Author Archives: Lauren Fondriest

Chicago Startup Shurpa Guarantees You’ll Receive Your Packages

Chicago Startup Shurpa Guarantees You’ll Receive Your Packages


Have you ever ordered something online and worried whether your package would be at your door waiting? Have you ever missed a birthday present from your mom because it couldn’t be found at your door step? Many Chicago buildings don’t have doormen who will collect deliveries, leaving residents’ packages at risk of theft or misplacement.


Ben Fornell, Lakeview resident, noticed his packages often went missing. Since he lived in a building without a doorman, he took a bet on whether every Amazon order would show up. Ben’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and he seized the opportunity to make the shipping process safer, simpler and more trustworthy for Chicago’s residents.


Ben started Shurpa in the summer of 2014, prepping for the holiday shipment season. Shurpa works like this – you ship to their address (a Lincoln Park storefront) as your shipping address with a unique code that is issued to you when you enroll. When Shurpa receives the package, they identify your parcels with the code, and send an automated text message allowing you to schedule delivery when you’re actually home. When convenient for you, a courier will bring the package directly to you – no hassle of waiting by your door step all day.


Shurpa Delivery Storefront


“This makes it so much easier for busy Chicagoans,” Ben explains. “There’s always someone to sign for your package, and if you’re not home until 10:30 p.m. we’ll still deliver it directly to you.” Shurpa delivers between the hours of 6 p.m. – 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturdays. This way your work and travel schedule doesn’t hinder you from receiving your packages in a convenient and timely fashion.


How do you get started? Visit to sign up for your unique shipping code. Enter your preferred delivery time and a courier will deliver the package in your hands, when you’re actually home. Typical pricing is $4 for your first package, and $1 more for each additional package in the same delivery. Social sharing is encouraged, and will earn you free delivery.


Shurpa Delivery Courier


“Shurpa brings joy and security back to online shopping,” says Ben. They can service residents in older buildings and cover quite a bit of ground (their delivery boundaries are Montrose to the north, Pulaski and Kedzie to the west, Roosevelt and 16th to the south, and the lake to the east). The goal is for everyone in Chicago to be able to take advantage of Shurpa’s services.


Sign up for peace of mind today!


{Photos courtesy of Shurpa}



Your Introduction to Chicago’s Hit New Band, The Central Standard

Your Introduction to Chicago’s Hit New Band, The Central Standard


You love being the first of your friends to discover new sounds and new talent – so The Chicago Lifestyle is introducing you to Chicago’s new bluesy-alt-rock band, The Central Standard. Formed just nine months ago, the band has already taken venues such as Double Door, Metro and Lincoln Hall by storm. On the verge of publishing their first album, vocalist Alex Garrison lets us in on The Central Standard’s history and inner workings.


While living in Indiana, vocalist Alex started writing music. He took the opportunity to be part of a Kings of Leon cover band, and met with a Chicago producer who offered them the chance to make a four-song EP. Paired with a guitarist, Alex would develop the lyrics and melodies, and they’d sync up to find a sound they liked. The songs are reflective of their lives, such as a snapshot of the age of 24 – living through post-college angst figuring out a world of structure and defining the next steps in life. One of their hit songs – Ghosts of Me and You – was written in a 15-minute flurry of creativity on an airplane.


With much room to grow, Alex started seeking out other talented musicians to fill out the band. Through friends and connections, the band The Central Standard is now made up of Alex Garrison on vocals, Steven Phillips on lead guitar, Manny Miller on rhythm guitar, keyboard and back vocals, Mike Bronk on bass and Jack McKee on drums. While each musician has a different taste in music, they have blended their styles to form a sound similar to Kings of Leon. Musical tastes include jazz, indie rock, synth, and finding a depth of sound by blending many different styles.


The Central Standard Band


“Our focus is on sounding great,” explains Alex, “and building our stage presence and energy. During our shows we feature our new music and throw in a few favored covers repackaged with our own sound.” Their chemistry as a band is deepening with every night on stage. The personalities are flowing together not only to put on a great show but also to come together in the creation of their first album, due out later this spring. They’ve each exposed their own talents and creativity in bringing together the best songs and sounds for the album.


