Scooter’s

What’s the first sign of spring in Chicago? Opening day at Scooter’s Frozen Custard! Last Friday March 1st was opening day at Scooter’s, and ChiCityCool once again attended the opening. We never miss it! Located on the corner of Belmont and Paulina in the Lakeview neighborhood is a small frozen custard shop that has gotten quite the reputation in Chicago. Sure Bobtail is great too, but nothing compares to the delicious, rich, creamy, and unique flavors of the frozen custard offered at Scooter’s. It’s my favorite place in the city for dessert! Even on a cold Chicago night like last Friday, people lined up out the door to get a taste of their delicious treats. They have an extensive menu with many fun options like “Elvis” and Peanut Butter and Jelly Concretes, but I was most excited to try their “Flavor of the Day”- Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel.  In case you were curious, it was as amazing as it sounds. In addition to their frozen custard “Flavor of the Day”, they also offer a concrete of the month. Bonus: Children and dogs receive free small cones! Yes, I have witnessed firsthand people feeding their dogs frozen custard cones. Don’t worry, they are bite size. For that reason, if you have a child that is older than 3, be warned that they may want more than the free tiny cone Scooter’s offers. So, no matter what the weather is outside, head on over to Scooter’s Frozen Custard and enjoy every delicious bite. I’d hurry though, because they aren’t opened year around and you want to get as much Scooter’s in while you can. No one every tries Scooter’s just once!

Tip: Avoid going inside by ordering from their walk up window on the west side of the building.

Dress Code: Casual

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Top: Express; Infinity Scarf: Coldwater Creek (old); Skinny Jeans: The Limited; Boots: Shoedazzle; Red Snake Bracelet: BaubleBar (old and not available on-line, bought in NYC Store); Watch: Michael Kors; Bracelets: Wanderlust + Co & Bijouterie Light Wood Skull Charm Bracelet; Earrings: K-Amato (Sample Sale); Gold Kensington Ring: Gorjana

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Caro Mio

When it comes to Italian food in Chicago, most people think they should head over to Taylor Street. While it’s true there are some great restaurants over there, there’s also an excellent Italian restaurant on the North Side that tops my list of favorite places to eat. Located on Wilson Avenue in the Ravenswood / Lincoln Square neighborhood is a lesser known, but becoming increasingly more popular Italian restaurant called Caro Mio. After studying abroad in Italy in college, I’ve become pretty picky about Italian food. You won’t catch me at an Olive Garden unless I’m being forced to go, and I admit there are even a few popular Italian restaurants in Chicago that I am not a huge fan of, even after multiple attempts to try to like it. Since this blog is about things to eat, see, and do in Chicago that are “cool”, I won’t talk about those places though, nor will I recommend any places that I wouldn’t visit again. I started eating at Caro Mio almost 6 years ago, and back then I felt I had found one of the best kept secrets in Chicago. I would often tell friends and family to try this place, but many of them hesitated based on the location. Since then, the secret has gotten out, and Caro Mio has expanded their restaurant to the space next door. Although cabs can be difficult to find outside the restaurant, it is easily accessible and walking distance to the Damen and Montrose Brown Line stops.

Once you walk inside the door, you will find a cozy and romantic space. Although this place is a prime spot for romantic dates, it’s also an excellent place to go in groups. I’ve taken my family here, celebrated engagements here with friends, and have seen many birthday celebrations happening inside the restaurant. With the expanded space, you can bet that you will be seeing even more group events happening here. They only take reservations for larger parties, but they will take your phone number down so you can grab a drink at O’Shaughnessy’s Public House down the street while you wait for your table. Once you sit down, you will see a large menu of delicious items. Their specials are usually the best things to order, and I almost always get their stuffed Gnocchi. It’s the best gnocchi I’ve ever had, hands down. As someone once said to me while eating there, “It’s like a pillow of deliciousness in your mouth.” Enough said. The food is excellent. The best part about this place is that it’s a BYOB with no corkage fee. Yes, Chicago, another BYOB. So, while I feel the food prices are reasonable, the food feels even more affordable after not having a large alcohol tab attached to the bill. If you are on the North Side of Chicago and in the mood for Italian cuisine, head over to Caro Mio with a few bottles of wine.

