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Elements Wine Bar: Good Wine Vibes

I stepped into the recently opened Elements Wine Bar in downtown Valparaiso, took in the ambiance and was immediately beyond excited!  In my mind, I was thinking “Ayeeee, this is my spot!” Mesmerized by the colorful lanterns hanging overhead, as the soulful sounds of Susan Tedeschi played through the speakers I curiously peaked around the bar. Oh yes, there’s wine on tap!

Although super excited, I played it cool.  I didn’t jump up and down like a kid, lol.  I decided that I’d save that for my next visit.

I’ve always frequented wineries, so this was my first experience in a wine bar.  It’s self-service. Here’s what you do:

  1. Select your glass; they’re hanging on a rack under the wine machines.
  2. When you enter the bar you will receive a plastic card from one of the employees to track your tab.  Insert the card into the machine.
  3. Choose your wine from the numerous bottles displayed in the machine.
  4. Select your taste, either a 2 oz, 4 oz., or a 6 oz. portion. Displayed above each bottle’s taste portion on the machine are the prices; they range depending on the wine.  My first taste was a 2 oz Petite Petite Blend for $2.50.  It was fabulous!  I had to get a glass.
  5. Don’t forget to REMOVE YOUR CARD after your selection.  I kept leaving my card inserted in the machine and not realizing it until I was ready to go for another taste.  I obviously was trying to buy a round for everyone in the bar, lol, I’m so generous!

There are 20 bottles on tap, but much more are available.  Wine imports from all over the world including Napa, Italy, France, Australia, New Zeeland, Chile, Austria, and Germany are displayed on the wine rack and behind the bar.  The selection always changes.

See something on the rack display that peaks your interest?  You can get any bottle of wine opened.   Say you’re eyeing that $300 bottle of 2007 Opus One but don’t want to commit to buying the whole bottle. Request it opened for a tasting.  The tasting of the luxury wines will run anywhere from $15-$20 but at least you’re not spending $300, and you can tell all of your friends that you tried a 2007 Opus One.

The cozy environment and music greatly enhance the experience. Owner Michelle Prosser desired a jazzy look with a friendly welcoming atmosphere.

“I wanted comfortable, velvet tufted furniture, and natural woods with a bit of funkiness” -Owner, Michelle Prosser

She nailed her vision.  I loved the cozy with a bit of edge design.  I felt welcome from the minute I walked in.  Cotteena was on staff my first visit.  She explained the concept and steps to me a couple of times. I didn’t absorb everything the first time because I was too distracted taking in everything (sigh…thank goodness for friendly, patient, wine enthusiasts, lol).  I found not only the staff to be friendly but the fellow wine drinkers in the bar were very nice and pleasant.  The mood is very laid back.

Michelle fell in love with wine ten years ago while frequenting the Michigan Wine Trails. Some of her favorite tasting rooms are Contessa in Coloma and the Warner tasting room in Paw Paw.

Speaking with the knowledgeable winemakers at wineries inspired her to study wine.   She set out on this path in 2011 while managing Kelsey’s Steak House in Valparaiso.

“Wine to me is intellectual; I enjoy the cerebral aspect just as much as I enjoy drinking it.”

— Michelle Prosser, Owner of Elements Wine Bar

Once she began this education, she couldn’t stop.  She described it a Black Hole of information; once you dive in you never want to get out.  “Wine is so interesting and fun; I just kept taking more and more classes!”  She also took her studies abroad to Florence, Italy, where she achieved one of several wine certifications.

Equipped with a passion for wine,  desire for her own business, and encouragement from her boss at Kelsey’s, she was prompted to make a move and open Elements.  Yep, her boss encouraged her to quit and pursue her dream; I had to make sure that I heard her right…that’s indeed what she said.  Shout out to supportive bosses; you know who you are!!!  Unsure of reception when starting this venture, she found additional support from the city of Valparaiso and her business neighbors.

“I love doing business here in Valparaiso! I didn’t know what to expect initially. This experience has been wonderful.”

— Elements Wine Bar Owner, Michelle Prosser

 From left:  Cotteena, Michelle, and Starlett From left:  Cotteena, Michelle, and Starlett

Patrons are encouraged to speak with any of the wine bar employees and ask questions, as they’re all knowledgeable about the wine selections.

Wanting to learn a bit more about wine myself, I asked Michelle the following questions:

What would you recommend for someone who usually prefers a sweeter wine?

We have something for every palate. I like to talk to people when they come in to see what they usually drink.  I find that many come in with a favored wine but want to branch out into other wines.  I know it can be a turnoff to jump too drastically when you’re used to sweet, and you jump to something like a Napa Cabernet…I can find a nice bridge for them.  I’ve been pretty lucky with finding wine for people after speaking with them.”

 Any bottle of wine can be opened at the customer's request Any bottle of wine can be opened at the customer’s request

What’s the difference in wine taste from country to country?
Italy has its indigenous grapes.  Many of their grapes don’t grow well in other areas, so they’re going to have their unique flavor profile.  One of the easiest ways to think of it is old world and new world.  New world wine would be anywhere except Europe.  American and Australian wines would typically be more fruit forward. New World wines like those of NAPA will give you bigger, bolder flavors.   Older World wines may tend to be softer, less fruit forward; there’s more elegance to it.  They’re not going for the bigger bolder flavors as much. There’s also colder climate and warmer climate.  Colder climate wines like Riesling will give you more acidity and a different kind of fruit flavor than a warmer climate wine that will have more tropical fruit flavors to it.

 Meat and Cheese Platters Are Available Meat and Cheese Platters Are Available  A mixture of craft and domestic bottles are available for non-wine drinkers. A mixture of craft and domestic bottles are available for non-wine drinkers.

Although the bar doesn’t offer full kitchen services, guests can nosh on meat and cheese platters and popcorn.  If you’re looking for something a bit heartier, you can either bring in carryout or have food delivered to the bar from local restaurants.

Not necessarily a wine drinker but still interested in socializing? You’ll be happy to know that Elements Wine Bar offers a mix of 8 different bottled domestic and craft beers.

I can’t say enough good about Elements Wine Bar.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, do yourself a favor and GO!

Make sure to tell me your favorite selection in the comments!

“The Steele Merlot is absolutely fabulous. Not only is it robust, the aftertaste gives you an explosion in your mouth. The oaky finish is phenomenal. For this price point it’s a steal! (Pun Intended)”

— Patron, Teresa Janovitz of Portage, IN

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Elements Wine Bar is Non-Smoking

  • There’s Indoor and Outdoor Patio Seating

  • Patrons Must Be 21 and Over

New Buffalo Daycation: Where to Eat, Shop, and Drink

A change of pace and scenery is good for the soul and the Midwest presents numerous opportunities to change things up. Many aren’t able to take frequent vacations or weekends away. A daycation is an excellent alternative. There’s no shortage of cute towns surrounding Lake Michigan, and often they’re only a short drive or train ride away. I decided to try AMTRAK for the first time for a daycation in New Buffalo, MI. In only an hour and 15 minutes, I was in the beach town. The ride was quick and easy. I left Chicago from Union Station on a Friday morning train at 7:20 and arrived in New Buffalo, Michigan at 8:37 a.m., 9:37 Michigan (Eastern) time. Also, my ticket there was only $12!

New Buffalo, Michigan

The Stray Dog

New Buffalo is a small town located on the shores of Lake Michigan
at the mouth of the Galien River. It’s one of my favorites places for exploring. The area offers friendly locals, breweries, restaurants, wineries, beaches, and lots of shopping opportunities.

The AMTRAK drops you off right downtown within walking distance of plenty of shops and restaurants. There’s also UBER available for the places a bit outside of downtown.

Luisa’s Cafe

Luisa’s Cafe

My friends met me downtown, and our first stop was for breakfast at Luisa’s, a small family run cafe serving delicious food made with fresh, natural, and simple ingredients. Additionally, the family owns the attached Harbert Swedish Bakery. Our party was seated right away, and the service was excellent. During warmer months many have reported long waits as Luisa’s is a local favorite. We enjoyed an incredible meal of spinach quiche, eggs, Swedish pancakes, Southern Pecan pancakes, and great coffee. The no-frills cafe is charming with cute touches; a real gem!

Luisa’s Cafe
Harbert Swedish Bakery

We stopped in the Swedish bakery attached to the cafe on our way out to pick up some sweets for later. The blueberry coffee cake we enjoyed for breakfast the next morning did not disappoint.

Antique Shopping

After breakfast, we browsed some of the antique stores along Red Arrow Highway.

Harbert Antique Mall

Harbert Antique Mall is a 10-minute drive outside of town, therefore, you’d need to take an UBER or taxi. With Over 50 dealer displays you’ll want to set aside some time here. While there was a considerable selection, I felt things were laid out well and didn’t feel it was over cluttered. There is an abundance of hidden gems inside. I walked away with a stein!

Lakeside Antiques

Lakeside Antiques is 5 miles outside of downtown. My friends and I felt that their offerings were a bit more high end. There are three large buildings with an array of furniture styles and accessories, fine art, European and Americana antiques and more. I scored a cast iron griddle in excellent condition!

I don’t feel one has to be majorly into antiques to enjoy these stores. It’s just fun looking and discussing all of the memories that the pieces recall to mind. I was worn out from all of the visual stimulation and excitement.

Ghost Isle Brewery

Ghost Isle Brewery and restaurant opened spring of 2019. We popped in for a beer break. The New Buffalo microbrewery overlooks 156 acres of wetlands and focuses on a lighter less bitter style of beer. The Restaurant offers a full menu including, appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and entrees. Also, there’s a covered patio which seats over 100 people with a firepit and lawn for games of cornhole — a fun place to chill once the temperature warms.

