Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Laughing it up at The Improv

Don't let today's Spring-like weather fool you. Winter, with a captial W, is on it's way. Soon we will be scrambling for ways to occupy our free time and keep us out of the cold. Perhaps something with a bit more excitement then maintaining your all-star couch potato status or wandering aimlessly around the mall. They say "laughter is the best medicine" and I couldn't agree more!

Enter The Improv Comedy Club in Schaumburg. Okay, it is located in the Woodfield Mall (5 Woodfield Rd., Schaumburg) BUT you don't have to go through the mall to get to them. A huge plus.

I have been to The Improv in Schaumburg several times with various groups of people and everyone has enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Actually "enjoyed" is putting it mildly as we were all laughing so hard we were crying most of the time!

This location has a nice layout and the staff is all courteous and friendly. The host comedians and opening acts have always been very funny - and the headliner has never disappointed. They even have a nice selection of food items on their menu, which is not always the case at other comedy clubs. We've had a variety of items from appetizers to full meals with drinks and have always enjoyed our selections.

Checkout their website and peruse the various acts they have coming. You can also reach them by calling 847-240-2001. And if you like a good bargain (who doesn't?) they have some amazing deals on Groupon and Living Social from time to time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A gem of a bar -- Bigby's Pour House, Addison

Addison is not a bad place, by any means, but it lacks a centralized downtown area with shopping and restaurants, something I value in a town. However, on the Lake Street drag packed with restaurants (lots of chains), assorted stores, nail salons and car repair shops, there is a real gem of a bar tucked in.

Bigby's Pour House (links to their FB page -- 1700 W. Lake St., Addison) is a cozy, comfortable bar that serves craft beer, good wine and a selection of delicious snackery to munch on. No Miller or Bud here, no wine from a box, and no hard liquor -- just a couple of guys who really love their jobs and their bar.

Bigby's changes its menu up regularly, and the drink selection shifts seasonally and based on voting by customers. But rest assured, if you're not sure what you  might like, just talk to Ed and his crew -- they'll help you find something. As I said previously, I never really thought I liked beer. With a little help from Bigby's and a beer snob friend or two, I've discovered some great hard ciders, saisons, weisses, porters and stouts. But if you like super-hoppy beers and IPAs, Bigby's has you covered, too!

The atmosphere inside Bigby's, as I said, is cozy. It's like hanging out in a coffee house or awesome basement, with couches, TVs, movies, games and more. But, they serve beer.

If you're not familiar with Addison, Bigby's can be a little hard to find. It's just east of 355 and Rt. 53, on the north side of Lake St., attached to Mario's Deli. I highly recommend checking out this suburban gem.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Beer me?! Two Brothers Tap House, Warrenville

I've never been a real beer drinker. In college I mostly stuck to wine and pink cocktails, and while I knew there was "better" beer out there, I didn't really know anything about it or care very much.

Enter my husband's best friend, coinciding with the craft-beer-splosion in America. As it turns out, I do appreciate good craft beer, especially stouts, fruity beers and weiss. And I do appreciate good food, too, which this tap house has in spades.

This place is in a nondescript, sign-less building in an industrial park in unincorporated Warrenville. (Two Brothers Tap House, 30w315 Calumet Ave, Warrenville, No, not that nondescript, sign-less building. The other one, with the grain silo.

We brought aforementioned best friend, a total beer snob, out here on a sunny Saturday afternoon and started with tomatillo nachos. Mmmmm. Nachos. These are made with nice thick El Milagro chips, a great spicy salsa, plenty of cheese, and perhaps a little too much lettuce and sour cream.

I had the chicken tacos for my lunch; the portion was large and the quality was high. My tablemates had mac & cheese and the cuban, and both looked mighty tasty as well. I would gladly have eaten either. The menu focuses on organic and natural ingredients and has great options for just about everyone.

As we wound down our meal it was time for a brewery tour, and I found that to be very informative. The manager (whose name I have forgotten) was full of funny anecdotes and good information.

Normally you get tickets at the end of your tour to try a few brews, but the magical Beer Fairy had already set up samples for us on our table! Score! I personally liked the Ebel's Weiss and Domaine DuPage the most, but lemme tell you, the craft sodas were a real treat -- cinnamon root beer?! Genius! The craft-beer-loving lady was most pleased with what she tried as well (and so was the husband, don't get me wrong).

They also have a small shop where you can buy home-brewing equipment and a six pack or two to take home with you. I just wish they bottled the soda, too...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cooking the Viking Way (Viking Cooking School)

Now I fancy myself an avid & skilled home cook & baker so when a friend asked me to go to the Viking Cooking School with her in Glenview my first thought was to pass. But when I mentioned this to some coworkers they wouldn't stop raving about how much fun it is as they all went on a company outing there before I joined the company.

