Free date day in Chicago

Jul 15, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: free summer

Dates can wear a hole in your pocket. One economist estimates that the average date costs $250 — a significant chunk of cash. But is true love free?

In Chicago, the answer is yes. The Chicago Loopster scoured the city for the best romantic date ideas and found several great options.

So read on lovers and ask out that special someone — it won’t cost you a dime.

Stroll through the Lincoln Park Zoo

Start of your date with a stroll through the Lincoln Park Zoo, open from morning till early evening. You can chat about your favorite animals and take pictures near canoodling chimpanzees. Photo by dotpolka.

You save $28.

Sketch a drawing at Lurie Garden

Take your sketchpad and pencils to Laurie Garden in Millennium Park. You can find a bench and draw seasonal flowers in bloom or maybe sketch the interesting people who walk by. Photo by Senor Codo.

You save $10.

Learn a new dance together

The city hosts free dance lessons in the summer every Thursday through Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. Swing, waltz, salsa and cha-cha will get your heart pumping, so glide across Grant Park’s open-air dance floor with your sweetie. Photo by Ben Ostrowsky.

You save $30.

Watch the light show at the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

After dancing, cool down at the Buckingham Fountain, just a little south of the dance floor. After dusk the Fountain puts on a water show and lights display with accompanying music every hour on the hour for 20 minutes.  The Fountain was designed after the Latona Basin in Versailles, France. The French, of course, know what’s up with love. Photo by Pink Aura.

Wishes cost a few pennies, but fountains are always free.

Fireworks show at Navy Pier

End the night with the Navy Pier fireworks display, which is held every Saturday at 10:15 p.m. and Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. Color, lights and music will make for an explosive end to an inexpensive date.  Photo by mrhayata.

Fireworks are always free (unless you buy your own).

Mark your calendars: Unique Chicago food events to liven up your summer

Jul 8, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Summer dining

Chicago has risen to become a haven for foodies from all over the world. Food festivals, unique dining events and restaurant specials are offered throughout the year and this summer is no exception. Scroll through this interactive slideshow to get a glimpse of just some of the city’s upcoming food events.

For more events, check out this article by Stephanie Lu Jokich for CBS Chicago and this detailed list by Metromix Chicago. You can also submit new food events to Chicago Reader’s event calendar.

Five new Chicago summer beers and where to find them

Jul 8, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Summer dining

A glass of 5 Rabbit poured at Hopleaf in Andersonville/PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Warmoth

Chicago changes with the seasons, and so do the beers served up by its local brewers. The Windy City boasts an abundance of brewing operations and many of them have new batches of beverages that have recently been made available or will be showing up soon at your neighborhood pub or liquor store. Here are five notable summer releases and a handy map to show you where they can be found.

1. Dripping Saison, Half Acre Beer Company

Half Acre added a little sweetness to this new yellow batch that came out at the end of June. If you like your beer a little fruity, look for it on tap wherever they keep Half Acre on hand. If you live near the corner of North Rockwell Avenue and West Iowa Street, you should be able to snag some at Archie’s.

2. Bourbon Barrel Aged General Molasses Porter, Revolution Brewing

On the darker side of new Chicago beers, Revolution Brewing just broke out their Bourbon Barrel Aged General, a molasses porter, earlier this month, and they’re pouring pints at their brew pub in Logan Square.

3. Fear! El Chupacabra, Vienna Lager, Rock Bottom Brewery

July 15 marks the return of this dark Vienna Lager to the tap at Chicago’s Rock Bottom Brewery. If you like your beer light and toasty, but not too strong, cruise on by their West Grand Avenue location and grab a glass while this batch lasts.

4. 5 Rabbit, 5 Rabbit Cerveceria

The newly established brewers at 5 Rabbit in Chicago want to bring a taste of Latino heritage to their work. Their namesake beer will shower your summer with just enough body and some refreshing citrusy goodness. This is a beer to get you through any heat waves that the season can throw at you.

5. Cut Throat Pale Ale, Finch’s Beer Company

Chicago newcomer Finch’s Beer Company entered the brew game with a pale ale that also uses a little citrus with its hops. You’ll find it at taps across the city, including Beckett’s Public House at the busy intersection of Ashland Avenue and Lincoln Avenue.

Need directions to track one of these beers down? Check out the addresses in the map above, or visit the brewers’ websites to find more options.

Essential picnic tips: A guide to eating outside

Jul 8, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Summer dining

Summer is the season for picnics, and Chicago is full of spots just asking for a blanket and a basket of sandwiches. Before you grab your cooler and head for the nearest park, though, make sure you’re an expert on making outdoor meals enjoyable.