Lunch at David’s Delicatessen

David’s Delicatessen is open daily for breakfast and lunch. The menu continually changes depending on ingredients received from farms. They’re known for their Reuben sandwiches. Of course, that’s what I tried. There are three variations to choose from on the menu. I stuck with the traditional and devoured it!

After hours, the deli transforms into a pop-up bar The False Front serving specialty cocktails, wine, beer, and light snacks.

Downtown New Buffalo Shopping

The shops lining Whitaker and surrounding streets offer unique finds and deals.

Sweetwater Boating Supplies

A beach supply and gift shop with tons of selection.

The Hidden Gem

Owned by cousins Jessica and Lisa, the eclectic shop showcases many items from local artists.

The Hidden Gem

Posh Upscale Consignment Boutique

Posh offer ladies apparel, jewelry, handbags, footwear, accessories, coats, and more from premium labels like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Prada, Ann Taylor, Lululemon, DKNY, etc.

Beer Church Brewery

Located inside of an old Methodist church, the recently renovated brewery now seats over 100 people inside and offers Neapolitan pizza, cocktails, and wine in addition to the beer. I love the new vibe!

Beer Church Neapolitan Pizza
Beer Church Brewery

Oinks

We wrapped up the day at Oinks, a local favorite serving Sherman’s Ice Cream. Every summer the line to get into this place wraps the building. There’s so much nostalgia within these walls!

I’m already planning the next daycation! My friends and I felt like we were on vacation and while it was only for a day it refreshed my mind and spirit!

What do you like to do during your daycations? Tell me in the comments?

Things to do in Chicago During May

May will hopefully bring the warm weather to Chicago that we’ve been craving. Rain or shine there’s plenty of fun things to do in the city with many activities being free or low cost. Whether it’s family activities, date night, or a night out with the girls, this list has something for everyone.

Here are a few things to enjoy during the month of May in Chicago!

Check out Loop at Navy Pier

Experience Loop, a FREE, interactive art installation for all ages, in Polk Bros Park! Sit down inside the retro-futuristic machine and activate the mechanism, causing beautiful images inspired by 13 fairy tales to come to life to the sounds of a music box. The Loop art installation runs through May 12, see it before it’s gone! Polk Bros Park, Navy Pier

Hamilton the Exhibition

Statue displays at Alexander Hamilton Exhibition
Hamilton the Exhibition (photo Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune)

See Alexander Hamilton’s remarkable story through his eyes in this 360-degree immersive exhibition inspired by the revolutionary musical. Get tickets here.NORTHERLY ISLAND • CHICAGO, IL

Free Tuesdays at the Chicago History Museum

Every Tuesday in May, Illinois residents can take in the history of Chicago and hear the stories of the people through interactive exhibitions and public programs for FREE. Chicago History Museum,1601 N Clark St, Chicago

Food Truck Social at Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo, Sat, May 11, 7:30 pm: Experience the most excellent meals (on wheels) Chicago has to offer, while also enjoying the zoo after hours. In addition to dozens of food trucks, there will be fun activities, live music, and drinks available for purchase. Lincoln Park Zoo Tickets are $10 here

Chicago Riverwalk Season Celebration

Chicago River
Chicago River Walk

Riverwalk, Monday, May 13-Sunday, May 19: (FREE)The City of Chicago will highlight the Riverwalk’s free summer programming during a public celebration running Monday, May 13, through Sunday, May 19. Activities include Year of Chicago Theatre themed programs, Art on The MART, walking tours led by the Chicago Architecture Center, Fishing at the Jetty led by the Chicago Park District and a pyrotechnic display off of the south drive of the Merchandise Mart on Monday, May 13. For complete details, visit ChicagoRiverwalk.us.

MUSIC BOX THEATRE MOVIES AT GALLAGHER WAY

Free movies at Gallagher Way
Music Box Movies at Gallagher Way

WED, MAY 16TH, 2018 TO WED, SEP 19TH, 2018 (FREE)

Gather your friends and family and come enjoy Gallagher Way’s free summer movie series brought to you by Music Box Theatre.

Kicking off Wednesday, May 16 and running every other Wednesday through September. Relax and picnic as you enjoy classic films such as A League of Their Own, Back to the Future, Home Alone, Twister and more. Gates open at 6:00 pm, screening starts at 7:30 pm. Full Schedule Here Gallager Way: 3635 N Clark St, Chicago

Chicago Antiques, Arts, & Design Show at The Mart

Antiques on display at The Mart
Chicago Antiques at The Mart

May 16-19, 2019 at The Mart The show will feature 75 premier national and international exhibitors presenting fine antiques, decorative and fine arts reflecting all design periods from ancient to 20th-century modern. The Mart Purchase tickets here

Chicago Wine Festival – Lincoln Park Wine Fest 2019

Glass of Red Wine
Over 60 varieties of wines available at Lincoln Park Zoo Wine Festival


Friday, May 17 – Sunday, May 19 Over 60 varieties of wines available for tasting. Tickets include 12 Tastings with each purchase. Beyond samplings, wine connoisseurs will also appreciate hearing the expertise of brand ambassadors and sommeliers. Live music, food-wine pairings, artisans, and the products/services of wine-related vendors will also be present. Tickets are on sale here, however, Groupon currently is offering discount tickets, get them before they’re gone! Jonquil Park

4th Annual House Music Conference and Festival

Friday, May 24-Saturday, May 25 Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion (FREE) The Chicago House Music Festival will feature an industry gathering, DJs and live performances showcasing the various sounds and styles of house music. Bust a move and bread a sweat as you celebrate the genre born in Chicago that has gone on to transform dance music internationally.
For a full schedule of events, visit the website: www.chicago.gov/dcase

Live on the Lake, Navy Pier 

Miller Lite Beer Garden at Navy Pier
Miller Lite Beer Garden

May 25, 2019: FREE live music in the Miller Lite Beer Garden will feature local favorites, national touring acts, and exciting new artists all summer long. Navy Pier

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE

  • 2:00PM – 3:00PM & 3:30PM – 4:30PM | The Contenders
  • 5:30PM – 6:30 PM & 7:00PM – 8:00PM | Creedence Revived
  • 9:10PM – 10:00PM & 10:25PM -11:30PM | Soul Commitments

Check out Offshore, the Nation’s Largest Rooftop Lounge

Offshore Rooftop Deck at Navy Pier
Offshore at Navy Pier

Opening sometime around Memorial Day weekend, Offshore’s all-seasons/all-weather venue spans over 36,000 square feet and boasts a full-service bar, world-class kitchen, terraces, seven cozy fire pits, an entertainment and gaming area, and multiple sizeable social gathering spaces. Offshore at Navy Pier

Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day Parade in Chicago
Memorial Day Parade

Saturday, May 25th (FREE)

Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade honors all men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. 

The Wreath Laying Ceremony will begin at 11 am on Daley Plaza (Dearborn and Washington Streets). The parade will then step off at noon and proceed south on State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street Kickoff at Daley Plaza

Offshore, Nation’s Largest Rooftop Deck Set to Open at Navy Pier

Get ready to take in new spectacular views of Chicago’s skyline when Offshore, the nation’s largest rooftop opens at Navy Pier, this May. The sexy and sophisticated space sits on the third floor atop Navy Pier’s Festival Hall at 1000 East Grand. Guests will enjoy panoramic, unmatched views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline.

Navy Pier

Offshore’s all-seasons/all-weather venue spans over 36,000 square feet and boasts a full-service bar, world-class kitchen, terraces, seven cozy fire pits, an entertainment and gaming area, and multiple large social gathering spaces.

Offshore at Navy Pier
Offshore at Navy Pier

Offshore Cuisine and Bar

The culinary direction will be led by Executive Chef Michael Shrader. Shrader served as Executive Chef for The N9NE Group and was the Founder and Executive Chef at Urban Union Chicago. Offshore will focus on seasonal, modern American cuisine with global influences served as small, shareable plates. Special on-site catering menus will also be available.

Clay Livingston, formerly of Red Herring Lounge and Kitchen in Louisville, will develop and curate the beverage program. Patrons should expect playful house-made craft cocktails, wine, champagne, and strong local craft beer options.

Chicago Skyline
Offshore will offer unmatched view of Chicago’s Skyline

Interior Details

Visitors will be greeted with a wall of cascading, colorful propellers flanked by two slate metal vintage series pool tables on either side. Floating globe lights line the corridor leading to a 16-foot-tall, 8,500 square foot indoor space. The beautiful indoor space will also include an expansive 100 foot, 60-stool bar. A barrel-vaulted roof and an operable glass enclosure covering the entire interior will fully retract, allowing the Lake Michigan breeze in, regardless of the season. The far Northeast corner of the Pier will deliver a unique perspective of the city skyline not found anywhere else.

Chicago Skyline

The 20,000 square foot Terrace features communal and high top tables allowing patrons to move about freely socializing while enjoying cocktails. The fire pits spread throughout the space will surely enhance the ambiance prompting relaxed, enjoyable conversation. A highlight of the deck is a 450 square-foot planter with lush greenery shaped like Chicago’s “Y” symbol, a nod to the Chicago River. On the Southeast end of the terrace, a stage for live entertainment overlooks the city’s skyline. Two private lawns with sail shade canopies will act as a destination for group gaming, social gatherings, bridal parties, weddings, and much more.

Offshore will surely be the destination for Chicago fun this summer. Look for it to open sometime around Memorial Day!

Hours of Operation

The hours of operation for Offshore are Monday – Thursday 4 p.m. – midnight, Friday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. – midnight.