So I decided to look a little further and perused their website: (be sure to choose the Glenview location). I was impressed at the variety of courses they offered, from the basic "I can barely boil water" to the advanced. Our class was $80 for the three-hour course and their prices & class length are varied depending on the class. They even have classes which aren't hands-on for the shy folks.

It ended up being four of us who attended the "Chocolate" class. We made the most scrumptious goodies from simple chocolate bark to chocolate balsamic truffle pops & Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cupcakes (which I dubbed the Elvis Cupcake). Our class was hands on so we each had a chance to "play" and we all got to take leftoevers home.

Some added surprise bonuses: it was BYOB so we enjoyed some champagne while we played with our chocolate AND students receive 10% off in the Viking kitchen store (love the gadgets!) the day of class.

Our instructor was fun and even her assistant who was "just there to clean the pots" gave us a few laughs. If you are looking for a fun alternative get together, especially as the weather turns cooler, check them out. You can reach them by calling : 847-350-0705 and they are located in Glenview at 1140 N. Milwaukee Ave (just south of the Abt Electronics store).

Hooray sushi -- Kyoto, Downers Grove

Shhh. I found a gem of a sushi place, hidden in a strip mall. It's surrounded by Best Buy and Disc Replay, but inside is a little oasis of calm and tastiness.

This is Kyoto, 1408 Butterfield Road, Downers Grove. Besides sushi, they also feature cooked Japanese and Chinese dishes.

I visited with my sushi partner-in-crime (not the husband, since he's not so much into the fish). The service was attentive and friendly, the food was fresh and delightful, and the atmosphere is cozy and comfortable.

We ordered:
- edamame
- 2 super white tuna, 2 red snapper
- California roll
- Mexican roll (tuna, salmon, avocado, jalapeno, fish egg & cilantro with hot mayo)
- Spicy Girl roll (tempura shrimp & cucumber topped with spicy tuna & tempura)
- a glass each of sake
- tempura fried red bean ice cream

Lotta food, right? And yet, pretty reasonably priced -- not wallet emptying! It was pretty much all delicious -- the Mexican roll was probably the most out-of-the-ordinary and had great flavors, but even the California roll managed to be special.  The white tuna completely melted in my mouth, and the snapper tasted like... the ocean. Not "fishy," just fresh and with a subtle but distinct taste.

The sake I ordered was apple flavored, and it tasted like wine with a jolly rancher melted in -- but it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet. The red bean ice cream was great for desert -- subtle and a little fruity, a little sweet, not too rich or heavy. Just the right ending to a delicious meal.

While my sushi p-i-c and I have new frontiers to explore, I would definitely return to Kyoto.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mmmm, burritos ... Burrito Parilla Mexicana, Lombard

We have spent the last few weeks buying a house and moving, and now that we are all settled into Lombard, we have even more new and awesome places to explore!

One of our first stops was a little burrito place near Butterfield Road and Highland called Burrito Parilla Mexicana (2770 Highland Ave, Lombard).

It's a taqueria. A gussied-up, sleek, modern, "Highlands of Lombard" taqueria.

It looks Chipotle-esque at first, but you don't actually walk down the assembly line -- you order and pay, then wander down to get your drinks and have a seat. (Which, come to think of it, makes for some wasted counter space.)

I ordered tacos al pastor, with cilantro and onion, and my husband ordered carnitas nachos. We both went with water, although it's cool to note that they have horchata next to the soda fountain -- free refills!

While we waited for our food, we were brought a smallish bowl of chips and two kinds of salsa. The chips were slightly above average; the salsas were both fresh and delicious with a creeping-up-on you heat.

My tacos were quite tasty; the meat was a little crispy around the edges with a great flavor and I liked that they used lightly grilled red onions instead of white. The rice was nothing too exciting, but the refried beans had a great flavor to them. My husband's nachos looked very tasty and I snagged a bit of the guacamole, which was excellent.

Everyone was very friendly and we got offered multiple chips/salsa refills. The interior is sleek and comfortable, with huge comfy booths around the edges.

It's a little pricier than your average taqueria, but I attribute that to where it is -- and they do offer the free chips and salsa, which is a nice touch. Plus: It's walking distance of our new house! Score!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mmmm, breakfast (Blackberry's Pancake House, Tinley Park)

Greek-owned/themed diners and brunch spots are a dime a dozen. In fact, there are probably at least a dozen on LaGrange between 135th and 179th St. If you count the ones just off LaGrange I've been to at least five.

But Blackberry's (9536 179th St, Tinley Park) is just a notch above most of these, I gotta say.

I needed an easy place to meet my family on their return from the Quad Cities. Didn't want to make them go too far of I-80. So this place fit the bill.

