Schlemiel! Schlimazel! (A Weekend in Milwaukee)

Another weekend getaway adventure from last fall was a quick trip to Milwaukee, which was actually Mandy’s first time visiting Wisconsin. It was a 36 hours of bacon, beer, and ‘us’ time spent with a slightly slower paced backdrop than we are used to.

Where we ate:

  • Comet Cafe: This brunch spot was recommended by a local friend, and it did not disappoint. Morgan ordered bacon pancakes (which is his current favorite bacon dish to date!), while Mandy tried out the “Benedictator” — eggs benny amplified with bacon and jalapeño hollandaise. Throw in a few brunch cocktails (which we did) and game over.
  • Harbor House: One thing we knew we wanted to do when we planned this weekend away was a nice dinner, and after scouring the internet, it was an easy decision that Harbor House was the place. Sitting right on the lake, this restaurant offers delicious steak, seafood, and not to mention stunning views. It was the perfect setting for the romantic dinner we had in mind.
  • Cafe Benelux: While it ended up being a last-minute decision to dine here, this is one of the most highly rated brunch spots in the city. While our food was very good (hers: a BLT with egg and avo & his: a skillet with eggs, breakfast meats, potatoes and gravy), the bloody marys were the standout here.

Where we drank:

  • Lakefront Brewery: Don’t let the name fool you, this brewery is really on the river, not the lake. But this place gave an awesome, hilarious tour (apparently the 4th best in America according to Trip Advisor), was generous with the samples (we left with two tokens unused), and ended with some bottling line fun and a nod to Milwaukee natives Laverne & Shirley.
  • Beer History Tour at Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery: Take a trip down beer memory lane at the former Best/Pabst/Schlitz brewery. Although it hasn’t been a functional brewery since 1996, this historical tour of the campus was probably our favorite stop during our trip. We also left with a souvenir: a 32oz PBR “fat boy” a.k.a. the stuff dreams are made of.

What else:

  • We strolled along the RiverWalk. While Milwaukee’s riverfront doesn’t have as much to do as Chicago’s, it is just as beautiful and you could run/walk/bike it without getting run over, which seems like a nice perk. It was perfect weather when we visited, and we loved spending some quiet time by the water.
  • We shopped around the Milwaukee Public Market. We spent some time here while we were waiting on our brunch table. It started out as just a place to pass some time, but we ended up enjoying window shopping and even picked up an engagement gift for our friends who “said yes” that same weekend.

Adventures in the Sloop

A few weekends back, we decided to spend some time in a neighborhood neither of us know too much about: Chicago’s South Loop. The Sloop, as at least one teen refers to it, is the up-and-coming area home to Printer’s Row (formerly the center of the Midwest’s publishing industry), the Museum Campus, and many new, modern apartment buildings and condos. We wanted to get a feel for what it would be like to live in that area, so we decided to spend the weekend getting acquainted with our equal parts trendy and rough around the edges downstairs neighbor, Sloopy. (At least she’s quiet at night.)


We kicked off Saturday with a brunch for the books: Chicago Waffles. Holy. Bananas. If ordering a Waffle Flight is wrong, we don’t want to be right. It came with four mini waffles: red velvet topped with strawberries and strawberry whipped cream, liege topped with bananas and Nutella, chocolate topped with walnuts and chocolate drizzle, and green tea topped with candied ginger. Morgan stated the red velvet was “life changing” while Mandy was more into the green tea and liege. We split this entrée and another: the Irish Beny” – a toasted english muffin topped with corned beef hash, sautéed tomatoes, two poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. While the corned beef hash could have been crisper (and the english muffin perhaps less crispy), the flavors worked great together and we left the restaurant incredibly happy. It didn’t hurt that they have Intelligentsia Coffee on their menu, which is arguably one of the best Chicago-based coffee roasting companies around.

Later that day, we decided to pop into The Scout, a sports bar, for a quick drink. Not a ton to report as we only stayed for a beer, but we dug the upscale ambiance. It was also at this bar that we noted the South Loop to be much more diverse than many other neighborhoods we frequent in the city. That’s definitely something we like about the area.


After The Scout, we were really hoping to check out the microbrewery and taproom Vice District Brewing Company, and tried to visit, but by the time we arrived, it was literally packed to the gills. Not only could we not get a table, but there was hardly any standing room for us. We were bummed not to hang out longer, but this just gives us a reason to make another trek down in the near future.