Additional Information

  • Patrons must be 21 and over to enter Offshore.
  • Offshore is easily accessible through the pier, with ample valet service available.
  • To learn more visit www.drinkoffshore.com
  • For more information or to make a group reservation, please contact Director of Sales & Marketing Kathleen Jenkins at kathleen@drinkoffshore.com.

How to Reduce Food Waste at Home

The restaurants of DineAmic Hospitality teamed with James Beard Foundation Greens for a New Year, No Waste dinner. The evening shed light on the problem of food waste and discussed what communities could do to reduce food waste.

Barrio Restaurant Event Room
Barrio Event Room

Food Waste: A Global Problem

Fact: Approximately 1.3 billion tons of food produced in the world for human consumption is either lost or wasted. The United States throws away an estimated 40% of food provided, equal to $1,500 in wasted money each year in every household. The numbers are astounding considering many people go hungry and are without access to quality food.

Bowl with a variety of vegetables
40% of food produced in the United States is thrown away

Restaurants are some of the biggest contributors with about 11.4 million tons of food wasted annually at a cost of about $25 billion per year.

Chefs often awe us with beautiful food presentations created in their restaurants. However, we often don’t consider the amount of waste that comes with serving that perfect cut of fish. Therefore, it’s encouraging to hear how culinary leaders are adopting the mission to eliminate food waste while continuing to put forth beautiful flavorful dishes.

The evening began with cocktails

James Beard Foundation Waste Not

Launched in 2018, Waste Not is a multi-year campaign that challenges us to reduce food waste by thinking differently about food and adopting full-use cooking methods. A series of educational tools and events were created in support of the campaign demonstrating how each can make a difference by incorporating small changes.

DineAmic Group Chefs Jeremy Tannehill and Kevin Abshire's Proscuitto Sausage
Proscuitto Sausage

Suggestions For Reducing Food Waste at Home

If each American eliminated food waste just one day a week, more than 7.8 million tons of food would be saved each year — enough to provide almost 13 billion meals to the hungry. The following are a few suggestions and tips for home cooks contributed by chefs in the Waste Not Cookbook.

• When salad greens start to wilt, sauté them with some olive oil and garlic for a bright side dish.
• Save asparagus bottoms, carrot tops, mushroom stems, and other vegetable parts in freezer bags or containers for use in stocks, soups, and sauces.
• Buy meat, poultry, and fish on the bone. Save the bones for making stocks, or cook larger meat bones and feed them to pets.
• Use leftover rice to make fried rice on days you don’t feel like cooking something new, folding in whatever protein and vegetables you have on hand.
• If fruit gets too soft or old, put it in the freezer to use later in a homemade smoothie, or purée and mix with seltzer for a refreshing homemade soda.

Fabio Viviani's Yellowfin Tuna topped with frisee salad
Yellowfin Tuna

New Year, No Waste Dinner at Barrio

Throughout the dinner, chefs from various DineAmic Hospitality restaurants provided detailed descriptions of their dishes revealing how everything from onion peels to the usually discarded shrimp tails was repurposed to diminish or eliminate waste.

For Example:
Chef Ken Biffar of Siena Tavern explained how he used every part of new potatoes to create this fantastic appetizer.

Chef Ken Biffar of Siena Tavern's Crispy Potato Skins appetizer
Crispy Potato Skins

He first Roasted New Potatoes and removed the flesh. The skins were then fried and seasoned with sea salt. Next, the flesh was pureed with egg yolks (reserved from the salad preparation at Sienna Tavern restaurant) and then black truffle was added. They then used reserved onion; caramelized it along with black garlic to create a puree. A portion of the water used to boil potatoes for the mashed potatoes in the restaurant was added to a bit of cream to create the potato foam on top. Lastly, it was topped with Calvisius caviar, a fully sustainable fish. It was seriously one of my favorite bites from the evening with all of the levels of potato coming through.

4 Chefs smiling at the camera with their arms around each other
Chefs of Dinamic Group Hospitality Restaurants

A Mission Close to Heart

Katsuji Tanabe executive chef of Barrio, got emotional as he spoke on his personal experience with food. Growing up food was a day-to-day issue because his family didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. His mother repeatedly emphasized not wasting anything. He stated that it was important for chefs to take the lead in teaching others how to turn things around and reduce food waste.

Chef Katsuji Tanabe's Pozole Rojo:  A soup filled with seafood
Pozole Rojo

An unforgettable evening with an important message about mindfulness. Although my family and I have been proactively trying to cut down on food waste, there’s always room for improvement.

Some of the methods we use are:

  • Plan a menu for the week.
  • Eat any leftovers from meals for lunch or dinner the next day
  • Prep meals beforehand, we usually prep lunches for the week on Sundays
  • Properly Store fruits and vegetables so they stay fresh longer
  • Create a list for the grocery store with the exact quantities needed.
  • Eat everything in the cabinets and refrigerator even if we’d rather have something else. I often tell my son that we’re not buying additional food if there’s something to eat at home. My husband has gotten creative with fridge foraging and has put together some delicious meals (there have been a few clear misses too, lol)
  • Freeze foods that you know you won’t eat in time
  • Only buy what we need and avoid the urge to fill cabinets and refrigerator.

As stated, developing good habits even in small things makes a huge difference. Hopefully, this article will inspire others to follow suit. The benefits to the earth, environment, and community are numerous.

How do you reduce food waste? Let me know in the comments.

Fury Room Chicago; woman holding a bat

Anger Rooms: De-stress by Breaking Things

Bad breakup? Overwhelmed at work? Having a crummy week? Stress and rough patches are inevitable no matter who we are. Perhaps things have moved beyond stress, and you’re dealing with anger from divorce, loss of employment, or another trying situation.

What do you do when you need to breathe?

Would throwing a bottle against a wall or taking a bat to a television help? Maybe the thought crossed your mind but you thought the better of it.  What if I told you that there’s a place where you could destroy things for fun?

A single bat in a room with graffiti on the walls
Fury Room in Chicago’s Lincoln Square Neighborhood invites people to decompress by breaking things.

Individuals are seeking new ways to escape from day-to-day pressures. As a result, anger rooms are gaining popularity and appearing in cities all over the world. Chicago’s newest additions to the scene are the Fury Room in Lincoln Square and Escapades-Rage Room in River North.

Of course, a strenuous workout may do the trick for some. But others may need a release on a grander scale. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s more fun to break things. You can even scream while doing it!

Woman beating a body opponent training bag with a sledghammer
Blow of some steam by beating things at Chicago’s Fury Room

The owners of Chicago’s Fury room and Chicago Rage Room-Escapades want visitors to de-stress and release anger and frustration while destroying things in a safe environment without judgment.  Although the name denotes angry emotions, you don’t need to be incensed to take advantage of it.  It’s a great release for everyday stress and quite a workout.  After I smashed a table and television, I experienced a certain calmness.  It was therapeutic. 

Giving it a try is simple. Both places operate pretty much the same.

Video footage of Fury Room

Safety Gear

First, you gear up.  The protective gear covers you from head to toe.  Although, it’s a chore getting dressed you’ll appreciate the safety measures once you see glass flying at you.  Knowing you’re fully protected gives you the confidence to let loose and go crazy.

Choose your weapon: 

I utilized a sledgehammer and baseball bat.

Woman covered in protective gear holding sledgehammer
Participants must gear up from head to toe before entering rooms

Select Your Package:

Brown Couch
Themed living room

Select your package based upon the type and amount of items you’d like to break. Fury Room has three themed rooms to choose from with two rooms accommodating up to four people.  I’m sure the favorite will most likely be the space that resembles a living room.  Several people who watched my Instagram stories from my media sneak peek mentioned that they’ve always dreamed of trashing an apartment. Escapades offers one Rage Room plus escape rooms.

Select Your Song:

Get your adrenaline pumping by having your favorite tunes blaring during your tantrum.  You can either bring your own music or select something while there.

I admit, I initially felt a bit awkward smashing things.  I mean purposely damaging things is taboo.  Plus there’s jail if you do it in public, lol. I felt as if I was misbehaving, but after I loosened up and got into, I had a blast!  It’s fun destroying things without consequence.

The Fury Room is located in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, and Chicago Rage Room Escapades can be found downtown in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Give them a visit when there’s the need to blow off some steam! 

Remember to capture all the glory on video!

Click here for other fun things to do in the Midwest!

woman holding a crowbar over her head
Choose from 3 themed rooms at Chicago’s Fury Room

Women Effecting Change in the Automotive Industry

Inspiring women changing the auto industry from the inside was the focus of the 3rd annual What Drives Her luncheon and panel discussion. I was so looking forward to this event sponsored by A Girl’s Guide to Cars, Women in Automotive, and The Chicago Auto Show.


 Scotty Reiss , founder of A Girl’s Guide to Cars

The diverse group of women sharing candid stories of overcoming challenges and excelling in a male-dominated field stirred and motivated everyone in attendance!

What Drives Her Luncheon and Panel Sign
3rd Annual What Drives Her Luncheon and Panel Discussion

They urged each of us in attendance to use the drive and passion in our possession to create a path that leads to happiness!

Women are a Force

There’s something to be said about the energy in a room full of women championing other women to be the best version of themselves.  That spark drives you as you excitedly contemplate how you’ll make an application. It stays with you. You’ll later draw from that same incitement in those moments where fear and doubt creep in. This event hit the spot for me!

The speakers bought to light sobering statistics regarding the under-service of women in advertising and the automotive industry. For example, it was revealed that women account for or influence 85% of car purchases and hold the keys to 450 billion dollars a year in spending.  However, additional figures indicate that women account for only 25% of jobs in the automotive field. 