What can we expect from the first album? “This album plays to our strengths – it has a catchy and approachable sound with several singles that fans will enjoy. The first half is high energy, with the latter half featuring an 8-minute jam track with guitars and atmospheric synth. The back half of the album is experimental, allowing us to show off our influences,” says Alex.


The Central Standard Band


The Central Standard is looking to engage with current fans and connect with new ones. They’ve been featured on college radio shows and their goal is to be featured on Chicago radio and television. With hopes to expand their influence beyond the Chicago market, The Central Standard appreciates Chicago as home. “There is a huge variety of music here – something to fit everyone’s taste,” notes Alex. “Chicago’s music scene is unique in that local bands can enjoy playing at great medium-sized venues that they wouldn’t be able to approach in other cities.” Their favorite venue so far? Lincoln Hall. Working with a great production company, Shoeshine Boy Productions, The Central Standard has opportunities to play with similar-sounding bands to open up their fan base.


Interested in learning more about The Central Standard and hearing what they’re all about? Catch them in their upcoming show at Double Door in Wicker Park on May 9 at 7:30 p.m. and watch for their upcoming album release in June.


{Photo credit: Max Herman}


Get Your Live Music Fix with the GigScout App

Get Your Live Music Fix with the GigScout App

Do you love listening to live music or are you trying to add more concerts to your weekend lineup? Chicago features all kinds of live music acts, but it’s not easy knowing where to seek out the best concerts. Download the GigScout app, and you’ll have a list of all the upcoming concerts in your vicinity. The app makes it simple to find the venues closest to your location, pick an artist by listening to a quick clip of their music, and even buy tickets.


GigScout was dreamed up and developed by Chicagoan John Cifelli. John always had an appreciation for Chicago as a music town, and loved going to concerts and events. Because the Chicago music landscape is so spread out, there are venues on every side of town and no clear resource aggregating where all the upcoming concerts are. John’s frustration in researching venue after venue led to the idea for GigScout – the goal is to make it easy for anyone in town to find a concert they’ll love.


While GigScout is now available in many cities across the country, its Chicago roots help it continue to grow. Learning how users interact with the app allows John to come up with new and innovative functions to try. Currently, the app:

  • Shows a map view and list view of upcoming concerts
  • Plays a 30-second preview clip of the artists you’d like to hear
  • Shares the artist biography and type of music
  • Allows you to purchase tickets for some of the events
  • Connects with Uber to call for transportation to the venue


Beyond the goal of helping users find great concerts, GigScout has the power to introduce people to new venues, new styles of music, and up-and-coming local artists. This is a modern platform for discovering new music, and uses technology to advance the music and performance industry.


Local and up-and-coming bands are benefitting from GigScout as well. A band without much publicity or marketing can tap into a new fan base by being listed on GigScout. As the app expands, John has had the opportunity to interact with many of the local bands in Chicago. He’s now an expert in venues and musicians. When asked who his favorite musician is? “Buddy Guy – classic Chicago musician.”


The next time you’re yearning to hear a new band, try a new venue, or just explore more of what Chicago has to offer, download GigScout from the App Store (currently available on iOS and will later be available for Android).


Chicago Auto Show Captured on Video

It’s that time of year again – when thousands of people flock to McCormick Place to visit one of Chicago’s biggest events and the nation’s largest car show, the Chicago Auto Show. Featuring over 1 million square feet of cars, trucks, test tracks and interactive displays, the Chicago Auto Show is an impressive display. The Chicago Lifestyle caught the Auto Show on Instagram video – click below to watch the spirit of the Auto Show. And don’t forget to visit before February 22!





Dating in Chicago: Relationship Expert Anita Chlipala Shows You How to Find Love in 2015

Dating in Chicago: Relationship Expert Anita Chlipala Shows You How to Find Love in 2015


In honor of Valentine’s Day, The Chicago Lifestyle is introducing you to one of Chicago’s coolest ladies – Dating and Relationship Expert Anita Chlipala. Conveniently located downtown on 70 E. Lake St, Anita’s business – Relationship Reality 312 – has helped countless Chicagoans find and keep love.


