Tag Archives: vacation

where to eat, drink, play & stay in chicago.

we embarked on our recent trip to chicago with an excessively long list of restaurants and bars that we wanted to try starred on google maps. we knew we couldn’t get to everything in 4.5 days, but we sure did our best, and ended up with a slightly shorter yet still long list of places we can now report back as worth going to. i’ve organized the list by neighborhood, since we mainly hung out in four main areas: logan square, wicker park, west loop, and river north. a few places we visited didn’t quite fall into one of these neighborhoods, so you’ll see them at the end in a miscellaneous section.

we stayed in the logan square neighborhood at this airbnb apartment and absolutely loved it. i loved staying outside of downtown where it was quieter and with more of a neighborhood feel, but i still felt like we were “in” the city and the loop, etc. was only a short ride away on the blue line train. the apartment was just perfect for us – a clean, bright studio with tons of natural light, a comfy bed, and a very responsive and accommodating host. we’ve had such good luck with airbnb so far in several cities, but katherine’s apartment was quite the gem.

without further adieu, our complete list of what to eat, drink, and do in the windy city…



longman & eagle | 2657 n kedzie avenue
this place is a trifecta of awesomeness: restaurant, bar, and hotel. we just grabbed a drink here one night, so i can’t speak for the food (though the menu looks great), but the cocktails were delicious and very inventive. L&E is very classy but still manages to have that neighborhood feel and the bartenders were extremely friendly. there’s also a more casual bar (OSB @ L&E) in the back that has a smaller cocktail selection and serves bar snacks – a cool vibe there, too. we loved our airbnb, but next time would love to stay in one of the rooms here.

90 miles cuban cafe | 2540 w armitage avenue
great little cuban joint with lots of character that came recommended to us by several friends. we both got sandwiches here – kevin the bistec del palomilla and me the medianoche – and we really liked both, and they came with delicious plantain chips. next time i’d skip the tostones (not a ton of flavor) and try some empanadas instead.

analogue | 2523 n milwaukee avenue
didn’t know much about this bar other than that it was close to our apartment, so we stopped in for a post-dinner drink one night. pretty small space, very busy (and dark), serving craft cocktails and cajun food. it was a little…”hipstery,” but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. the green river negroni was excellent (salted watermelon!), and our bartender was awesome and gave us some recommendations of other places to visit in the city; always a nice touch.

revolution brewing | 2323 n milwaukee avenue
one of chicago’s bigger breweries in addition to goose island. this location is a full-service restaurant and bar, but we just sat at the bar and tried taster sizes of a bunch of the beers. they have a ton on tap at any given time, so plenty of styles to please everyone, plus they carry bottles from a bunch of other local breweries. didn’t have time on this trip, but hoping to take a tour next time.

the radler | 2375 n milwaukee avenue
german-focused restaurant and beer hall. we sat at the bar and tried their signature drink – the radler – which is beer + fruit soda (kevin had blood orange, and i had grapefruit), with the optional addition of a shot of gin, vodka, malort (yes please). i’ve heard their pretzels are amazing – had we not just had dinner, we definitely would have tried one. next time!

intelligentsia coffee | 2642 n milwaukee avenue
there are several locations throughout the city, but we really enjoyed this one. it’s newer, i believe, with bar-like seating and counter service. the coffee here is excellent; i always try to order an espresso or macchiato at places like this so i can really taste the quality. they’ve also hopped on board the toast trend – you can order crumpets with any number of delicious toppings; we really liked the askinosie chocolate spread and the cherry jam.

gaslight coffee roasters | 2385 n milwaukee avenue
this place came recommended to us by the barista at our local coffee shop here in omaha. a super pretty space that would be a great place to hunker down for a couple hours or work remotely. great cappuccinos and lots of pastry options, including awesome savory croissants!



