Category Archives: Things to Do

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}


Climb Your Way Over to West Loop’s New Brooklyn Boulders Chicago

Climb Your Way Over to West Loop’s New Brooklyn Boulders Chicago


In Chicago we always have an appetite for new innovative, collaborative and active spaces. Imagine a venue where you can work out, grab a healthy meal, get your work done and satisfy your need for a dance party. After wild success in New York and Boston, Brooklyn Boulders is opening a Chicago facility in the West Loop (100 S. Morgan St.) at the end of this year (slated for December). The rock climbing facility and coworking space inhabits 25,000 square feet within one of Chicago’s favorite dining and socializing neighborhoods.


The Chicago Lifestyle had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the facility, still under construction, in an official “hard hat tour.” We’re bringing you the details of this new spot before doors open to the public.


Brooklyn Boulders Chicago


Brooklyn Boulders Chicago


While rock climbing is the core of the business, Brooklyn Boulders was eager to learn about the Chicago neighborhood and see what type of offerings would be the best fit. Tailoring to entrepreneurs, students, techies, and athletes alike, the facility is designed to connect people and bring them together with a buzz of energy.


Stepping into the main entrance, a bouldering wall is the centerpiece. Climbing this wall does not involve the use of ropes, but safety is first and foremost. The shortest of the climbing walls, the bouldering wall is designed for all skill levels and markers on the wall indicate which steps to take based on your skill level. Toward the back of the facility is a taller wall and party room, designed specifically for groups and parties. A small café will offer quick, healthy options, bringing a simple dining spot for anyone who wants to pop in. Formulated with an urban aesthetic, Brooklyn Boulders Chicago will feature artwork from local artists, music to set a creative mood and climbing walls lined with Baltic birch wood to provide a smoother, sleeker climb.


Brooklyn Boulders Chicago


Brooklyn Boulders Chicago


A second level offers space for a multitude of workouts ranging from treadmills, yoga and other fitness classes. A partnership with the Spartan Race spurred an obstacle course training class. This level also features the “Active Collaborative Workspace” – set up with built-in desks, a lounge area and free wifi, it’s a terrific spot to bring your homework or office work. What’s most unique about the Active Collaborative Workspace are the chin-up bar and exercise balls to sit on, encouraging frequent movement and breaks in between study time.


The stunning south room extends up to a 50 foot ceiling and is covered in rock climbing surfaces. Designed for rappelling and belaying, the more adventurous climbers will be in heaven. A DJ-fueled soundtrack makes this expansive room the perfect place to host large parties and events. For those not climbing or climbers taking a rest, the middle of the room will be lined with couches and casual lounge space. Partnerships with over 20 Chicago food trucks will bring a party to the back parking lot in the summer months, where guests can chill at picnic tables and enjoy a bite to eat.


Brooklyn Boulders Chicago


New to climbing? Brooklyn Boulders Chicago offers “Learn the Ropes” courses for both members and drop-ins. Instructors are always on hand to supervise and answer questions. Memberships are already available for purchase here. Upon “soft launch” in the fall, the facility will be open for limited hours. Once fully operational, it will be open from 6:30 – 9:30 a.m. for fitness classes, and 10 a.m. – midnight for climbing and all the other offerings.


Stay tuned as Chicago opens this new space that will stoke your creativity, inspiration, and physical abilities.


Fire Up Your Country Nights with Jack Fire

Fire Up Your Country Nights with Jack Fire


You know those nights…where things are going to get a bit rowdy…you have all your friends in tow and you’re bringing the party with you. The nights when you want some all-American fun and dancing, you head to the country bars. But first, you set the tone with a few pre-party drinks. Your go-to? The new Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, now available in Chicago stores. Take the classic quality of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, kick it up with a spicy cinnamon flavor, and you have a recipe for a night of friendly fun. Grab a glass for each of your friends, pour Jack Fire straight or with a splash of soda water or Diet Coke, and raise your glasses in a round of “Cheers!”


Where to go once you’ve enjoyed your Jack Fire? Chicago brings in a little taste of the south in bars such as Bub City and Old Crow Smokehouse. Don’t forget to wear your cowboy boots – you’re in for a good time!


Bub City (435 N. Clark St.)