Are you single and trying to find the right people to date? Have you lost hope in Chicago’s dating scene? Or, are you in a relationship but could use some professional guidance? Anita will give you hope – and the tools for success – in an approachable, down-to-earth way. “Just as you would get professional help or training for your job, it makes sense to get help while pursuing one of the greatest parts of your life – your relationship,” explains Anita. While some people may be scared of scheduling an appointment to ask for help, the process doesn’t have to be scary – Anita says many of the sessions involve fun and laughter.


Anita, who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, runs a research-based practice. Meaning, any advice or guidance she gives is backed up by what’s worked through years of research in the field. Understanding that no two individuals or couples are exactly alike, she’ll start with a phone consultation to determine whether they are a good fit for her coaching. Once in person, Anita helps an individual or couple identify their goals, and she may recommend several sessions to dig further to achieve the goals set out.


What kinds of challenges and goals do her clients bring in? For singles, it’s developing the mental preparation to find the right mate – understanding who they should be looking for, how to find them, and how to make it stick. For couples, challenges often include not feeling connected or committed. Through the process, clients will understand what’s blocking them from getting what they want, and how to change their approach.


Anita sets the record straight – “Many people think finding relationships and keeping them strong is easy. You can’t expect a perfect relationship, and you have to work hard at it. I’m here to help set expectations and shift your attitude and thoughts on dating.”


What’s the scoop on dating in Chicago? Anita offers great advice – “Don’t wait for summer. Be proactive – have a mindset to put yourself out there and go get it. Be an active participant rather than waiting for someone to approach you. Take advantage of networking and meetup events, charity events, and parties.”


Coaching and therapy aren’t all she offers – Anita is an advice columnist (for Patti Stanger of The Millionaire Matchmaker!) and she hosts workshops, events, and Girls’ Nights In. You’re already talking about men with your friends – why not get some real advice in the process? Gather at least three of your friends and contact Anita to host your next Girls’ Night In – bring the wine and cheese, and bring your questions. You’ll have the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire ahead of time to get the most tailored advice.


Now you know about one of Chicago’s great resources – in the Valentine’s spirit, contact Anita to make your dating life stellar in 2015!


{Image courtesy of Relationship Reality 312}


BlendAbout: Social Dining – The New Way to Mix and Mingle? (Part 3)

BlendAbout: Social Dining – The New Way to Mix and Mingle? (Part 3)


In the third part of our feature on social dining we explore BlendAbout, an organization that brings people together for group dining experiences. If you’re traveling to a new city and don’t want to dine alone or simply want to meet new people over a great meal in Chicago, BlendAbout is your answer.


Founder Kate Spivak was inspired to start BlendAbout after a cross-country move – one that brought her to a new city where she had to build a new network of friends from scratch.  “Outside of the online dating world, there was no service to connect people for networking or friendship,” explains Kate. After launching three years ago, BlendAbout is now available in most major cities across the U.S.


How does BlendAbout work? The website,, invites users to sign up for a meal as one of four to six guests. While some meals are pre-created, users can generate their own meals  by picking a restaurant they’d like to visit, setting a theme (such as networking, dating, sports, politics or travel), and defining a date and time. BlendAbout takes care of the reservations, and other users can sign up to join the meal. Reservations are confirmed when at least four people “take a seat at the table.”




There’s no requirement to go by yourself, however. You can invite friends or other contacts to join BlendAbout and register their own seat at the table. Because the process is so simple, it’s a great way to meet people, either within the dating world or beyond. Social networking capabilities allow you to see other “Blenders” in your area and tag someone to your wish list. The service charges a small monthly subscription fee, and then you pay individually for your meal at the restaurant. While a virtual medium is used to set up the meals, BlendAbout gets you out there interacting with people in real life, not just behind a computer or phone screen.