trenchermen | 2039 w north avenue
awesome brunch spot in an old turkish bath house. they’ve preserved a lot of the character of the old space, which is neat. they have a prix fixe brunch option where you can get a pastry, a main dish, and a side for $20 – i definitely recommend going that route so you can try a bit of everything. great bloody mary’s as well!

big star | 1531 n damen avenue
an absolute must for late-night drunk food. delicious, cheap tacos and $1 miller high lifes. need i say more? (warning: cash only)

piece brewery & pizzeria | 1927 w north avenue
the place to get pizza in chicago if you don’t really like deep dish. this is a thinner, sweeter crust with a build-your-own-pizza concept, and the topping options are endless (and include mashed potatoes…yes, we went there). even on a sunday night, it was packed and the service was kinda slow, but delicious pizza. bonus: they brew their own beer on site as well.

caffe streets | 1750 w division street
another coffee shop recommended by our barista – a neat (though pretty small) place with really cool seating and a friendly, neighborhood vibe. we got macchiatos here one morning while waiting for our brunch reservations down the street – very good!



girl & the goat | 809 w randolph street
oh, where to begin? we made reservations here in september before we were even for sure about taking this trip. we’ve long idolized stephanie izard since her win on top chef, and have been wanting to eat here forever. i was afraid that since we’d built it up so much, it might not meet our expectations, but i’m happy to say that it met and far exceeded them, and was one of the best dining experiences of our lives. the whole menu is shareable small plates (aka the best concept ever), so we ordered bread, oysters, cauliflower, shishito peppers, scallops, and goat loin to share, and literally loved all of it, particularly the goat. for dessert, we had a small cheese plate and the apple buckle – both wonderful as well. the service was excellent – they explain the concept well and course everything out for you, which is fun and really makes it feel more like an evening out versus just dinner. highly recommend, but make sure you get reservations way in advance (or be prepared to wait).

little goat | 820 w randolph street
the sister restaurant of girl & the goat, little goat is just down the street and offers inventive twists on diner-style food, such as waffles with peanut butter butter and bacon maple syrup or goat hot dogs with maple barbecue sauce. very busy on the weekends for both brunch and dinner, but we had no problem getting a table on a monday morning. amazing service with the same casual, comfortable vibe as g&g. adjacent to the restaurant is their bakery and coffee bar, where we grabbed homemade bagels and stumptown coffee the morning prior (and a delicious loaf of pumpkin-parmesan bread)!

lone wolf | 806 w randolph street
great place to grab a drink before or after dinner at girl & the goat or one of the other nearby restaurants (this area is called restaurant row, so there are plenty). it was pretty crowded here, even at 6pm on a friday night, but we managed to snag two bar seats and a couple of good cocktails. they also have a great selection of craft beer and randomly, pie! warning: very loud!



oak + char | 217 w huron street
kevin read about this new-ish restaurant online, and decided we’d go here for dinner on his actual birthday. great craft cocktails and with regard to food, a very similar concept to girl & the goat with shareable small plates. we ordered a few different menu items, and tried beef tartare for the first time and loved it! the charred burrata was wonderful as well. don’t forget the cider donuts with maple foie syrup – to die for.

shake shack | 66 e ohio street
this is the first chicago location for shake shack, which just opened about a month ago and already seems to have amassed quite a following. this was our first time eating at a shake shack, and we left very impressed: probably my favorite fast food burger ever, great fries, and delicious house-made lemonade (we didn’t get around to trying any shakes). conveniently located near magnificent mile and definitely worth a stop if you haven’t been here before (or if you’re from the east coast and need your fix).

eataly | 43 e ohio street
a mecca of all things italian. on the first level, a market with lots of italian products and local dairy, as well as a few casual eateries, like a panini shop, a gelato stand, and a whole cafe dedicated to nutella. on the second level, there are several more restaurants, each focused on a particular cuisine, like pizza, pasta, seafood, meat + cheese, vegetables, etc., plus a wine and beer shop. the second-level restaurants were quite crowded both times we went, but it’s a fun place to wander around it, and we can vouch for the gelato and the paninis – both were wonderful.