Located in the heart of River North, Bub City brings together barbecue and live music in a fun, country-themed space. Stop in for a good southern meal, linger over the drinks, and stay for the party. A stage up front hosts live music Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, with live band karaoke on Tuesday. If you come on an alternate night with a large enough group, you may even get to sit at a table on the stage! Get ready to show off your country style and make new friends over drinks.


Old Crow Smokehouse (3506 N. Clark St.)

Perfecting the barbecue and live music formula, Old Crow Smokehouse is separated into two large sections, housed in Wrigleyville. While both sides hold a large bar, one side is dedicated to sit-down dining while the other offers a large dance floor next to a stage that can fit a good-sized band. Get ready to dance the night away as the tunes kick up. Old Crow Smokehouse features live band karaoke on Thursday nights – make the stage your own!


Keep the night fueled as you make Jack Fire your order at the bar.


When the party calls for staying in, make the night yours with the season’s best Jack Fire cocktail recipes.


Spicy Hot Toddy

1 oz. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire

1 teaspoon Honey

1 squeeze of Lemon Juice

Hot Tea


Pour ingredients into a mug. Stir to combine ingredients.



Tennessee Chai

1.5 oz. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire

7 oz. chai tea mix

8 oz. milk


Heat milk & chai mix in a coffee mug, then add Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire and stir to combine ingredients.



Cran-Apple Fire

1 oz. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire

3 oz. Apple Juice

2 oz. Cranberry Juice


Pour ingredients in a tall glass and stir to combine.



Learn more about Jack Fire and where to buy it here.



{Jack Fire sample and recipes provided gratis to The Chicago Lifestyle. All other content, images and opinions are from The Chicago Lifestyle.}


Find Your Cause: Where to Volunteer in Chicago

Find Your Cause: Where to Volunteer in Chicago


Many of us are lucky enough to have the time, talents or finances to help those in need. Chicago is an incredibly diverse city with many people in need of support. There is an impressive array of organizations – non-profits, volunteer centers and auxiliary boards – that provide value to Chicago citizens.


Chicago Cares, one of the organizations that facilitates volunteer opportunities throughout the year, hosted over 50 groups looking for support in the Find Your Cause event on October 21. Chicago Cares offers 250 volunteer opportunities every single month at Give back this year by lending your time, energy and talents to one (or more!) of these respected groups. No matter what you are interested in, there is an opportunity that fits you – as you’re looking for volunteering in Chicago.



Find Your Cause

If you are interested in … health and fitness


  • Cooking Matters – EverThrive Illinois – Love to plan and cook healthy meals? Help Chicago families do the same through culinary classes, teaching healthy meal planning, food preparation and nutrition information. In partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, Cooking Matters focuses on ending childhood hunger and empowering families to eat healthy on a limited budget. Volunteer opportunities include leading classes, grocery store tours, setup/cleanup and more. To learn more, call 312-491-8161.
  • Urban Initiatives – Love playing or coaching soccer? Urban Initiatives’ “Work to Play” program brings together kids in grades K-4 to play soccer, as a reward for work well done at school. The program is designed to build accountability, character and healthy habits. Volunteer as a coach for two practices and one game a week through the school year – contact to learn more and sign up. Attend their annual Soccer Ball Benefit on January 23, 2015 to benefit their sports-based youth development programs.



If you are interested in … art, music and performing arts


  • All Stars Project of Chicago – Bring joy to the youth of Chicago’s south and west sides through hip-hop talent shows in community centers and school auditoriums. Kids aged 5-25 have the opportunity to define and develop talents singing, dancing or producing talent shows where they interact positively with peers and adults. Volunteer opportunities include audition, talent show and special event support, as well as coaching students to prepare for summer internships. Schedules are flexible and there is no minimum volunteer requirement. For more information about volunteering call 312-360-0660.
  • Green Star Movement – Designed to inspire students and community members as well as beautify urban spaces, Green Star Movement facilitates the design and creation of public art and murals. Working with schools that cannot afford educational arts-based programming, the group brings students together to design and build public murals, encouraging teamwork and fostering self-esteem. Volunteer opportunities include supporting programming running during or immediately following the school day, but volunteers are welcome anytime. Contact to learn more.
  • Woman Made Gallery – The non-profit art gallery, located at 685 N. Milwaukee, supports and features the work of female artists. Providing a positive environment for under-represented artists, the gallery hosts not only physical artwork but also poetry readings, film screenings and panel discussions. In their 23-year history, the Woman Made Gallery has exhibited work from over 7000 women. Volunteer opportunities include maintaining the galleries, assisting with special events and packaging artwork. A special program called 20 Neighborhoods brings together women from all over the city to provide art education and opportunities to create and exhibit art.