It's in a smallish strip mall, across a quiet road from some cornfields and maybe a mile off I-80. It was pretty busy on Sunday around noon, but not slammed and we were seated pretty quickly. The decor is nice, and seating is a bit crowded but relatively comfortable.

The menu is huge, but with some nice twists over the typical stuff -- seems like 85%+ of these greek diners and pancake houses have the same menu, you know? But Blackberry's has variations on French toast (nut-crusted, with Bananas Foster), omelets you don't see everywhere (like bacon-avocado-jack cheese) and tasty-sounding skillets, plus wraps, burgers, chicken, etc., etc.

I had a veggie skillet (I forget the precise name of it) that came with broccoli (which I opted out of -- and there wasn't a piece in it), zucchini, mushrooms, onions, roasted red peppers and goat cheese with hash browns and two eggs (plus toast or pancakes). The veggies were roasted perfectly, the eggs were just right and it was the perfect portion size to feel full but not gluttonous -- although I did not finish my toast, and pancakes would've been too much.

I also tried a little of my brother's chicken-rice soup; he got a big bowl along with his burger and fries (not just a little cup) and it was really creamy and delicious.

Service was friendly, coffee was refilled promptly; they seemed a little scattered but I can imagine a busy Sunday morning will do that to you.

Basically, the next time we need a place for a brunch with my in-laws, I'm going to suggest Blackberry's -- it's a nice change from the generic "pancake houses" of the world.

Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog (The Meaner Wiener, Wood Dale)

There's a brand-new hot dog joint in town, and I'm thrilled to have it. 

We stopped in to the Meaner Wiener (364 Georgetown Sq, Wood Dale) for a quick dinner around 7 pm one evening. The place is freshly painted and decorated with the sort of things you see at Scooby's and the like, "old" memorabilia. Menu is pretty basic -- dogs, beef, polish, hand-cut fries and pizza (with other items noted as coming soon). They also feature a case full of old-school sodas including Nehi Orange, Green River, Dog n Suds Root Beer and Hires Root Beer (which I have only ever seen on the east coast). They also had YooHoo, if that's your thing!

But to business: we each got a hot dog (no relish for me; onions & mustard for him, plus a cheese dog for him), and two fries. Our food was made freshly and delivered quickly.

The dogs were quality, and so were the toppings -- a great fresh cucumbery pickle, fresh tomato, good peppers. The bun tasted like it might have been nuked but now I'm just nitpicking. The fries were quite good though actually slightly undersalted for my taste (easy to remedy and I'd rather add some than have them taste totally salt-ridden).

All-in-all, this is a solid entry into the local food scene, and I'm definitely rooting for these guys!

Long time no see!

Hello faithful readers ... any of you still left?

I must apologize, this has been a VERY busy summer for me and my husband and I are moving in a week and a half -- to the beautiful town of Lombard! We are looking forward to finding all-new awesome suburban finds for you... in the meantime, I do have a few posts I've been saving...

And I'll say it again -- if there's anyone out there who would like to join the team, please leave a comment or drop me a line at suburbanawesome (at) ... we'd be happy to have you!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

High on Garlic

Do you love garlic? Or perhaps you just want to keep the vampires away? Are you free on Wednesday, August 17th? Well then Highwood's first-ever Garlic Festival is for you!

You can consume and purchase garlic in all kinds of ways. There will be your standard sauces, etc...but what true garlic afficiandos are waiting for is the Garlic Cupcakes & Garlic Ice Cream! And not for the faint hearted there will be an Ice Cream Eating Contest. No, this is not a joke. The city of Highwood is serious about becoming "The City that Stinks"!

And don't fret if you've always dreamed of being named "Garlic Queen" because, believe it or not, they are still seeking entrants.

You can check out their Garlic Festival website at:
or the WBBM news article at:

The festival will be conveniently located near the Highwood Metra stop.

BYOBM - Bring Your Own Breath Mints ;-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Red hot dogs at Southtown Express

Elmhurst has a lot of nice restaurants and quick-serve places in its downtown, but what it doesn't have is a hot dog place. Thankfully, you can find a delicious burger or Chicago dog just a little south of the city center in the Vallette shopping area -- Southtown Express fits the bill wonderfully.

With the typical "hot dog place" menu of hot dogs, burgers, Italian beef, sausage, soup, fries, etc plus soft-serve ice cream and milkshakes, Southtown is a fun little neighborhood joint full of teenagers and kitschy old signs.

It's smallish but has a handful of booths and a counter, bright red and yellow with a chalk menu (and more menus above the counter and kitchen areas). Friendly, chatty guys working who dealt with the influx of teenagers well.