BlendAbout is a great service for anyone who doesn’t want to dine by themselves, who wants to meet new people, or simply to try a new restaurant. While many users are business travelers or residents in a new city, others have unique reasons. For example, a woman wanted to try a hot new restaurant she knew her husband wouldn’t be able to eat at due to his diet. BlendAbout was her solution to find others who would enjoy the same spot. Feedback from users has been that it’s simple to use, guests are friendly and nice, and it’s not an awkward introduction like a dating service might incur. The group setting takes the pressure off, as there are no pre-conceived notions on what the meal should be like.




Founder Kate has attended meals as a guest and is lucky that she’s met some of her best friends through BlendAbout. “I didn’t know what to expect when I started BlendAbout, but I’ve met such a range of amazing people.” The BlendAbout team encourages Chicagoans to try out the service and enjoy meeting new people over a great meal. Who knows, you may get lucky and meet a new best friend!


{Images Courtesy of BlendAbout. Credit (Cover Photo): Nader Khouri}


10 Ways to Have Fun in Chicago This Winter – On the Cheap

10 Ways to Have Fun in Chicago This Winter – On the Cheap


Set a New Year’s resolution to save money this year? While Chicago abounds with expensive meals out, days of pricey sightseeing and nights on the town, there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself through the cold months on the cheap.


Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Low Cost Fun in Chicago


1.       Trek across Northerly Island by snowshoe

Bring your camera to capture great views of the city while getting a winter workout in. At only $5 for snowshoe or cross-country ski rentals, you can explore this expansive park near the Planetarium. Check here for a calendar of days the program is running. Note that there must be three inches of snow to participate – so check their Facebook page or call 312-745-2910 for up-to-date information on access.


2.       See what the Soho House hype is about for the cost of a latte

Curious about West Loop’s new glamorous social club, the Soho House (113 – 125 N. Green St.)? While much of the club is designated for members or hotel guests only, the coffee shop and bar in the stunningly decorated lobby (The Allis) and the two restaurants (Chicken Shop and Pizza East) are open to the public. One of our favorite stops in the neighborhood, we recommend finding a lovely sun-lit table in the lobby and ordering a latte or freshly-concocted Bloody Mary to soak up the Soho House atmosphere.


3.       Enjoy a homemade meal in a cozy flower shop

The Flower Flat in Lakeview (620 W. Addison) is a former flower shop offering a unique café. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served; dinner only on Friday nights. Take advantage of Friday night’s rotating $19 prix fixe menu featuring dishes such as red wine marinara spaghetti with mozzarella meatballs and peppered shrimp on creamy polenta.


4.       Visit the tropics for free at the conservatories

Surround yourself with gorgeous flowers, plants and streams when you step inside the heated haven of Lincoln Park Conservatory. Located just south of Fullerton, the Conservatory features four rooms: the Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House and Show House (which hosts annual flower shows). Access is free.

Head further west to visit the Garfield Park Conservatory (300 North Central Park Ave.), which is an expansive tropical setting featuring six multi-faceted greenhouses and two grand exhibition halls. Admission is also free, however donations are recommended.


5.       Turn your favorite walk into a bike ride with Divvy

Missing your outdoor workouts? Cover more ground and work up some body heat while biking around town. The Divvy rental bike system is available year-round and you can check out a bike for a $7 24-hour pass or kick start unlimited rides with a year-long membership for $75. Because the intent of the bike program is to offer transportation from one point to another, rides must be 30 minutes or less. If you decide to ride for longer, slight overtime charges will be applied.  The program offers 3000 bikes across the city found at 300 docking stations, so you are guaranteed to find one near where you want to go.


6.       Dine at last year’s hot restaurants

Missed a few restaurant openings last year? Head in now that lines have subsided to comfort hits such as Leghorn Chicken’s new location on 600 W. Ohio St. ($7 for a Nashville Hot chicken sandwich on a buttermilk biscuit), or Shake Shack (66 E. Ohio St.) where you can devour a classic ShackBurger for only $5.19. Dine on endless tacos, burger and po’ boys at Big & Little’s, located at 860 N. Orleans and 1034 W. Belmont. This favorite Chicago diner was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and continues to draw regulars back for more delicious eats.