If you are interested in … career search and preparation


  • Inspiration Corporation – Promoting self-sufficiency within individuals impacted by homelessness or poverty, Inspiration Corporation provides housing, social services and employment services. Volunteers support individuals who may have been out of the workforce for decades, helping them with resume preparation, goal setting, mock interviewing and job searching. After attending an orientation, volunteers have many opportunities to choose from on an events calendar, including those in partnership with Inspiration Kitchens (including meal prep and serving). To learn more click here.
  • Upwardly Global – Support work-authorized, highly skilled immigrants to find work opportunities that match their talents through Upwardly Global. As a volunteer, you can build your professional, leadership and coaching skills by helping immigrants understand US workplace cultural expectations, how to interview and how to find the right position. Volunteers are prepped with templates, strategies and tips. There is no minimum time requirement. To learn more call 312-431-1923.



If you are interested in … youth development and tutoring


  • Chicago LightsA non-profit run through the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago Lights supports economically disadvantaged children through tutoring, education and literacy programs. Serving 400 children each year, volunteers commit to one-on-one tutoring/mentoring for the school year (with the same student on the same evening each week). For a smaller time commitment, volunteers can also help students, from 1st grade through 12th grade, by being substitute tutors, filling in when convenient for your schedule. Tutoring is run at the Gratz Center at Fourth Presbyterian Church, conveniently located at 126 E. Chestnut (off of Michigan Avenue). Attend the Glow Associates Board gala on November 8, 2014 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. To learn more about volunteering call 312-981-3381.
  • Chicago HOPES for KidsProvide after-school tutoring support for children living in homeless shelters, in Uptown, Lakeview, Back of the Yards or Little Village. The program is unique in that volunteers actually provide support within the homeless shelters, helping with homework, math and reading support and cultural enrichment. Volunteers are asked to commit to one 2-hour tutoring session a week through the semester. To sign up, click here.



If you are interested in … disaster response efforts


  • American Red CrossSupport victims of home fires or other disasters through American Red Cross. Relief support includes shelter, food, emotional support, health services and more for thousands of people impacted by disasters each year, not only immediately following a disaster but also during the following weeks and months of recovery. To learn more about volunteer opportunities call 312-729-6222.



If you are interested in … networking with other like-minded professionals


  • Young Nonprofit Professionals NetworkYNPN brings young professionals together to help maximize their impact on social change through charitable and philanthropic efforts. Making nonprofit support and volunteering more accessible through networking events, social gatherings, discussions and more, YNPN is looking for members, volunteers and executive board members. To learn more contact
  • United Way Young Leaders SocietyThe Young Leaders Society brings together young professionals across the city to participate in networking, fundraising and volunteer opportunities. Benefit from personal and professional growth by getting involved as a member or on the executive committee. Membership does have an annual donation requirement of $250. To learn more call 312-906-2248.



If you are interested in … joining and auxiliary or executive board


  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital Auxiliary BoardJoin a group of young professionals and community leaders who raise funds to support innovative research programs at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Money raised is given as “seed money” to hospital programs and research initiatives such as bone marrow transplant, heart failure prevention and the brain tumor institute. To learn more about becoming a member or supporter of the Auxiliary Board, call 312-926-7133.
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra Overture Council – Have the opportunity to meet artists, attend concerts, volunteer and attend social gatherings with the Overture Council. Support a love for music in Chicago with over 100 young professionals. To learn more call 312-294-3198.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago Evening Associates – Gather once a month with young professionals to learn more about the museum, attend happy hours and help run After Dark and other special events. Evening Associates help raise art awareness and funds to support the museum and enjoy exclusive benefits such as VIP events and behind-the-scenes access to exhibits. To learn more call 312-443-3710.   