celeste | 111 w hubbard street
an upscale cocktail bar that’s perfect for a special occasion or when you’re feeling a little fancy. men in suits greet you at the door, and direct you to one of three levels – the main level with cocktails and a limited food menu, an upper level (the deco room) with a full-service restaurant, or the garden level, a rooftop bar which unsurprisingly was not open in december. while still busy, celeste was a little mellower than some of the other bars we visited during our trip. inventive craft cocktails with an astronomy theme.

sable | 505 n state street
we didn’t have a wonderful experience here, but i feel compelled to include it because it came highly recommended to us by our waitress at oak+char, and based on reviews, seems to be pretty popular. it’s located inside of a hotel, but feels like a space of its own, and while we had a little snafu in terms of service, the cocktails were great and i’d definitely give it a second chance on a future trip.



goose island clybourn | 1800 n clybourn avenue
goose island is one of the larger breweries in chicago, and one that we’ve always wanted to tour, so tour we did. at this location, they actually only make beer for the attached restaurant and don’t do any distribution, so it’s fairly small. we got a quick tour of the brewery, and then headed into the restaurant area where we were guided through a tasting of several of their more rare beers, which was neat! overall, not our favorite brewery tour ever, but still worth checking out, and they have a great merchandise selection. for $10, you get the tour, the tasting, and a souvenir pint glass to keep, so not a bad deal.

koval distillery | 5121 n ravenswood avenue
it’s not as often that you get to tour a distillery, so we knew we wanted to hit up koval on this trip. i highly recommend this tour – for $10, you get a tour of their facility complete with lots of neat alcohol history and the chance to taste many of their spirits and liqueurs. it’s a little bit off the beaten bath, but worth making the trip for and checking out all the unique things koval is doing. if you want to take anything home with you after the tour, you get 10% off anything in their shop (including alcohol), plus they’ll let you taste anything that you didn’t get a chance to on the tour.

rickshaw republic | 2312 n lincoln avenue
colorful little spot on the north end of lincoln park serving indonesian street food. we opted for the rice table option, which is a 10+ course meal of small(ish) plates for $36/person. not really being familiar with indonesian food, this was a great way to experience a bunch of the different dishes and flavors of the cuisine. they do a great job of including a variety of textures, levels of spiciness, and flavors; we enjoyed nearly every dish. a little pricey, but worth it for a unique experience and supporting this sweet family-run operation. bonus: it’s byob here, and no corkage fee!

second city | 1616 n wells street
comedy club where many famous comedians got their start, including tina fey, stephen colbert, chris farley, and the list goes on. they have multiple shows a night across multiple stages – we saw the main show, but i’m sure you can’t really go wrong here. i’ve been to other comedy clubs before, and they’re all notorious for packing you in pretty tight, but second city took it to a whole new level – just a warning, be prepared to make friends! fairly affordable and there’s not a bad seat in the house!

we hope you’ll find this list helpful if you ever find yourself in chicago! and if you have favorite places that we missed, please leave them in the comments, and we’ll try them on our next trip!

Posted in adventures., food + drink | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

where to eat and drink in san francisco.

when we started telling people about our trip to san francisco earlier this spring, we got sooo many recommendations of fantastic places to eat, drink, grab coffee, and otherwise visit. and so we made it our mission to eat and drink as much as possible during our three-day latermoon, and i’m happy to report that i think we fared pretty well. to say thanks to everyone who recommended one or many of the places that we visited, and to pass along our favorites to anyone visiting in the future, i’ve put together a list of (nearly) everywhere we ate and drank during our time in san francisco. enjoy and bon appetit!