A little while later, when evening-time rolled around, we were in search of a light bite and a good selection of brews. First Draft to the rescue! With a large craft beer selection (many of which were on draft), this place met every desire we had down to the menu. Being the pub rats we are, we split the fried brussel sprouts and fried pickles, and they were equally delicious. From the warm atmosphere and kind wait staff to the killer bar snacks and delicious beers, this place felt very homey and “us.”

On Sunday, we were more low-key. Starting off the day feeling mildly hung over after a night out not in the South Loop, bagels were needed. Hero Coffee has a handful of locations in the city, and after reading many good reviews, we were looking forward to giving it a try. Morgan ordered the “Usual Suspect” on a sesame bagel and Mandy ordered a “Veggie” on jalapeño cheddar, and to their credit, what we got was fantastic. However, Morgan received a “Usual Suspect” on jalapeño cheddar, and Mandy got a “Sunnydale” on sesame. Truth be told, we were too hung over and in too much of a rush to fight our wrong orders. Plus, they were delicious anyway, as were our coffees (a cold brew, which was on tap, and a “fast” drip).

Midday, we were in search of another snack (and still staunchly against alcohol), so we ended up stopping at a local Nando’s, and probably for the first time in the history of all of their chicken-craving visitors, just ordered the hummus plate with veggies. It’s by no means an “only in South Loop” restaurant, but it was there, it was healthy, and the veggies were needed.


Overall, we had a great weekend experiencing this new-to-us neighborhood. And what’s even better? We by no means exhausted what’s there. There’s still so much more of it we’d like to check out, and now that we know all it has to offer, we think we’ll do just that.

Intro to Indy (Pools, Tacos, and Confederate Flag Tattoos, Oh My!)

Indianapolis, a short trip we took last summer, was technically our first getaway together (if you don’t count a Cleveland wedding, which happened before we were “official”). Mandy had never been, Morgan had lived there for a summer a while back, and since it’s only a short drive from Chicago, we decided a weekend trip was in order. What ensued….was a pretty good story.

We stayed with the nicest, most hospitable couple (Morgan’s friends), and spent most of the day Saturday hanging out by the pool that was a part of their apartment community. Many young couples live at the complex, so throughout the day, the couple we were staying with would greet and talk to many of the other local couples. One gentleman in particular stood out to us, due to a Confederate flag tattoo occupying one of his arms. We didn’t want to be too quick to judge, and after speaking to him and his girlfriend for a bit, they kind of invited themselves into our evening plans. Specifically, he offered to drive. We had all been drinking by the pool for a while and the drive to downtown Indy was a decent drive from the apartment, but all parties involved had decided to go home and get ready for the evening and then to meet up and reassess.

A few hours later, we gathered at the apartment and had enough people to warrant taking two vehicles downtown. The first group called an Uber and were out the door in a hurry, leaving us to ride with the Confederate, who had just guzzled down a Monster energy drink. He insisted he was fine to drive, so we took him up on his offer and hopped into his seemingly brand-new Lincoln SUV. The ride was enjoyable enough and as we pulled into the parking lot, we offered to pay. He instantly pulled out a wad of hundred-dollar bills (yes, HUNDOS), to which his girlfriend remarked, “too many nights at the casino!” He wouldn’t hear of us paying for parking.

We all headed to the next stop and met up with the Uber group. Bakersfield, a restaurant/bar known for their tacos and tequila, served up strong margaritas by the pitcher while we waited for our table. We talked to the Confederate at length, learning bits and pieces of his army brat past and southern roots, and although it was likely the alcohol taking hold, we became even more apt to giving him a chance. Eventually we were seated, a multitude of tacos were ordered, and the Confederate picked up the bill–not just for the half of the table our party occupied, but for everyone seated. The bill(s) of half of a long picnic table of strangers were taken care of solely thanks to this guy’s kindness (and apparent cash on hand).

Our party moved to a few other bars throughout the rest of the evening: Brothers, Tin Roof, Punch Bowl Social…admittedly, it was more of a bar crawl than an evening of immersing ourselves in the Indy culture (unless that is the Indy culture?!), but it was a fun night nonetheless. We tried many times to buy the Confederate a drink, but it only worked once. He was more than happy doling out his cash on people who were essentially strangers to him, which we were incredibly appreciative of throughout the night.

The next morning, feeling amazing after that long night of drinking, we grabbed brunch at Cafe Patachou in Broad Ripple (which was honestly phenomenal), and hit the road back to Chicago, thinking out loud that our next trip to Indy would have to be longer.