Top Bars to Watch Bears Games in Chicago

Top Bars to Watch Bears Games in Chicago


Chicago, let’s face it, our beloved Bears aren’t doing as hot as we’d like them to this season. Once we thought we recovered from that embarrassing home loss to the Green Bay Packers, a few weeks later we still couldn’t do it at home against the Miami Dolphins. The good news is you don’t have to hang your head alone. Chicago has hundreds of places all around the city where you can find fellow fans complaining about Cutler’s lack of ability and the non-existent defense. We’ve narrowed down the places to go for the pre-game activities, to get the cheapest food and drinks, and of course to experience that “football season” feeling.


Vice District Brewing Company (1454 S. Michigan Ave.)

For the fans that love football season because it involves beer, beer and more beer, Vice District Brewing Company  is a new brewery in the South Loop near Soldier Field and will fill you up with just about any craft beer you’d like. The taproom opens at 11 a.m. on Bears game days.


O’Donovan’s (2100 W. Irving Park Road)

Get this. Not only can you kick off the game at O’Donovan’s but they also have a $10 ticket for a round trip shuttle from the North Center to Soldier Field that includes beverages on board. A low-key and mellow beer garden is tucked away in the back that is also heated and enclosed once it starts to get cold.


Leader Bar (3000 W. Irving Park Rd)

The mother of all bars with LED screens puts the ball into the end-zone for this everyday, family-friendly bar and grill. The beer options are through the roof and the staff is on point. Just what you need to stay sane during Jay Cutler’s horrible passes.


Public House (400 N. State St)

Public House offers a more chic way to Sunday Funday during a Bears game. Enjoy gourmet appetizers to go along with an endless beer list (the taps are actually built into the walls) with names you’ve never heard of, served in glasses you’ve never seen before. Definitely a place to bring a Bears game date to.


McGee’s Tavern (950 W. Webster Ave)

McGee’s is the definition of a loud, crowded, drunken, chaotic sports bar. Beer will be spilled on you, fights will start and you’ll spend a long time waiting in line for the bathroom. But you’ll have a heck of a time.


Joe’s Bar on Weed St. (940 W. Weed St)

Joe’s is one of the most popular places to catch any Chicago game. However, the atmosphere is terrific here on Sundays because just about everyone has a Bears jersey on. The food is Chicago style, the TVs play Chicago sports, the people are from Chicago, all Chicago, all the time.


Mike Ditka’s Restaurant (100 E. Chestnut St)

True Bear fans will understand why this place is No. 1. Although it is a classier way to enjoy the game, there is no better way to soak in the history of “Da Bears” and reminisce the years they were a great team.


Get into the Halloween Spirit: Chicago Edition

Get into the Halloween Spirit: Chicago Edition


Looking outside this week – the leaves have changed to vibrant reds and oranges, the temperatures have dipped just below “sweater weather” and you’ve nearly outdone yourself with the Pumpkin Spice Lattes. As days turn into nights, that chilly, eerie feeling arises and you know for sure – it’s almost Halloween. With the holiday quickly approaching, here are 5 things to do in Chicago to get you in the Halloween spirit.


Halloween Spirit: Scary and Creepy Movies

Chicago Edition: Rocky Horror Picture Show at Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport)

Scary movies are one of the best ways to get yourself into the Halloween spirit. Whether you are a fan of gory films, or classic, bone-chilling cinematic features, a movie allows you to escape for a little while into a different world. To enter that world in Chicago, head to The Music Box Theatre, where premiere independent and foreign films have been shown for the last 20 years. Halloween brings showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, including live actors, sing-alongs and props to throw around. If you’re not familiar with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it’s a campy film from the 70s that has inspired a following of fans for years. Its kooky plot is unlike any movie you’ve seen before – head the The Music Box Theatre and you’ll be fully immersed in the experience. For more information and to purchase tickets click here.


rocky horror


Halloween Spirit: Caramel Apples and Halloween Treats

Chicago Edition: Andrew’s Caramel Apples (5001 W. Belmont)

