Category Archives: Food

The Social Table: Social Dining – The New Way to Mix and Mingle? (Part 2)

The Social Table: Social Dining – The New Way to Mix and Mingle? (Part 2)


After many months of spiking curiosity through a sign in the window of their Armitage storefront, The Social Table has finally opened. Situated in a little yellow house just west of Halsted (819 W. Armitage), the Chicago location brings the foodie concept to our city. Originally in New York City, Rebecca has moved the business to Chicago. Officially open as of early September, The Social Table is a place to learn, cook, dine and meet new people.


Part 2 in our social dining feature on The Chicago Lifestyle takes a deeper look at The Social Table. This feature tests out the premise that social dining, or gathering a group of people who may have never met before over a delicious meal and drinks, is the new, popular way to expand your social circle.


Owned and hosted by Chef Rebecca Goldfarb, the welcoming venue beckons in guests looking for an entertaining evening. The core focus is on turning a cooking class into a full-scale BYOB dinner party. Join a public party to meet other like-minded foodies or invite your favorite people to take part in a guided evening of prepping, cooking, wining and dining.


Fall menus include items such as Tuscan-style Lasagna with Pork, Veal Ragu and Bechamel, Spinach and Ricotta Spanikopitas, Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Shallots and Raspberry Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Whipped Cream. If that sampling piqued your interest there are many more delicious courses planned – view their current menus here.


The Social Table - Photo by Eric Kleinberg


To get more of the inside scoop The Chicago Lifestyle asked Chef Rebecca to dish on her inspiration behind The Social Table.



What inspired the concept for Social Table – and is it going the way you’ve planned (since your original NYC location)?

“The Social Table was inspired by my love of cooking and interacting with people in my home – both growing up and as an adult. I love gathering people around a kitchen island – snacking, chatting and asking questions; letting the excitement of the upcoming meal grow as we all interact. So far we have received an incredibly warm reception in Chicago. People are so warm and enthusiastic and the guests that we’ve had into the new kitchen space have truly made me feel like we built the space perfectly for the concept. People love the coziness and comfort of the new kitchens and feel like they’ve walked into a friend’s house – which is what we really wanted to convey.”



What social need(s) are you tapping into by bringing people together in this way? How does involving food and dining help?

“People love to eat and drink – it’s how we create so many of our shared experiences. Trying new things, learning new techniques and dishes and sharing in that trial and error is essential. What is most wonderful about cooking is it is something that can actually be shared, passed on and replicated so the immediate experience can be translated into traditions or new experiences with other friends and family. It’s also something that is purely meant to be enjoyed.”



What kind of connections are made among guests – and any interesting stories to share?

“Guests always find it fun to learn what motivated other people to sign-up for an open event. And it’s amazing how small of a world it is sometimes. People have found endless connections – either professionally or personally – with other people in the room. Anyone who thinks that spending an evening with strangers, cooking and eating is fun, are generally interested in other people who think that is a fun activity as well.”


The Social Table - Photo by Eric Kleinberg


What are some of the other best ways to meet people in Chicago?

“Chicago is so open and friendly, it’s hard to say there are only a few ways to meet people. I think people here are very passionate about certain things and activities. If you are into something you should pursue a means of finding and connecting with other people about it. Craft beer is a great example. This city is teeming with small, independent breweries and people who are really interested in new beers, new breweries and in sharing and talking about beer. It’s amazing how easily you can strike up a conversation with someone just by ordering something new and different at a bar.”



How can Chicagoans get involved, and what to expect from the recent launch?

“I’m hoping that Chicagoans will sign up and join us in the kitchen! We’ve posted all of our upcoming cooking events on our website and are really excited about the menus. Everything is approachable and delicious and we hope it makes people want to throw on an apron, open a bottle of wine and get their hands dirty in our kitchen.”



Thanks to Rebecca and much luck as she enters this new journey in Chicago! If you’d like to get in on the action, classes are typically $75 and last 3 hours. Find the sign-up calendar as well as much more information on The Social Table’s website.


Check out Part 1 in our social dining feature, which highlights Dinner Lab.


{Image credits: Eric Kleinberg}


Dinner Lab: Social Dining – the New Way to Mix and Mingle? (Part 1)

Dinner Lab: Social Dining – the New Way to Mix and Mingle? (Part 1)


Everyone loves going out to eat at restaurants. The typical dining experience consists of getting a group together, choosing a restaurant, making a reservation and showing up on time (way easier said than done, of course). What if you could explode the traditional notion of dining? You have a dinner scheduled for Friday – but this time, you don’t know who’s going and you don’t even know the location yet, because it’s a surprise!


The new era of dining takes an experience we all know and love, eating and drinking, and twists it in such a way that it now brings new people together, in new places, for new ways to connect with each other. Is this notion of “social dining” the new way to mix and mingle? The Chicago Lifestyle explores social dining in a featured series – showing you unique organizations in Chicago where you can take dining to the next level, and meet some cool people while you’re at it.


The first organization The Chicago Lifestyle is featuring is Dinner Lab, which launched in Chicago this past May. Dinner Lab provides an innovative concept, offering up-and-coming chefs with the chance to serve around 120 guests at a one-time, pop-up experience, and then receive feedback on their meal afterwards. The membership-based organization brings together a unique mix of people who can all bond over one thing – a great meal.


Dinner Lab’s Chicago Chef de Cuisine, Daniel Espinoza, shared his experiences with The Chicago Lifestyle – here’s the inside scoop on how Dinner Lab works.