Dress Code : Casual

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Date Night : Burgundy Skinny Jeans: TJ Maxx; Blazer: Banana Republic, old (Similar); Top: Forever 21; Belt: Target; Necklace: K-Amato Sample Sale; Earrings: Lia Sophia (old), Bracelets: Wanderlust + Co , BaubleBar (NY Store- Not On-line); Watch: Michael Kors, Boots: Nine West (Very Similar)

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Casual Dinner with Parents: Leopard Cardigan: Target (Currently In Stores Only); Shirt: H&M; Mustard Skinny Jeans: TJ Maxx; Earrings: random New York jewelry designer; Necklace: Tiffany’s (old); Bracelet: Tiffany’s (old), Boots: Nine West (Very Similar)

Longman & Eagle

In a city filled with so many delicious restaurants, it’s hard to pick your favorite, but Longman and Eagle is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. Many people would be surprised to hear that a Michelin star restaurant is tucked away in Logan Square, but actually, Logan Square has many great restaurants. This high-end gastropub serves American Contemporary cuisine and is a favorite among all walks of life. I for one jump at any opportunity to eat or drink here. Often people ask me where they should take their Chicago visitors to eat, and I almost always say Longman and Eagle. Named after the artist who sculpted the eagle on top of the Illinois Centennial Monument in Logan Square, Longman and Eagle has everything you could want in a restaurant. It has delicious food, unpretentious aura, vibrant atmosphere, diverse crowd, and an excellent drink menu. With a location off the typical beaten path and a hipster bar feel, taking your visitors here will allow them to not only have a great meal, but also see a side of Chicago that not many visitors check out. There must be a downside to this place, right? Well, you are right. Longman and Eagle doesn’t take reservations. That means sometimes you may have a 2 hour wait to get seated. Don’t worry, because they will take your phone number and call you when your table is ready. So, grab a drink down the block and wait it out. This place is worth the wait, and I don’t see the crowds slowing down any time soon.

Longman and Eagle is not only a great choice for dinner, but it also has an excellent brunch menu. I recently tried the Whole Hog Crepinette and Fried Chicken and Waffles, and both were excellent. They also have a PBR special for brunch, and you should take a look at the price of the meal with and without the PBR. It will make you laugh, and just shows you how great this place really is. If it’s your first time there or you might not be back for a while, get the Crepinette for brunch. For dinner there are many great options, so I won’t give you a long list of recommendations. To be honest, I haven’t had anything I didn’t like there. For my New York friends, I often tell them to get the Pork Belly. It’s one of my favorite dishes, and I found not many places in New York (or anywhere else for the matter) cook pork as well as they do at Longman and Eagle. Last, but definitely not least, come thirsty! This place has a great whiskey menu and even serves some good pints of beer as well. They pride themselves on the fact that you can grab a good cup of coffee in the morning and then return at night for pint of beer and more delicious food. If you haven’t checked this place out, then you should. It’s one of the few places in Chicago that I return to often. Did you know that they even have hotel rooms upstairs for you to stay at? I haven’t checked those out yet, but I’m hoping I can talk my next vistors in to staying there.

Dress Code: Anything goes! Hipster / Casual / Trendy

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Dinner Outfit – Floral Blazer: Ann Taylor; Peplum Top: Zara (No longer available on-line); Belt: Target; Burgundy Skinny Jeans: Marshalls; Shoes: Ann Taylor (old); Purse: Rebecca Minkoff Mini M.A.C.(Other Colors Here and Here); Red Snake Bracelet: BaubleBar (old and not available on-line, bought in NYC Store)

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Brunch Outfit – Sweater: Target (In Store Only and No Longer Available); Vest: Old Navy (No Longer Available); Jeans: The Limited; Boots: Shoedazzle; Necklace: Forever21 (old); Earrings: K.Amato (Sample Sale); Watch: Michael Kors

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Brunch: Whole Hog Crepinette

Brunch: Fried Chicken and Waffles

Brunch: Fried Chicken and Waffles

Chicago Christmas Traditions & Winter Activities

Although this blog started after the holidays and Christmas has quickly come and gone, winter seems to have just started in Chicago. The weather has been unusually mild this winter despite the weather forecasters’ predictions last summer. With the weather just getting colder and the holidays still on my mind, here are a few Chicago winter must-do activities that everyone should check out: (I go every year and they are budget friendly!)

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights: They are free! Great place to take the kids to see Santa as well. Grab some pizza beforehand down the street at Rocco Ranalli’s (It’s family friendly and delicious!)

-Ice Skate at Millennium Park: Avoid lines and having to spend money by bringing your own ice skates (Check out the other free ice skating rinks around Chicago as well!)

Christkindlmarket in the Daley Plaza: It gets super crowded, but is a must see activity in Chicago. Grab a nice German beverage served in a souvenir mug shaped like a boot and check out the beautiful ornaments and Christmas tree.

CTA Holiday Train: This is more geared towards families, but if you currently have little ones at home, check out the schedule and catch a ride with Santa and his elves on the CTA Holiday Train.

Walnut Room & Holiday Windows at Macy’s on State Street: Check out the holiday windows at the old Marshall Field’s, now Macy’s, on State Street. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat at the Walnut Room inside and enjoy the view of the beautiful Great Tree. (It’s 45 feet tall!) This is one of Chicago’s oldest holiday traditions.