We both got hot dogs and fries, and I cheated on my diet a little more thoroughly with a dreamsicle shake that I couldn't resist. The hot dogs were the longer-thinner variety, with good flavor and snap, and those squishy poppyseed buns. Good thin-sliced pickle, lots of celery salt, and slightly chewy sport peppers. The fries were the thinner variety, not shoestring but just right, hot and crispy.

And the milkshake was divine. While I'd certainly like to try more of their food, it's the ice cream that would probably get us back even sooner.

Note: Closed Sunday. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

2011 Farmers markets in the suburbs

It's that time again, folks! An incomplete list of suburban farmers markets, with thanks to the Chicago Tribune.
These are arranged by day of week, but to quickly find your town, hit Ctrl-F and type it in -- please note that some larger suburbs have multiple markets.

Countryside: Parking lot of William Tell, 6201 Joliet Road, 8 a.m.-2 p.m., through Oct. 24
Hinsdale: Burlington Park, 30 E. Chicago Ave., 7 a.m - 1 p.m. June 6-Oct. 10 

Aurora: Spring Lake Park, 3500 McCoy Drive, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., July 12-Aug. 30
La Grange Park: Memorial Park, Sherwood Avenue between Oak and Homestead avenues., 8 a.m.-2 p.m., through Oct. 25
Schiller Park: Metra station, Lawrence and Ruby streets, 3-7 p.m., June 14-Sept. 27

Aurora: West Plaza Shopping Plaza, 1901 W. Galena Blvd., 2-6 p.m., July 6-Aug. 3
Country Club Hills: Country Club Hills Theater Complex, 4116 W. 183rd St., 8 a.m.-2 p.m., June 1-Oct. 5
Elk Grove: Biesterfield Road at Wellington Avenue, June 1-Aug. 31
Elmhurst: York and Vallette streets, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m., June 1-Oct. 26
Evanston: Ridgeville market, Ridge Avenue and South Boulevard, 4-7 p.m., June 1-Oct. 12
Evanston: Central Street market, Independence Park, Central and Stewart streets, 3-7 p.m., June 1-Oct. 26
Highland Park/Ravinia: Dean Avenue between Roger Williams and St. Johns avenues, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m., June 8-Oct. 26
Highwood: City Hall, 17 Highwood Ave., 4-9 p.m., June 15-Aug. 31, then 4-8 p.m. through Sept. 14
Lombard: The Shops on Butterfield, Butterfield Road and Highland Avenue (Yorktown Mall). 3-7 p.m., June 1-Oct. 12
Northbrook: Our Lady of the Brook Catholic Church, 3700 Dundee Road, June 22-Oct. 12
Oak Lawn: Behind the library, on Dumke Avenue just west of 52nd Avenue, June 1-Oct. 12
Palos Heights: Municipal parking lot, 122nd Street and Harlem Avenue, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. May 25-Oct. 5
Riverside: Municipal parking lot, 27 Riverside Road, 2:30-7 p.m., June 29-Oct. 26
Thornton: At Ridge Road at corner of Hubbard and Margaret streets, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., June 15-Oct. 12
Warrenville: Courtyard Banquets, 3S200 Route 59, 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays, June 8-Sept. 21
Winfield: Prairie Trail Center, County Farm and Geneva roads, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. Wednesdays, June 1-Oct. 26

Algonquin: Municipal parking lot, Washington and Harrison streets, 2-7 p.m., May 26-Sept. 29
Antioch: Toft Avenue parking lot behind Main Street, 3-7 p.m., June 16-Sept. 29
Barrington: South Cook Street at Lake Cook Road, 2-7 p.m., June 16-Oct. 20
Burr Ridge: Burr Ridge Village Center, 701 Village Center Drive, off County Line Road South, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., June 16-Sept. 1
Elgin: Old Gail Borden Library parking lot, southwest corner of Kimball Street and North Grove Avenue, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., June 2-Sept. 29
Evergreen Park: Yukich Field, 89th Street and Kedzie Avenue, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m., June 2-Oct. 27
La Grange: Behind Village Hall, 53 S. La Grange Road, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. May 12-Oct. 27
Maywood: Hines Veterans Hospital, 5000 S. Fifth Ave., 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. June 16-Sept. 29
University Park: Governor's State University, 1 University Parkway., 1-6 p.m., June 2-Sept. 29
Western Springs: French Market, Hillgrove Avenue between Lawn Street and Grand Avenue, 2-7 p.m., through Oct. 27
Wheaton: Town Square, 271 Town Square, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursdays, June 9-Sept. 29.