taqueria cancun | 1003 market street

taqueria cancun was our first stop after arriving in san francisco from a long day of traveling. it was right up the street from our airbnb and was recommended by our host, and we needed a quick bite before our reservation for drinks later that evening, so it worked out perfectly. it’s your typical hole-in-the-wall taco place, but it didn’t disappoint. we both had a carne asada “super taco,” which comes with onions, cilantro, salsa, cheese, avocado, and sour cream, and at just $3 and plenty big, that’s hard to beat.


guardino’s at fisherman’s wharf | 2801 taylor street

we might not have gone here had i read the yelp reviews before eating here, because they’re quite mixed, but for us, this was the perfect way to get our fisherman’s wharf seafood fix without having to splurge at one of the pricier dine-in restaurants. we split a lobster roll (splitting is key when you’re trying to eat your way through a city like we did), and i’m glad we did, because it was giant and they didn’t skimp on the lobster meat. we ordered an anchor steam beer here too, and although you’re technically supposed to drink it right by their stand, they’ll put it in a brown paper bag so you can somewhat inconspicuously drink it across the street where there’s a few places to sit.


locanda osteria + bar | 557 valencia street

we sort of stumbled upon locanda when a couple other places in the mission district we were considering eating at weren’t open for dinner yet. the menu looked good and they had a table available for an early dinner, so we figured we’d give it a shot. ironically, it turned out to be not only one of the best meals of the trip, but one of the best meals ever. locanda has the same owners as delfina and pizzeria delfina just down the street (which also came highly recommended to us), and specializes in from-scratch pastas, craft cocktails, and unique antipasti and bar snacks.

we started with the radishes + anchovy butter – something i wouldn’t normally be drawn to but figured this was the kind of place to try it at. it was wonderful. we also tried their coppiette, a roman-style pork jerky, which is marinated in campari and peroni and consequently was also wonderful. and then the entrées – kevin ordered the orecchiette (sausage, broccoli raab, parmesan), which was amazing, but the star of the show was my entrée – the short rib ravioli with sunchoke velutato and black pepper. omg. i don’t even know what a velutato is but i know i like it and i know this is the pasta dish i will forever be dreaming about. for dessert we had the cookie plate, which came with a rosemary shortbread and a chocolate espresso drop – the perfect light, small dessert to balance out the richness of our dinner. go here.


mission street oyster bar | 2322 mission street

after our morning tour at anchor brewing company (see below), we were in the mood for a lighter lunch and in search of somewhere to try some pacific coast oysters. mission street oyster bar was in walking distance and fit the bill – we had side salads and some miyagi oysters, and although this was our first and only time having pacific coast oysters, i definitely preferred them over the atlantic coast ones we’ve had (which is saying something, because we really like those too). bonus: it was happy hour when we were there (at lunchtime? score!) so oysters were only $1.50 each, making this a super affordable meal.


sliver pizzeria | 2132 center street, berkeley

our stop at sliver was totally unplanned – our reservations at chez panisse weren’t until 9:30 that night and we found ourselves in berkeley several hours before that needing a pre-dinner dinner to prevent getting hangry. i was willing to eat anything at this point and wasn’t expecting much, but this was The Trip of No Bad Meals. sliver has a different slice of the day each day, which happened to be fresh corn, red bell pepper, chile pasilla, mozzarella, cotija cheese, limes, cilantro, and garlic olive oil when we were there, aka all my favorite flavors piled into one. so good. when you order a slice, you actually get a slice plus a “sliver” – hence the name – which was a fun surprise. also, their mission (other than making fantastic pizza) is centered around eliminating human trafficking, so that’s an added bonus.


chez panisse cafe | 1517 shattuck avenue, berkeley

chez panisse was the only meal we made reservations for on this trip and has been on my bucket list for a looong time, #becausealicewaters. we went on the third and final night of our trip, at which point (a) we were exhausted, (b) we were so sick of walking, and (c) i was pretty sure i had strep throat and could not find an urgent care anywhere nearby (surprise! i had an ear infection instead and spent the rest of our california trip on antibiotics). but! we took operation steak + frites very seriously and made the mile+ trek to the cafe from the BART, complete with lots of grumbling over tired legs, sore throats and self-questioning over why we thought it was a good idea to eat dinner at 9:30.

