Ask a friend, ask a lover or ask a few people to join you to celebrate the Feast of Saint Valentine Feb. 14. It’s just nice to have a fun day in the middle of winter. Since Feb/ 14 comes on a Friday in 2020, celebrate the end of the week or the beginning of a fun weekend.
The ideas listed here are for Chicago but they could be adapted anywhere by substituting a local cooking class for No. 1, a decadent chocolate dessert for No. 2 and a different activity for No. 3. They range from pricey but yummy to free.
The Peninsula Chicago’s Shanghai Terrace is doing a Dim Sum for Lovebirds cooking class and dinner from Feb. 10 through Feb. 16. It includes a Chinese tea degustation, a class led by Chef de Cuisine Elmo Han and ends with a three-course dinner. The cost per couple is $888 but there is a less expensive option Feb. 15 only. It’s the two-hour Valentine’s Day Cooking Experience. At $480 a couple it includes tortellini making and a three-course lunch of oysters, pasta and dessert in The Lobby. (Gratuity and tax not included).
Peninsula Chicago is on Superior Street at Michigan Avenue. To make reservations or for more information call (312) 573 6620, toll-free at 1 866 288 8889, visit Peninsula Chicago or email reservations
The restaurant is not just among Chicagoan’s fave when it comes to hot dogs or Italian beef. It’s chocolate cake ranks among the town’s top dessert choices. So Portillo’s is shaping it famous cake into a heart for Valentine’s Day. A the single-layer chocolate iced cake, the treat will be available at Chicago area locations Feb. 7-16, but can be pre-ordered beginning Jan. 14, 2020 by visiting portillos.com or calling 1-866-YUM-BEEF.
In addition, 100% of the purchase price of each Portillo’s Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cake sold between January 14 and February 16 (capped at $25,000) will be donated to the American Red Cross. Portillo’s is supporting the American Red Cross Biomedical Services to ensure a safe and reliable blood supply is available for patients in need.
Heart-Shaped cakes will be available for purchase in-store February 7-16. Guests are encouraged to pre-order the cakes beginning on January 14 by visiting portillos.com or calling 1-866-YUM-BEEF.
Skate against the Chicago skyline or skate under the stars. Ice skating at Chicago’s Millennium Park below Cloud Gate (The Bean) is a popular winter activity encouraged by background music and a concession stand of hot chocolate. The skating is free. Visitors can bring their skates or rent, or use the rental free of charge if staying at a Hilton.
The historic Palmer House at Wabash and Monroe Streets, just west of the Art institute and Millenium Park is a Hilton. So is The Wit, a popular millennial hotel by Doubletree at State and Lake, a couple of blocks west.
Up the experience by doing lunch at Terao Piano which is a short walk up the bridge from the park to the third floor of the Art Institute of Chicago or an elevator ride up from the museum’s Monroe Street entrance. Those entrances to the restaurant don’t have a museum charge. Or do dinner in the Park Grill right there at the skating rink.
Shopping, shows, sights and lights, Chicago’s festival markets and moments seem to be descending at express-train speed. But instead of shouting “stop the train,” take control of the season with a “staycation” that balances shopping with spa time, festival watching with fitness-center wellness and special exhibits with special cocktails.
Several Chicago hotels are putting together packages that make staying downtown a fun alternative to insanely commuting to catch events. Because holiday gifts and sights stretch from Macy’s on State and the Art Institute of Chicago to Magnificent Mile and the Lincoln Park Zoo, a good plan is to make your holiday headquarters a hotel near Michigan Avenue. Continue reading “Staycation for the holidays”
Whether coming from out of town or the suburbs, spending a weekend downtown Chicago is such a treat you’ll want to make it an annual outing.
To help with the decisions because there’s so much to do and see, here’s a two-day guide (you probably settled in to your hotel last night) of steps and options.
Choose a hotel close enough to walk to many sights shows and bus stops.
The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority has routes that can take you as close as the Magnificent Mile of North Michigan and as far as the Museum of Science and Industry near Hyde Park. St. Jane Hotel on Michigan Avenue would be an example because it is just south of the Chicago River so the North Michigan Avenue shops are within walking distance going north, it is an easy walk north to Millennium Park with its famed Cloud Gate sculpture (The Bean) where visitors take selfies, plus the Art Institute of Chicago and the Theatre District. And it is near a good bus stop.
But check other hotels and prices at the city’s tourism website, Choose Chicago.
Figure out which shows you would like to see so you can snag tickets for those you want at times you want.
As an example Goodman Theatre is once again doing “A Christmas Carol” with terrific scene design and actors and The Joffrey Ballet is doing “The Nutcracker” with exciting choreography and sets that debuted in 2017.