Bartlett: Bartlett Town Center, Railroad Avenue at Main Street, 2-6 p.m., June 3-Sept. 9
Flossmoor: Flossmoor Public Library, 1000 Sterling Ave., 8 a.m.-1 p.m., June 17-Oct. 14
Forest Park: The Grove, 7824 Madison St., 3:30-7:30 p.m., June 10-Oct. 14 (no market Sept. 9)
Glen Ellyn: French Market, 400 Main St., 8 a.m.-1 p.m., May 27-Oct. 28
Lake Bluff: Village Green, Scranton Avenue and Sheridan Road, 7 a.m.-noon, June 10-Oct. 14
Mundelein: Park and Seymour Streets, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. June 3-Oct. 14.
Orland Park: Village Center, 14750 S. Ravinia Ave., 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m., June 3-Oct. 7 (no market Aug. 5)
Palos Park: Palos Park Presbyterian Community Church, 12312 S. 88th Ave., 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., July 1-Oct. 7
Roselle: American Legion front lot, 344 E. Maple Ave., 3-7 p.m, June 17-Sept. 30
Schaumburg: Olde Schaumburg Centre, 190 S. Roselle Road, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. June 10-Oct. 28

Arlington Heights: Parking lot at Vail Avenue and Fremont Street, west of the library, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. June 11-Oct. 22
Aurora: Transportation Center, 233 N. Broadway, 7:30 a.m.-noon, June 11-Oct. 22.
Batavia: Downtown on South Water Street, 8 a.m.-noon, June 25-Oct. 15
Brookfield: Village Hall parking lot, 8820 Brookfield Ave., 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. June 4-Oct. 29
Crystal Lake: Train Depot Park, 70 E. Woodstock St., 8 a.m.-1 p.m., June 4-Oct. 15
Deerfield: Deerfield Road and Robert York Avenue, 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m., June 18-Oct. 15
Downers Grove: Main Street train station at Burlington Avenue, 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. through Oct. 15
East Dundee: Dundee Township Tourist Center, 319 N. River St., 8 a.m.-2 p.m., through Oct. 29
Evanston: East Railroad Avenue and University Place, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. through Nov. 5.
Evanston: West End market, corner of Church Street and Dodge Avenue, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., June 4-Oct. 29
Glencoe: French Market, Village Court, near Hazel Street, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., June 11-Oct. 29
Glenview: Wagner Farm, Wagner Road and Lake Avenue, 8 a.m.-noon, June 25-Oct. 8
Lake Forest: Behind City Hall, 220 Deerpath Road, 7 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, June 18-Sept. 24
Lisle: French Market, adjacent to Village Hall, 925 Burlington Ave. 8 a.m.-1 p.m. through Oct. 29
Lombard: French Market, Metra lot, 115 E. St. Charles Road, between Main and Grace streets, 8 a.m.-2 p.m, May 21-Sept. 24
Morton Grove: 8930 Waukegan Road, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., June 4-Oct. 15
Naperville: Fifth Avenue Station, 200 E. Fifth Ave., 7 a.m.-noon, June 4-Oct. 29
Northfield: Happ Road one block south of Winnetka Road, 7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m, May 28-Oct. 22
Oak Park: 460 Lake St., May 21-Oct. 29
Palatine: Metra station, Wood and Smith streets., 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. through Oct. 29
Park Forest: Orchard Drive and Indianwood Boulevard, 7 a.m.-noon, through Oct. 29 
Park Ridge: Prairie Avenue south of Metra station, 7 a.m. - 1 p.m. May 28-Oct. 29
Tinley Park: Metra station, 173rd Street and Oak Park Avenue, 7 a.m.-noon,, June 4-Oct. 15
Wheaton: French Market, Main and Liberty streets, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 5
Wilmette: French Market, downtown Metra parking lot, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 5

Buffalo Grove: Spray 'n Play Park parking lot, 951 N. McHenry Road, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., June 19-Oct. 16 (no market Sept. 4)
Cary: Metra commuter lot on Route 14, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., June 5-Oct. 9
Geneva: French Market, Metra parking lot at South and Fourth streets, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. through Nov. 6
Long Grove: Village Tavern parking lot, 135 Old McHenry Road, downtown Long Grove, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., June 12-Oct. 16
Mt. Prospect: Metra lot at Northwest Highway and Route 83, 8 a.m.-1 p.m, June 12-Oct. 23
Skokie: Village Hall, 5127 Oakton St., 7:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m., June 26-Oct. 30
Villa Park: French Market, Park Boulevard at Ardmore Avenue, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. through Oct. 30

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Adventures in cooking -- Woori Village, Niles

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and wanted to do so with something out of the ordinary.

I've always loved trying new cuisines, and was made aware in the last few years of the type of cooking/eating known as Korean barbecue. It's not barbecue in the slow-cooking sauce-basted sense; rather you cook your own meat on a tabletop grill that's either gas or charcoal. After much searching, I settled on Woori Village, 8526 W Golf Rd in Niles, for my birthday adventure.