Leah Marshall, director, influencer marketing, with the Association of National Advertisers

We learned about the #seeher initiative. A movement bringing about needed changes in the way females are portrayed in advertising and the media. Many women feel underrepresented in advertising or negatively portrayed. I know I do.

Having open honest discussions regarding the imbalances is the beginning of change.

Four women sitting on a stage discussing women's integral role in the automotive industry while an audience with mostly women look on
Women changing the automotive industry from the inside

The array of influential women speakers in leadership roles from various backgrounds debunked the myths that automotive careers belong to technicians or salespersons.  There are many doors of opportunity.

Panel Discussion: Females driving change in Automotive Field

Autotrader’s Michelle Krebs moderated the topic involving change. Panelists included Jessica Petty, manager of customer data analytics, Hyundai; Jeneen Rippey, vice president of global quality, electronics division, ZF; and Edie Wines, instructor, National Automobile Dealers Association.

Wines, an instructor for the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) has been in the business for over 33 years.  She began with a temporary assignment in the automotive service department.  Eventually, Wines learned all but one job in the service department including service adviser.  This was unheard of in the majority-male field in the 1980s. 

She offered instruction to women coming into the industry or moving up the ladder “If you find yourself in an environment where you’re the only woman, don’t focus on that…it’s about performance level and not about the numbers…..show them your abilities and follow your dreams.

Large audience of women eating lunch at a banquet
Approximately 200 were in attendance at the luncheon and panel

Tanya Wingfield, vice president of engineering for Borg Warner concurred, reminding the room that there are many male-dominated industries, not just automotive.  She exhorted attendees “don’t put yourself in a box or allow anyone else to….be yourself ,work hard; As a result, opportunities will follow.” She also advised all to find a mentor whether it be a male or female.

From left; Zelda Robinson, Jennie LeFlore, Me, Michelle Lee, and LaToya Wright

Young girls and women were cautioned in regards to overlooking options.  Explaining, one need not be super interested in cars to be in the automotive industry. Design, Engineering and computer science are exciting ways to get involved.  There is a major need for qualified technicians and women were encouraged to consider this field.  It’s not the grease monkey, dirt under fingernails job of the past and it can be highly lucrative.

A group of women standing and smiling at the camera
Panel and Attendees of What Drives Her Luncheon at Chicago Auto Show

Panel Discussion: Work/Life Balance

The second-panel discussion moderated by Cars.com Editor-in-Chief, Jennifer Newman, centered around work, life, and creating balance while building or sustaining a career. Speakers included Kathy Gilbert, global director of sales & business development, CDK; Laurie King, SVP, global operations & strategic solutions, Turtle Wax; Subi Ghosh, senior director of dealer strategy, Stream Companies; Lauren Brandt, Facebook client solutions manager and Returnity Project co-founder; and Kerri Wise, vice president, industry education and relations, TrueCar.

2 African American women smiling at the camera.  They are standing in front of a red car.
Kerri Wise (right),
Vice President of industry education and relations for TrueCar

I appreciated how the ladies kept it real by stating that they’re not perfect and each day they’re learning more about balance. We women sometimes have a difficult time admitting this. Oftentimes, we strive for perfection to prove to the world that we have it all together all of the time. This actually is the opposite of balance and is quite unhealthy. The candid dialogue taking place on stage hit home with me.

What Drives Her luncheon and panel discussion

10 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Work Life Balance

When asked for advice on finding balance, the ladies had much to day. The following statements resonated with me.

  • Know your strengths and surround yourself with people that can help you build in the areas where you need strength.  Do this in your personal and business life- Laurie King
  • Find outlets to prevent burnout….find the balance whether it’s friends, traveling, or a fast car -Kathy Gilbert
  • Keep your guilt in check; as women we are guilty about everything from weight, being a good wife, parent, working…we worry too much about trying to be perfect and it’s stifling- Kerri Wise
  • Use Time Efficiently-Kerri Wise
  • Ask for help from your village and take a step back when needed -Lauren Brandt
  • Know your abilities and what it takes to get the work done.  Don’t lose confidence over 1 bad day-Laurie King
  • It’s all about Ebb and flows in a career, some days are necessarily long and require 120% and then there are days to take time off and enjoy.  Understand, recognize it and plan for it -Kathy Gilbert
  • Realize the world will revolve without you, delegate and trust the abilities of your team of supporters.-Kerri Wise
  • Communicate with your spouse, partner, and teammates-Lauren Brandt
  • Become comfortable with saying no in your personal and professional life-Lauren Brandt

Solid advice to carry in life.

I truly enjoyed the insightful conversations that occurred at the What Drives her panel as well as the networking afterward during the wine reception. I connected with many wonderful women and left feeling enthused and motivated.

Be sure to catch the Chicago auto show during its run at McCormick Place!

*Sponsored post; all opinions are my own.

How career women successfully balance work and life
Tips on balancing work and life

Green Lamborghini on an auto show floor

Chicago Auto Show: Fun Time for All

The Chicago Auto Show kicks off Saturday, February 9th and runs through February 18th. Attendees are in for a spectacular display of what’s new and hot in the world of automobiles. As the largest auto show in the nation, the Chicago Auto Show spans more than 1 million square feet of production, concept and exotic vehicle exhibit space.  Throw in engaging interactive displays, music, and live entertainment and you have a recipe for fun times!

Blue Polaris Slingshot with woman sitting in drivers seat
Polaris Slingshot

This year the Chicago Auto Show will host the first indoor Chicago Friday Night Flights, a craft beer sampling event. The affair takes place on Friday, February 15th and features over a dozen local Chicago breweries. Tickets are $30 and include access to the auto show. Considering my tab when the hubs and I go out for beers, that’s a steal! For other special show days and deals, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Ford F-150 Truck with Chicago Bears decal
Ford F-150 the official truck of the Chicago Bears

Nearly 1,000 automobiles will be on display during the show. Vehicles include domestic and imported passenger cars, trucks sport utility vehicles, minivans, and concept cars.  Additionally, visitors can admire a series of competition, antique, and collector cars.

Cherry red 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

You don’t have to be a car enthusiast knowing all the latest specifications to enjoy the Chicago Auto Show. If you’re someone like me who just appreciates beautiful art and details, the Chicago Auto Show is the place for you. The experience is something the whole family can enjoy!

Climbing netting for kids suspended above a white Ford truck
Ford Kid Zone

Chicago Auto Show Tickets and Dates

The show runs at McCormick Place from February 9th through the 18th.  Tickets are $13 for adults, $7 for seniors aged 62 and older, and $7 for children 7-12.  Children 6 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult family member.

Media Preview Details and Favorites

I attended the 2-day media preview to catch the news, introductions, and in-depth information on the new vehicles and technologies.  Some of the unveilings included the new Range Rover Evoque, “an SUV built for consumers in great cities with challenging weather conditions”, according to CEO Joachim Eberhard, the 2020 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Italia, and 2020 Kia Sportage.  In all nearly 20 vehicles made their debut during the media days.

Blue sportscar

2020 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Italia

There’s an array of interactive displays to engage with and fun vehicle experiences in addition to the exhibits.  Here are a few highlights not to be missed!

Test Track Experiences:

Jeep Wrangler on a driving test track coming down a hill
Jeep Test Track

Guests will find a total of 4 test tracks offered from Jeep, Land Rover, Dodge, and KIA.  Children can ride on the test tracks. However, some have minimum height restrictions while others require kids to be at least eight years old.  The best track belonged to Jeep. But you have to request the Wrangler, it gives more thrill than the Cherokee. The Land Rover track was a close second.  

Chevy Silverado LEGO TRUCK

Red Chevy Silverado truck built out of LEGOS
Chevy Silverado constructed with LEGOS

Stop by and peek at the Chevy Silverado built from LEGOS.  During the show, there will be a LEGO station for guests to try their hand at building the truck.  Who doesn’t love LEGOS?!?!

Ride Similators

Woman sitting in a car simulator
Toyota Racing Simulator

Don’t miss the Toyota racing simulator, it’s a fun, fast, smooth ride.  Hyundai and Acura also invite you to put yourself in the driver’s seat with simulated challenges. I crashed and didn’t even finish half the course, yeesh!

Woman suspended in the air in fun photo op

Speaking of TOYOTA, they bought their A-Game with their interactive demonstrations and photo ops. I spent quite a bit of time playing around in their exhibit area. There are plenty of Instagrammable opportunities so be sure to scope them out!

Gray Infiniti 10 concept car on showroom floor
Infiniti 10 Concept

I had a fantastic time previewing the Chicago Auto Show and drooling over the vehicles. There were clear standouts for sure.  I swooned over all of the colorful, fast cars with impressive specs but in the end, I fell in love with the Nissan Envy Camper Van!

Gray Camper van with woman standing inside
Envy Camper Van

This van was designed for me! It comes equipped with a refrigerator and freezer, ample storage, kitchen sink, hot water shower, 10-gallon freshwater tank, 5-gallon gray water tank, insulated paneling and floor, pre-wired for solar, and sleeps 4. Above all, it fits in your garage, so there’s no need to worry about RV parking! I’m in love. This van is perfect for campers, travelers, and weekend warriors.

Gray Camper Van that sleeps four and is equipped like an RV
Nissan Envy Camper Van

Chicago Auto Show’s Money Saving Days

The Chicago Auto Show is an entertaining way to spend a day out in the city without busting the wallet. If you’re like me, always looking to save money, here are a few days to keep in mind:

  • Sports Team Pride Day: Monday, Feb. 11. Wear your favorite Illinois team jersey to the show on Sports Team Pride Day and receive $6 off of adult admission.
  • Women’s Day: Tuesday, Feb. 12. Women are offered a discounted ticket at $7.  The show will also offer an engaging series of events including panel discussions, workshops and networking opportunities geared towards females.
  • A Safe Haven Food Drive: Wednesday, Feb. 13 – Friday, Feb. 15. Show patrons who bring three cans of food will receive a coupon for a $7 adult admission. All food will be donated to A Safe Haven Foundation. 