Snow Shoe at Northerly Island: Located on Chicago’s great peninsula (a.k.a. Northerly Island), many Chicagoans are unaware of this cool and interesting activity. Check the weather beforehand, and get there early since snow shoe’s are given out on a first come first serve basis.

-Check out hilarious holidays plays at various theaters around Chicago. My past favorites include “The Santaland Diaries” at what is now called Theater Wit in Lakeivew or “It’s A Wonderful Santaland Miracle Nut Cracking Christmas Story” at Stage 773 next door. If you are looking for something a little less humorous and a little more traditional, check out “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre. Always check Hottix or Goldstar for good deals.

Dress Code: Casual

(Note for Walnut Room: Don’t get me wrong, the Walnut Room is a classy place that I tend to dress a little nicer for, but during the holiday’s, the beautiful space is filled many casual tourists that are there just to check out the tree. Dress however makes you comfortable and they won’t turn you away.)

A Few Casual Holiday Outfits:

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Wool Plaid Vest: Nordstrom; Angora Sweater with Lace: Zara; White Long Sleeve T-Shirt: Gap; Skinny Jeans: Limited (sold out); Gold Wedge Sneakers: Target; Kensington Gold Ring: Gorjana

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Christmas Day

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Christmas Eve Outfit: Top: Francesca’s (old); Vest: Loft (old); Dot Print Pants: Loft; Booties: Old Navy (Same boots in animal print); Necklace & Earrings: K-Amato (sample sale); Watch: Michael Kors; Link Gold Bracelet: Wanderlust + Co

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Family Christmas Party: Bow Sweater: Loft (No longer available on-line); Floral Skinny Pants: New York and Company (sold out); Boots: Nine West (old); Leg Warmers: Nordstrom (Same in different color); Watch: Michael Kors; Earrings: K-Amato (Sample Sale); Bracelets: Light Wood Skull Bracelet by Bijouterie and Black Leather Stud Wrap Bracelet by Wanderlust + Co

Smoque BBQ

Although you may often catch me at the newest and trendiest restaurants in Chicago, I always love a good diner or local BBQ joint. So, as you can imagine, when I heard Smoque BBQ appeared on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, I decided to check it out and see if it really was the “Best BBQ” in Chicago like everyone says it is. (Spoiler Alert: It is!)

To start, the location is more convenient than people realize. It’s situated right between the Addison and Irving Park Blue Line stops. This may intimidate some of the Lincoln Park/Lakeview residents, but let me assure you that taking the bus west to this joint was well worth the trip. In fact, the owner of Smoque told me the location appeals to all audiences. It is right off the highway and has CTA bus and ‘L’ stops nearby. He often meets people from all over the world that have stopped by on trips through Chicago, and he regrets not creating a map of those who have traveled there.

Once inside (or sometimes outside) there will be a long line, but again, it’s worth the wait. That being said, I was impressed with how fast they turn over tables, and the line moves quickly. They had staff on hand waiting to clear tables the second people stood up, and they seat you after you order your delicious food.  Trust their process, it really works! The staff was friendly and helpful. In fact, I went up later in our meal to order dessert, and they instantly jumped up to help me. When my dessert was ready, they even brought it to our table. One of the owners is always around, and I was lucky enough to meet Barry. (He even gave me a private tour of the back and let us try food for free that we hadn’t already had. He takes pride in his work, and it shows.)

The food is delicious and nothing I say can truly explain the greatness of this BBQ joint. No matter what you order, it’s amazing. I was even impressed with the Peach Cobbler. (Try it.) They have GIANT smokers in the back and really focus on the basics of BBQ. You won’t find 10 different sauces like some other BBQ places, but you will find a few perfectly balanced ones. Combine that with the right rubs and cooking techniques, and you have the best BBQ restaurant in Chicago. The word has gotten out about this place, but don’t let that stop you from trying it out. Did I mention it is also BYOB? The tables are tightly squeezed together, but this only made for a better and more social experience. We even made friends (and shared beer) with friendly people sitting next to us that were visiting from out of town. I’ll be back many more times, and am looking forward to taking my parents here the next time they are in town. If you like meat, friendly service, great prices, and a good time, come here.  I promise you will love it.

Beer: Bell’s Brewery in MI; Beef Brisket; Mac & Cheese; Corn Bread; and BBQ Beans (We later sampled ribs, sausage, and peach cobbler.)

Dress Code: Casual

Plaid Flannel Shirt: Target (Similar); Jack Purcell Sneakers: Converse; Fedora: Mint Julep Boutique (Band and Feather Detail added by yours truly); Watch: Michael Kors; Necklace: Gift from a Boutique in the West Loop

After searching long and hard for the perfect fedora, I decided to create the one I was looking for by adding fabric around the brim, a button, and beautiful feathers to an existing fedora I bought on clearance at Mint Julep on Southport