Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Stuff to do this weekend

Looking for something cool (and I mean that figuratively, not literally) to do this week or weekend? Geneva's Annual Midsommar Festival (Swedish Days) is now underway in the charming far-west suburb.

Check that website for a list of events and vendors, but basically, it's a big street festival. Carnival rides, food booths, Swedish crafts, music, you name it. Good stuff. Authentic Swedish food, too.

A few tips, though: If you can take the Metra, I strongly suggest it. Parking is not normally a problem in Geneva, but it sure is during Swedish Days. The train station is right on the edge of the festival action, and makes getting to and from much easier. And trust me, you won't find a parking space that's any closer than the train unless you actually live in downtown Geneva.

Also, it will be HOT this week and weekend. Take some frozen water bottles. Drink plenty, dress appropriately, and pace yourself. There are plenty of air conditioned shops, bars and restaurants to stop into to cool down a little. Sunscreen is also highly recommended.

That said, this is one of my favorite festivals -- it can get a little crowded, but it's well organized and there's plenty to see and do. And if you happen to see three 20somethings walking around, including a guy in a Lost bucket hat, that's probably my husband and I'll be right beside him :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Great suburbs to visit this summer

Looking for some fun this summer? Like to explore new towns, visit cool shops, maybe see a movie or have some dinner? Here's a list of seven great towns to visit this summer that you may not have been to:

1. Geneva: This far western suburb has top-notch restaurants and shopping, not to mention several great festivals, including Swedish Days, which starts Monday the 22nd. It's right on the Union Pacific West line, and the historic downtown stretches along Third and State for about 4 square blocks north. Noteworthy: Riverside Park, Bien Trucha restaurant, Kernel Fabyan's popcorn, The Little Traveler, Graham's 318.

2. Mount Prospect: Tucked into a corner of Cook County, Mount Prospect is a quintessential suburb, with coffee shops, restaurants and stores galore. On the Union Pacific Northwest line. Noteworthy: Farmer's market held on Sundays from May - October.

3. Arlington Heights: The next stop up the UP-NW line, Arlington Heights has big box shopping, a horse-racing track, and a fairly fancy downtown with great nightlife. Noteworthy: Fuego, Peggy Kinnane's.

4. Glen Ellyn: Halfway between Chicago and Geneva lies affluent Glen Ellyn and its adorable downtown. With a fantastic mix of stores (from bike shops to bookstores to wine bars), and an eye toward revitalization, there's something for everyone in these tree-lined streets. Noteworthy: Glen Art movie theater, Cabernet & Co. Wine Shoppe, Shannon's Irish Pub, Bells & Whistle's Snackery.

5. Elmhurst: Another favorite of mine -- on the same train line as Geneva and Glen Ellyn -- Elmhurst has great restaurants, a large and modern movie theater, museums, and some stellar shopping, all in a pedestrian-friendly City Centre. Noteworthy: Lizzadro Museum, Flight 112 Wine Bar, Sushi Nest, SereneTeaz.

6. Itasca: Small but nice, Itasca is compact and easy to love. In a few square blocks, there's wine, ice cream, parks, pizza and more. Noteworthy: Wine With Me, Delia's Deli & Ice Cream, Tree Guys Pizza Pub.

7. West Dundee: Not a lot to West Dundee -- it shares a downtown with East Dundee -- but in a few blocks there's a candy store, a lovely park, and several great restaurants. Noteworthy: Emmett's Brewpub, Francesca's.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Downtown Itasca, like small-town America

I for one had never heard of Itasca until we started looking for apartments in northern DuPage County. While we ended up in the next town over, we've been to Itasca several times now, and I'm realizing I'd like to spend more time there.

As people who've read this blog know, I like towns with some character, and with a centralized downtown business district that has an array of unique, local stores. While Itasca has a large office park right off I-290 and several large corporate headquarters, it also has an adorable, small downtown just a couple miles away.

The downtown area is centered around Irving Park Blvd and Walnut St., which is also where the Metra station is located. There are a few stores, some condos, and multiple restaurants and eateries. We've eaten at -- and I've reviewed -- Tree Guys Pizza & Pub already; tonight we went for some ice cream.

Delia's Deli and Ice Cream, at 100 N. Walnut St., is a small shop in the old Village Hall building. They offer a variety of deli sandwiches (made with Boar's Head meat and cheese), panini, soup and salad. They also have about a dozen hard ice cream flavors, soft serve fro-yo, milkshakes, sundaes and "tornadoes".

The ice cream was delicious, creamy and flavorful but not too rich. The sandwiches sounded tempting and we may have to return for some subs. Service was friendly.

And since we missed the turn onto Walnut, we swung around back and discovered a wine bar and shop in the same building, right behind Delia's, called Wine With Me. Its official address is 111 Line St., Itasca.

We were greeted warmly upon entering the store, which features a wine bar in the center of the room with high-backed chairs and snacks for nibbly. The store is divided into three sections: the "value" wines, all under $12; the pricier wines, mostly from $13 to $30 but with a few high-end selections, and the craft beer. We didn't investigate the beer much. :)

The wine selection was nicely varied, however, with a little something for everyone and a lot of lesser-known labels. Most of this stuff you won't find at Jewel, although you probably could find a lot of it at Binny's -- but prices were good, quite comparable to someplace like Binny's.

They have about 25 wines by the glass, most $6 or $7; they also have a variety of beers by the glass. You can also select a bottle in-store to drink there; they charge a $10 corkage fee. We were told they offer some light snacks (looked like that spicy nut-sesame mix to me) and that you can also bring in food or order some from a downtown business and have it delivered (like Tree Guys, which is across the street...).

While this is at least the sixth wine bar I can name in a 10-mile radius, I love the idea, and I love that it's so close. Downtown Elmhurst is fabulous, but we can get to Itasca in about three minutes instead of 15. So I have a distinct feeling that we will be back in the near-ish future, probably grabbing some take-out from Tree Guys and heading across the street to enjoy a glass of wine with our dinner and support two local businesses at once.