Other Special Days:

  • Hispanic Heritage Day: Friday, Feb. 15. The Chicago Auto Show partners with Hispanic media outlets to program various activities throughout the day. Now in its 12th year, Hispanic Heritage Day honors and celebrates the Latino history and culture with a full-day lineup of special events and programs throughout the show. 
  • Chicago Friday Night Flights: Friday, Feb. 15. Produced in partnership by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild and Choose Chicago, the new craft beer event will feature 16 local breweries and offer a tasting pass for attendees to sample pours while accessing the show. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $30 which includes tickets to the Chicago Auto Show and the beer tasting experience.
  • Family Day: Monday, Feb. 18. The Chicago Auto Show will host family-friendly events on Presidents Day to wrap up the last day of the show

Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity to visit during the Chicago Auto Show’s 10-day run. Tell me your favorite cars or experiences in the comments!

For other Chicago activities click here!

Dablon Vineyards: Changing Perceptions of Michigan Wine

Set aside plenty of time for your visit to Dablon Vineyard’s tasting room during your wine tasting tour of Michigan. Because once you step inside the stunning space and take in the vineyard views, you won’t want to leave!  The style and design encourage guests to unwind, socialize, and linger. Whether gathered around the cozy fireplace, hanging at the bar or sharing a table with friends.

People wine tasting gathered around a bar
Dablon Vineyards Tasting Room

Recalling my first visit, I couldn’t get over the beauty of the space!  It was a snowy winter day, and it was a welcome escape from the cold. The view of the winter wonderland through the many windows inside the gorgeous space gave my friends and I the feeling that we were at a ski resort.

Couch and fireplace inside of a winery
Dablon’s cozy tasting room

The Baroda, Michigan vineyard and tasting room sits in the middle of Southwest Michigan Wine Country and is only a 1 1/2 hour drive from Chicago.

A group sitting at a table playing cards
Dablon’s tasting room is a great place to chill and socialize

The vineyard provides entertainment every weekend with live music or films from Music Box Theatre to enjoy with your wine.  Fun fact:  The owner of Dablon Vineyard, William Schopf, is also the owner of the Music Box Theatre, one of Chicago’s oldest theatres built in1929.

Man and Woman smiling at camera
Caitlin Terwilliger and Owner William Schopf

Story Behind the Dablon Vineyard Name

Large wine tasting room with bar and fireplace
Dablon’s spacious bar and tasting room

The land the vineyard sits on was once part of New France and is named in honor of Claude Dablon, a 1600’s French explorer and Jesuit priest who was one of the first Europeans to arrive in Michigan while it was still part of New France.  According to history, Dablon made wines out of wild grapes he found in the woods for sacrament and communion.

Dablon vineyard’s goal is to create exceptional wine by marrying European varietals with Southwest Michigan terroir.

Picture of the exterior of a building
Exterior of Dablon’s tasting room
Vineyard at Dablon
Dablon’s Rolling Vineyards

Dablon Grapes and Wine

Specializing in dry reds and whites, Dablon is changing the perception of Michigan wine. Therefore, Forget the old way of thinking that the state only produces a sweet wine.  The vineyard produces beautiful, quality, wines in the tradition of the French regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux France. Winemaker Rudy Schaffer states “ the belief that all Michigan wine is sweet wine is false; Michigan can grow many of the varietals that a warmer climate can grow due to the proximity to Lake Michigan.” The grapes grown on the estate include Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Malbec, and Syrah among others.

map showing where grapes are planted at Dablon Vineyard
Map of the vineyard’s Grape Varieties

Everything from spacing to shoot positioning is adopted, with positioning, grape harvesting, and sorting all done by hand.  The process can be very labor intensive and expensive, however, the winemakers feel their methods ensure better quality and set them apart from their competitors.

Sign saying trail to winery
Trail leading to vineyard

I can’t think of anything better than enjoying delicious wine with friends in lovely surroundings, can you? Be sure to add Dablon to your list of places to check out when you’re in Southwest Michigan!

Hand holding a bottle of Cabernet Franc
My Favorite!
Rack of Meadow Lamb “off the bone” and Crépinette of Lamb Sausage, “Fondant” of Fingerling Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Ashed Flora Goat Cheese, Charred Peppers and Bermuda Onions

George Trois Named Restaurant of the Year at Jean Banchet Awards

The Chicago culinary scene gathered in celebration and recognition of the city’s culinary excellence at the 2019 Jean Banchet Awards.  The prestigious honors are named after Chef Jean Banchet, a Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame inductee instrumental in making Chicago the culinary destination that it is today.

Jean Banchet Awards

The Jean Banchet Awards ceremony presented by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is the only Chicago-based awards ceremony that recognizes culinary originality and talent throughout the region.

The top honors of the evening went to George Trois for Restaurant of the Year and Chef Jason Hammel for Chef of the Year.

Restaurant of the Year

George Trois is a French-influenced restaurant located in Winnetka. Chef/owner Michael Lachowitz is a third-generation chef who trained under great chefs, including famed chef Jean Banchet at Le Francais in Wheeling, IL. Each guest who books an experience at George Trois is treated to a 12-course chef tasting menu with each course delivered and explained by Chef Michael.

Chef of the Year

Jason Hammel of restaurants Lula Café in Logan Square and Marisol in the Museum of Contempory Art is known for spearheading the “farm-to-table” movement. Chef Hammel was among the first chefs to source local, organic ingredients, and build close relationships with Midwestern farmers.

The complete list of winners is listed below and with Restaurant Week running January 25-February 7, 2019 you have the perfect opportunity to visit some of the winners for great deals. I look forward to Restaurant Week every year because it’s the only time I feel like I’m getting a deal on food prices in the city (click here for my recap of last year). The prix fixe menus allow for diners to have several courses at one set price, starting at $24 for brunch and lunch, and $36 and/or $48 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax, and gratuity)

It’s always a good time to discover a new restaurant so even if you miss them during Restaurant Week add them to you list to visit another time!

Creme Brulee
Creme Brulee

This year’s Chicago Restaurant Week will be the largest ever, with nearly 400 local restaurants participating, including over 100 first-time participants and 45 suburban restaurants.

I’ve included the links to each of the winning restaurant’s website.  Don’t miss your chance to get in on Chicago’s excellent culinary scene!

Jean Banchet Complete List of Winners

Restaurant of the year presented by the Illinois Restaurant Association: George Trois Website

Chef of the Year Presented by S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Natural Mineral Water & Acqua Panna Natural Spring Water: Jason Hammel (Lula Cafe, Marisol) Marisol Websitehttps://www.marisolchicago.com/

Rising Chef of the Year: Alisha Elenz (MFK. restaurant) MFK Website

Best Chef-de-Cuisine Presented by Sparrow Coffee Roastery: Ryan Pfeiffer (Blackbird) Blackbird Website

Pastry Chef of the Year Presented by Cacao Barry: Nicole Guini (Blackbird, Avec) Avec Website

Rising Pastry Chef of the Year Presented by Nielsen-MasseyVanillas: Elaine Townsend (FatRice)

Best Neighborhood Restaurant: Pizzeria Bebu Website

Best Heritage Restaurant: APlace BY DAMAO Website

Best New Restaurant: S.K.Y. Website

Best Sommelier Presented by Champagne Henriot: Jill Gubesch (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Leña Brava) Frontera Grill Website, Topolobampo Website, Leña Brava Website

Best Mixologist Presented by Breakthru Beverage Illinois: Stephanie Andrews (Billy Sunday) Billy Sunday Website

Best Restaurant Design: Pacific Standard Time Website

Best Service: Temporis Website

Best Bar: Moody Tongue Website

NEW* Best Counter Service Calumet Fisheries Website

Cocktail in spotlight

Dinner and a Show at The Promontory

Dinner and a show at The Promontory in Chicago’s Hyde Park Neighborhood is a MUST. It’s the whole package for Chicago nightlife;  A sophisticated hearth-driven restaurant with dishes from Executive Chef Carlos Cruz, solid cocktails, and live entertainment in an intimate venue paying homage to the legacy of the music and arts scene on Chicago’s South Side!

Signage outside of the Promontory restaurant in Hyde Park
The Promontory located in Hyde Park

As a result of my recent evening at the Promontory for dinner and a show, I’m already planning a return! The space and vibe are right up my alley!

Interior of The Promontory restaurant showing floor to ceiling windows and diners
Restaurant Interior
Bar inside of The Promontory restaurant with patrons sitting all around
Bar

Promontory Restaurant

I was treated to all of the action happening in the kitchen from my seat at the Chef’s counter and the smells permeating the air along with my observations of the chefs had my mouth watering in anticipation.  My friend and I started with cocktails and appetizers.  The cocktail list is creative with flavor profiles for many palates.  I ordered My Darling Clementine, and it was bomb delicious!  When you sip and pause to contemplate, you know it’s a good cocktail.

Hearth used for cooking at the Promontory restaurant
Hearth
Cocktail Fall Sgroppino
Tito’s Vodka, Roasted
pear sorbet, Bubbles
Fall Sqroppino Cocktail

The Promontory Menu

Appetizers of smoked feta, hearth roasted sweet potatoes, hearth roasted beets, oysters Rockefeller,and hearth blistered shishito peppers followed. 