A few weekends after our trip, we happened to be in the car together when we received a call from Morgan’s friend that we stayed with. He had a quick update to share and was excited we were together to hear it. Their Confederate friend? A multiple offense bank robber. The car we drove downtown in? Stolen off a dealership lot.

Choose your own moral of the story! Trust your instincts about a person? Anyone with a Confederate flag tattoo is probably questionable? Anyone with a fresh stack of hundos is probably questionable? Enjoy what you’re given and don’t ask too many questions?

Regardless, Indy: we’ll be back.

Ramen & Rabbis

It was a typical Friday night. Or at least that’s what we were going for. We had a busy weekend ahead, so when we were planning out last Friday evening, we were shooting for as “low key” as we could get.

With the cold (albeit kind of off-and-on) Chicago temperatures, ramen just sounded good. Oiistar in Wicker Park, a ramen joint we had gone to together once before, felt like the right spot to satiate our craving. Morgan ordered his favorite, the Oiimen classic, which includes braised pork belly, ground pork, bamboo, wood ear mushroom, bean sprouts, a soft boiled egg, and chili garlic oil. Mandy tried something new, the Chaldomen, made up of brisket, ground pork, kimchi, bean sprouts, a soft boiled egg, and cilantro in tomato broth. Our verdict in this case: it paid off to play it safe. Morgan’s dinner hit the spot by both of our standards, and Mandy’s was just fine (a little greasy, but with good flavor). Morgan took home both leftovers.

After dinner, we thought it would be fun to keep it casual and grab a quick drink at one of those combination bar/liquor stores (slashies? taprooms?) that Chicago is known for. Enter Loop Tavern in West Town, a cash-only packaged good store that smells like a urinal and whose niche market seems to be 60+ year-old, blue-collar men. Although we wanted nothing more than to fit in, we didn’t. About half a drink in, we were approached by a Chilean rabbi who wasn’t observing the Sabbath because his daughter was in town (but not with him at the bar). After buying a round of drinks for the bar regulars, he approached us because we stood out from the crowd. He was curious as to how we, clearly not of the prime demographic of the bar, ended up there, and we were curious as to how he, clearly not of the prime psychographic of the bar, ended up there. We exchanged conversation, finished the drinks he bought us (as he sipped on a Bud heavy), and eventually left the loud Latin American music of Loop Tavern behind us.

A chill Friday night? Absolutely. A typical Friday night? We can only aspire to such.

Adler After Dark

Living in Chicago, there are certain events that everyone you know has either gone to or has a friend that’s gone. Examples include Lollapalooza, an architecture boat tour, and Adler After Dark.

Taking place at the Adler Planetarium after hours on the third Thursday of each month, the planetarium hosts a 21+ ticketed, themed evening with open access to space shows, live entertainment, and cocktails. Our night’s theme was “Solar Eclipse of the Heart.” They allegedly never repeat themes to ensure each month’s event has a unique twist.

As this was both of our first trips to the planetarium, we weren’t exactly sure of what to expect. Upon entrance, we were greeted in a room filled with space memorabilia, attendees donning bright colors and too much hairspray, and the sounds of an eighties cover band jamming to a Bonnie Tyler song. Not exactly a bad way to start!

After checking out some of the exhibits, we started noticing a number of people walking past us with bright pink drinks that appeared to be smoking. Need! We found a place in line at one of the numerous bars throughout the museum and ordered two of these tequila beverages that included a few cubes of dry ice, which made the drinks bubble and smoke. Seems appropriate that they used science to make a fun cocktail for us to drink while we upped our space knowledge at the same time, right?

Even early on, the main floor was filled with guests dancing and enjoying the band. They were decked out in bright pastel suits and played some of the best hits the 80’s had to offer.

While watching the band, we worked our way through the main floor and decided to hop in a long line we weren’t sure what was for. After a few minutes, we realized that we were in line to win ice cream! Upon reaching the front of the line, we stepped up to a screen scrolling through flavors of ice cream in the fashion of a slot machine, tapped the screen, and were awarded with the flavors we landed on (chocolate, and more chocolate). Best part? Everyone’s a winner.

We ate our ice cream on the terrace, and enjoyed one of the best sunset views in the city. If you have never seen the city at sunset or at night from the north side of Northerly Island, we highly recommend it.

Post brain freezes, we headed to one of the many shows that were offered throughout the evening. We chose a show about prominent constellations you can see from the Chicago night sky and the stories behind them. The live narrator for our show kept us laughing and learning as we felt fully immersed in the projections of the night sky on the dome above us.