but we went inside and for an hour, everything was perfect and magical and just what i’d dreamed it would be like. at 9:30 on the dot, our server (who was french, of course) brought over the late-night menu and we promptly ordered what we came for, the steak + frites with salad greens and a glass of the house zinfandel (because red wine is so good for sore throats, ha!). it was perfect. a great way to experience chez panisse without breaking the bank, as the late-night meal is only $25/person. already dreaming about going back someday.



pressed juicery | 1 ferry building #38a

a cute little juice stand inside the ferry building with tons of pre-bottled juices to choose from. we got the greens 1.5 and loved it. pretty pricey, but we split one and it was a great mid-morning snack and pick me up for our walk along the embarcadero.

bi-rite market | 3639 18th street

bi-rite market is pretty famous as a model locally-owned grocery store with tons of local produce (they even grow stuff on their roof!) and other locally-sourced artisan products, so i definitely wanted to pay this place a visit. we didn’t make it to their ice cream shop, but we did stop in at the market to pick up a few snacks – some popcorn and some cranberry-orange scones from a bakery in berkeley.

gott’s roadside | 1 ferry building #6

also inside the ferry building; i think they have a full restaurant on the outside of the building, but we visited their indoor frozen yogurt stand for an afternoon ice cream snack our our way back from fisherman’s wharf. the pomegranate-blueberry flavor was delicious, and any fro-yo place with mochi as a topping option is a favorite in my book. yum!



blue bottle mint plaza | 66 mint plaza

we had three mornings in san francisco and three coffee shops we wanted to visit, so it worked out perfectly. blue bottle at mint plaza was our first stop, and was conveniently just a couple minutes’ walk from our apartment. our macchiatos were great, and since this location has a full food program, we grabbed breakfast here as well. this location is pretty small and was very busy on the sunday morning we were there, but there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating that makes this a great place to read the paper and enjoy a cup of coffee before starting your day.

blue bottle ferry building | 1 ferry building #7

a second blue bottle location, obviously, in the ferry building. we stopped here on our way back to our apartment from our morning in fisherman’s wharf for an iced coffee, which was very good.

sightglass coffee | 270 7th street

out of the three shops we visited, sightglass was the one i knew the least about before our trip, but after realizing that it was also right down the street from our apartment and reading the yelp reviews about how neat of a space it was, we made a trip there on monday morning on our way to anchor brewing. sure enough, it didn’t disappoint. our iced coffees were very good, and although we’d already eaten breakfast, i wish we hadn’t because there were lots of good-looking pastry options taunting me. the space was indeed very cool, with a cool staircase up to a second level with another full coffee bar. also cool: their packing/labeling line is visible from virtually the whole shop, which was neat to watch.

four barrel | 375 valencia street

four barrel was recommended to us by a whole bunch of people, so we walked back down to their mission district location on our last morning in san francisco before heading to the airport. another very cool space, similar to sightglass with lots of cool, open seating, plus some bar-like seating where you can watch the roasters in action. my cappuccino was very good, and the blackberry pistachio croissant was amazing – i’m a sucker for anything pistachio, so definitely worth a visit just for that.



bourbon & branch | 501 jones street

if you’ve always wanted to go to a place with a password (everyone, right?), then bourbon & branch is a must. b & b is a speakeasy-style bar with a password entrance in a slightly-seedy neighborhood that only adds to the whole experience. reservations can be made one month in advance online. it’s a little hard to find, but that’s part of it, so i won’t give you any hints here. their cocktail list is incredibly extensive, and i’m sure everything is good. it was negroni week when we were there, so i went with their featured negroni, but their staff is very knowledgeable, so i bet you could rattle off a couple things you like and they’d bring you something that exceeds your expectations. great place for a fancy, unique night out!