I favored the smoked feta, sweet potatoes, and shishito peppers.  I’m a bit obsessed with olives and the combination with the creamy and smokey taste of the feta along with the crunch of the hearth bread was divine.  The hearth roasted sweet potatoes were smack yo mama good!  This dish could be a side dish as well as a dessert in addition to an appetizer.  The texture of the hearth roasted sweet potatoes was perfect, and popcorn and miso butter added a perfect balance of sweet and savory.  I’m still dreaming about this.  The shishito peppers were tasty with a slight fish flavor from the bonito! So Good! 

Plate with moked feta, marinated olives, hearth bread
Smoked feta, marinated olives, hearth bread
hearth roasted sweet potatoes, miso butter, popped sorghum
Hearth roasted sweet potatoes, miso butter, pooped sorghum
oysters Rockefeller, grilled oysters, creamed poblano, parmesan, herb bread crumbs
Oysters Rockefeller: grilled oysters, creamed poblano, parmesan, herb bread crumbs
hearth blistered shishito peppers, miso mayo, cilantro, bonito flakes
Hearth blistered shishito peppers, miso mayo, cilantro, bonito flakes

I shared a video on my Instagram of the shishito peppers covered in bonito flakes, and many people commented asking if my food was alive.  In case you’re wondering too, no. The movement was from the bonito flakes which are dried, smoked shavings of bonito fish; they’re so light and wispy the steam from the hot food makes them dance. 

Shishito peppers with bonito flakes

We moved on to the entrees by ordering the scallops, lamb shank, and salmon. Watching as the chefs prepared scallops prompted me to order my own.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The lamb shank also stood out, it was tender and flavorful.  

Promontory Music Venue

After our wonderful meal, we headed up to the 2nd-floor venue to catch the show featuring New Orleans brass band, the Abney Effect, part of the monthly Fat Tuesdays at the venue. 

The Promontory Music Venue

The energy, stage presence, and musicality had me in awe!  It was spectacular!  The crowd loved it; everyone was dancing and having a good time.  FYI, my cocktail in the upstairs venue was again delicious.  The Promontory has a plethora of culturally diverse shows for you to jam with. Click here for their full lineup and be sure add Dinner and a Show at The Promontory to your list of things to do in Chicago!   

*The dinner and show was complimentary, however, all opinions are mine and genuine.

New Orleans Brass Band, the Abbney Effect

The Abney Effect
The Abney Effect at The Promontory

Click here for another great place to spend your evening in Chicago.

Tempura fried shrimp, arugula pistou, cauliflower, Fresno chilis, peanuts, crunchy quinoi, baby greens

Best Chicago Restaurants: Girl’s Night at Cafe Robey

With so many fantastic restaurants in Chicago, especially in Wicker Park, it can be a challenge to stand out as one of the best. 

Café Robey situated inside the Robey Hotel is a standout in my opinion.  I recently enjoyed a much-needed girls night there with my friend April a.k.a The Tipsy Housewife.  It was the perfect spot. When it comes to Girl’s Night, the place is almost as important as the company, lol. It’s not something that happens weekly so we choose our places wisely.

Cafe Robey checks all the boxes for food, atmosphere, wine, and excellent service.  Our server was not only a conversationalist; he was also knowledgeable and excited about the menu and recommendations.  The icing on the cake was The Up Room, a cocktail lounge located on the rooftop of the hotel.  It was the perfect way to end a fantastic dinner!

Inside of Cafe Robey's dining area
Cafe Robey Dining Room

I find it humorous that I’ve been introduced to yet another fabulous restaurant located inside of a hotel within a few months span since I’ve stated maybe too loudly in the past that I avoid all restaurants located in hotels because of past experiences with overpriced and underwhelming food. I was first blown away by Chef Caray of The Ashburn located inside of Loews Hotel O’Hare. Therefore, I’m developing a more open mind; perhaps some of the best Chicago restaurants are inside of hotels.

Two women enjoying wine at Cafey Robey restaurant
Girl’s Night

Location

The Wicker Park neighborhood is a great destination for delicious food in Chicago! The Modern American fare restaurant sits at the famous 6 section intersection that gives me a pinch of anxiety every time I drive through it because you can bet your life I will misread the signs yet again and go down the wrong street. I think I’ve gotten it right once, lol.

Ambiance

The stunning interior and intimate lighting inside the cozy space is pleasing to the eyes and relaxing. I was glad that I dressed up! In addition, the seating is oh so comfortable, I swiftly melted into it. Adding wine to this formula made for animated and natural conversation which is what girls’ night should be; real and raw dialogue sharing all of who did or said what to you with your friends and enjoying the moment. We covered everything under the sun; business, loss, religion, family, foolishness, you name it! I intend on introducing more of my girlfriends to this place.

Wine Specials

I recommend ordering a bottle of wine as the restaurant offers a nice variety of reds and whites. In addition, Monday through Thursday you can get full bottles of wine for ½ off. Good incentive to go out for a drink during the week. Our waiter recommended two different bottles for us and though we relished them both, the O.P.P made us stop in our tracks. I’ll be getting that every time.

Monday-Thursday all bottles of wine are half-off!

Menu Offerings

Braised Pork Belly: 5-min egg, piccalilli mustard, paratha bread, ale pork jus, bibb lettuce, Uplands cheese foam
Pork Belly

We ate a large portion off the menu and loved every minute of it.  I’m more apt to remember everything I ate over everything we talked about, especially over 2 bottles of wine. 

Porchini Pappadelle: braised oxtail, glazed mushrooms, creme fraiche, lemon zest, herbs
Porchini Pappadelle

Some of the highlights from the evening were the tempura fried shrimp, it’s always a risk for me to eat anything fried since it usually doesn’t sit well with me, however, the shrimp was so light. It didn’t bother me one bit.  The porchini pappadelle was another favorite.  I savored the flavor of the rich gravy over the perfectly cooked pasta.  The dill gave it a nice refreshing balance.  The seared scallops and beef tartar were my other 2 favorites.  Cafe Robey ranks as one of the best restaurants in Chicago for beef tartar in my opinion, it was definitely the best I’ve had so far.

Seared sea scallops, English pea romesca, potato fondant, fried garlic scrapes, Aleppo chili, Boquerones, pea tendrils
Seared Sea Scallops

The ganache for dessert was the perfect ending to an incredible meal.  I’m not big on overly sweet desserts so this was a good option for me. Loved it!

Beef Tartar:  Diced New York Strip, Stout Gougeres, blue cheese, arugula, seared pearl onions, cherry tomatoes, potato chips
Beef Tartar
Dark chocolate ganach, cookie crumbs, honeycomb, strawberries, almond tuile, vanilla ice cream
Dark Chocolate Ganache

After our fantastic meal, we headed upstairs to the UP Room for a cocktail. The lounge is on the 13th floor of the Robey Hotel.  I had no idea what to expect and was beyond impressed by this discovery.  This rooftop lounge has a spectacular view of the city, so anyone looking for a special night out in Chicago should check it out.

Final Thoughts

Cafe Robey is one of the best choices for restaurants in Chicago when you want the whole package. Hence, I see many girls nights here in my future as well a few date nights with the hubby.

The Up Room Cocktail Lounge on the 13th floor of the Robey hotel
The Up Room
Wine at the Up Room cocktail lounge
The Up Room Cocktail Lounge
Two women toasting at Cafe Robey restaurant
Wine and Conversation at Cafe Robey

Although April and I were hosted for dinner by Cafe Robey, we formed our own opinions and recommendations after an incredible dinner. As a result, I’ll be returning in the near future.

Looking for more casual eating in Chicago? Check out my list for the best spots for fast casual in the Loop.

Utility Box Murals tell the history of Milwaukee

A Weekend Getaway in Milwaukee

Milwaukee is a beautiful city and I can’t for the life of me recall why I’ve never traveled there for a getaway weekend in the past. My husband and I really enjoyed our recent visit there! Dave and I had no idea what to expect besides beer. We were pleasantly surprised during our trip and started planning our next visit to the city while still there.

We only scratched the surface during our exploration as we discovered there’s an abundance of activity to get involved in. We’re going to need several visits to really take in the history, arts, breweries, and culinary scene.

Here are a few highlights from our weekend.

Utility Box Murals tell the history of Milwaukee

Utility Box Mural

Utility Box Murals tell the history of Milwaukee

Utility Box Mural ‘Al McGuire and Marquette University’

Hilton Downtown Milwaukee City Center

Our visit was due to a business trip. Therefore, my husband’s company selected the hotel.  We were both pleased with the choice of the Hilton in downtown Milwaukee.  The hotel was built in 1927 and was originally the Schroeder hotel.  It’s currently the city’s largest hotel. I was obsessed with architecture as there were so many attractive features and details!  I can just imagine the lavishness of the guests who frequented the hotel in the 1920’s and 30’s.   The preservation and balance between old and new are perfect!  Also, the rooms were clean, spacious, and quite comfortable.

Friday Evening

Friday evening after check-in we headed out to dinner at Red Light Ramen, a local favorite in the east side neighborhood of Milwaukee.  My husband was a bit skeptical when we arrived, but two of my Chicago foodie friends recommended this spot, and I trust their taste.  The inside is intimate and seats 20 people at most.  I enjoyed the vibe and the Hip Hop coming through the speakers whiled we dined.  I even started chair dancing at one point much to Dave’s embarrassment!  Whatever I gotta be me.

Our server recommended that I try one of their slushies as it’s a cocktail favorite and I’m so glad that I did.  It was a Bourbon slushy, and it was incredible!  I wanted a second, but I could only handle one, didn’t want to be asleep under the table.    My husband did order a second bowl of ramen though after happily devouring the first one.  The ramen was delicious so I couldn’t blame him.  I made him share some of that second bowl with me.

