Chicago restaurants

Weekend Happenings: Big & Little’s, Heritage Bicycles, and Oscar Night

Happy Monday, party people!

I had Friday and Saturday off of work so my weekend was a bit shifted. I rarely get two full days off in a row so it felt like a true weekend…very relaxing, full of exploring and wandering around neighborhoods with no time limits or obligations. How often does that happen? (All the mothers reading this are screaming NEVER, LAUREN, IT HAPPENS NEVER!)

Friday afternoon my dad came over to walk me through doing my taxes for the eighth year in a row. I figured 25 is the last acceptable age that I can ask for help from my dad without total embarrassment. Fingers crossed that next year I can do them without going into a full-blown panic (see you in 365 days, H&R Block).

After all the nitty gritty we went out for lunch, and because it’s a Friday during Lent, fish fry was the name of the game. My dad and I share a love for Diners Drive Ins and Dives so when I told him that a place just down the street from my apartment had been featured on the show for their fish and chips, there were no questions.

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Big & little’s  killlllls the fish and chip game. The fry was so light and delicate and the fish basically melted in my mouth. Fresh fish, a squeeze of lemon, homemade tartar sauce…can you think of anything better?

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I spent the rest of Friday horizontal on my couch watching Broad City, drinking Passionfruit La Croix, and texting people fake reasons why I couldn’t go out later. Lazy Friday to say the least.

I woke up early on Saturday ready to enjoy the 50s and sunshine that the weatherman had promised us all week. My roommate and I walked to a nearby coffeeshop/bikeshop to start the day, one of my favorite things to do.

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My favorite part about Heritage is the little fridge that they keep their creamers in. Absolutely the cutest thing.

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I went with a vanilla cold brew and Maria had a homemade biscuit and a chai tea latte. I’m not a chai gal but she said it was the best she’s ever had. We chatted as other neighborhood locals strolled in with their bikes to get a tune-up. I love the feel of the place…such a cool hybrid shop selling some of the best coffee in Chicago.

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The rest of the day we walked around Lakeview peeking into restaurants that we’ve added to our to-dine list. When we finally made it back to our hood we grabbed lunch at Butcher’s Tap (check it out, locals — awesome food) and watched NCAA basketball. Again, an afternoon with no obligations. It was pretty wonderful.

By some grace of God I was able to get a run in later in the afternoon (after 32 oz of beer and a fried chicken sandwich. I do believe in miracles). I’ve been dying to break in my new Nikes and they didn’t disappoint. You forget how amazing new shoes feel on your feet until you get them again. I was basically flying!

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Sidenote to all single men out there: the way to this girl’s heart is NOT to literally run after me in street clothes and tap me on the shoulder after you’ve jumped up next to me at the stoplight. You will automatically go into the “kidnapper” category and not earn my phone number. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

I watched my neighbor’s kids on Saturday night aka another crazy night in the city. Making the most of my 20s ladies and gentlemen.

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Sunday I had to work all day but made it home just in time for Oscar Night! My roommate is a huge Oscars fan so she printed out ballots for us for all the major categories and we ate pizza, drank champagne, and screamed when Leo finally got the win he’s always deserved.

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Cheap champagne is automatically fancy when you add fruit to it.

And now I will leave you with the best GIFs from last night’s big win. It’s 2016 and anything is possible.

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And the funniest one yet:

FullSizeRender-13Questions:

  • Do you do anything special for awards shows?
  • Favorite Leonardo DiCaprio movie?
    • I watched Inception twice in theaters in 48 hours. If you’ve seen it, you know what an emotional commitment that is. Whoa.
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Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market

Since starting IHABL I haven’t done nearly as many restaurant reviews as I’ve wanted to. Truth be told (and don’t tell my bank), but I go out to eat so much that by the time I’m ready to sit down and rave about a restauarnt, I’m oftentimes headed out the door to try another and become equally enthralled. (Sidenote: in high school my English teacher would take points off if you used certain “taboo words” — and oftentimes was one of them. To this day my heart skips a beat when I write out any of those words, as if something bad is going to happen because of it).

