Thursday, June 26, 2008

weekends in the burbs

This weekend will be low-key for us -- groceries, packing, and a viewing of Wall-E (which is getting rave reviews already). May not be much time for exploring new and awesome places. But tell me -- where are YOU going? What are YOUR favorite places in the burbs? From restaurants to roller skating rinks, from parks to bars, hiking trails to coffeehouses -- tell me what's awesome where you live or like to visit.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Get funky

One of my favorite -- and most tempting -- stores is Funky Things in downtown Algonquin. It's on Main Street (Rt 31), one block south of Algonquin Road (Rt 62). Right next to a fab little coffeehouse, by the by, called Java Bar (that serves liquor with their coffee!).

Funky Things is a treasure hunt of a store. While the bulk of their merchandise is purses, purses, and more purses, they also have jewelry, clothes, greeting cards and an assortment of gifts. My current purse is a Kate Spade knockoff from Funky Things for a mere $20 or so; I also scored an awesome little dress (for $17!) that I've worn to multiple occasions, and it's my go-to store for fun, inexpensive gifts.

The selection is always changing, and a selection is available online, although you really have to visit the store to see it all. The women who work there are super-nice, too, and love to chat.

And after scouring the store for great finds, I suggest going next door for some lemonade or a latte :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mexican of the awesome variety

There is truly no other way to describe Bien Trucha, the Mexican sensation sweeping the suburbs, then awesome.

Located at 410 W. State Street in Geneva, the tiny storefront restaurant is truly worth all of the hype it's gotten. (If you haven't heard of it, go ahead, open a new window and google it -- you won't find a bad review.) I was there for the first time in April and returned with my husband in tow Saturday to combine our dinner with Swedish Days (a great festival, but not the focus of this post). Tiny is hardly the word -- it has five tables, one of which seats up to 6, and if you must use the facilities you get to walk through the kitchen, past the delicious food being prepared.

Unlike standard Mexican fare, there are no giant platefuls of rice, beans and congealed Monterey Jack cheese oozing on enchiladas. The emphasis is on very fresh, hand-crafted food served tapas-style on small plates. The menu is as small as the restaurant: guacamole (freshly made , of course), ceviche, two soups, three kinds of cazuelitas, and entrees are tacos and tortas. Oh, and fresh-made drinks, including the best margaritas I've ever had.

Last time, I split fish tacos and portobello tacos (4 to a plate) with my girlfriends; this time the hubby and I shared steak and chicken. All four varieties were truly wonderful, with flavorful and subtle sauces and tender, delicious meats and cheeses (and I never thought I'd like portobellos, but trust me, they were almost meat-like, spicy and substantial). The chicken tacos were of particular interest to my husband: rolled and fried almost taquito-style, the filling of shredded chicken and potato is a lovely contrast to the crispy tortilla and the smooth, salty crema fresca, salsa verde and shredded cheese adorning the top.

I can't say it enough: I have so much love for this place. But be warned. The wait can get quite long the later you go, especially on weekends, and they don't accept reservations. The thing to do is show up able to eat but not starving, put your name in, and go down the street a block or so to the bar (or starbucks) of your choice. They'll call your cell phone when your table is ready, and off you hurry to claim your spot.

Also, for those who are curious: Appetizers are mostly under $7; tacos and tortas in the $7-10 range.

Awesome in the suburbs


This is my attempt at a cool new blog. Just an experiment for now, but we'll see how it works. I live with my husband in the Chicago suburbs -- southeast McHenry County to be exact. For now, anyway -- we're moving in July to DuPage County.

I've also lived in Kane County, and he grew up in Cook, so the whole point of this blog is to highlight awesome places in the suburbs -- both well-known and little-known. From restaurants and bars to parks and festivals, I want to cover a wide swath of "stuff." And on that note, I'd love to hear suggestions, raves and personal experiences on the topic.

So ... let's start there, and I'll try to post a few cool places soon -- happy reading and stay awesome!