LINCOLN SQUARE — Chicago's small businesses have never looked as sexy as they do in Joe Swanberg's Netflix Original series "Easy."
Writer/director Swanberg, best known for 2013's "Drinking Buddies," filmed his loosely connected eight episodes inside the (mostly North Side) neighborhoods and shops that loom large in actual Chicagoans' daily lives but are seldom if ever depicted on the big or small screens in such a recognizable and integral way.
A Lincoln Square resident himself, Swanberg doesn't establish Chicago as his setting with generic images of the city's skyline and rumbling "L" trains or commit epic blunders like "ER"'s Michigan Avenue hot dog stands.
Instead he takes viewers inside cafes, brewery taprooms and bookstores — not sound stages — and name-checks them, too, creating what amounts to a love letter to the city's entrepreneurial and artistic communities.
We binge-watched the series during a pair of popcorn-fuelled sessions and managed to tear ourselves away from the sight of Orlando Bloom's abs (fast forward to Episode 6) long enough to identify and map the vast majority of "Easy" locations.
EPISODE 1: "The F------ Study"
Summary: A married couple questions the sexual politics of their relationship. Costumed role-playing ensues and it's as awkward as your own would be.
We mapped: Fantasy Costumes.
We're stumped: The bulk of the episode takes place inside the couple's home (decked out for Halloween, above), which is likely located somewhere between Wicker Park and Lincoln Square. If you know it, help us map it.
EPISODE 2: "Vegan Cinderella"
Summary: It's your classic vegan-meets-carnivore love story.
We mapped: Handlebar, Oscar Wastyn Cycles, Subterranean and Spinning J.
We were stumped by: This club. But a few loyal DNAinfo readers pointed It's the Cabaret Room at Wicker Park's Subterranean.
EPISODE 3: "Brewery Brothers"
Summary: Brewing beer is so much cooler than working in an office.
We mapped: Half Acre's Bowmanville brewery, Half Acre's North Center taproom, Revolution's original brewpub on Milwaukee Avenue and Dark Matter Coffee Mothership.
EPISODE 4: "Controlada" (in Spanish, with subtitles)
Summary: Sofabeds are the root of all evil.
We mapped: The Bean, Lurie Garden and BP Bridge in Millennium Park. Cliche, we know, but legit in the context of the episode's plot involving an out-of-town guest.
Also mapped: Crate & Barrel (North & Clybourn location), Dusek's Board & Beer at Thalia Hall, Punch House at Thalia Hall and Socio's TV Service (corner of Racine and 19th Street).
EPISODE 5: "Art and Life"
Summary: Millennials are way savvier about social media than old people. Or are they?
We mapped: City Lit and Atomix Cafe.
We're stumped: Recognize either of the bars below? How about the theater?
EPISODE 6: "Utopia"
Summary: Takes the "square" out of Lincoln Square. You will never look at the neighborhood's stroller moms the same way again.
We mapped: Lincoln Square shines in this episode. Old Town School of Folk Music features prominently.
Also mapped: the Davis Theater (undergoing renovations), Mash, Baker Miller and Lost Lake. We also think we identified LA Fitness on Lawrence Avenue. Can anyone confirm?
EPISODE 7: "Chemistry Read"
Summary: We kind of lost the plot to this one but think it was something like, "Being single is awesome until it isn't."
We mapped: Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Lincoln Station, the Book Cellar, Constellation Apartments and the lakefront.
Semi-stumped: We're 90 percent sure we spied the Adler Planetarium.
Completely clueless: Where is this pool? We want to go to there.
EPISODE 8: "Hop Dreams"
Summary: Brewing beer isn't so cool anymore when you have to do it to make money (see: Episode 3).
We mapped: Revolution Brewery's Kedzie Avenue location, Dark Matter (again), Galt Baby and the Eisenhower Expressway. (Bonus points for appropriately filthy windshield.)
Strong suspicions: All clues — particularly dialogue that references the suburbs, a mall and Kohl's — point to this being Begyle Brewing's new Lincolnwood brewery.
Twice-stumped: The work of street artist Don't Fret (who also appears as himself) factors into episodes three and eight. Does this mural still exist?
Stumped: This diner is driving us nuts. But at least we know who's sitting in the booth — that's "Hoop Dreams" star Arthur Agee.
Stumped: This industrial space may or not be another brewery under construction.
Art Imitates Life
Swanberg cast real business owners instead of people who just play them on TV. Appearing in "Easy" (clockwise): Tom Fencl, owner of the Davis Theater (red hard hat, dark jacket), Brian Hieggelke, New City editor; Gabriel Magliaro (left), owner of Half Acre brewery; Scott Wastyn of Oscar Wastyn Cycles; and Jesse Diaz, owner of Dark Matter.
"Obscurity" isn't a real book, but the art for the fake memoir was created by a real graphic novelist — Jeffrey Brown, best known for "Darth Vader and Son." Like his "Easy" doppelganger, Brown does most of his drawing at the neighborhood coffee shop, Beans & Bagels.
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