Or, make it fancy and head to Enolo Wine Café in River North (450 N. Clark St.) for a $13 “Tall, Dark and Handsome” flight of 3 glasses of red wine or a $4.50 tasty bruschetta (top picks include Prosciutto, Fig Jam and Mascarpone, or Bacon Jam, Torched Burrata, Arugula and Tomato).


7.       Take advantage of free museum days

Chicago has so many options to get your cultural fix. From Degas at the Art Institute to dinosaurs at the Field Museum, Illinois residents can enjoy some of Chicago’s best museums for free on select days (bring your driver’s license to show proof of residency). Choose Chicago put together a list of specific dates museums open up to residents for free.


 8.       Conquer a new workout for free

Many fitness studios offer a trial workout for free for new customers. Tackle your New Year’s resolutions by finding your new favorite workout. TITLE Boxing Club offers a free first boxing experience, and Power Sculpt Fitness offers a free trial class (check out Cycle & Sculpt or Tabata Express).


9.       Eat and drink on the cheap with local happy hour specials

Warm, cozy bars draw you in from the cold for fun and camaraderie. Keep bar tabs low by heading in for the happy hour specials. Get your coworkers or friends to tag along to split a few appetizers. The Lobby Lounge in the JW Marriott (151 W. Adams St.) offers $5 wine specials and $5 appetizers such as pizza flatbreads and chicken bites from 5 – 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

McCormick & Schmick’s on Rush and Chestnut has a great priced happy hour menu in the early evening hours each day of the week tempting you with items ranging from $2.99 (Garlic Rosemary Fries) to $5.99 (American Kobe Style Carpaccio and Baja Fish Tacos).

If you’re craving a Hawaiian island menu, head to Roy’s (720 N. State St.) for Aloha Hour every night from 4:30 – 7 p.m. to enjoy $6 cocktails such as Cucumber Martinis and $6 bar bites such as Red Curry Chicken Samosas and Tempura-Crusted Ahi Rolls.


10.   Collect extra cash by selling clothes at consignment shops

Make a few extra bucks to fund your social life as you clear up space in your closet. Donate clean items in great condition that you no longer want to consignment shops such as Second Time Around (823 W. Armitage). Earn on average 30 – 40% of the original value of an item, or 50% for new items with tags still on. Second Time Around is looking for designer clothing and accessories that you no longer need and can sell to someone else who would enjoy them.

Le Thrift Consignment (1821 W. Chicago Ave.) is currently accepting winter hand bags, clothing, jewelry and accessories for similar prices, no appointment necessary.


Help Make Chicago’s Very Own Foodseum a Reality

Help Make Chicago’s Very Own Foodseum a Reality


If you love food, live to eat and seek out every gourmet experience you can find, prepare to be delighted by the upcoming launch of Chicago’s very own museum dedicated to food, the Foodseum. You’ll be immersed in the history and culture that make up the food we eat each day (and even some foods you’ve never tried). While the physical space isn’t slated to open until 2018, the organization is raising funds through Kickstarter to set up a series of pop-up exhibits to keep us satisfied until the opening.


Inspired by a childhood of living abroad and traveling across Europe, Executive Director Kyle Joseph founded the idea for Foodseum. “I had the opportunity to dive into many cultures – I met people in each culture who shared themselves through food,” says Kyle. While many countries across the world form identities, cultures and day-to-day interactions centered on food, in the United States there isn’t as thorough an understanding of where our food comes from.


To fill this gap, Foodseum aims to reconnect people to where their food comes from – in a fun environment. Everything from advertising techniques to the farm-to-table journey will be explored in Foodseum’s exhibits. Kyle explains, “The goal is to engage all five senses – you’ll be able to smell, touch and even taste in the museum,” which is planned to include demonstrations and restaurant service. Expect to learn more about chocolate, cheese, coffee and so many more of the items we savor each day. You’ll be exposed to foods you may have never heard of, as well.


