Chicago has 77 community areas, and within those areas there are over 200 neighborhoods. Ji Suk Yi is on a mission to visit each one as part of her new video series for the Chicago Sun-Times called “The Grid.” The name of the series is inspired by Chicago’s grid patterned street system.
Ji recently talked with the Sun-Times about her new project. Here is an edited transcript of that conversation:
CST: Tell us about your new video series.
Ji: The Grid is a series that will roll out in episodes on the Sun-Times website about some of Chicago’s favorite neighborhoods. It’s what a possible day-in-the-life would look like of a person that lives there – where they get coffee, eat, drink and hang out. On a deeper level it can reveal where they find inspiration or get replenished in the neighborhood, whether it’s through art, music or their favorite book store.
CST: Is this a Chicago neighborhoods travel guide?
Ji: I like to think of The Grid as more of an introduction – in the same way I might introduce two friends I know would really hit it off! Instead of a know-it-all expert, think of me as your friend, that you hopefully trust to make that introduction. I’ll make introductions and it’s up to you to figure out what moves your spirit and what you want to explore.
CST: What do you enjoy the most about doing this type of story?
Ji: Hands down, my favorite part is meeting people that live in the neighborhood – shopkeepers, museum directors, artists, community leaders, restaurant servers and bartenders; and really, it’s incredible to just run into people on the street. Anytime you can connect with people, you learn something and it’s always surprising. It never ceases to amaze me that most everyone has an incredible story. I also love the joy it brings to people to be given the opportunity to share their stories and opinions on the neighborhood they live in. There’s a lot of wisdom there.
CST: The Grid really focuses on things to do around Chicago. What are some of your favorite go-to places?
Ji: I hang out all over the city because I love to eat. I will go far and wide to try a new place to eat, simple or fancy. I’ll find a way to go to 95th St. to Calumet Fisheries or to Beverly to get a Top Notch Burger. I’ll suffer through traffic near Halsted and North avenue during rush hour to get Twin Anchors in Old Town for ribs or go northwest to get to Smoque in Irving Park for barbeque. In the past when I lived 40 minutes from Vietnamese pho soup, I’d never hesitate to get to Argyle. My favorite Korean restaurant, Woo Chon, is in Peterson Park and I figure out a way to get there if I’m craving home cooking.
CST: You’ve said that The Grid is a love letter to Chicago. What does the city mean to you after living here for 12 years?
Ji: I’ve never met better people in my life than the friends I’ve met here. I think if folks have followed me throughout the years, they know just how much Chicago means to me as a city and more importantly, home. To some degree, I’ve never felt comfortable anywhere as much as I have here. I’ve often spoken about how Chicago gave me the inspiration and the opportunity to live my dream.
The Grid begins May 16th exclusively on the Chicago Sun-Times website. The first neighborhood to be featured is Logan Square. This new video series will showcase the best of Chicago’s neighborhoods (and suburbs!) by turning a spotlight on the people, places and things that make our city one-of-a-kind. #thegrid