Anyway, this past Sunday my parents ventured into the city to bring me some final touches for my apartment. I’ve been wanting to take them to some of the cool restaurants in my neighborhood so I was excited when they agreed to go out to dinner with me (*cough cough* pay for dinner *cough cough*).

Eating with my family can be tricky: my mom doesn’t eat meat, I don’t eat red meat, my brother basically eats meat exclusively, and my dad will eat anything as long as a green vegetable isn’t within arms length. When I heard that my brother, god love him, wouldn’t be coming along, I jumped at the chance to take them to Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market.

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Fahlstrom’s is a restaurant that doubles as a fish market, so you can simply stop by, choose from 16 pieces of fresh fish daily, and prepare it at home yourself if you don’t feel like eating like a king and then having someone else clean up after you.

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The restaurant prides itself on a few things: 16 pieces of fresh fish to choose from daily (ever-changing based on season and availability), the cereal wall, breakfast anytime, and all-you-can-eat crab legs on Tuesdays. Oh, and The Crabster, but more on that later.

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Do you want a filet of mahi mahi or a bowl of Apple Jacks? No biggie, do both. (Say, WHAT?!)

The menu is…..overwhelming. There is a menu chalkboard on the wall, a menu they hand you as you sit down, and an additional piece of paper that lives on the table and offers even more choices. Truth be told it took 20 minutes AND the opinions of two servers before I could even settle on an appetizer. Somehow we managed, and soon enough the Shrimp Kargot was sitting before us. Boursin, garlic butter, Gruyere, Parmesan, garlic bread

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I don’t know how else to describe this except a garlic butter hot tub accompanied by a hunka hunka burning garlic bread love. There were some dirty deeds going on in that hot tub. The garlic was seeping into every pore of the protein and the shrimp were loving it. Aside from escargot, this was the most garlicky dish I’ve ever had and I was in utter ecstasy. It was so good I would unquestionably eat this on a first date because it would be so much more important to me that my date try this than save face by ordering a piece of grilled chicken and chewing Orbit all night in anticipation. But that’s irrelevant…

After another few minutes of looking over the menu, my parents and I decided to order three dishes and split them, as I have a serious case of Food FOMO and I think they could see the blips of sweat rolling down my face as I worried I was going to make the wrong decision.

First we went with The Crabster, one of the specialties at Fahlstrom’s and, in the words of our server, “what people come here for.” Hand-shucked and seasoned Alaskan King Crab on a toasted New England roll topped with creamy coleslaw.

Second up, the Alaskan King Crab Macaroni and Cheese. Crab, Gruyere cheese sauce…married and baked.

Finally, the Seafood Bisque Fettuccine. Filled to the brim with shrimp, scallops, fairy dust and magic.

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If you asked me to pick a favorite I would literally weep. The Crabster is what I would order again, because the other two were so heavy and rich that I felt like 16th-century royalty shoving them into my mouth as fast as possible. I wish I had a single negative thing to say about any of these dishes so you would better trust my authenticity, but everything was truly wonderful. The shrimp, crab, and scallops were cooked perfectly. They are very difficult proteins to master and just a few seconds can make the difference between underdone, perfect, and overdone. I also appreciated that Fahlstrom’s doesn’t skimp on the seafood. They take a stand for quality AND quantity, and they stick by it. There were huge pieces of crab in both the sandwich and the macaroni, and it definitely made it worth the price point. Wait, let’s just zoom in on that mac one more time:

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I only wish I stopped by for a later dinner so I could have enjoyed all these incredible eats with a glass of white wine. Until next time, Fahlstrom’s…..oh, and what’s the likelihood that you’ll deliver crab mac directly to my couch…..

Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market

1258 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago IL, 60657

(773) 281-6000

Monday – Friday: 11am – 10pm

Saturday: 9am – 10pm | Sunday: 9am – 9pm

slurping turtle meets pumpkin patch

I’m beginning to think I have a little bit of an addictive personality.

I’m either waaaaay on “this” end of the spectrum or waaaaay on “that” end.

Case in point, my weekend. Remember two weeks ago when I could barely recollect all the beer I drank? This weekend I spent both Friday and Saturday nights watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory and eating microwave popcorn. Big things happening over here.

I did have two highlights though, which can’t be forgotten amidst the bliss that was my laid back weekend.

One, I tried a new restaurant in Chicago: Slurping Turtle!

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I’ve wanted to try this place for awhile now but to be honest I rarely crave Asian food. If I do it’s usually just a pad thai craving (a very specific pad thai craving which can only be fulfilled by a little hole-in-the-wall place in my hometown. Picky picky). But I was getting dinner with Spencer who is always up for trying new spots so we decided Slurping Turtle would be the perfect meeting spot since it’s one of “those” places you have to try once in the city.

Do you have one of those friends who you know will be in your life forever, even if you only see each other every few months? Spencer is that friend.

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First of all, I love dining with people who a) want to get a drink and b) will split an adventurous appetizer with me. Spencer and I decided to try a light Japanese beer (when in Rome, right?) and split an out-of-this world starter special. I wish I could remember the name of the sauce but basically it was crab legs covered in butter on top of some stir fried bok choy. I could have eaten a mountain of that stuff.

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The star of the show was, of course, the ramen. Sidenote: I’ve never had ramen before. I was determined when I went off to college that I would always be “that person” who never tried ramen. Pretentious much?

Well this wasn’t exactly dorm room fare: We both had the Tan Tan Men Ramen (spicy) — homemade ramen noodles, pork meatball, pork chashu, pork miso, bok choy, and bean sprouts.

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My thoughts ranged from: “Wow this is the spiciest thing I’ve had in my life” to “Thank god this isn’t a first date this is the messiest thing I’ve ever eaten” to “How in god’s name am I supposed to break up this meatball with my chopsticks?” Overall it was freaking delicious. I’m so glad I took the plunge and went pork-crazy (sometimes I can be a little weird about meat) because it was everything I’d heard about and more. The reviews were correct: Slurping Turtle has the best ramen in Chicago.

The other highlight of the weekend was a trip to a pumpkin patch with a few friends on Saturday. I, along with every other human being on the planet, apparently decided that this Saturday was THE day to go to a pumpkin patch so it was crowded (almost as crowded as my Facebook newsfeed with girls in their boots, flannel shirts and apple cider. No judgment. I am one of you).

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The nice thing about this trip was that we went to an actual farm. It was run by a family who converts their home and farm into a fall afternoon getaway for all the other suburbanites to take their kids on an October afternoon. Not only did we see lots of farm animals (including a llama and a miniature horse – Little Sebastian, anyone?) and get our pumpkin fix in, but we enjoyed a hay ride and learned all about different gourds. You learn something new everyday, I tell ya.

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So from Asian delicacy delights to fall-mania, I was perfectly happy to have spent my nights relaxing and catching up on some sleep. Okay that’s not true but I did catch up on some shows (equally important) and I didn’t poison my body with Natty Light.

“Wherever you are, be all there.”

Questions:

  • What cultural cuisine do you crave most often? I always crave Mexican food
  • Favorite Asian cuisine: Chinese, Thai, sushi, Vietnamese….go!
  • Have you been to a pumpkin patch yet this year? Are you planning on it?

birthday weekend in the south pole

Warning: this post is full of not-so-healthy choices.

Fried foods? Check.

Sugary fish bowl drinks? Check.

Limited activity besides Just Dance and walking from bar to bar? Check.

But it’s all okay because it was my birthday weekend!