Kyle smartly considers Chicago the food capital of the United States. He and his team have experienced a big welcome in a culture where many agree. Because Chicago is such a great city for tourism and museum visitors, it’s the right place to build the Foodseum. Partnerships with other museums, culinary schools, architecture firms and chefs have offered ideas on how to make this the best experience possible. Several well-known chefs in Chicago have been invited to make up the Culinary Advisory Board, which includes curating recipes to share with the museum’s visitors. Showing the connection between established local food culture and the new museum will make Foodseum a mainstay in the city’s cultural and culinary world.


To satiate the palates of intrigued Chicagoans, Foodseum is working toward a pop-up exhibit featuring our classic fare, hot dogs and encased meats. To make this possible, they’re running a Kickstarter campaign – consider contributing this week as it’s only open until December 25. Contributors toward the goal of $30,000 will receive special rewards, ranging from an annual membership to the Foodseum to your very own “Foodcation” experience – a weekend full of foodie surprises with local celebrities and chefs.


“Everyone’s help will make this a reality,” explains Kyle, who is enthusiastic about sharing his passion with Chicago’s residents and visitors. Contribute to the fundraising campaign today and stay tuned for more on upcoming exhibits and the official Foodseum opening.


{Image courtesy of Vienna Beef}


Learn about Truffles, Cheese and More at Mariano’s La Tavola Italiana

Learn about Truffles, Cheese and More at Mariano’s La Tavola Italiana


You already love Mariano’s for its extensive selection, great service and gourmet inspiration. Now you can love Mariano’s even more as they tempt you with seven days of classes, demonstrations, tastings and more, December 7 – 14, 2014. Called La Tavola Italiana, the event is designed to kick off Mariano’s partnership with the Italian Trade Agency.


Experience the essence of truffles, modern mixology secrets and the origination of olive oil at events occurring through the 14th at Mariano’s Bucktown and Ravenswood locations. Top events include:


Bucktown (2112 N. Ashland Ave.)

  • Arancini making with Chef Rich Mancini of Hell’s Kitchen (Monday, 12/8 at 6:30 p.m.)
  • All About Wine seminar with Sommelier Christopher Rowell (Tuesday, 12/9 at 5:30 p.m.)
  • Eggplant Parmigiana and Cannoli making with Chef Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno (Wednesday, 12/10 at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Modern Mixology Seminar: Seasonal Creative Cocktails (Wednesday, 12/10 at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Italian Vegetarian Recipes with Chef Sean Pharr (Thursday, 12/11 at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Cannoli Cake Demo (Friday, 12/12 at 4 p.m.)


Click here for full event listing, prices and RSVP links. Advance RSVP recommended.


Ravenswood (1800 W. Lawrence Ave.)

  • Learn about the World of Salumi and Salami (Monday, 12/8 at 6 p.m.)
  • All About Truffles with Giacomo Marinello (Tuesday, 12/9 at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Pastry Class with Chef Sarah Koechling of Formento’s (Wednesday, 12/10 at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Dishin’ with the Dietitian for the Holidays (Wednesday, 12/10 at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Wine and Food Pairing Session with Master of Wine Serafin Alvarado (Thursday, 12/11 at 6:30 p.m.)
  • Revolution Brewing: Tap Overthrow (Friday, 12/12 at 5:30 p.m.)


Click here for full event listing, prices and RSVP links. Advance RSVP recommended.



The event kicked off on December 7 and one of the first classes was “All About Truffles” with Italian Chef Giacomo Marinello. Chef Marinello taught us the history of truffles and treated us to an incredible dish of truffle risotto.


Grown naturally in Italy and France, truffles are found by either pigs or dogs. While there are many different varieties, most truffles are either black, with a milder flavor, or white, with a more intense flavor. The right combination of soil composition, temperature and rain is what allows truffles to grow, which are typically found under trees. Made up of nearly 90% water, truffles have an incredible scent and flavor that makes them a delicacy. They have a very short shelf life, barely over a week, making truffles a challenge to secure in their true form. Many derivatives including butter, salt, cream and sauce allow us to enjoy the truffle flavor year-round.


