5 "Must Eats" in Chicago

2972076679_f69304f7d2_z Sweet home, Chicago. There is no better city in the world to me. From the downtown skyline to the cool beaches, Chicago has so much to offer and will always be my home base. With a large metropolitan area, Chicago boasts some of the best restaurants around the city and surrounding areas. The diverse population in and around Little Italy, Jew Town, Chinatown, Andersonville (known for its Swedish roots) and hundreds more neighborhoods has created a burgeoning food scene, yet I am not locked in by any of these boundaries. I enjoy trying foods from all over the city and there are always new ones cropping up every week. Being in New York now makes me miss my local stops, but that shouldn't prevent those of you in the Windy City from all the tastes in town.  Here are a few of my Must-Have eats whenever I'm in Chicago:

  • Chuck's Manufacturing- 224 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL. 312-334-6700

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I stumbled upon Chuck's for a lunch meeting with some of my MBA classmates before I got to New York. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the restaurant with the misleading name. The décor consists of white PVC pipes as handrails with white polyurethane tables and bright colored chairs and couches. The space is very large to accomodate large groups and they offer a wide array of dishes, along with the ability to “Manufacture Your Own Lunch”. I decided to do just that ($18) and I put together a delicious plate that included “Carrie’s Mac”, their Roasted Pepper Soup of the Day, and a Turkey Club. All in all, this is definitely one of my new favorite locations for lunch. They close at 11pm every night so head there for happy hour or a late night meal.

  • Heaven on Seven- 111. N Wabash, Chicago, IL. 312-263-6443

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The best Cajun food I have encountered outside of Louisiana. The minute you step inside you will feel like you are at a Bourbon Street restaurant because of the Louisiana-inspired decor, Mardi Gras beads, and tantalizing aroma that fills the space. With an average plate ringing out at about $11 for lunch and $17 for dinner, this establishment is not skimpy on the portions. The menu consists of a variety of Cajun-inspired pastas, soups, omelets, crab cakes, and more. Their motto is "not everything is spicy" so do not fear this place if you can't handle spicy foods. I would suggest going here with a few people so you all can get entrees and taste several different dishes at once.

  • The Scout Waterhouse and Kitchen- 1301 S. Wabash, Chicago, IL. 312-705-0595

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This quaint restaurant and bar is situated on the corner of 13th and Wabash and has plenty of outdoor seating for when we get good weather in Chicago (still waiting on that). I chose to highlight this one because the majority of patrons that frequent this restaurant are regulars and live only a few blocks away. This neighborhood is full of people walking around because of the local shops, grocery stores, and parks. Last time I took a friend here for his birthday and ordered the Black Bean Burger topped with avocado, sour cream, onions, and red peppers. It was one of the best burgers I have had in a while. The Fish-n-Chips platter boasts huge pieces of fried fish and plenty of fries.

  • Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles- 3947 S. King Drive, Chicago IL, 773-536-3300

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This spot is all about down home Southern cooking in the heart of Chicago. Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles is a small restaurant that is always packed yet worth the hour-long wait to be seated. My favorite dish on the menu is the Carol's Treat, which includes 1/4 dark fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions with 2 waffles. This combination is filling and bursting with flavors that satisfy your craving for sweet and savory at the same time. You can also order classic Soul Food dishes here ranging from fried chicken, mac and cheese, greens, and beans n rice. Make sure you order Grandma's Peach Cobbler, too.

  • Toppers Pizza- 2 E 8th Street, Chicago IL. 312-226-6664

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This list wouldn't be complete if it didn't include a pizza place. Of course, when you think of Chicago pizza your mind goes to the famous Gino's East deep dish pizza, or Lou Malnati's. However, Toppers Pizza is my number one for a small neighborhood pizza joint. Toppers is open late, they deliver, and they have all different types of pizza choices. My favorite is the Philly Cheesesteak pizza covered in steak, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. They also offer a mac-and-cheese pizza, gyro pizza, and a taco pizza. This is why I love this place. You can also get half and half of these specialty pizzas so you can try two at once.

While visiting Chicago make sure you stop at as many of these restaurants as you can during your stay. Of course, there are hundreds of fabulous places to dine in the city, but these are my Top 5 Must Eats.

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What to Avoid at the Supermarket

With hundreds of cereal choices, deceiving marketing on labels and growing processed food aisles, grocery shopping can be daunting, if not utterly irritating. That is why it is imperative to go in with a plan. Know what you need (and what you don't), know what things to avoid and how to best navigate amongst the sea of distractions. photo: GabrielaP93

1. Stick to Your Guns!: The best way to avoid supermarket anxiety, is to write a list of needed ingredients and stick to it!

2. Thiamine mononitrate, disodium inosinate, pyridoxine hydro-what? Avoid anything with a large ingredient list or that contains ingredients that you can't even pronounce.

