A Girl’s Gotta Eat – Time Out Market Chicago

A new food hall opened up in the Fulton Market District in Chicago in November.  Whether you live in the city or are just visiting, this eatery needs to be put on your bucket list.  Not to be confused with a food court (like the ones you would see in a shopping mall), a food hall is more than a step above fast food dining.

Time Out Market (Chicago) is a 50,000 square foot culinary destination for anyone who likes to eat (and that would be this girl).  This gigantic space houses 18 well-known food and drink vendors as well as two full-service bars and an enclosed rooftop terrace.  Many of the chefs here come from Michelin star restaurants, some of whom are also James Beard award winners.  Pretty impressive resumes under one roof.

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Level 1 is the main spot for food.  Right now, all but one vendor have their mini-restaurant on this level.  Located around the perimeter of the space, hungry customers can find anything from pizza to Portuguese fare.  Ice cream, pastries, and other sweets/treats are also available to round out your meal.  The first time we went, my SO had an Italian beef sandwich from Decent Beef and duck fat French fries from Duck Inn Dogs (chef Kevin Hickey is from The Duck Inn).  I had the grilled prawn salad from Thai Dang (Chef Thai Dang is from the Vietnamese restaurant HaiSous).  How pretty is this dish:

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The seating on this level is very communal with long tables all set in the middle of the space.

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Level 2 only has one food vendor, Arami.  On our second visit, we both ordered sushi from here.  There is additional seating up here and another (smaller) bar.  Tucked away in one corner is a specialty cocktail bar.  This is not a speakeasy (as some websites have called it), however, it does have a speakeasy secret vibe to it.  You place your order at the window, the drinks are made behind-the-scenes, and then picked up at another window on the side.  My SO had the Ghosts & Empties and I had the Way Way Way.  Both were delicious!

Drinks

Also located on the second floor is a Demo Kitchen.  According to their website, “the demonstration kitchen allows Time Out Market to showcase up-and-coming culinary talent and accomplished visiting chefs who want to reach new audiences, support community initiatives or simply try out a new experience.”  The two times I was there, the demo kitchen was not in use.  They have a calendar of shows and events on their website to you can plan ahead.

Demo Kitchen

Level 3 is the reason we came back a second time.  I had no idea there was a rooftop bar (or a third level for that matter).  It is small but with lots of windows.  It was a snowy evening when we went which gave it a magical ski resort feeling.

Rooftop bar

They will also have outdoor seating, weather permitting, but that was not an option for us that night.

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This is a great destination if you cannot agree on where to go for dinner (I know I am striking a nerve for some couples with that statement).  Variety is the key here and I want to go back to try more dishes.  The portions are decent size as well.  The food hall trend is having a moment and Time Out Market has set the bar pretty high.  Happy eating!

If you are reading this all the way to the end, I have a bonus recommendation for you.  Just a few storefronts down is a real speakeasy called the Blind Barber.  The storefront looks like a barber shop, and inside it functions as a barber shop.  But once you walk through the secret door, it takes you to an intimate little club.  Enjoy!

Blind Barber secret door

A Girl’s Gotta Eat – Restaurant Week

What is Restaurant Week?  It is a week-long (sometimes longer) event that celebrates the culinary delights in a particular city.  Not all restaurants participate, but, those that choose to must adhere to certain parameters set by their city.

Small Plates or a special “prix fixe” menu are popular models for most Restaurant Week events.  Prix-fixe means a set price for a complete meal.   In some cities, restaurants are challenged to provide a multi-course (usually 3-4 courses) dining experience for a set dollar amount (usually $50 or less but some locations are more expensive).  Both of these concepts are great because they give diners the chance to try a place they have never been to before.  Or maybe visit a place that just opened.  Or sample a cuisine they want to try but are afraid to invest a whole dish on.

Another great thing about the small plates (or the prix fixe menu) dining experience is sharing.  In 2019, my SO and I experienced our first Chicago Restaurant Week.  We decided to try a restaurant in the city that we had never been to before called Somerset.  They offered 4 different options for an appetizer, 3 different salads, 4 main courses, and 3 desserts to choose from. So, between the two of us, we were able to try 8 different dishes.  A few days later, we dined at The Hampton Social and again enjoyed multiple small plates.  Here is their menu from 2019:

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Most cities will list their participating restaurants well ahead of time.  The larger cities, like Chicago, will even let you filter the restaurants by location or cuisine (link here).  In some cases, you can view the establishment’s menu before you make a reservation.

Not all restaurant weeks happen at the same time.  These dates are also set by each city.  I found this link last year that lists Restaurant Week dates for every state.  Do not be concerned about some of the locations still showing last year’s dates.  These “weeks” are updated as the city announces them.  Some cities have been updated for 2020, some have not.  If your town is not on this list, that doesn’t mean they are not hosting the event.  Maybe your personal city is not participating, but the suburb next to you is.  Just Google “(City Name) Restaurant Week” and you can find the dates and locations nearest you.

Happy dining!

 

Best of 2019

As the year comes to a close, I am reflecting over the first full year of activities my SO and I have done and the blog posts that I have written about them.  Here are some of my favorites . . .

China Lights

I had to travel into the lower part of Wisconsin for this one, but it was totally worth the drive.  China Lights is a beautiful display of structures built with an array of colors and hundreds of LED lights.  It has to be seen to be appreciated.  This is a traveling festival so it will hopefully be back in 2020.

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Matthiessen State Park

I love a good day hike.  This is one of my favorites in Illinois.  Located near the more well-known Starved Rock State Park, Matthiessen, for me, is the better hike.  It is smaller but it has less traffic and more waterfalls.  I also stopped by a few breweries, all part of the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail, after the hike.

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Architecture Boat Tour

Whether you are a lifelong Illinois resident or just visiting, taking a boat tour on the Chicago river is something you should do at least once.  I have taken many visitors on this trip and they all agree it was the perfect snapshot of the city.  I like the Wendella Lake & River cruise because, in addition to the informational river tour, the boat takes you out onto the lake for some really stunning views of the city.

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Water Lantern Festival

This might actually be my favorite activity of the year.  It was inspirational, peaceful, and beautiful.  This event happens all over the United States, and in multiple locations in Illinois.  Your donation includes the lantern kit and it supports a great cause.

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Old Joliet Prison Tour

I have a weird fascination with abandoned buildings so, an abandoned prison is about as weird as it can get.  The Old Joliet Prison had been closed for years but was unfortunately left vulnerable to vandalism.  Thankfully, the Joliet Historical Museum and the City of Joliet joined forces to rehabilitate the prison and open it up for tours.  I want to go back again because I have seen pictures of friends’ tours since I went and they were able to get into buildings that I was not (which means more progress has been made on the rehabilitation!).

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I hope you have enjoyed my posts this year – I have certainly enjoyed exploring them for you!