The Chefs: A Time to Shine


“Everyone knows each other in Chicago’s culinary community,” Chef Daniel explains, “so I’ll take a chef I’ve met out for coffee to get to know him or her. They won’t know that this is secretly an interview – but I’m finding out what they’re interested in – their history, their personality – to see if they would be a good fit to cook for Dinner Lab.” While many of the chefs work at local restaurants, they are not in the top position to dictate meals or contribute their creativity to new menus. When selected as the Dinner Lab chef, they have the opportunity to create their own menu, highlighting their own story, and try it out without the commitment of opening a brand-new restaurant.


Dinner Lab sets up a kitchen space for the evening – and the chefs get to work. Meals usually consist of at least 5 courses and include beer or wine pairings. Because of the informal setting, guests have the ability to mingle with the chefs and learn more about their craft. Focusing on hosting a great evening, the chefs look forward to getting reviewed at the end of the meal.


Dinner Lab Chicago


Dinner Lab Chicago


The Location: A Place to Inspire


Each Dinner Lab event is hosted in a new (and secret) location, not a formal restaurant. For example, a loft or warehouse space may be rented to house the event. This provides a blank canvas for the team to set the tone for the night. Music sets the mood and is often curated by the chef – don’t be surprised if you hear songs you’ve never been exposed to before – it’s all part of the experience.


Dinner Lab Chicago


The Guests: Come as Strangers, Leave as Friends


Chef Daniel explains, “It looks like a middle school dance for the first few minutes – everyone sticks with the people they know and is hesitant to talk to someone new.” Such is human nature, but the hesitation is quickly remedied through the bond of the music, the ambiance, and the flowing drinks. Meals are often preluded by a cocktail hour, during which the groups have a chance to mingle with each other. When it comes time for the sit-down meal, they’re already forming new bonds. “Members who have come as strangers often leave as friends, and they look forward to seeing each other at future events.” There is such as strong sense of community developed when people can sit down and appreciate a meal together – one that will never again happen with this group in this space.


One of the most unique aspects of Dinner Lab is the opportunity for the guests to rate the chef and overall experience. Each diner is given a “report card” – they can rate creativity, pace, taste, temperature, quality of the drink pairings, and hand it in that night. They also have a chance to go online after the event to provide more in-depth feedback. This allows the chef to get a picture of how his or her concept will do in a full restaurant setting, before taking the risk of opening a restaurant. Dinner Lab takes some of the chefs on tour to test out their concepts in different markets, with the top rated chefs selected to go on a second-round tour, gaining exposure to more diners in more markets.


Dinner Lab Chicago


How to Experience Dinner Lab


Dinner Lab is run as a membership-based organization – when you join, you have first access to event tickets, and you can bring a guest (membership is $175 for the year). Typical meals are at least 5 courses for $50-$90, including tip and unlimited drinks. A unique meal in a pop-up location with an interesting set of dining partners is an experience you can’t get anywhere else.


Even though membership is closed for 2014, The Chicago Lifestyle readers have the opportunity to bypass the waitlist and join now! As a reader of The Chicago Lifestyle, you will also receive $20 off your first meal with Dinner Lab.


Click here to join now.



Start the conversation….


Have you taken part in these type of “pop-up” dinners before? Comment below to let us know about your experience, and watch out for our next installment of the social dining investigation in Chicago.


{Images courtesy of Dinner Lab – photo credits: Aaron Lyles, Reaux Photo and Ryan Green}


Travelle: Luxury Dining at The Langham Hotel

Travelle:  Luxury Dining at The Langham Hotel


Situated in a central location downtown in a Mies van der Rohe-designed tower, the Langham Hotel (330 N. Wabash) houses restaurant Travelle. Entering through the grand lobby on the second floor, the restaurant features views on each side including the Marina Towers (the “corn cob” buildings). The kitchen is enclosed with glass, the inner workings visible to guests eager to see the chefs at work.


From beginning to end, Travelle provides impeccable service and attention to their guests. Easy OpenTable reservations and prompt seating start the night off right, and knowledgeable servers carry the positive experience through the evening.


Travelle Chicago


Langham Hotel Lobby


Chef Tim Graham, who is incredibly friendly and in touch with his guests, rolled out a brand new dinner menu this month. Inspired by his worldly travels, the menu highlights flavors from Provence and Turkey. The Provence dishes include unique ingredients such as fennel pollen in a chilled sea bass salad and saffron with mussels. The Turkish dishes offer combinations such as carrots with caraway and walnut with pomegranate. Playing with regional flavors, some of which are centuries-old, Chef Graham develops seasonal menus to tempt diners with creative meals they may not experience elsewhere in the city.


Travelle, Langham Hotel, Chef Tim Graham


The favorite from the Turkish menu is the Crab Stuffed Gozleme with Fennel Salad – a “street food style” crepe edible by hand or knife and fork filled with tasty bites of crab and bursting with flavor. The Stuffed Eggplant, called “The Priest Swooned,” comes with a unique history of flavors so fresh and new to the Turkish region centuries ago that impressed a priest so much he nearly fainted.


Wine and Bread at Travelle


Travelle, Langham Chicago


Travelle, Langham Chicago


On the main menu, be sure to try the Suckling Pig. A combination of rib meat and pork shoulder is surrounded by summer’s bounty – plums and cherries grilled to bring out their flavors, served over a bed of braised kale and rhubarb with mustard seeds. The smoky-fruity contrast is one you don’t want to miss.