3. Thou Doth Protest too Much: Avoid anything that has to overly claim its health benefits. It usually means the opposite is true. Instead stick to your instincts and to ingredients you know. Know what is natural food and what is just a jumbling, bumbling list of foreign additives.

4. Border Control: When shopping, try to stay on the borders of the junk food jungle. The most fresh food, with the least amount of ingredients or preservatives, will be located on the edges of the market or right up front (e.g. the produce section).

5. That which perishes first, pick last: By abiding by this 5th and final rule, you will reduce the time that items like meats and poultry are out of their proper storing temperature and therefore decrease the chances for food-borne illness.

 

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5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Summer

In our youth, Summertime meant freedom. It was three-months to hang out with friends or go on family vacations without a care in the world. Time for play, sun and swim. No obligations, no bills to pay or families to support. However, as we get older, when 9 months of school changes to 12 months of working and our worries start piling up like old magazines, we forget to take the time to refresh ourselves like we did as youngin's and it's time we did something about that. Here are 5 easy ways to get the most out of your Summer. photo: Brian Auer

1. Get Active!: Exercise doesn't have to be laborious and now that the weather has brightened up, go outside and get some fresh O2. There are oh so many ways to break a sweat in the great outdoors and have fun in the process. Ride a bike, play frisbee, volleyball, or soccer. Anything that gets you out, gets you moving, and boosts those endorphins!

2. Socialize: Go out with friends, family or to meet new people. Summer is the time to be spontaneous and allow yourself to have some fun. Socializing is an excellent way to increase happiness and self-confidence, not to mention the absolute best way to network and maybe find that perfect job.

photo: hankinsphoto.com

3. Try new things: Summer is the perfect time to try new recipes and new foods. So go ahead! Try that new restaurant you've been dying to go to or cook up an unusual farmer's market find. With the abundance of fresh produce in these warmer months, the possibilities are endless.

4. Stay sunblocked: Gone are the days of baby oil and 4 spf. We all want that sun-kissed summer glow, but not at the price of our health. The best is to wear at least 30 SPF and bring a hat in case you will be in prolonged sunlight. You can still achieve that healthful glow, without being burnt to a crisp. Your skin will thank you...as it will be around and youthful for much longer.

 

photo: jen_marq

5. Make time for a personal project or hobby: With longer hours of daylight and often times shorter hours in the office, Summer is a great time to start something that's just for you. What makes you happy? Where do your talents really shine? Give yourself the "me-time" to do those things and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish and how gratifying it can be.

For more by Ashley Beck, click here.

5 Do's and Don'ts Before Bed

Ever find yourself tossing and turning at night? Find it hard to fall asleep in the first place? Or maybe you wake up in the middle of the night and feel hopeless about getting back to sleep. If you answered yes to any of these, it may be because of what you do right before going to bed that affects your sound sleep. It may even be exactly the things you believe are helping you sleep that are actually doing just the opposite.  And with studies showing that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, we've decided to give you a few tips on how to get to sleep faster, stay asleep throughout the night, and feel refreshed in the morning.

1. Don't drink anything an hour before you go to bed. Especially alcohol. You may fall right to sleep after a few glasses of wine but the likelihood of waking up in the middle of the night is quite good. Think it's easy to fall asleep again? Well, good luck. What's more, drinking any liquids right before bed will increase your chances of needing to get up in the middle of the night to pee, which will also be quite disruptive to your beauty sleep.

2. Do drink an herbal tea an hour or two before bed to help put you in a relax state of being. A nice soothing decaffeinated tea like peppermint or chamomile are the perfect way to put your mind and body at ease after a long day, and prepare yourself for a night of restful sleep.

3. Don't watch T.V. or use electronic devices 30 minutes before going to bed. T.V. stimulates the mind and will have you up thinking all night. The harsh light from electronics (i.e. computer, iPad) disrupts your circadian rhythm (the biological clock that allows you to go to sleep and wake up at the times necessary for work, school, etc...) and therefore will make it harder for your brain to realize its time to fall asleep.

4. Do bore yourself. Read or do something monotonous that will bore you right to sleep. Reading something suspenseful or doing something that allows your mind to race will only prolong the process of falling asleep (If not keep you up reading until all hours of the night).

photo by: bunchadogs & susan

5. Don't exercise or take a hot bath right before bed. Do these things at least an hour or two before. The reason being that they both can indeed help you sleep better, but done too close to bedtime will leave you hot and bothered. Ideally you want your body temperature to be cool for the optimum sleeping ability.

Although we may not all need our 8 hours of sleep, we do need a solid night of sleep. And by abiding by these 5 simple rules, you should increase your chances on a better night's sleep and an even better day ahead. Not to mention a slimmer waistline.

For more on Health & Wellness, click here.