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That’s right. I’m officially the big 2-3, the year of Michael Jordan, the “there isn’t a Taylor Swift song about it yet” age.  It doesn’t feel much different. At the same time, however, I feel like 2014 is going to bring big things for me so I bet 23 is going to be a great year.  22 was all about transitioning: graduating college, moving back home, finding an internship, maintaining a job, and now moving on to a new opportunity in the city and living here part time. I’m now going to be interning at a new public relations company and I couldn’t be happier.  I start tomorrow (thanks to the freezing temps that I’ll get to later) and I’ll be living with Zman 4 days a week at his apartment in the city. The other 3 days/nights I’ll be back in the suburbs working at the restaurant. It’s a bizarre schedule but I’m so excited to be back on the daily grind! I’m one of those weirdos who thrives on structure, schedules and planners, so I know this change is going to bring me nothing but happiness.

Back to the important stuff: the birthday!

I took the train to the city in the morning and met up Zman for a bday lunch.  We decided that instead of getting entrees we would just have a day of “apps and zerts”.

Classic Parks and Rec.

We headed to Public House in the River North neighborhood downtown and picked four larger than life appetizers to enjoy.Image

The ones that made the cut were fried pickles, cheese curds, a homemade pretzel with cheese, and sea salt/parsley french fries. Good lawd. Halfway through the apps we were floating on cloud 9, but by the end I was googling wheelbarrow rentals to get me out of there. They were all so good! My only complaint is that I didn’t ask for a bottle of ketchup. The fries were served with a few delicious sauces (creamy parmesan, sweet bbq, etc.) but nothing compares to the classic fries and ketchup.

As most food lovers know, even when you’re stomach is full, you still have room in your “dessert stomach.” This was the case for me after lunch so we headed over to Glazed and Infused for one of my favorite treats: their vanilla bean glazed donut.

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It looks pale in comparison to some of the other selections they have, but I always usually sample something a little more dangerous and then stick with my vanilla bean. It’s just too good!

We spent the rest of the afternoon at “The Wolf of Wall Street” which I LOVED. It was over 3 hours but well worth it.  The rest of the night was spent drinking sugary concoctions, playing Just Dance, and bar hopping with friends. It was the perfect birthday.

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I also can’t forget the incredible birthday cake that my mom made for my brother and me–flourless chocolate! It took her so much time and effort but it was insaaaanely good (especially with a hot cup of coffee).

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Cake for breakfast is ALWAYS acceptable on your birthday.

The rest of the weekend was low key because a) Friday was just too much and b) temps have dipped down into (wait for it) THE NEGATIVES. Yep, that’s right, it’s -18 right now in Chicago, but with wind chills 40 BELOW. I heard this morning that it’s colder here than in the South Pole. Say what?

Since it was still my birthday weekend, we made the boys cook for us.  Spencer used to work at Noodles and Company so he put his skills to use.

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It turned out great! The only thing I’d change next time is to add spinach, but the grocery store was out of a lot of stuff (I’m not kidding when I say it’s a snowpocalypse here).

Here are a few other eats from the weekend before I sign out and snuggle under some blankets for a night of BCS football or The Bachelor (depending on which side of my brain wins the battle).

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Scrambled eggs and Kodiak cakes

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Shrimp diablo tacos from On the Border (they look better than they tasted but the rice, beans, and limitless chips and salsa more than made up for it)

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Scrambled eggs with bell peppers, onions, and cheddar cheese. Veggie sausage on the side.

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Cocoa Krispies make the best late-night snack

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Vegan chili and a jalapeno corn muffin

I’ll be back tomorrow with a more fitness-inspired post. Those have been scarce lately because my workouts have been so monotonous, but I promise I’ll try to shake it up this week!

Questions:

  • Do you like celebrating your birthday?
  • If you could be eating anything in the world right now, what would you eat?
  • What’s the coldest weather you’ve ever experienced?