Travelle, Langham Chicago


The Piri-Piri Chicken, also on the main menu, is coated with a chili-based rub that resembles a barbecue flavor. Topped with summer corn and roasted mushrooms, the textures blend together and provide a balance of sweet and savory.


Travelle, Langham Chicago


Let’s not forget about the best part of the meal – dessert. You’ll read numerous raving reviews of the Nutella Baklava, and they’re all correct. Nutella-lovers will rejoice at this innovative way to use their favorite ingredient, which is balanced by flaky baklava crust and turned slightly tangy with drops of balsamic vinegar.


Nutella Baklava


The Strawberry Tart is housed in a nice shortbread crust supplemented with a dash of black pepper. Fresh strawberries are complemented with a garnish of goat cheese crème and mini meringues.


The experience doesn’t stop with the food….Travelle has let us in on one of their secrets – how to make a fresh new cocktail!



Introducing: The Nachtmann Norman Libation cocktail, exclusively available in Chicago at Travelle at The Langham Hotel


Riedel, Travelle, The Langham Chicago


Travelle explains the origination of the drink – “Crafted by Bartender Vlachelav Borlov exclusively for Travelle, known for its table-side custom cocktail service, the Nachtmann Norman Libation balances fruity, floral flavors of lemon, apple, and sweet elderflower with the brandy’s spicy notes, and will be served in Nachtmann’s Sculpture Tumbler. Borlov’s inspiration for the cocktail’s flavors came from ‘the bright fruits and flowers of summer and the regal and icy appeal of the cut-crystal Nachtmann Sculpture rocks glass, which called for elegant liquors.’ Exclusively offered at Travelle at The Langham Chicago as of August 14th, the Nachtmann Norman Libation ($16) is the perfect way to help take the edge off the August heat and embrace the tastes of summer before season’s end.”


Recipe: The Nachtmann Norman Libation


Glassware: Nachtmann Sculpture Tumbler (to take home your own tumbler, you may purchase one at the restaurant for an additional $15, or order them online here)


Garnish:  Lemon peel on top



1 oz Calvados VSOP

½ oz St. Germain

½ oz Cocchi Americano

¼ Green Chartreuse

Splash of lemon juice

Spray of Laphroaig Scotch 10 Year



Chill Nachtmann Sculpture Tumbler in freezer. In shaker, combine Calvados VSOP, St. Germain, Cocchi Americano, Green Chartreuse, and lemon juice. Shake and strain onto 2-3 large ice cubes in the Nachtmann Sculpture Tumbler. Finish with a mist of Laphroaig 10 year Scotch on top.


Riedel, Travelle, The Langham Chicago


To learn more about Travelle and The Langham Hotel:


Serving brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks, the restaurant also features a bar and a private wine room that can be reserved for your group or party. Beyond Travelle, The Langham also offers river-side Elle on the River, a little outdoor bistro that serves tacos and summer punches, as well as high-tea service alongside the hotel lobby.


To make reservations, contact Travelle at 312-923-7705.


{Nachtmann Norman Cocktail Recipe and Images Courtesy of The Langham}


Your Guide to Beaching in Chicago: North Avenue Beach

Your Guide to Beaching in Chicago: North Avenue Beach


Your Guide to Chicago Beaches: Pick Your Beach


My favorite season, Chicago beach season, is officially in full swing until September 2. If you haven’t done so yet, here is your guide to taking advantage of the 26 miles of Chicago beaches. First, you have to choose the right beach. Out of convenience, many of us opt for the beach that’s the closest to us but I encourage all to branch out and be sure to visit other beaches as they all have something different to offer. To find your beach for the day, check out Chicago Park district offers an interactive map of all 27 beaches with information on the history, amenities/facilities, beach rules, public transit, photos, water quality and even the “swim status.”


Featured Beach: North Avenue Beach


North Avenue Beach is a great one for families. Looking onto the water at North Avenue, this beach seems to have it all. To the right is the city view we all know and love, in front of you is the lake full of boats and kayakers, to the left are miles more of the beach, and behind you is the always busy bike trail and park; it doesn’t get much better! They even have free wifi, lockers, and a life guard first aid station. According to, it was funded and constructed as a part of FDR’s New Deal WPA (Works Progress Administration). Like most beaches, alcohol is prohibited but one of the great things is that North Avenue is home to two great restaurants, One Stick Puppy and Castaways. This August, North Avenue Beach will even host the Chicago Air and Water Show!


Chicago Beach Panorama


Beach Food


Castaways seems to be the landmark of North Avenue Beach as the giant blue and white boat-esque building that many notice when driving down Lake Shore Drive. They also offer great beach food at their walk up bar but I suggest the Vodka Lemonades on Fridays for only $6.50!


Another hot spot and one of the three full service Chicago beach restaurants is The Dock at Montrose Beach. A favorite part about The Dock is all the live music, including Reggae Wednesdays! As far as the menu, they have everything from kid friendly food, to wraps, and quite the list of cocktails!


If there is sunshine and there are people on the beach you can guarantee there will be ice cream carts up and down the coast all day! The ice cream selection has changed very little since you were a kid so be sure to bring cash for a Nutty Buddy or Fire Cracker Popsicle.


Also on North Avenue Beach, One Stick Puppy is a favorite because the corn dogs make for the perfect beach snack. I purchased the water bottle and always make sure I have it with me every time I go to the beach for the free water refills! Similar to One Stick Puppy, there are several other great beach stands open on the warm days with fun snacks!