Bring all of the materials you could possibly need.

You don’t want to break out the pasta salad and then realize you forgot forks. According to the article “How to Plan a Picnic,” you’ll want to pack utensils, paper cups and plates, napkins, insect repellant and sunscreen, among other things. Take a look at the full check list for more.

Make some delicious food

It wouldn’t be a picnic without the sandwiches, salads, or whatever you decide to pack in your basket. suggests whipping up some summer veggie subs or picnic chicken. Find more recipes here.

8 Perfect Picnic Recipes

Stay safe

You don’t want food poisoning to ruin your outing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that picnickers store food that needs to be kept cold in a cooler with ice, cook meat thoroughly (using a food thermometer), and not leave leftovers out for more than two hours (or one, if it’s above 90 degrees Fahrenheit). Read all of the FDA recommendations here.

Pick the perfect location

Picnickers in Chicago have lots of places to choose from. For a comprehensive list and reviews, visit Here are a few fun spots from the list:

1. Millennium Park

201 E. Randolph St.

Photo by Helen Adamopoulos

You’ll find fountains, flowers and plenty of art at this popular downtown park. The sights include British artist Anish Kapoor’s sculpture “Cloud Gate,” better known locally as “the bean.” Take a look at it and you’ll see why!


2. Lincoln Park Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Fullerton Parkway and Cannon Drive

Photo by Helen Adamopoulos

If you’re looking for somewhere less crowded and more tranquil than Millennium Park, take your picnic here. You can have your lunch surrounded by woodland wildflowers, prairie grasses, dragonflies and turtles.


3. Oz Park

2021 N. Burling St.

Photo by Helen Adamopoulos

Come here if you want to take your picnic over the rainbow. This park is named after Lyman Frank Baum, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” You’ll find statues of the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Dorothy and Toto watching over the swings and flower garden.

Now that you have your materials, your food, safety knowledge and a location, it’s time for a picnic!

It’s summer 2011 and Chicago food trucks are revving up

Jul 8, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Summer dining

As Chicago inches closer to a bill that would making cooking on trucks legal, the line of food trucks hitting the road keeps getting longer.  And now, you might be able to find them in a parking lot near you.

Twice a week, the mobile meal community gathers near welcoming businesses with hungry employees.  On Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., a handful of food trucks park on the northwest corner of Halsted Street and North Avenue.  On Thursdays, the trucks convene from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the parking lot of Ethyl’s Beer & Wine Dive, 324 S. Racine Ave.

Ethyl’s Beer & Wine Dive’s hosted the food trucks for the second time Thursday. Vendors included 5411 Empanadas, Fido to Go!, Taquero Fusion, The Slide Ride and Gaztro-Wagon.

Food Truck Thursdays on PhotoPeach

Follow the Twitter, Follow the Truck

The surge of food trucks in Chicago couldn’t have happened without the advent of social media. Follow a food truck on Twitter to find out where to score your lunch on wheels.

Food truck aggregator:!/chicagofoodtrux

5411 Empanadas!/5411empanadas

Bergstein’s NY Deli!/BergsteinsNY

Brown Bag Lunch Truck!/brownbagtruck

Bun Pow Buns!/bunpowbuns

Fido to Go!!/fidotogo

Flirty Cupcakes On Wheels!/flirtycupcakes


Happy Bodega

Haute Sausage!/hautesausage

Hummingbird Kitchen!/hummingbirdtogo

Meaty Balls Mobile!/fossfoodtrucks

More Mobile!/themoremobile

Simple Sandwich!/simplechicago

The Slide Ride!/theslideride

The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck!/thesouthernmac

Ste. Martaen (vegan)!/stemartaen

Sweet Miss Givings!/SMGbakery


Taquero Fusion!/taquerofusion

Tipping Da Cow!/TippingDaCow

Wagyu Wagon!/thewagyuwagon

Find the food tour that’s right for you

Jul 8, 2011 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Summer dining

Chicago is a foodie paradise if you know where to look.  Luckily, there are tour guides for that!


Photo by tpbrown

1. Taste of Chinatown:

Who: Chicago Food Planet

What: The Chinatown food tour visits five sit-down tasting locations in the historic Chinatown community: Triple Crown, Lao Sze Chuan, Ten Ren Tea & Ginseng Co., Saint Anna Bakery and Lao Beijing.

When: Mondays, April through November, 11 a.m.

Why:  To try Chinese food delicacies from the Canton, Mandarin and Szechuan regions.

How much: $60 adult | $35 adolescent & child. All food tastings are included in the ticket price.