When it comes to Halloween, everyone thinks of candy and tasty Halloween treats, such as popcorn, candy and caramel apples. A great place to get caramel apples in Chicago is Andrew’s Caramel Apples. This family owned business is known for selling their candy apples by the case – they cover the apples in classic caramel and peanuts. For more information on pricing and ordering call (773) 286-2224.


caramel apples


Halloween Spirit: Pumpkin Carving and Decorating

Chicago Edition: Pumpkin Carving Party at Sheffield’s (3258 N. Sheffield)

Another great Halloween tradition is pumpkin carving. In addition to having a great display at your doorstep, you can bake the seeds from the pumpkin. Pumpkin carving brings family and friends together while giving you an opportunity to show off your creative side, perhaps with a classic Jack-o-Lantern style, or a special carving… even adding your own signature flare. On Thursday, October 23, 2014, starting at 6 p.m., Sheffield’s Beer and Wine Garden hosts their annual pumpkin carving event, for free. During the event Pumpkin Beer will be on tap and there will be specials on hot mulled cider. To learn more click here. Get there early to reserve your pumpkin!


Halloween Spirit: Dressing up for Halloween

Chicago Edition: Shopping at Fantasy Costumes (4065 N. Milwaukee)

One of the best parts about Halloween is being able to dress up in a costume and hit the town – showing off your creativity with your friends. Instead of running last minute into one of the Halloween pop-up shops, make a visit to Fantasy Costumes, a well-known costume shop that has been located on the North side of Chicago for over 45 years. Not only do they sell and rent Halloween costumes, but they also have Christmas outfits, St. Patrick’s Day costumes and Mardi Gras accessories. Customers at Fantasy Costumes are always greeted with a smile and great service. If you’re searching for that one specific thing you can’t find anywhere else, this is the place to come – the shop is a whole block long! They have various rooms including their own kids’ costume room, a wig room and a mask room, and a wide selection of adult costumes as well. For more information click here.


fantasty costumes


Halloween Spirit: Haunted Houses

Chicago Edition: Chicago Ghost Tours

Who knew Chicago was haunted? With a history riddled with battles, fires, gangster massacres and more, there are rumored hauntings all throughout the city. Chicago Ghost Tours takes you on a ghost hunt – even to one of Al Capone’s hangout spots! You’ll be sure to bring back stories from this tour. Call (773) 953-6332 to reserve your spot on a tour today!


Happy Halloween, Chicago style!


{Image credits: Header1, 23}


Top Chicago Fitness Studios

Top Chicago Fitness Studios


Chicago offers an array of workouts, so you’re certain to always have a new studio or class to get your blood pumping. With ClassPass, you can experience up to 10 unique classes a month at Chicago fitness studios. Read our review of ClassPass here.


The Chicago Lifestyle had the chance to check out some of studios ClassPass offers and provide our recommendations.



Exhale Chicago

945 N. State (Gold Coast)

Class: Core Fusion

Soreness Factor: 2/5

Uniqueness Factor: 3/5

Would Recommend: Yes


Exhale provides a serene backdrop, making you feel like you’re getting in a quick workout on a spa retreat. That’s not to minimize the fact that you’re actually getting a good workout – muscles were wavering as pliés and squats pushed us to the limit. Part yoga, part barre with a splash of cardio and light weights, the Core Fusion class offered a varied workout within 60 minutes’ time. The class ended with a few stretches and the calm-inducing Shavasana yoga pose. The staff was extremely friendly and spa locker rooms made for a great experience at Exhale.



Core Fitness Chicago

1030 W. North Ave. (Lincoln Park)

Class: Train Like Jane

Soreness Factor: 5/5

Uniqueness Factor: 5/5

Would Recommend: Yes


Core Fitness’s Train Like Jane class (and its male counterpart class, Primal) are some of the most unique classes in the city (while not categorized as CrossFit, the hard-core nature of the workout comes close). Designed to work your body in the primal nature of the cave man days, the class involves a circuit of heavy lifting (weighted squats and bicep curls), chin-ups, body weight planks and Bosu ball squats. The unique factor comes in with equipment worthy of military training or football practice – tire flips, sled pulls and hurling sandbags. Run by a boot camp instructor over loud motivating music, the class works all kinds of muscles in ways you don’t normally accomplish at the gym. Located on the 3rd floor of a storage and office building, the fitness room is small but mighty. You will definitely leave this workout with sore muscles!