Chicago Beach


Beach Activities


On August 16 – 17, North Avenue Beach will serve as the center for the yearly Chicago Air and Water Show featuring the he U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels and the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights. The show is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the Blue Angels are coming out this year! As it will be a long and hot show, be sure to bring a few water bottles and extra sunscreen.


What’s better than starting your day doing yoga in on the beach? Sun and Moon Beach Yoga offers both sunrise and sunset classes through September 1! If neither sunrise nor sunset suits your schedule they also offer late morning and weekend classes to cater to all yogis! You can either purchase a $15 pass, a Season Pass for $300 or you can choose from the 5, 10, or 20 class packs.


Chicago City Sports Monster Beach Volleyball has it all! If you’re interested in beach volleyball, Sports Monster offers 5 different levels, leagues available Sunday – Friday, 9-week leagues, pickup games, tournaments, and clinics. Leagues are open for registration so you can chose from one of their 5 locations and sign up today.


Enjoy your beach days and don’t forget to wear sunscreen!


Wear Sunscreen!



Taste of Chicago: Behind the Scenes with the Operations Manager

Taste of Chicago: Behind the Scenes with the Operations Manager


The annual Taste of Chicago launched this week – once again showcasing various delectable tasty treats, cool brews to wash it down, and crowds of hungry people. But through the masses I had the chance to sit down with one in-the-know individual and interview him.


Taste of Chicago


Johnny Meeks (22 years old, from Barrington, Illinois), the Assistant Manager to Taste of Chicago Day Operations, had this to say:


Q: What’s your favorite part about Taste of Chicago?


A: That is truly such a tough question. There is so much going on that makes the entire experience what it is. I would have to say I personally love the ability to snag quick little portions of amazing food and some of the best grub Chicago has to offer. I can grab a small deep dish slice, some Bourbon Street chicken jalapeño nachos, the always famous smoked alligator sausage, all while sipping an ice cold 312 and enjoying some amazing local talent on stage throughout the whole day.

Taste really brings together a true Chicago experience that may take someone months to complete, only in matter of beautiful 5 summer days. I also get a kick from the all the food tents yelling and howling all day long. It truly wouldn’t be the same without them.



Q: What’s the best way to live the Chicago Lifestyle?


A: Oh man, that’s an even tougher question! Well first of all, this may sound weird, but save seeing the bean and all that classic mumbo for another day. Come hungry and ask around for the best local grub in that area. Chicago is home to such great restaurants that each provides their own unique experiences.

If you have the time, do everything you can to go see a daytime Cubs game and park yourself right in middle of the left field bleachers. They may not serve Old Style anymore, but man, are those bleachers such a fun time. Grab some friends, go root on the city’s die-hard loved Cubbies and just wait till the 7th inning when the bleacher all stars start heckling the other team and make everyone laugh till it hurts. Chicago provides a little of everything for absolutely everyone. Also, what ever you do, never ever, under any circumstances, ask for ketchup.


Taste of Chicago


Q: What’s do you suggest to people for next year that come to Taste of Chicago?


A: I would personally suggest just sticking to the “taste” options from all the vendors. Don’t get me wrong, going for the full meal choices are all amazing and phenomenal, but I would recommend using your tickets for as much as you can possibly get. Spend them across as many vendors as you can to really live Taste the way it’s meant to be.

Oh, and without a doubt, apply double the sunscreen and only use SPF as high as you can. (Chuckles) You’re going to get a tan no matter what, I promise you.


Thanks Johnny!



Learn more about the Taste of Chicago here – and catch it before it closes on Sunday!


Taste of Chicago



Big City Brunching: Best Brunch in Lincoln Park

Big City Brunching: Best Brunch in Lincoln Park


Among many things, Chicago is specifically known for being a culinary capital with some of the best restaurants in the country. My favorite restaurant genre is brunch; what’s more tempting than a tall glass of orange juice with friends on the weekend?


Here’s where you can get the best brunch in Lincoln Park:


Ann Sather

Ann Sather

Not to play favorites… but Ann Sather is pretty great. The cinnamon rolls that will forever ruin any diet I ever try are located at 3415 North Broadway, 1147 West Granville, and 909 West Belmont. The best part is that their recipes are no secret and are downloadable online so you can bring the goodness to your own kitchen too! They don’t have outdoor seating and attract quite the crowd but the wait is never long and always worth it. My personal trick is to go with a friend and get the eggs with bacon, which is about $8.50 and comes with two sides. Be sure to order the biscuits, cinnamon rolls, hash browns, and fruit as your sides and share all of them and you’re set!! If it gets to be too much food, no worries; the cinnamon rolls heat up in the microwave beautifully the next day.



Jam ‘n Honey

Jam 'n Honey

My first time ever in Chicago I passed Jam ‘n Honey on a Saturday and noticed they had giant tubs of Nutella on every table… I was sold. They only take cash so come prepared, but they have an ATM in the back for those of us who often forget. If you’re in a waffle mood, the favorite is the Banana and Nutella pancakes. Though there is often a short wait on the weekends, Jam ‘n Honey offers outdoor seating that faces the beautiful St. Vincent DePaul Church and is well worth any wait.