There ended up being five of us, and at 5:40 on a Saturday we were seated promptly. This place is big, and we were in a smaller room with about 10-12 booths, one of three separate dining rooms. The table had a circular gas grill in the middle and a napkin dispenser and big container full of metal chopsticks.

After we told the waitress we wanted the all you can eat (about $23 per person for tons of side dishes and all the meat you can grill), they sprang into action and in no time our table was covered with small and medium-sized bowls. I still don't know what was in half of them, but I tried almost everything. I do know there was seaweed salad, kimchi, some sort of egg pancake, bean sprouts and a potatoey thing. We worked our way through four portions of beef (three different cuts) and a portion of pork belly. Three of us got spicy tofu soup. I'm still not sure WHY, though -- the two people on the outside were offered it, and then I sort of looked quizzically at the waitress and they offered me some too.

Not only was cooking our meat fun and tasty, but the service, while good, was also inadvertently hilarious -- because we had a bit of a language barrier. None of us spoke a word of Korean, and when we asked the waitresses questions, we got answers that contained English words but made absolutely no sense. (Word to the wise: We later found out that "mountain chain" is tripe.)

While this isn't the sort of place we'd frequent, I would definitely go again, knowing somewhat more what was going on and what to expect.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Resale to the Rescue!

So I recently changed careers and found myself in need of an entire business-casual wardrobe. The thought of going to the mall and clothes shopping makes me break out into a sweat, not to mention the serious dent in my pocket book this was going to be. But thanks to two wonderful, and far more fashion-savvy, smart shopper friends I discovered the wonderful world of clothing resale.

Now my husband and I enjoy shopping at thrift stores to see what fun retro goodies we can find but I have never had luck shopping for clothes at thrift stores. The stores my friends recommended, however, are different. Enter Clothes Attic'd, 605 E. Ogden Ave. in Naperville and two Clothes Mentor locations - Naperville @ 582 S. Rt. 59 and Schaumburg @ 1402 N. Roselle Rd. to save the day! These places are higher end quality resale shops and have only name brand clothes. They have a strict policy on the quality of the clothes they accept - no ratty worn out sweaters or pants with a stain on them here.

Clothes Mentor is a small chain and I have checked out several of their locations. The Naperville and Schaumburg locations are by far the best as far as huge selection goes. In addition to all kinds of tops they also have a large selection of jeans, slacks, capris, dresses, jackets, shoes and jewelry. I was particularly happy to find several pairs of slacks between the two locations for my petite height. If there is a particular brand you love they have some of the big names highlighted on their own separate racks like J. Jill, Gap, Ann Taylor, etc. A few of the items I purchased still had the store tags on them!

Clothes Attic'd is along the same line as Clothes Mentor, but a single store with a smaller selection. Although they have less clothing I think the quality is even better and they also have cocktail dresses and a large selection of nice jewelry.

Both of these stores have amazing prices. Ann Taylor slacks for $14! An Eddie Bauer sweater for $8! Between these stores I was able to get an entirely new work wardrobe for under $300. A-mazing!

I only wish I had known about these stores sooner. I could have avoided mall clothes shopping all these years...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sports bar solace -- 601 Bar & Grill, Addison

At the corner of Mill Road and Army Trail there is a small strip mall that formerly housed Solace 601, a fine-dining Italian-French restaurant.

I don't know if it wasn't doing very well, or if the owners just wanted to take things a new direction, but the space has been reinvented and is now 601 Bar & Grill (601 W. Army Trail, Addison). That's much more our speed, so we decided to stop in on a recent Friday evening.

The owners must have done a big renovation -- the space has a big bar, lots of tables and high tops, and a dozen or more TVs.

We were seated promptly next to a picture of the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks and the most popular people in the restaurant. Half a dozen or more people squeezed themselves in next to my husband just to say hello to them. And around the bar were a bunch of middle-age dudes on their fourth beer who had absolutely no inside voice.

But 601 saved itself. Because the food was quite good and the service was excellent. The menu is heavy on burgers and wings, but also includes other sandwiches, pizza and a few entrees for giggles.

We started with nachos, which were very good chips, covered in beans and taco meat, slathered in convenience store cheese sauce and dotted with tomatoes, scallions and sour cream. Not bad, but would've been better with real cheese and pico de gallo.

We both ordered burgers: I had the California burger (avocado, green chiles, jack cheese, hold the mayo); the husband had the pizza burger.

Pretzel buns are awesome. The burger patties were juicy and cooked well (but not well-done). And the toppings were mighty tasty. We also both had waffle fries, which were sufficiently good though not seriously outstanding.