Find show options at League of Chicago Theatres’ site Chicago Plays
Remember to fit in downtime and coffee breaks so you and yours go home smiling, not exhausted.
Two-day weekend divided by location
Day One: South of the Chicago River
Do breakfast at Free Rein, a French brasserie with a patisserie up front that has great croissants but the restaurant also does omelets, oat meal, smoothies and other dishes. Free Rein is at 224 N. Michigan Ave. attached to St Jane Hotel.
After relaxing over coffee, stroll west and south a couple of blocks to Macy’s at State and Randolph Streets to see how the department store decorated its State Street windows this year. Cross State Street to catch the #146 Museum Campus bus on the west side of State Street, and the north side of Washington Street. At he Museum Campus you can see the dinosaurs and mummies at The Field Museum , Penguins and dolphins at the Shedd Aquarium and the Destination Solar System show at the Adler Planetarium.
Tip: The museums have shops that are good for picking up last minute gifts.
Catch the #146 bus back to State and Randolph in front of Macy’s to go up to its Walnut Room on the 7th floor for lunch and to see its three-story tree.
If you couldn’t get a reservation for the Walnut Room, you probably can sit in the bar to the side and do lunch there.
After breakfast cross Michigan Avenue at Randolph Street to walk through Millennium Park, take photos at “The Bean,”hen walk up the Nichols Bridgeway, a walkway from the park’s “Great Lawn” that goes over Monroe Street to the 3rd floor of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing.You have a good view of the skyline and the park if you turn around. The Art Institute doesn’t open until 10:30 a.m. so linger over coffee or picture taking at Millennium Park.
Along with seeing famous paintings, visit the Art Institute’s Thorne Rooms. About seven of the approximately 100 miniature period rooms are decorated for the holidays. But all of them are fascinating.
Tip: Shops in the Art Institute’s main building and modern wing have great gifts.
Take a break with hot chocolate or soup on the mezzanine of the Modern Wing or do lunch at the Park Grill at street level of Millennium Park to watch ice skaters. Or visit the Chicago Architecture Center on Wacker Drive. Its diorama on the main floor shows the Chicago Fire and architectural places of interest. The exhibit upstairs is about skyscrapers. Both exhibits are superb and Chicago is internationally known for its architecture.
Return to the hotel to relax before heading out for cocktails, dinner and a show or go ice skating in Millennium Park followed by a casual dinner at The Gage across Michigan Avenue from the park.
If going to the Goodman Theatre to see “A Christmas Carol” consider making a reservation next door at Petterinos. The restaurant has excellent calamari and a reasonable wine list.
Day Two: North of the Chicago River
Do breakfast at Pierrot Gourmet, a European-style café and bistro similar to Free Rein but this restaurant is attached to the Peninsula Chicago Hotel at Superior and Rush Streets. If you can’t decide on ordering a dish on the menu or trying one of the pastries, eat there and take something to go. The Peninsula Chicago overlooks the Magnificent Mile
Browse the shops on the Magnificent Mile. There are individual stores such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany, department stores such as Bloomingdales and Nordstrom and indoor malls such as Water Tower Place, the 900 North Michigan Shops and the Shops at Northbridge.
Take a lunch break at Marisol, a new, neighborhood dining spot that is street level at the Museum of Contemporary Art a block east of Michigan Avenue. The dishes are innovative and yummy. Marisol is at 205 E. Pearson, a block east of Water Tower Place.
Restaurant access has no museum charge. However, there is a wonderful exhibit of Enrico David’s work, “Gradations of Slow Release” at the museum that is definitely worth a look
There are restaurants and food stands at the zoo. When through saying goodnight to the penguins and polar bear, head back to the hotel for a well-deserved night cap and rest.
Shop until ready to go into the John Hancock Center just north of Water tower Place for great views of the city. Take the elevator up to the 96th floor for cocktails and view or to the Signature Room on the 95th for dinner and a view. Reservations are a good idea.
You don’t have to be staying at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort north of Chicago to relax on its recently re-done Lakeside Plaza. You don’t even have to call its popular, reservation-only Three Embers Restaurant. Just go over there at sunset to sip a glass of Pluto’s Fury Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley or a house recommended Merlot and nibble on the restaurant’s Burrata appetizer around the Plaza’s fire pit or at its high-top double-sided, fire-lined bar.
There is usually live music on Tuesday and Wednesday evening but the resort will also be doing Bourbon & Bonfires a special dinner and drinks event Aug. 15, 2018 that pairs Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve with gourmet bites by Executive Chef Yo Chang. This event does need a reservation (Eventbrite).