Photo by bubzillion


2. Fork and the Road:

Who: Fork and the Road

What:  If you’re a cyclist, foodie or just want to see the city, this tour is for you. The shortest route is 13 miles and the longest tour is 22 miles, but each has three or four stops.  Everyone can find a tour to fit their taste buds: the Deli-ciousIce-cycleLatin Meat LoversMediterranean CruiseTour of Asia or ‘Wich Way.

When: Weekends through Sept. 26

Why:  To work off all the delicious food you’re eating.

How much: Tours range in price from $50 to $60 a person.




Photo by gtrwndr87

3. Pizza Tour

Who: Second City Pizza Tours

What: Sample pizza from four of Chicago’s greatest pizza venues and decide which to pledge your allegiance to. The tour visits two deep dish and two thin crust restaurants including Gino’s East, Giordano’s, La Madia, Pizzeria via Stato and State Street Pizza.

When: Every weekend

Why:  Because everyone loves pizza.

How much: The tour is $48 for adults, $32 for college students and $24 for children 8-18 years old. Children 7 years or younger are free with the purchase of an adult ticket.


Photo by jumbledpile

4.  Bucktown and Wicker Park Food Tour
Who: Chicago Food Planet

What: Discover the unique artists’ colony that has slowly evolved into a hidden foodie paradise as you enjoy delectable food and drink samples from six authentic mom-and-pop restaurants and ethnic eateries in the Bucktown and Wicker Park neighborhoods including George’s Hot DogsHot ChocolateGoddess & GrocerSultan’s MarketPiece and iCream.

When: Tuesday through Saturday, April through November starting at 11:30 am.

Why:  To support  “mom and pop” specialty restaurants and one-of-a-kind local cafés.

How much: Ticket price of $45. All food tastings, enough for lunch included.



Photo by srqpix

5.  Near North Food Tour

Who: Chicago Food Planet

What: The Near North Food Tour visits seven of Chicagoan’s favorite eateries in the tasty Gold Coast, Old Town and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, including Bacino’s PizzeriaThe Spice HouseDelightful PastriesAshkenaz DeliOld Town OilTea Gschwendner and The Fudge Pot.
When: Seven days a week, March through November starting at 11:30 a.m.

Why:  To see architectural gems, beautiful gardens, historic mansions, backdoor venues, hidden parks and of course, to eat.

How much: $45 adult | $30 adolescent | $15 child. Tasting included.



Photo by antwerpenR

6.  Coffee & Pastry Tour

Who: Chicago Savvy Tours

What: Chicago Savvy Tours offers an eye opening, sweet fest with our Coffee & Pastry Tour of Andersonville and Little Saigon including three coffee shops and three sweet venues for a delectable balance of sugar and caffeine.  Also includes a visit to the Andersonville Galleria for shopping.

When: Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

Why:  Because you’ll stop at Anne Sather‘s Swedish restaurant, where you’ll taste the  best cinnamon roll ever.

How much: $27



Photo by Kirti Poddar

7.  Chocolate Tour

Who: Chicago Chocolate Tours

What: Enjoy a guided walking and tasting tour to select chocolate shops, bakeries, and cafes, including secret chocolate treasures and famous favorites.

When: At least one tour a day. Times vary.

Why:   Because you’ll learn about the history of chocolate, while eating it.

How much: The tour is $40 per person.


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Extended rooftop hours mean more outdoor fun

Jul 8, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Summer dining

The Chicago City Council approved a trial program that allows downtown rooftop bars and outdoor gardens to stay open one hour later. The measure, recommended by the Illinois Restaurant Association, the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, allows venues to stay open until midnight seven days a week.

According to Alderman Brendan Reilly, the extra hour applies to approximately 70 bars within the 42nd ward, which basically encompasses the Loop, River North and the Gold Coast. To celebrate an extra hour of alfresco drinking fun, the Chicago Loopster team picked out six stellar outdoor options.

Enough reading. Check out the slideshow and meet us on the rooftop for a drink!

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Chicago’s food history: a chronicle of cuisine

Jul 8, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Summer dining

With a name like Chicago, this city was fated to be known for food. Although the origins of the city’s name are hotly debated, a trip to the Chicago History Museum will tell you Chicago comes from the American Indian word, Chicagaoua, which refers to a weed, similar to wild garlic or onion, that grew around Lake Michigan.

Not to mention, the locals help the city live up to its name. With their culinary tastes and expertise that span the globe, Chicagoans’ powerful influence on the city’s palate has shaped an eclectic history of eats. If you want to learn more about food history and the city’s different cuisines, queue up the PBS documentary The Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History.

In the meantime, salivate with the Chicago Loopster over a chronicle of cuisine in the city.