Kick@55 Fitness

820 N. Orleans (in Hifi Fitness) (Near North)

Class: Bootcamp

Soreness Factor: 4/5

Uniqueness Factor: 3/5

Would Recommend: Yes


Run by certified personal trainer Rebecca Gahan, Kick@55 fitness takes over a studio in the humongous (40,000 square feet) Hifi Fitness, a facility dedicated to personal training and personal trainer-run classes. Using fast, fun and intense exercise circuits, Rebecca pushes class members to the max. Prepare to get sweaty while burning hundreds of calories with weights, short sprints, jump ropes, body weight exercises and more. Quick variety and upbeat music make the time speed by, and if you’re lucky (and weather allows), Rebecca may end the class with an outdoor workout. Partner activities build camaraderie within the class and offer that extra push of motivation. You’ll feel super-charged to take on the day after taking Rebecca’s Kick@55 bootcamp.




Studios in Old Town, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, South Loop and North Shore

Class: Total Body

Soreness Factor: 4/5

Uniqueness Factor: 3/5

Would Recommend: Yes




Dubbed “415” by the setup of four intervals of 15 minutes each, Shred415 is not for the faint of heart. The fast-moving class guides you through two sets of intervals on the treadmill and two sets of intervals with weights, benches and body weight exercises on the floor. While treadmills may not sound the most exciting, the alternation of sprints with slower-paced running allows you to get a good cardio workout in a small amount of space. The workout allows you to go at your own pace, while encouraging you to push yourself to maximize your time. Floor exercises use dumbbells and a step-up bench to add variety. The studio is kept very dark during the class, so you don’t worry about anyone else’s progress but your own – but it’s a little too dark to run comfortably on the treadmill. Once you get used to the dim lighting the DJ jams will carry you through the rest of class.



CrossTown Fitness

1031 W. Madison (West Loop)

Class: Total Body

Soreness Factor: 4/5

Uniqueness Factor: 3/5

Would Recommend: Yes


Cross Town Fitness


After being greeted by a super friendly staff, you’ll find your spot on the floor, which is small but accommodates a lot of people. The instructor sections the group into small teams, who each take on a spot in the rotating circuit. The circuits cover everything from step-ups with biceps curls to treadmill sprints to throwing medicine balls at the exposed brick wall. In between each station there is a cardio burst – jumping jacks, burpees or similar exercises. This keeps the blood pumping and allows for minimal rest to keep calorie burn high. While there aren’t locker rooms in the studio, there are several health food options available up front, and a few tables to enjoy your food outside. Featuring over 100 weekly classes and well-known trainers, CrossTown Fitness offers something for everyone.



Go Cycle

525 W. North Ave. (Old Town)

Class: TRX Training

Soreness Factor: 3/5

Uniqueness Factor: 4/5

Would Recommend: Yes


Go Cycle


While Go Cycle is most known for its spin studio, they offer spin classes paired with yoga, core sculpting or weights, as well as dedicated TRX classes. If you’re not familiar with TRX, it’s a set of body weight exercises using suspension straps. The straps are secured to the ceiling and have handles at the end, and can be adjusted to different lengths. TRX exercises can work all parts of the body, most notably the arms and core. The instructor set up each exercise in 30-20-10 second timing – start with 30 seconds at moderate difficulty, change your stance to make it slightly difficult for the next 20 seconds, and even more difficult for the last 10. Go Cycle’s TRX class is 45 minutes, which blew by! There weren’t many people in the class which made for dedicated help and instruction. While this is a great class for those familiar with TRX exercises and form, the instructor is patient and will show you the ropes if you’re new to TRX.