Marriott Lincolnshire Resort is at 10 Marriott Drive off Milwaukee Avenue south of IL Hwy 22, Lincolnshire. For more information call 847-634-0100 and visit Three Embers food.
Not all the Lincoln Park Zoo sights are found through the main gate. South of that gate is the historic Prairie-School-style Café Brauer (2021 North Stockton). Go around behind the landmark building to discover the Patio.
Here you can sip the Patio Muscle made up of Two Brothers Vodka, Chambord, ginger beer and lime or a refreshing glass of Villa Sandi Proseco while resting the eyes on a pond, boardwalk and the Chicago skyline.
Resolve your after-work food craving with crispy calamari or tomato mozzarella pizza twists.
Reservations are suggested. Café Brauer is at 2021 N. Stockton, Chicago. For more information call (312) 507-9053 and visit The Patio.
A popular, fun trend among Chicago hotels is to open a roof-top bar. They offer good city views, interesting cocktails and are a place to meet after hours. However, one that takes on the sophisticated vibe of its globally-known hotel is the Z Bar that just opened at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel.
Go up to the sixth floor to settle comfortably with a view of Michigan Avenue. Then study the drinks menu with an eye for something special designed by Cocktails & Culture Director Vlad Novikov.
Whether you choose a classic cocktail or one inspired by Novikov’s travels it will be an experience.
The same is true with the small-plates-food menu that includes the Daikon Frites with Chinese lap cheong, garlic and an unusual jam.
The Peninsula Chicago is at 108 E. Superior St., For more information call (312) 573-6888 and visit Z-bar.
How picky are you when it comes to eating outdoors when you want to take advantage of Chicago’s often too -short summer season?
If not at all picky, you might not mind cars pulling into the spaces close to your sidewalk café table. After all, sidewalk cafés are not just a Parisian thing. As soon as the weather turns balmy, lots of restaurants set out tables. Sometimes the space is marked off by planters.
However, here are a few places to consider if looking for a bumper-free, emissions-free outdoor experience when you want to relax over brunch lunch, dinner or cocktails. in or around Chicago . The places may not be what you would expect but they’re nice for relaxing, meeting friends, lovely views and good food.
At Market House on the Square in north suburban Lake Forest, guests favor the historic building’s (former fire station) British-style bar and dining room when there is a chill in the air. But when summer comes, it’s all about lunching or dining out on the patio. Nothing is typical here. From a tempura fish sandwich and a “griddled” burger with wild mushrooms and red pepper ranch or a poached pear salad at lunch to PEI mussels with frites or a short ribs shepherd’s pie for supper, the offerings are delish and creative. Many of the menu items come from Executive Chef Dan Marquis’ Mill Road Farms.
Market House on the Square is at 655 Forest Ave., Lake Forest, IL. For reservations call (847) 234-8800 and visit Market House.
Instead of only going to the Chicago Botanic Garden to walk among the flowers or visit the Brazilian butterflies that are there now, plan to do breakfast, brunch or lunch ton the outdoor deck of the Garden View Café. There is also the Garden Grille for burgers and brats and the new Rose Terrace Beer Garden that has craft beers when looking for a place to lunch or for later dining and relaxing with a garden view.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe just east of the Edens Expressway. For more information call (847) 835-5440 and visit CBG and Chicago Botanic Outdoor Dining.
Chicago’s Mag Mile
Walk into Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula Chicago and relax outdoors with a terrific cocktail and wonderful dim sum (think shrimp, Peking duck and barbecue pork). The restaurant a few floors above North Michigan Avenue, spreads outside with comfortable seating and tables as soon as weather permits.
The Peninusla Chicago is at 108 E. Superior St., Chicabgo. For reservations and other information call (312) 573- 6695 or 312-337-288 and visit Peninsula.
Who would have thought a public golf course would also be known as an event venue or for its cuisine or for its wonderful patio. But if in the Wheaton area at meal time, stop at the Arrowhead Golf Club and ask for an outside table. The club ss a public facility operated by the Wheaton Park District that just happens to have great food and views of the course from its terrace like patio.
Arrowhead Golf Club is at 26W151 Butterfield Rd., Wheaton, IL For other information call (630) 653-5800) and visit Arrowhead Golf Club.
There often is a wait list to sit on Fiora’s patio overlooking the town but people who go early and during the week can usually snag an outdoor table. The restaurant is in a historic building where food and ambiance make it a popular choice.
Fiora’s is at 317 Third St., Geneva, IL. For reservations and more information call 630-262-1317 and visit Fiora’s.
BTW Please feel free to add your own favorite Chicago area place for dining outside.