anchor brewing company | 1705 mariposa street

ever since our epic trip to fort collins to tour at new belgium, i’ve set my expectations fairly low for other brewery tours because theirs is just flat-out hard to beat. the tour and experience at anchor, however, comes mighty close. our tour guide had tons of personality (essential), gave a great history of the brewery and the craft beer movement in general (essential-er), and, wait for it, we got to try eight different beers at the end (essential-ist). their tours are super popular, so make sure you sign up months (yes, months) in advance or you might not be able to get a spot.

thanks again to everyone who sent us their recommendations – we loved everything!

Posted in adventures., food + drink | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

san francisco.

sb011the three days we spent in san francisco at the beginning of our recent trip to california were beyond perfect. perfect weather (80 degrees in SF in june? such a dream), perfect food (we literally did not have a single bad meal there), and of course, perfect company. we had no real agenda other than to eat as much good food and drinks as many good cups of coffee and cocktails as humanly possible. i’m happy to report: mission accomplished. in short, it was the perfect place to spend a few days adventuring together on a super-belated honeymoon right before our three year anniversary (today!). a few photos from the trips below, and a full post of food + drink recs to come shortly!


Posted in adventures. | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

the coffeehouse series: handsome coffee roasters / los angeles

Originally, the photos from this post were going to be California, part 2, but I realized that the photos I took from our day adventure to Los Angeles were overwhelmingly of Handsome Coffee Roasters. Since the coffeehouse series kicked off last week, I figured this series would be a better home for this and any future write-ups on coffee shops we visit in different cities.

Handsome Coffee is a beautiful coffee shop oasis in the middle of an otherwise (let’s be honest) pretty ugly and sketchy part of DTLA. In fact, when we were following the Google Maps directions to get there, I thought for sure we must have entered the address in wrong, because it didn’t seem like an area that such an esteemed establishment would be. But alas, we turned the corner and there it was, complete with a taco truck camped out front!

One step inside and I was instantly transported to what I’m pretty sure was white subway tile heaven. Before this, I’d kinda sorta dreamed about white subway tile in our future kitchen, but now, I must have white subway tile in my future kitchen. Their menu is simple – coffee, espresso drinks – nothing fancy and that’s kind of the way we like it. While I really prefer brewed coffee on a day-to-day basis, I’ve gotten into a rhythm of ordering a cappuccino whenever we visit a specialty coffee shop like this. I love the feeling of a drink being so perfect that I don’t even feel guilty about the whole milk it was made with, and I just love the experience of watching a barista prepare espresso, and of course the latte art is just the kicker. So, we ordered cappuccinos to enjoy inside and they were – unsurprisingly – perfect.

I also really enjoyed the ambiance of this place – I love places whose decor focuses on natural woods + white/grays, natural light and uses greenery for pops of color. If I ever owned a coffee shop or restaurant, it’s definitely how I would design and decorate the place.  It is bright and cheery but still simple and understated.

If you’re in the LA area, definitely check out Handsome Coffee! In addition to being a coffee shop, they also sell their own roasted coffee and lots of other manual coffee brewing equipment.

More photos, if you’re interested…

to visit:
handsome coffee roasters
582 mateo street | los angeles, ca 90013

Posted in food + drink | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

california, pt. 1: newport beach.

newport beach is one of my very favorite places in the world. it’s the one place that i always want to go every time i come home. last thursday we took a family trip to newport, and even though it was kinda a bummer to have a cloudy beach day, the overcast-ness is pretty beautiful in its own way and hey, it was still the beach. highlights of the day included the best shrimp + scallops and salmon at the crab cooker, a sprinkles cupcake courtesy of my bff ruth, and actually getting some decent photos of us for the first time in a long time. i love you, newport.

Posted in adventures. | Tagged , , | Leave a comment