AIR Aerial Fitness

Studios in Lincoln Park, River North and Streeterville (coming soon)

Class: AIR Foundation

Soreness Factor: 1/5

Uniqueness Factor: 5/5

Would Recommend: No


AIR Fitness


You’ve seen pictures of acrobatic aerial yoga poses, thinking, I can do that too! While it seems cool in theory, aerial yoga is quite difficult (more so logistically than athletic ability). The “ropes” you hang from are actually large silken sheets, strong enough to hold your body weight (I couldn’t find a published weight limit). You’re required to start with the AIR Foundation before moving up to their more advanced classes, to get you used to working with the sheets and positioning yourself correctly. In the first move we did (the most interesting), the sheet is spread out and you climb in to lay down, your body expanding the whole length of the sheet, as if you are in a cocoon. If we could have stayed in this position the whole class it would have been great! For the remaining poses, the sheet is twisted up so it looks more like a rope. You’ll lean over the rope, resting it on your pelvis, to go into a downward dog pose. In addition to the mental hurdle of having the sheet hold all your body weight, this position is actually a bit painful. As the starting point for many of the poses, it made for an uncomfortable class. While expertise and comfort can be built over many classes, it was challenging for a first-timer.



With ClassPass, the adventures are endless, and the variety of the studios incredible. What are your favorite studios in Chicago?



{ClassPass membership was provided gratis for The Chicago Lifestyle to try these classes. All content, images and opinions are from The Chicago Lifestyle}


Experience Top Chicago Workouts with ClassPass

Experience Top Chicago Workouts with ClassPass


You’ve heard about the dance-club worthy spin classes Flywheel, the calorie-torching intervals at Shred415, and the acrobatic aerial yoga classes at AIR Fitness. So many unique studios in Chicago, yet how can you visit all of them? Whether you’re stuck in a gym rut or trying to start a new healthy routine, you have plenty of fitness studio options across Chicago – but cost is often the limiting factor. Enter ClassPass – a membership-based pass that gets you into these boutique studios each month, for a lower price.


ClassPass, which just recently launched in Chicago, helps you experience up to 10 great studios a month, up to three times per studio. For $99 a month, you can take advantage of classes which typically run about $25 per drop-in session. Ten of these classes would cost you about $250, and ClassPass lets you in for a fraction of the price. With coverage all over the city, and even some studios in suburbs such as Evanston, ClassPass is accepted at almost 80 studios, ranging from Pilates to CrossFit to barre classes. This is the perfect solution for those who get bored attending the same classes over and over and need variety to keep up their workout motivation.


So many studios, so little time! ClassPass makes it simple to find the best studios and classes to fit your schedule. Rather than signing up on each studio’s site, users access the scheduling system through ClassPass’s site. With filters to help you narrow down neighborhood, date and class time, it’s simple to find what you’re looking for. Key information such as a description of the studio, the specific classes and a map are provided. Simply sign up, up to a week in advance, and have the chance to cancel if you need to – just make sure to do so with enough advance notice or you’ll be charged $20 for missing the class.


The Chicago Lifestyle had the chance to check out some of studios ClassPass offers – stay tuned next week for a review of the top studios!


{ClassPass membership was provided gratis for The Chicago Lifestyle to try these classes. All content, images and opinions are from The Chicago Lifestyle}


Chicago Gourmet: Bringing You the Best Chicago Chefs – And Where to Find Them Any Day of the Year

Chicago Gourmet: Bringing You the Best Chicago Chefs – And Where to Find Them Any Day of the Year


Perfect sunny weather set the tone for celebration and indulgence at the 7th annual Chicago Gourmet, presented by Bon Appétit.  Set on the stunning backdrop of Millennium Park and the Pritzker Pavilion, the festival brings together lovers of food, wine, beer and more for two days of incredible tastings. The event was preceded by Friday’s Hamburger Hop kickoff as well as several themed dinners around the city in the months prior, all in anticipation of one of Chicago’s best events of the year.


When Chicago Gourmet finally arrives, it feels like Christmas morning – bubbling anticipation for what’s to come. You prepare yourself for a day out in the sunshine meeting, greeting and eating around the Chicago culinary scene. It’s important to remember that Chicago Gourmet is a marathon, not a sprint, when it comes to taste testing the best the chefs have to offer.


Dozens of white tents around the perimeter of Millennium Park serve tasting portions of unique dishes the chefs designed just for the event, while tents in the middle of the park offer samplings of wine and spirits from around the world. While the lines grow as the popularity of each tasting tent is discovered, life isn’t so bad milling around in the sunshine waiting to be served an incredible mini-meal.