Sarks in the Park

Sarks in the Park

The eggs benedict is good, the hash browns are great, and the service is different than anywhere else but fantastic. Sarks in the Park offers a great Chicago-esque atmosphere featuring fun maps and jazz artwork. Located at 444 West Fullerton, they are a quick walk to the beach or a fast drive from downtown. My personal favorite part about Sarks in the Park is the outdoor seating. Though it’s on Fullerton, being a few steps below street level makes the atmosphere feel a little quainter. The time I visited, the service was good but different than anywhere else I’ve ever been. There were a handful of very attentive young adults walking around but we never had a distinct host or waiter. Instead, we had a few people come up to all make sure we were taken care of throughout the dining experience.





Nookies is another breakfast/brunch place that has the quaint atmosphere mastered. Everyone is friendly and they always seem to attract the bigger groups or crowds. It is a smaller restaurant, but they are quick so the wait never seems to be too long. Nookies is great for someone dining on a budget because while they have some nicer things on the menu, it is also very easy to find an affordable dish and still even get a coffee, orange juice, or soda. They have a few locations throughout the city and most are BYOB so you can enjoy a mimosa with your brunch. For my southern friends, Nookies is one of the few brunch places in the city that serves grits… cheddar grits nonetheless.



Enjoy! Where are your favorite brunch spots in the city? Comment below!


{Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4}


Your Guide to Living The Chicago Lifestyle: Summer 2014

Your Guide to Living The Chicago Lifestyle: Summer 2014


Our blessed Chicago summer has finally arrived and we all have one goal: Make the most of it! Don your sunglasses and head out the door to enjoy Chicago’s best summer experiences. Because Chicago is so vast and I still have plenty of places I want to try, my list of things to do in Chicago this summer is broken down into two parts – “What I Love” – my own recommendations – and “What I Want to Try” – the places I’ve been dying to go. If you’ve experienced any of the things I want to try, please comment below and let me know how they are!



Al Fresco Dining

outdoor restaurants chicago, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • The Southern (1840 W. North) – This outdoor, partly-shaded patio gets sweeter every time I go. Refreshing seasonal cocktails are paired with a rotating southern menu, allowing you to try something new each time. When weather permits, the second story opens up with breezy cabanas for hosting your best group of friends. My favorite experiences have included Johnny Cakes, hushpuppies and even an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil.
  • Oak Street Beach Bistro (1001 N. Lake Shore Drive) – While most know about Castaways, Oak Street Beach Bistro is a tamer version at the next beach over. Don’t worry if your feet are covered in sand, stop in for a beer and some fish tacos while you people-watch the afternoon away.
  • Derby (1224 W. Webster) – Also featuring southern fare and drinks, Derby is fun year-round. When it’s a sunny Saturday in the middle of the summer, Derby is my first choice when I’m looking for outside seating – I’ve been lucky enough to get a seat each time! While the brunch menu isn’t that large, their main menu has an extensive list of choices, all of which you can top off with a Mint Julep, Beermosa or Cool as a Cucumber.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • RM Champagne Salon (116 N. Green) – Paying homage to one of my favorite drinks, RM Champagne Salon has a courtyard strung with party lights (gorgeous in the pictures). The restaurant opens up at 5 p.m. each night and 11 a.m. on Sundays for brunch. I can see myself lounging under the sparkling lights, ordering a cheese plate while sipping a glass of champagne…
  • Elle on the River (330 N. Wabash) – Situated on the patio outside the Langham Hotel and restaurant Travelle, this sweet new spot is serving up Mediterranean tacos, craft sodas (with the option to add your liquor of choice), and summer-flavored punch bowls titled “Better than a Bradford,” “Elle a Noir” and “Down by the River.” Don’t forget the lovely view of the city over the river.



Rooftop Party Hopping

rooftop bar chicago, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • ZED451 (739 N. Clark) – While ZED451’s rooftop is only two floors high, it still offers great city views of the surrounding buildings. You’ll enter through the restaurant’s first floor bar, climbing a set of stairs to get to the top. With a number of seating options – long benches, two-seater high-tops and mini cabanas for groups – you can sit down and order a bite off the restaurant’s lighter Cravings menu. This is a great spot for a special event or a night out with friends.
  • J. Parker (1816 N. Clark) – The drinks may be expensive, but the view makes up for it. Take the special elevator up to the top of Hotel Lincoln and step out to incredible visibility of Lincoln Park and the lake. The view encompasses some of Chicago’s best natural beauty and reinforces your love for this great city. Expect a hip see-and-be-seen crowd, and don’t expect to get a seat during peak hours.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • I|O Urban Roofscape (127 W. Huron) – Swanky hotel The Godfrey boasts an indoor/outdoor rooftop space serving up food and drinks to its fabulous visitors. Open from breakfast/brunch through late night, the restaurant/bar sits under a retractable roof that allows for year-round entertaining – and they even take reservations! My apartment window overlooks the hotel, leaving me wanting to go every day. One of these days I will make it happen!
  • 52Eighty Rooftop Lounge (166 E. Superior) – Several of my fellow Chicago bloggers made me jealous with their recent pictures from Mile North Hotel’s new rooftop, 52Eighty. Twenty-eight stories up, this brand-new space looks like it’s going to be one of the summer’s hottest rooftops!
  • Little Goat Rooftop (820 W. Randolph) – My Mom and I stumbled across this little gem while waiting to be seated in Little Goat’s main dining room. This cozy space offers cushioned benches, an outdoor bar, and even a few manicured plants and flowers to enhance the atmosphere. Perched on top of the main restaurant, this rooftop offers a great view in the middle of the West Loop. Since it is adjacent to the dining room that can be rented for private events, the rooftop is only open for very specific hours – please check their website for more details.