And to wrap up the evening, we walked over to our tour of Doane Observatory: the largest aperture telescope available to the public in the Chicagoland area. With this, for an additional fee (which must be purchased at the time you buy tickets), you’re able to tour the facility and take a close-up peep of the night sky with a small group of people. Because it was a cloudy evening, there unfortunately wasn’t much for us to see, but it was still a cool experience that we would probably pay for again if (when!) we go back to another Adler After Dark.

Any night including 80’s music, fun cocktails, and an excuse to dress up is a good evening. But when you throw in some space stuff, a killer view, and the opportunity to learn a few new things? Simply out of this world.

Saturday’s Speakeasy Double Date

Last month, we had our first official double date with a couple friend–actually, the couple who introduced us to each other! We stuffed ourselves with pasta and wine at a wonderful Italian dinner, and to cap off the night, our friends invited us to a neighborhood speakeasy of which they were members. We fell in love with it instantly. So much so, that we basically recreated the date and are in the process of applying for membership at the speakeasy, just less than one month later. We never said we weren’t copy cats.

So last weekend, with a different couple friend of ours, we courted them in a similar fashion–pasta (at a different Italian restaurant, for the record), drinks, and live piano music at the same speakeasy: Room 13.

Room 13, which is a part of/directly underneath the Old Chicago Inn, is a true to form 1920’s era speakeasy. To get in, you need to know the password, accompany a member, or be a guest of the Inn. It’s pretty legit. After stating the nightly password through a small window in their door (you know, Wizard of Oz style), you’re granted access to the secret lounge. From their suggested dress code (jackets/no jeans), to their decor and alcohol selections (no draft beer, vodka, or anything that wasn’t around in the roaring 20’s), this speakeasy feels authentic to the era. The drinks (most of which include gin, rye, or champagne) were stiff, the piano made for elegant background music, and the whole place was pretty chill for a Saturday evening. In fact, we closed the place down.

Overall, we would (and do!) highly recommend checking it out, if the opportunity to visit Room 13 ever presents itself. We think it would be an exceptionally fun and different place to take out-of-town friends/family/colleagues when they visit the city. As we mentioned, we’re in the process of applying for membership, and definitely look forward to more dates of all kinds there (double, business, etc.)!

Kayaking the Chicago River

Over the summer, we wanted to expand our dating repertoire to include something a little adventurous and very specific to our city. The City Lights Night Paddle with Kayak Chicago fit the bill perfectly. We had both kayaked before, but not together and never at night. The sites around the Chicago River are captivating enough even when you’re not right down in the water, but when you add in the city lights, a tandem kayak and a moderate arm workout, it truly makes for a memorable experience.

For this date, we booked our tickets a month in advance, as the days the tours were offered seemed to fill up quickly. Upon arrival, the group for our time slot was divided into two smaller groups of about 30-40 people each. Each person had the choice of selecting a single kayak or a tandem. Although we registered for tandem tickets, they didn’t seem to mind which you chose on that day.

Our evening began with a 30-45 minute on-land orientation, which was half silly and half necessary. From there, as a group, we carried the kayaks down to the dock and with the aid of their 5-6 person staff, were launched into the Chicago River.

Once the entire group was in the river, off we paddled. At the helm of the staff/leaders, we consistency paddled at a medium pace and were warned to stay close to the river’s edge when avoiding passing barges, larger party boats, and the like. From our journey’s launch point north of Goose Island to the farthest point we reached (which was just under/east of the Clark Street Bridge), the distance for each leg of the tour was around two and a half miles. Once we reached that halfway point, we rested for about 10-15 minutes, and then got to paddling back to where we came from. About halfway into our paddle back, body parts started hurting. Namely, our arms and back. Like we mentioned, it’s a bit of work out–but totally worth it. All together, the experience checked out to be about three hours long (give or take) and four thumbs up (rating from us).

If you’re interested in planning a similar date, here are a few things we’d recommend:

  1. Eat before you go. For two people who work on out on the reg, it was tiring. And don’t drink (/drink too much) beforehand either.
  2. Look into bringing/buying a waterproof phone pouch. You’ll want to take photos.
  3. Wear the most water repellent pants or shorts you can find. No one wants that thigh rash from stewing in river water for at least two hours in tight, wet cotton.

And lastly, if pretty city lights aren’t your thing, Kayak Chicago offers a few other tours that we haven’t done (i.e. fireworks paddle on the river, sunset on the lake, shoreline stand up paddle-boarding, etc.). If you attempt one of these aquatic adventures for yourself, have fun and let us know what you think!