Service was very, very good -- seemed like nobody walked by our table without grabbing a used napkin, refilling the water, asking how the food was or *something*. Extremely attentive and friendly.

I just wish for a few more booths (I only spotted one) and a few less loud-mouthed dudes...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Na na na na, Nana's!

Nana's is a classic. My in-laws ate here when they first moved to Streamwood 31 years ago. And The Original Nana's Hot Dogs is still there at 1102 E. Irving Park Rd. in Streamwood, serving up some of the quickest and tastiest hot dogs and fries around. (And yes, you want the ORIGINAL Nana's...don't let any other Nana fool you...)

The decor isn't much to look at; a high counter, a few tables and booths about, all worn and needing a fresh coat of paint. When the weather is nicer they have a few tables & umbrellas outside. BUT, you aren't here for the decor. You want a dog! You want it fast! And you want it cheap!

All the dogs come with fries, literally. The dog is covered in fries and then wrapped up tightly in deli paper. This can be a tad messy so don't even think about trying to eat one of these in the car. The fries are fresh and you can watch them put the potatoes in the special do-hickey to cut them up.

They have other traditional dog-joint fare on the menu like pizza puffs, beefs and the like. They even have those yummy Mexican bottled sodas and GREEN RIVER soda at the fountain. And if you like their fun retro logo you can even buy a
t-shirt :-)

Check them out on facebook at:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Breaking the chains -- Anyway's, Bloomingdale

There's a stretch of Army Trail Road in Bloomingdale that has all of the big chain restaurants -- TGI Friday's, Chili's, Applebee's, Olive Garden, and multiple fast-food places. I'm not a fan of chains like these. They have their place, but I'd SO much rather eat at a locally owned or even regional establishment.

Tucked in between these mega-chains is a restaurant with a whopping two locations: Anyway's Restaurant (304 W. Army Trail Rd, Bloomingdale).

Just a note: the random apostrophe bothers me. But not enough to not go there.

The interior is very nice, with rich, warm wood, a couple of fireplaces and comfy seating. And lots of flat-panel TVs for whatever game is on.

The menu is pretty varied for this sort of place and it can be hard to decide, but so far I've had a turkey-havarti melt (a seasonal special) and their macaroni and cheese. We're also dedicated nacho lovers, so we had to order those as an appetizer.

The nachos were solid, good enough to get them again. Tons of cheese (some of it not-quite melted), a little skimpy on the refried beans, decent guacamole, good salsa, plenty of ground beef.

My sandwich was very good; the bread was quite good, the pesto mayo and havarti delicious. The fries were solid. The macaroni & cheese comes with bacon, tomato, onion and a garlic-crumb crust plus a rich cheesy sauce around cavatappi. Awesome. Better than mine, and I make pretty dang good mac & cheese.

Service was friendly and competent, no problems there. The husband has also enjoyed his food and I am sure we will continue coming back -- and avoiding the chains, chains, chains.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Old-school style -- Pizza Palace, Elmhurst

Two things we really enjoy: pizza and downtown Elmhurst. So when we had the chance to combine the two, we went for it!

We've passed Pizza Palace (117 N. Addison Ave., Elmhurst) plenty of time, and we knew it was sort of a hole in the wall, but the wild card was whether the food was any good. But it was a random weeknight, we were hungry, I was cranky... let's try it out!

This place is a trip -- and a trip back in time. Wood paneling, big gaudy chandeliers, arcade games, free jukeboxes at the booths and a tiny bar. Straight out of my childhood.

And everything is homemade. We got fried ravioli and a large pan pizza. The ravioli kinda cracked me up -- it was like they had taken giant squares of homemade ravioli and sliced them into random shapes. Triangles, big rectangles, small triangles. But man, it was GOOD. Wonderful ricotta, crispy outside, and the sauce that came with it was a delightful meaty marinara.

The pizza also cracked me up  -- again, there's no uniformity here! Tiny pieces, huge ones, all over the place. And here, also, it was quite tasty. Plenty of ooey-gooey cheese, a zesty sauce and a great bready chewy crust.

The waitress looked like she'd been there since the beginning of time. Or at least since the place opened. But very friendly, attentive without being annoying, no complaints here.

Old-school to the max, with very tasty food and dated decor. I like it. We'll be back.

Thai one on -- Thipi Thai, La Grange

I love Thai food, but I don't get it nearly often enough. So when a friend wanted to meet for lunch, I was happy to suggest somewhere roughly in the middle in charming downtown La Grange -- the newly moved Thipi Thai (25 W. Calendar Ct., La Grange). It's very pretty and chic inside, with lots of elephants and red and sleek wood.