Fresh Air Fitness

outdoor fitness chicago, outdoor workout chicago, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • Running the lakefront trail – In my Chicago Marathon training days, I conquered approximately 10 miles (out and back to get in a total of 20!) of that well-worn trail. While the stretch between Fullerton and Oak Street is especially popular due to the beaches, this congested area is not the only scenic part of the route. Heading north between Montrose and Foster you’ll take in expansive fields, nearly empty beaches, and plenty of peaceful spots to camp out for the afternoon. Heading south, you’ll pass by beauties such as the Buckingham Fountain, incredible skyline views by the museum campus, and ultimately more sandy shores looking back up on the loop.
  • The Color Run – Read about my experience at The Color Run and enter to win 2 tickets here.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • Yoga at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Boardwalk – Held under the unique wooden sculpture modeled after a turtle shell, weekly yoga classes bring your workouts back to nature. In addition to the picturesque view of the city skyline, you’ll be surrounded by wildlife living in the boardwalk’s ecosystem. Curious? You can even try it out for free – on Saturday, May 31 from 9 – 10 a.m. and Sunday, June 1 from 10 – 11 a.m.
  • Stand-up Paddleboarding – If you haven’t seen pictures of this unique sport, it’s a cross between surfing and kayaking – you’ll stand up on a board and paddle around in the lake. Chicago SUP offers rentals, lessons and even crazy classes such as SUP-Yo (yoga on the board) and SUP-Fit (cross training on the board). Who wants to sign up with me??



Low-Cost Culture & Events

free events chicago, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • Navy Pier Fireworks – Seeing a spectacle in the sky is not just for 4th of July anymore – in Chicago, you can be dazzled with fireworks every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and every Saturday at 10:15 p.m. While you can go directly to Navy Pier to view the fireworks shows, I would recommend finding a rooftop to watch them from, or go out on a fireworks cruise on a boat or kayak.
  • Movies in the Park – Movies in the Park is entering its 14th season, bringing communities together to view classic and modern movies under the stars – for free! Bring your blanket, chairs and picnic to enjoy a balmy evening with friends. I had the pleasure of seeing my favorite movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, at the Chicago History Museum last year. Favorites this summer include:
    • July 5: Gravity at Jonquil Playlot (1001 W. Wrightwood)
    • July 9: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark)
    • July 17: The Sandlot at Wicker Park (1425 N. Damen)
    • August 8: The Goonies at Wrightwood Park (2534 N. Greenview)
    • August 12: The Blind Side at Montgomery Ward Park (630 N. Kingsbury)
    • August 23: Wizard of Oz at Oz Park (2021 N. Burling)
  • Arlington Racetrack – Bring your floppy hats, your sundresses and your bowties to spend a day in the sunshine at Arlington’s beautiful horse racing track. Unlike some of the other horse racing experiences you may have had, you can actually see all of the horses at this track. Even though this location is in the suburbs, it’s easy to take the Metra from Clybourn station and you can even drink on the train. With tickets typically only $12, you’ll get to see the horses race every 20 minutes and grab some food/drinks or place a bet before the next one. The track’s biggest race, the Arlington Million, will be a big party on Saturday, August 16.
  • Farmer’s Markets – There’s nothing like finding fresh inspiration for your dinner from the bountiful produce, meats, cheeses and more flowing from local farmers at Chicago’s many Farmer’s Markets. While my favorite remains the Green City Market in Lincoln Park, many neighborhoods host their own markets on various days of the week, including lunch hours in the Loop. Visit the link above to find one near you.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • Jazzin’ at the Shedd – I still haven’t made it to this weekly (every Wednesday 5 – 10 p.m. from June 25 – September 3) summer event, but not for lack of trying! I bought tickets/Groupons the past two years but had conflicts both times. This year I am determined to enjoy the concerts featuring rotating artists outside the Shedd Aquarium. Attendees can choose from various food and beverage options for purchase. Bonus points for fireworks in the background and extended hours on select museum exhibits.
  • Free Concerts at Millennium Park – The gorgeous Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts free concerts throughout the summer, another great spot to bring a blanket and set up a picnic. There are several sets of concerts – Loops and Variations, which features new music mixed with electronica on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., and Downtown Sound, which features varied genres of artists every Monday at 6:30 p.m.



Festivals, Concerts and Tours

chicago summer festival, chicago summer concerts, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • Chicago Pride Parade – This has got to be one of the city’s most fun one-day events. While the Pride Fest takes on a full week of festivities, the parade on June 29 guarantees color, spirit and a whole lot else! Warning: there might be sights you can’t un-see. But don’t let that stop you – the costumes, floats and performances make this a huge street party running for blocks and blocks in Boystown.
  • Chicago Food Planet Tour (Bucktown/Wicker Park) – In addition to getting your fill of Chicago-based delicacies, you’ll be treated to a neighborhood history walking tour. I had the opportunity to learn about the “Beer Baron Mansions,” the painted lady houses, and the history of the park (Wicker Park) itself. This tour also provided my only “official” tutorial on the history, components and principles of the Chicago-style hot dog.
  • Taste of Lincoln Avenue – One of Chicago’s most popular street festivals, Taste of Lincoln Avenue attracts a gathering so large you might end up crowd-surfing. To avoid the congestion, attend at off peak hours, catch one of the local cover bands (such as my favorite 80s cover band, 16 Candles), and sample the flavors of nearby restaurants you’ve never tried. This year’s festival is scheduled for July 26 – 27.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • Do-Division Street Fest – Held this upcoming weekend, May 30 – June 1, West Town’s street festival hosts concerts, a sidewalk sale of artisan vendors, local food options and even a fashion festival (runway show!). Centered on the unique businesses and shops that make up the area, this festival gives true neighborhood flair and welcome to visitors from all over.
  • Chicago Blues Fest – I feel like I’ve never fully taken advantage of Chicago’s history of blues music. From June 13 – 15, we can experience numerous blues and honorary acts in Grant Park for free. Headliners include Billy Boy Arnold, Bettye LaVette, Dr. John and more.



