibilities. And if you’re a golfer, you’re in luck… Hop on a Divvy or take your own bike through the park and up the Lake Shore trail a few miles north to Chicago Park District’s Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course. Located at Waveland, this 9-hole course is a hidden sanctuary, offering amazing views of the lake, Montrose Harbor and the city skyline.

Taking the trail a few miles south will lead you to an even more robust lakeside treasure: South Shore Golf Course. (And with plans in the works to unite the South Shore Golf Course with nearby Jackson Park to create a PGA-grade course designed by Tiger Woods, things only get better.)

And if you crave a break from the urban course, venture out to the suburbs for a better drive. 1000M is conveniently located near Lake Shore Drive, the Eisenhower (I-290) and the Dan Ryan (I-90) Expressways, so getting out of the city is a breeze. From the Wabash-Avenue garage entrance of 1000M, the famous Medinah Country Club is an easy 30-40 minute drive west on I-290. This country club, designed by Tom Bendelow, the “Johnny Appleseed of American Golf,” frequently hosts major championships including the US Open, PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.

Other easily accessible state-of-the-art courses include Chicago Golf Course (Wheaton, IL), Butler National Golf Course (Oak Brook), Olympia Fields Country Club (Olympia Fields, IL), Shoreacres (Lake Bluff, IL), Rich Harvest Links (Sugar Grove, IL), Cog Hill Golf and Country Club (Lemont, IL), Beverly Country Club (Chicago, IL), Flossmoor Country Club (Flossmoor, IL) and Cantigny Golf Course (Wheaton, IL).