The menu is nicely varied, with specialties and old favorites and little peppers to indicate spice-heat level. I started with jasmine tea and tom yum soup and then decided on lemongrass beef. I will say that I'm used to Thai food being a few dollars cheaper per entree than this is, but for the quality -- and the lovely decor -- it's not unreasonable.

The jasmine tea was just the right temperature for drinking and I was offered refills promptly. The tom yum soup, while not quite as spicy as I've had other places, had a great flavor and was packed with mushrooms. And three lovely plump perfectly cooked shrimp, which I must admit I ate with my fingers. Hey, they still had their tails...

The lemongrass beef had great flavor, plenty of veggies, and the meat was pretty tender and well-cooked. It was served with just the right portion of rice and I admit it, I polished off the whole plate.I don't get to La Grange as often as I'd like, but the next time I need a classy place to meet someone in that area, you'd better believe I'll suggest Thipi Thai.

Friday, January 14, 2011

That's amore -- Bella Luna Pizza, Glendale Heights

We regularly drive down Army Trail Road on our way to Super Target, Meijer, Stratford Square and a plethora of shopping opportunities. So when we noticed that this little strip mall had a new restaurant, we put it on our "hey, let's check that out" list.

One chilly weeknight not long ago we finally stopped in to try out Bella Luna Pizza & Bar, 136 E Army Trail Rd, Glendale Heights. The place sorta feels like a Francesca's, with wood, exposed ceilings, a warm yet modern feel. There's a big bar that takes up a lot of the space, and both high tops and tables/booths around the edges.

The menu is a little light on traditional deep-fried appetizers, but they do have garlic bread, bruchetta, and a few others. Plenty of pasta options and traditional Italian dishes, but we were interested in the pizza. So we got garlic bread and a 14" thin crust pepperoni, and were also given a basket of bread and olive oil.

The pizza is very-thin-crust, with a good crunch to it except for the middle pieces which were a bit floppy by the time we got to them. Not much yeastiness to it; more buttery and solid -- similar to Home Run Inn but thinner. Plenty of ooey, gooey cheese and pepperoni -- ok, a little greasy, but you expect that. Cheese had a bit of browning around the edges which I consider crucial, although for my taste I would've left it in the oven another minute :) We were provided with Parmesan, red pepper and oregano shakers for seasoning.

Service was very good, lots of refills on water, prompt clearing of plates, not too chatty but that's not a bad thing.

They do not appear to have a website yet for this location, but do have a location in the city with a website at  ... good to know!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gold Class Cinemas

Looking for something to do in the 'burbs which requires as little time out in the freezing cold as possible?? Well forget hanging out inside the mall and head to Gold Class Cinemas, located in The Arboretum Shopping Center of South Barrington (Route 59 & Higgins Road).

Many people are put off by the price of Gold Class Cinemas but I'm here to say it is well worth it. I mean, think about it; you are going to pay $10-$14 at a regular theater now and what do you get? Uncomfortable seats, a crowded theater full of obnoxious teenagers, sticky floors, and over-priced plain old movie snacks. Why not pay just a little bit more and have a truly "Gold Class" experience?

If you plan on going here take some time beforehand to sign up as a member on their website, It's completely free and as a member you get discounts on your tickets ($2.50 off per ticket) every day off the week. Also as a member on Tuesdays they have $3 glasses of wine and beer plus discounted select food items. With our member discount our two tickets were $40.

I love the ambience of the place; it's more like you are going to a chic lounge than the movies. Lots of comfy chairs, couches and tables to use while you peruse the menu. There are a couple of big fireplaces at either end - a welcome treat on those freezing Chicago nights. The restrooms were spotless and we were there on a busy Saturday night.

While their menu is a bit limited and some items seem pricey, everything we tried was absolutely delicious and top-notch quality - plus they quantity of the food was good as well! They also add a few seasonal additions for drinks and appetizers to the menu which changes throughout the year. They also come around and offer free little bags of popcorn and if you don't already have a cocktail they offer a complimentary soda-fountain beverage.

My husband and I tried three different appetizers, a dessert and cocktails - all were scrumptious! The kitchen was super-quick and our food/drinks were delivered discreetly to our table in the theatre. If you need another drink or any other items you simply press a button on your table and a server comes over within a few minutes.

The chairs were also oh-so-comfortable and you can recline them to whatever degree you like. An arm of each chair opens up to store your coat and/or purse in. They have blankets and pillows available upon request for the ultimate snuggly experience. In my opinion there are no bad seats here, either. Each theater only has like 24 seats and the front row is 25 feet from the screen, certainly not up too close for the average person. I would, however, recommend ordering your tickets ahead online just to make sure they don't sell out.

If you want to save some money skip the food and cocktails - it is still well worth the experience.