Foundation Tiki Bar

Desiring an additional cocktail after dinner, we headed to a tiki bar named Foundation in Milwaukee’s River West neighborhood.  This place was the real deal!  My amazing cocktail only topped the ambiance!  We relaxed as if we were on an exotic vacation. It’s a great gathering spot and on the list when we visit again.

Saturday Brunch

No matter where I go, I’m brunching somewhere!  We decided to hit Blues Egg to fuel up.  Blues Egg is known for their pulled ham that’s pickle brined 21 days and slow roasted for 12 hours, stuffed hashbrowns, and monkey bread that allows you the option get it “crunk.”  Crunk Monkey bread comes with a sinfully delicious Bourbon sauce that also goes well in your coffee.

Our server’s name was Peter, and he was delightful from start to finish.  It’s obvious that he loves people and enjoys what he does.  Peter offered to order for me.  I don’t mess around with my food, but feeling adventurous, I handed him the reigns.  He asked me a few questions and told me that he knew just the thing for me.

Dave had the Creamy Polenta; poached eggs, roasted mushrooms, braised kale, sauce fonduta while Peter chose the Far-Flung Wrap for me:  scrambled eggs, house-made turkey sausage, aged provolone, curry tortilla, sour cabbage, avocado, chili hollandaise, and mushroom stuffed hashbrowns.  Although I’m not big on wraps because they’re just meh to me, the flavor of this tortilla got me. It had a slight bit of heat to it and was tasty.  The sour cabbage was yummy; if it were pickled, it would’ve been kimchi.

Overall, I was very happy with Peter’s choice for me and the combination of flavors.  Blues Egg was my favorite meal from the weekend.  In addition to the food, the atmosphere just gave me happy feelings.  It could have something to do with the Motown sounds that were coming through the speakers. It just reminded me of our large family gatherings; always centered around food and music.  I can’t recommend this place enough.

Blues Egg Far Flung Wrap

Far-Flung Wrap

Blues Egg's Creamy Polenta

Creamy Polenta

Saturday Afternoon

Looking to get a bit of sightseeing in before heading to work meetings we rode over to Miller Town to peek around.  Miller Brewery began in 1855 and is one of the oldest breweries in the United States.  Driving along the roadway through Miller Town feels like you’re going back in time.  We didn’t have enough time to do the brewery tour; it’s on the list for our next visit.  I did pop in at Miller Inn, a Bavarian-style stein hall, to glance around.  There’s a lot of history in there, and the interior is beautiful, with stained-glass windows, and artistic woodwork.  The historic Miller Caves are located right behind the inn.  The caves were dug in 1849 and were originally used to keep the beer cool.  Nowaday’s the space is used to host beer pairing dinners.

Miller Inn

Historic Miller Inn

Miller Caves

Historic Caves at Miller Inn

Seeing as Dave and I are both art lovers, we sought out a few of the cities murals.  My favorite stop was in Black Cat Alley in the East Side neighborhood.  Once an empty alley, this destination is now filled with 30,000 square feet of artist’s murals, therefore, you’ll want to spend some time there admiring the work.

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Black Cat Alley

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Black Cat Alley

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‘Fly Boy’

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‘Jazz Goat’

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John Kowalczyk

Several times throughout the weekend Dave or I would comment how good of a time we were having in the city and wished that we could stay another day to take in more of the sights.

Because we were so fascinated with the architecture in our hotel, we decided to stop and peek at another hotel in a historic building. The Hilton Garden Inn is housed in the 1846 built Loyalty building, and the staircase, details, and skylight are stunning!

So much to see so little time!  As much as I love beer, it was interesting that we didn’t hit up as many breweries as we could. But we did drink beer, just to be clear, lol.  We just hung at the pub.  We’re planning a brewery crawl for our next visit.

Miller Pub

Sunday

On our way home we stopped for breakfast at Mad Rooster Cafe in West Milwaukee and it’s another culinary winner!  I had the Mad Omelette, and I wasn’t mad about my choice :).  Add it to the list of breakfast places to dine at during your visit.

I can’t say enough about our weekend in Milwaukee, who knew!  Not many!  When I shared portions of our trip in my Instagram story, I received comments along the lines of “wow, I didn’t know Milwaukee was so nice!”  Now you know!  Tell me, have you visited Milwaukee?  Where should I go next time? Inform me in the comments!

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Mad Rooster Cafe

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Mad Omelet

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Utility Box Mural

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Civil Rights Utility Box Mural

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Hilton Garden Inn Interior

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Cudahy Tower

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Cudahy Tower Built in 1907

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Hilton Downtown Milwaukee

Miller Inn

Stained Glass inside Miller Inn

Utility Box Mural, Downtown Milwaukee

Best Things to do in Chicago During December

I look forward to December in Chicago every year; not because I like the cold and snow but because of all of the activities packed into the month.  There’s so much to do in the month of December with many events being free or low cost so most can take advantage of them!  Here’s a list of can’t miss activities happening during December in the city!

Christkindle Market

Inspired by the Christkindle Market in Nuremberg, Germany, this free outdoor market takes place in Daley Plaza.    Explore German food, drinks, shopping, and entertainment thru December 24th.   You can also catch the market in Naperville.  Entry into the Christkindle Market is FREE.

One-of-a-Kind Show at The Mart

Browse hundreds of handmaid one-of-a-kind items from over 600 artists at The Mart December 6-9th!  Tickets start at $12 or choose from ticket packages starting at $18.  Pro Tip:  If you sign up for emails from some of the featured artists you can score free tickets. Shoppers will have the opportunity to meet and engage with participating artists to learn about them, their creative process, and their work while shopping art, fashion, jewelry, wood, photography, glass, furniture, home goods, pet products, bath & body, and so much more!  Everything you’re looking for in one place!

Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon

Take in the skyline as you skate the ribbon at Maggie Daley Park.  This family-friendly activity is always a highlight of winter in Chicago.

Art on The Mart

This free display happens Wednesdays-Sundays from 7-9pm.  Hang out on the Chicago River Walk as the Merchandise Mart turns into the largest digital art projector in the world.  Thirty-four projectors will showcase the works of four renowned contemporary artists during the 2-hour shows.  The Mart spans two city blocks and is over 25 stories high, don’t miss this spectacular display

West Town Winter Fest’s Jolly Trolley

Hop on the Jolly Trolley to shop the Blocks of West Town during Winterfest on December 8th.  Over 20 retailers will feature special promotions, one-of-a-kind items, and trunk sales.  The guided tour lasts 3 hours, features all the shopping blocks and provides a “checked shopping bag” service, so you don’t have to worry about your gifts while you shop. Receive a $20 Gift Certificate when you purchase a $10 Jolly Trolley ticket.  Adult beverages are provided during the trolley ride.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

The one-of-a-kind experience offers fun, free, family-oriented festivities, and hundreds of dynamic displays all under the glow of 2.5 million lights.  Zoolights is free entry.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo

Ride the Polar Express

Hop on board AMTRAK’s Polar Express taking off from Chicago’s Famous Union Station! This is the only time it’s acceptable to wear your pajamas in public, since guests are encouraged to come dressed in their PJs, lol.    Each 3-hour memorable ride includes live entertainment, delicious hot chocolate, a cookie, and a keepsake.

Navy Pier’s Winter Wonderfest

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier is an annual Chicago winter event, featuring 170,000 square feet of carnival rides, giant slides, holiday-themed activities, and Indoor Ice Skating Rink, and more.

Illumination:  Tree Lights at Morton Aboretorum

Walk a mile long paved path amid a multitude of colors as interactive lighting effects highlight the beauty of trees in winter. Enjoy seasonal music, stare in amazement at the ever-changing, interactive lighting designs, and warm up by a crackling fire with a cozy drink or roast marshmallows for s’mores. Purchase tickets here.

Check Out the Winky Lux Experience

The WINKY LUX EXPERIENCE is a pop-up inside The Shops at Northbridge There are seven Instagrammable rooms waiting for you to let loose and get creative in.  I think the guys enjoyed it just as much as us ladies. The tour is free but you may want to pick up some of Winky Lux’s cruelty-free beauty products while you’re there.

Navy Pier Fireworks

Take in the New Years Eve Fireworks Show over Lake Michigan on December 31st starting at 12 a.m.  This event is free!

Navy Pier Fireworks

Photo courtesy Navy Pier

ChicagoDec

 

Boar's Head Cafe

Best Fast-Casual Restaurants in Chicago’s Loop

Fast-casual restaurants are the bridge between fast food and full table service restaurants.  These days options in The Loop are much more exciting than in years past.  Finally, there are more unique offerings where one can sit down for a quick meal or pick up food to go without sacrificing quality instead of the usual chains.

Here’s a list of my ten favorites to visit when looking for a quick bite in the middle of the workday or when in need of refueling while shopping.

1.  Gayles Best Ever:

Gayles was recently ranked in the top 20 of grilled cheese sandwiches in the country by the New York Post. The grilled cheese is simply amazing!  She uses freshly baked sourdough bread and sources fresh locally made cheese, butter, meats, jams, and vegetables for her sandwiches.  Trust me; you can taste the difference!  You can find Gayles Best Ever in Block 37 in the Pedway Monday-Friday 7:00-6:00 p.m.

