Couple Hopes Amenities Will Make Café a South Loop Cycling Hub

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The new cafe’s bike-centric logo.

Two members of Chicago’s XXX Racing team plan to open a new café at 18th and Indiana, with a number of features they hope will entice bike commuters to stop in for a cup, a bite, or a beer.

The eatery is named the Spoke & Bird, after its bike-friendly aspects and co-owner Alicia Bird. It will include ample bike parking, a repair stand in the patio, and possibly an on-street bike corral and/or a nearby Divvy station. The café is located a stone’s throw from the bike path and overpass near 18th and Calumet, which the owners point out is the only route to the lakefront between Roosevelt and 31st.

“We think our proximity to the Lakefront Trail, and all the activity in the South Loop, will make us a hub for people traveling on bikes between downtown, the South Loop, and beyond,” said Scott Golas, Bird’s business and romantic partner.

The café will be located in the former Café Society space. It’s housed within a three-story Chicago Park District fieldhouse, which recently underwent a multimillion dollar renovation, including the addition of children’s science labs. Just east is the historic Glessner House, and to the south is a park that includes the Clarke House, Chicago’s oldest standing residence, built in 1836.

Golas, who founded the software firm Xmplify, and Bird, a designer and project manager who worked at Café Society since early 2013, bought the café in July and closed it for renovations last month. They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising an additional $70,000 to overhaul the 4,200 square foot patio and renovate the kitchen.

Pending city inspections, the couple hopes to launch the Spoke & Bird on December 13. “When it reopens, it will be like night and day,” Golas promised.

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The future location of the Spoke & Bird. Image: Google Sreetview

Café Society was already a frequent starting point for the South Loop Kidical Mass, but Golas says new features will make the new restaurant especially handy for bike commuters. A third “inverted U” bike rack was recently installed on the sidewalk in front of the café. The owners are also working with the Chicago Department of Transportation to install an on-street parking corral, which the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance has agreed to help fund. Bird and Golas are also in talks with the city, the neighborhood association, and Divvy about getting a bike-share station installed nearby.

In addition to the workstand on the patio, Golas said they plan to host basic bike maintenance clinics at the café. He also said they’ll encourage local bike clubs and advocacy groups to hold events at the space. “We won’t turn down any intelligent idea that helps get people onto bikes,” he said. “Cycling is the smart way to get around the city.”

  • Anne A

    When I first heard about this new venture, it was my understanding that the former owner would be staying on as chef. Is that still the case? I’ve been a customer for years and been there many times by bike. I have long appreciated it as a bike friendly cafe and have made it the destination of a number of CCC rides over the years. Looking forward to the launch of the new venture.

  • R.A. Stewart

    It’s way out of all my usual paths, but seems like an idea with really great potential.

    I assume there will be a spokesperson who will tweet about it.

    (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

  • Double pun — kudos!

  • skyrefuge

    Food + beer + bike corral + bike repair stand? Sounds like a copy of Nano Brew in Cleveland, except Nano Brew’s repair stand is actually *inside* the bar. I actually repaired my girlfriend’s bike there while sipping a beer; it was glorious. If Spoke & Bird can get halfway there, they’ll be onto something.

  • Candace Drimmer

    Food and beer, sounds very South Loopy.

  • Not sure I get the need for the Divvy station when there are two very nearby on 18th St, but otherwise I’m very excited about this, especially as I get ready to resume my bike commute next month.

  • One of the existing nearby stations may be relocated to the cafe. Good luck with resuming your commute. Some say January is the best month to bike in Chicago, since the bike lanes are less crowded!

  • R.A. Stewart

    Thanks, John, I’m honored! :-)

  • Kristin Komorowski

    i walk past everyday and had no clue about the kickstarter… you should post a qr/link in the window so locals know you are looking for support!