Follow The Chicago Lifestyle’s summer adventures around town on Twitter and Instagram.



Which of these have you tried? What tips would you give us for the places we haven’t been? Please comment below!



Get the Inside Scoop on MasterChef Contestant: Chicago Food Truck Chef Rickie Perez

Get the Inside Scoop on MasterChef Contestant: Chicago Food Truck Chef Rickie Perez


You’ve seen them parked along the streets, spreading delicious smells of food grilling within, and have likely sampled their local flavors. Chicago’s food trucks tout a loyal following and provide a quick and convenient spot to grab a bite to eat. Out of one of those food trucks emerged Chef Rickie Perez, a native of Logan Square with an appetite to prove his talent.


Rickie will debut on MasterChef on FOX this Monday, May 26 at 7 p.m., hosted by Gordon Ramsay. Judging alongside Gordon will be Chicago Chef celebrity Graham Elliot and restaurateur Joe Bastianich. Beginning with 30 chefs from around the country, the judges will eliminate at each round until the best contestant is dubbed MasterChef.


Chefs will test their culinary expertise with challenges each week, including:

  • Team challenge to prepare a meal for 500 service men and women on an army base
  • Preparation of a romantic meal for 14 couples
  • Restaurant takeover at a popular Hollywood dining destination
  • Competing for the best game-day grub for a group of sports fans



Excited to represent Chicago, Rickie gave me the inside scoop on his inspiration and competition:


Rickie Perez


What excited you the most about competing in MasterChef?

I have been a BIG fan of the show since the beginning. Plus, being a home cook from Chicago, I have always looked up to Chef Graham Elliot and the amazing things that have come out of his kitchens.


How did your food truck experiences prepare you to compete in MasterChef?

I have had the extreme pleasure of riding around this beautiful city in the Southern Mac and Cheese, 5411 Empanadas, Jerk Modern Jamaican, and The Fat Shallot Classic Sandwiches food trucks. In doing so, I have been able to immerse myself in foods and cultures that I may have never been able to if it wasn’t for the growing food truck population in Chicago.


Which judge is the toughest and why?

Graham was the scariest for me, but only because I truly look up to him so much.


How does your work represent Chicago?

I was born and raised in Logan Square and my beautiful wife, Jannice, and I still live there to this day. I have brought my experiences from living in this city, known for its amazing and vast variety of food, as well as those from growing up on my father’s food and having my mother-in-law’s amazing home cooking.


What food truck(s) do you run, where can we find them and what should we order?

I am no longer on the road, but I am launching my own project, Logan Oyster Socials. It is a traveling oyster bar for parties, cocktail hours, weddings or any get-together in need of a half shell.



Many thanks to Rickie and good luck during MasterChef Season 5! Catch the debut on FOX this upcoming Monday at 7 p.m.


{Images via FOX and Rickie Perez}



Sprinkles Cupcakes: The Best Treats in Chicago

Sprinkles Cupcakes: The Best Treats in Chicago


You may have heard of this little phenomenon called Sprinkles Cupcakes… if you haven’t, get yourself there now! Sprinkles is one of the top destinations in Chicago to satisfy your sweet tooth. With the Windy City Blogger Collective, I had the lucky opportunity to go behind the scenes at Sprinkles to see where the magic happens, as a #SprinklesTasteTester.


The allure of Sprinkles’ freshly baked cupcakes draws in droves of locals and tourists each day, clamoring for the sweet taste of this Gold Coast shop’s treats. The façade of the store is covered in the characteristic polka dots decorating the tops of many of Sprinkles’ cupcakes. You’ll be greeted first by the innovative Cupcake ATM outside the door – just use the screen to make your selection and you’ll have your cupcake in hand in moments! When you walk in the door, you’ll see what all the fuss is about as your eyes meet the rows of flavors for your choosing. A handy guide will show you which flavors are available each day of the week, and you don’t have to pick just one! Boxes are available to take cupcakes home or to make someone’s day as a gift.


Sprinkles Facade


Rows of Cupcakes


S'mores Cupcakes


Situated behind all the delicious temptations is a small but mighty kitchen churning out all the cupcakes the store sells. Trays and trays of the delicious cupcakes are surrounded by industrial size mixers, ovens, and cupcake pans of various sizes. For our lucky group, a set of unfrosted cupcakes sat out on the counter. I was ready to pick up a frosting spatula right away but my patience was rewarded with a lesson on how to frost cupcakes the official Sprinkles way.


How to Frost a Cupcake – The Official Sprinkles Way


After stirring the frosting a bit with the spatula, scoop up more frosting than will be necessary to top the cupcake. Spread the frosting smoothly over the top, running the spatula in both directions to create a flat surface. Brush the spatula along the side of the cupcake in short sections, removing the excess frosting. Take one final sweep with your spatula across the top and around the sides to smooth out the frosting, finishing the look by rounding out any edges. If you’d like, top with sprinkles or other decorations.