2.  Boar’s Head Cafe:  210 W Lake St

I only recently discovered Boar’s Head Cafe even though it’s only a few blocks from my office and has been open for two years. Boar’s Head, a family-owned company, has been in business for 110 years!  Plainly stated, they believe in high service and high-quality ingredients without the use of fillers or msg.  Two local Chicagoans own the café in The Loop.  The sandwiches are made fresh and packed with flavor.  Everything in here screams quality, from the gluten-free kettle chips to the locally made, all natural cookies. I was majorly impressed with how clean the restaurant is; I mean it’s pristine!  Food is much more enjoyable in a clean environment.  Hang out for a while or grab n go.  This place is excellent, get in there already! Monday-Friday 6:30-6:00 p.m.

 

3.  Roti Modern Mediterranean, 80 E. Lake St.

Roti’s purpose is ‘ to serve food that loves you back,’ it’s nice to have healthier fast-casual options in The Loop! Roti sources the best ingredients and prepares them straightforward so that all of the tastes come through.  They practice sustainable sourcing.  Their chicken is antibiotic free, their beef is grass-fed, and their salmon is always fresh, never frozen, and filleted by hand in the mornings.  The lamb meatballs are the bomb!  Open Daily  11-9 p.m. weekdays and 11-8 p.m. weekends.

4.  BienMeSabe:  29 E. Adams St.

BienMeSabe is a Venezuelan fast-casual restaurant that recently opened its Loop location.  The original location is in Ravenwood.  The interior is small, so you may do well to get your order to go.  It packs up pretty fast.  I darn near broke out in song and dance when I bit into one of their Arepas named the After Party.  It was stuffed with roasted pork, Gouda cheese, and avocado slices.  Holy SMOKES!!! Love at first bite is correct!  On Wednesdays, you can get their arepas for $5.99!  BienMeSabe is open Monday-Saturday 11-10 p.m. weekdays and 11-7 p.m Saturdays

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BienMeSabe

5.  Sweetgreen:  1 N. Dearborn St.

Uncomplicated, seasonal, healthy food is what Sweetgreen is all about.  It’s probably my favorite fast-casual place for salads near the office.  I love the premium options offered, not many fast-casual places where I can get shrimp on my salad.  Sweetgreen is the place to go when you want to know exactly where your food came from.  This place gets pretty crowded, I usually order through the Sweetgreen APP and grab n go.  Monday-Friday 10:30-8:00 p.m.

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Sweetgreen: 1 N. Dearborn

 

6.  Revival Food Hall:  125 S. CLARK ST.

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Revival Food Hall

Revival Food Hall is your fast-casual fantasy; a massive, 24,000 square foot gourmet food hall that’s sure to overwhelm you with choices on your first visit.  I can’t even begin to convey the excitement I felt when this spot opened in 2016!  It features 15 fast-casual stalls of Chicago restaurants in a grab-and-go setting.  It’s perfect for groups of picky eaters.  My co-workers and I don’t always agree on where to lunch; Revival makes us all happy.  Options include Nashville hot chicken, Detroit style pizza, Ramen, seafood from Brown Bag Seafood, desserts from Mindy’s Hot Chocolate and much more!  Open Monday-Friday 7-7PM, Bar open til 9 p.m.

7.  Frontera Fresca: Macy’s 7 on State, 111 N. State St.

Frontera Fresca dishes fresh gourmet Mexican food.  The quick-service restaurant, located on the 7th floor of Macy’s on State St is the creation of acclaimed chef Rick Bayless.  Hungry customers can choose from tortas, tacos, soups, salads and a fresh-made guacamole bar with a choice of toppings.  Monday-Saturday 11 a.m to 3 p.m.  

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Frontera Fresca

8.  Beatrix Market:  23 E. Jackson Blvd

The offerings at Beatrix Market consists of self-serve salads, hot food bars, deep dish pizza, grab-n-go sandwiches, fresh fruits, snacks, coffee, and a pastry counter.  There are 2 Beatrix Market locations in The Loop.  I prefer the DePaul location on Jackson St. since a full-service bar and pizza counter are unique to that location.  There’s also a Happy Hour from 2-5 p.m.   Monday-Friday 7AM-7PM

9.  Halal Guys: 172 N Wabash Ave

Halal Guys began as a hot dog cart in New York City and expanded into 2 NYC restaurants.  Chicago is the first market outside of New York to experience Halal.  The menu is simple.  Halal certified beef and chicken, and basmati rice with special spices.  Every day their chicken is seasoned with spices, marinated for 24 hours, and grilled. Their gyro meat is cooked on a cone, sliced, chopped fine, and then grilled to a golden brown.  Customers can choose from either a sandwich or a platter, select their protein, and pack with toppings of choice.  There are also 3 sauces to choose from including their famous white sauce!  I tried to get the scoop on their seasonings but their lips were sealed.  Halal Guys is open daily from 11-10 p.m. 

10.Brightwok: 21 E. Adams St.

A newer addition to the Loop, Brightwok is a healthy, fast-casual, Asian restaurant that’s vegetable-focused.  The restaurant marinates and grills their meats, prepare and mix sauces, and chop their vegetables every morning to deliver the freshest flavors.  I usually go for the build-your-own bowl of stir-fry with a bit of heat.  Their menu is gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free and all of their homemade sauces are vegan.

Brightwok in Chicago's Loop

Brightwok

There you have it, don’t sleep on these spots!

5 Instagrammable Places in Chicago

When it comes to Instagrammable places around Chicago, Cloud Gate and the Skyline backdrop come to many minds, rightfully so. It’s no secret that Chicago has a beautiful skyline that’s deservingly photographed by millions each year and appears all over social media, namely Instagram. However, there’s plenty of other Instagram worthy places to snap and post from around the city.

I joined Chicago Safaris for a tour of Instagrammable places in Chicago along with a few of my blogger friends and local 219 out of Northwest Indiana. We had a ball, and I discovered a few new spots. Here’s a recap of 5 Instagrammable places we visited throughout the day.

 

1.  Bottled Blonde

I was told this place gets pretty lively at night. However, our tour stopped in late Saturday morning for appetizers and cocktails. Space is plentiful and cozy with a large fireplace as a focal point for photos. The wall of greenery makes a beautiful backdrop too. Not only is the interior Instagrammable but the cocktails are too. They make a delicious Bloody Mary;  the Jalapeno Passion Margarita is also a winner. Bottled Blonde would be a fun spot to gather and chill with friends. There’s also plenty of TVs for sports lovers. You must try the Mac N Cheese; it’s fantastic. All of our appetizers were good. We munched on the burrata, Tartufo fries, chicken wings, and as mention mac N cheese. If their other menu items are as good as the appetizers, you can’t go wrong.

Tartufo Fries Bottled Blonde Tartufo Fries
Bottled Blond Bloody Mary Bottled Blonde’s Bloody Mary

2.  Flamingo Rum Club Mural

You’ll find the Flamingo Mural in Chicago’s River North neighborhood on the corner of Wells and Ohio St.  I’ve been an admirer of this mural for a long time.  Its fun and colorful, with fanciful detail.

601 N. Wells St.

Flamingo Rum Club Mural in Chicago Photo courtesy of Amanda Elliot (right) of Windy City Cosmo Blog

3.  Paradise Park

Paradise Park in Wicker Park is a trailer park themed pizzeria and an Instagrammers paradise!  Everything about this place screams snap and post on Instagram!  The outdoor garden has a trailer parked with the same folding chairs that made appearances at all of my family picnics growing up, lol.  The astroturf and flamingos add to the nostalgia vibe.  We learned that the patio would be covered soon so that guests can enjoy the outdoor garden year round.  The interior has an eclectic flashy feel while still being cozy.  Can’t go wrong with a blinged out wall and neon lights. The cocktails are clever with names like Dirty Like your Mom, Trashy Tea, The Hooch, and Pink Flamingo.  Do yourself a favor and order the Mercenary pizza, it’s outstanding!

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Mercenary Pizza at Paradise Park

4.  Greetings From Chicago Mural

One can’t list Instagrammable spots of Chicago without mentioning the Greetings From Chicago Mural in Logan Square!  Created to resemble a postcard, this famous street art captures the essence of the city beautifully and is one of my favorites.  Creators, muralist Victor Ving, and photographer Lisa Beggs travel the country designing artwork that captures the pride of locals for their hometowns while sparking the interests of visitors.

Letter Guide:

  • C – Deep Dish Pizza & Chicago Style Hotdog
  • H – Gold Coast / Downtown Skyline
  • I – Chicago Flag & Illinois Centennial Monument in Logan Square
  • C – Abstract artwork by Amuse126 depicting the extremes of Chicago weather
  • A – Chicago Professional Sports Teams
  • G – Muddy Waters & Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Water Tower
  • O – The Bean Sculpture

Logan Square:  2226 N Milwaukee Ave

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5.  Robin Williams Mural

The mural of Chicago native Robin Williams results from a collaboration of artists Jerkface and Owen Dippie.  I’ve desired to pay a visit to this touching tribute for a while. Robin Williams was a genius who made us laugh while battling inner darkness due to mental illness.  His death is heartbreaking and a reminder that more discussions need to take place to build mental health awareness and remove the stigma associated with it.

The mural is located in Logan Square:  2047 N. Milwaukee Ave.

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Robin Williams mural located in Chicago's Logan Square Robin Williams mural located in Logan Square

Just a glimpse into the treasures located in some of Chicago’s neighborhoods.  Chicago’s downtown is terrific, but there’s much more to see beyond there. It’s very walkable here. I stumble upon many new spots just strolling or biking through the numerous city neighborhoods.   Hope that you’ll visit some of the other communities and get a peek.

If you’re looking for a tour that allows some walking along with driving while visiting the city, check out Chicago Safaris.  The fun starts as soon as you step into one of their luxury vans!

All The Pretty Things