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Surrounding the food and drink tents are several stages that host chef demos, seminars, book tastings and more. Seeing your favorite chefs in action brings to life dining experiences you’ve had at many of their restaurants. The demos brought out personalities previously hidden behind kitchen doors or on the covers of cook books.


On Sunday, Chef Tim Graham of Travelle and Chef Jared Wentworth of Longman & Eagle, Dusek’s and Punch House teamed up for a presentation of the “Magic Beast” – specially sourced pork that was seared on a pan and served with a simply dressed kale and stone fruit salad. Amidst the jokes were a few lessons for home cooks – make friends with your butcher, brine your meat ahead of cooking and coat your salad with oil before the vinegar to prevent wilted leaves.


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Chef Graham Elliot was equally entertaining as he reinforced his Chicago heritage in “Chicago Classic – Sweet Home 2.0.” Working with his Sous Chef Vinny, the two created a prosciutto-wrapped pork loin and a cauliflower giardiniera. “A good cook can go back in time,” Chef Elliot proclaimed as he explained that cooking popular dishes from other eras can transport you to a different time and place.


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


While Chicago Gourmet is an unforgettable experience that brings together the best of the best, the Chicago culinary scene goes year round. Along with the best tastings offered at Sunday’s event, you’ll find comparable menu items offered by the same chefs at their Chicago restaurants.



Bringing You Delicious Food All Year Long


Restaurant: Epic (112 W. Hubbard)

Chef: Dan Marquis

Chicago Gourmet Tasting: Pork cheek with pumpkin polenta and apples

To Try off Epic’s Menu:

  • Braised pork belly with Swiss chard, roasted apples, white polenta and natural jus
  • Duck confit salad with citrus supremes, red watercress, frisee and champagne vinaigrette
  • Pulled pork mac & cheese with chipotle braised pork and cotija cheese


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Restaurant: Antique Taco (1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.)

Chef: Rick Ortiz

Chicago Gourmet Tasting: Pumpkin habanero soup

To Try off Antique Taco’s Menu:

  • Pork carnitas taco, with Adobo rub, tamarind glaze, bacon, spinach, onion, avocado and queso fresco
  • Sweet & spicy chicken taco, with cucumber and jalapeno pickle, honey yogurt and purple onion
  • Habanero popcorn with olive oil and cheddar cheese



Restaurant: Park Grill (11 N. Michigan Ave.)

Chef: Gil Langlois

Chicago Gourmet Tasting: Pork rillette on toast

To Try off Park Grill’s Menu:

  • Fettuccine Carbonara hand-made pasta, Raisin River bacon, woodland mushrooms, truffle oil, poached egg, Grana Padano
  • Sautéed Great Lakes Whitefish butternut squash purée, Brussels sprout leaves, sage and pinenut relish, balsamic reduction
  • Chorizo Turkey Burger guava relish, cilantro cabbage slaw, pickled onions, potato bun, hand-cut fries


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Restaurant: Bread & Wine (3734 W. Irving Park)

Chef: Michael Dean Reynolds

Chicago Gourmet Tasting: Salted caramel popcorn panna cotta

To Try off Bread & Wine’s Menu:

  • Salted caramel popcorn panna cotta
  • Chocolate mousse with chocolate crunch, whipped cream and sea salt
  • Warm summer squash with poached egg, pancetta, ricotta, greens and balsamic



Restaurant: Mercat a la Planxa (638 S. Michigan Ave.)

Chef: Cory Morris

Chicago Gourmet Tasting: “Chicken Truffle Brussel” – chicken croquette with truffle-flavored Brussels sprouts

To Try off Mercat a la Planxa’s Menu:

  • Mixto croquetas – Serrano ham and chorizo croquettes with romesco
  • Ropa de Cabra – Kilgus Farms goat ropa vieja, goat cheese, baguette
  • Conill Amb Castanyes – Braised rabbit agnolotti, truffle chestnut puree, brandied cherries and rosemary brown butter


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Enjoy what these incredible chefs have to offer year-round. When 2015 comes up, watch out for Chicago Gourmet ticket sales – they sell out and this is an event you do not want to miss!



Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


Chicago Gourmet - Lauren Fondriest


The Chicago Lifestyle was invited to attend Chicago Gourmet with a media pass. All content, images and opinions are from The Chicago Lifestyle.



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}