Frosting Lesson


Cupcakes Ready to be Frosted


Windy City Bloggers


I am a vanilla cake lover so I picked up a vanilla cupcake and chose the peanut butter frosting. With a few careful swipes my cupcake was iced and I was ready for the decorations. Chocolate sprinkles and a little pink whale topper seemed like the perfect accoutrements to my creation. Within minutes, I devoured each bite.


My Very Own Cupcake!


Not to limit my taste test to one flavor, I took home a box to try out several of Sprinkles’ other options. My favorite was the new Margarita flavor, which is actually spread with a layer of tequila before being frosted. My other favorite was the S’more cupcake, a concoction of graham cracker crust, chocolate cake with an even more chocolaty center, and a toasted marshmallow topping. With all the flavors and options, I know these cupcakes would make great gifts to a few very lucky individuals.


Sprinkles to Go


Vanilla Cupcake


Next time you’re craving a sweet treat or want to try one of Chicago’s gourmet creations, head to Sprinkles cupcakes to create your own delicious moments!


Connect with Sprinkles:

In-store: 50 E. Walton, Chicago, IL 60611


Instagram: @sprinklescupcakes

Twitter: @sprinkles


Taste Test: Fulton Market Kitchen

Taste Test: Fulton Market Kitchen

Looking for a new and innovative restaurant that carries a creative attitude across food, drinks and décor? Newcomer Fulton Market Kitchen combines superb flavors with a bold new atmosphere. I had the pleasure of dining there this weekend – here’s the scoop on this new hot spot.


First – to get there, you’ll step outside the boundaries of Randolph’s “Restaurant Row” and head deeper into the Fulton Market warehouse district. Situated behind a row of parked trucks, you’ll see a black painted building marked with “Post No Bills” signs – don’t get scared away too quickly because you’ll be glad once you step inside.


Dining Room Entrance



The sunlight spills into the main dining room, lighting up the incredible murals on the walls for the hour before the sun sets and the lights are dimmed for the evening. Featuring a combination of illustrations, portraits, and cartoonish-images, the walls are quite a sight. Textural components such as exposed brick and mini boats hanging from the ceiling round out the décor. Seating in the dining room is a mix of against-the-wall bench seating, high-top tables in the middle, bar seating, and for a lucky large group, a traditional dining table topped with a candelabra. Upon being seated the hostess will hand you a historic storybook, inside of which is your menu.


Dining Room and Menu


The menu consists of small, medium and large plates, and there are equally as many unique cocktail options. I started with the Light from the Left, a combination of Bourbon, Cynar, blueberry, lemon and Thai basil. Bright and crisp, this is the perfect drink to kick off the spring. The contrast of the berry-colored drink against the deep green basil garnish made the drink both delicious and picture-worthy. Other cocktails on the menu feature flavor combinations such as carrot, ginger, lemon and tarragon (What’s Up Doc) or red pepper, lemon, orange and BBQ bitters (Never Trust a Spaniard). If you try this drink – please let me know what the BBQ bitters taste like!



Light from the Left Cocktail


Our choice on the First Canvas (small plates) menu was the Ravioli and Foie, which was so melt-in-your mouth delicious that the pair dining next to us ordered it just based on the looks on our faces. The house-made pasta was so light, in perfect pairing with the rich mushroom, veal and foie gras flavors.


With encouragement from our waitress, we ordered the Two Tails from the Second Canvas (medium plates) menu. Imagine an entire lobster tail (cut in half for easy sharing) surrounding crisped pig tail, which tasted like part pork belly and part pork shoulder. Each of the accompaniments – melted leeks, artichokes and burgundy sauce – worked together to enhance and deepen the flavors of the pork and lobster.



Ravioli & Foie and Two Tails


After two great starters we couldn’t wait for our entrees to arrive.  The Skate was a nice, light white fish surrounded by a spring sampling of asparagus, mushrooms, fennel puree, parsley pesto, and a sweet and tangy bite of candied lemon.


The Lamb was elegantly presented with cucumber garnish and dots of mint and feta cheese. The spiced cauliflower puree tasted like a comforting cheese sauce, which I spread on every savory bite of the lamb. I typically like meat cooked medium, and the lamb was perfectly cooked inside even though the outside looked a little more red.


For dessert, rather than offering a standard menu, several special options were presented to us, and we chose a hazelnut tiramisu. The soft creaminess of the top layers were offset by a crunchy bottom akin to a candy bar. The hazelnut, cream and chocolate combination didn’t hurt either.



Lamb and Menu


We couldn’t leave without taking a peek into the other rooms in the restaurant. Behind the dining room is a lounge area with pin-tucked leather benches and a separate bar topped with pieces of dining chairs adhered to the wall. The murals in this room feature a sultry-eyed lady and pops of bright colors that stand out in the dim lighting. I will definitely be coming back here for drinks to try more of the creative cocktail menu. Beyond the lounge area sits a private dining room, filled with luxurious velvet high-backed chairs, a sturdy dining table and a gorgeous chandelier, set for a king and queen. This would be a great spot to host a private party and impress your guests.



Lounge and Private Dining Room


I would recommend Fulton Market Kitchen as a great place to amaze your visual and taste senses alike. Make sure you add this restaurant to your “must go” list to experience the combination of great food and artistic flair.