All About Truffles


Chef Giacomo Marinello


Truffle Risotto


Learn about truffles and much more at Mariano’s La Tavola Italiana all week long!


Birch Road Cellar: Your Secret Space for Entertaining in Chicago

Birch Road Cellar: Your Secret Space for Entertaining in Chicago


Chicago continues to amaze when it exposes cool new spots to enjoy the good life. Lovers of nice drinks and good conversation will rejoice at the addition of Birch Road Cellar to the neighborhood. Tucked away in a secret location in Lincoln Park, Birch Road Cellar is a haven for in-the-know Chicagoans to open a great bottle of wine, bring a few friends and entertain in a unique space. The hardest part about getting in? Finding out that Birch Road Cellar exists. Now you – lucky Chicagoan, are “in-the-know.”


Founded by Chicago native Sharon Provins and her life-long friend Kim Bosse, Birch Road Cellar is a membership-based BYOB venue designed as a place for entertaining that’s classy and casual at the same time. The club is named after the road Sharon and Kim grew up on, and brings in the style and experience they’ve collected living on both coasts of the country. Tired of the rowdy bar scene and reluctant to join the swanky social club scene, Sharon and Kim identified a need for an approachable space for Chicagoans to entertain.


Chicago or suburban residents, or even frequent Chicago travelers, can become members of Birch Road Cellar as an extension of their own home. Designed to look like a cross between a nice home and a bar, the space is adorned with dark wood, ceiling beams and mini living rooms that beckon interesting conversations. The space was previously a photography studio, and the décor pays homage with displayed artwork, exposed brick and a barn door crafted by a local woodworker. “Imagine if a friend gave you the keys to their gorgeous home designed for entertaining,” says Sharon, “so you can invite a few friends over, open your favorite bottle of wine, and enjoy conversation that you wouldn’t be able to in a loud bar.”


What’s most unique about Birch Road Cellar is its clandestine location and unassuming entryway. To provide access to members only, who are allowed to bring two or three guests at a time, the door is secured with a fingerprint reader. It gives members spy-movie appeal while eliminating the complications of sharing keys or key codes. Upon entering, the tasting room features a 20 foot custom crafted wood bar and seating for 18. Because Birch Road Cellar is BYOB, members bring in their own alcohol of choice to enjoy. Sharon smiles as she explains that “members enjoy playing bartender in a way they often can’t do in their own homes. They’ll stand behind the bar and serve drinks to their guests.”


Fitting the cellar name, the space offers a 57 degree temperature and 60-70% humidity controlled cellar in which members can cultivate their own private collection of favorite wines and spirits they prefer for themselves and their guests. No alcohol is provided or served by Birch Road Cellar itself. Members can bring in whatever food or drinks they’d like, and they are expected to leave the space as they found it. No full-time staff reside at Birch Road Cellar, so members are allowed to come and go as they please – each day of the year from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.


While members typically bring just a few guests, there is also a large private dining room that can be closed off to seat up to 14 guests. This is a great space to host a dinner party if you can’t accommodate this many people in your own home, and the dining room is reserved at no charge to members on a first-come, first-served basis. When asked how else members use the space, Sharon explains that “some bring dates here, some even come for a quiet place to study.” The number of people inside depends on the time of the week – for example, Saturday night might see more traffic than a Tuesday night. While some members keep to themselves and their guests, some love the social aspect and will mingle with other members. Birch Road Cellar even hosts events, and most recently brought in Chicago-based cocktail king Charles Joly to host a mixology class.


Intrigued by Birch Road Cellar? Those who appreciate a comfortable drinking scene without the attitude of the club and bar scene are encouraged to join and take advantage of the space as if it were their own home. Membership is $89 a month, for unlimited access, and there is no commitment to sign on for a certain number of months. While there isn’t any specific criteria to join, membership is only obtainable by an in-person appointment with the owners. Visit Birch Road Cellar’s website to request a tour and learn how you can make this secretive space yours.


{Image credit: Birch Road Cellar}