There are some perks to unemployment at first. You can wake up late. You can wear pajamas all day. You have plenty of time to read awesome blogs like this one. But sooner or later, you're going to get tired of all that. And while hovering over Craigslist and adding 250 new connections on LinkedIn seems productive, there are other ways to get yourself back under those fluorescent office lights.
Enter Out of Work Chicago, a community created by unemployed professionals for those who share their affliction. Its Web site is full of advice, news and, yes, job postings. And now, the community is launching a weekly series of networking/happy hour events to get you doing some face-to-face networking. The launch party takes place Wednesday, February 25 at Flatwater, 321 N. Clark, from 5-9 p.m. Attendees will include unemployed Chicagoans, but also hiring managers and recruiters, so you might want to change out of those pajamas. They were getting a little ripe anyway, weren't they?
Complimentary wine and cheese will be served. You can (and should) register online.
Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.
Markethouse – Supposed to be a mostly locally sustained menu. More updates as events warrant, as well as (we hope) a better Web site.
Naf Naf – Naperville gets what the owners bill as casual Israeli. We will forgo the easy joke about what happens if an uptight Palestinian walks in – as we have a strict policy about getting involved in holy wars.
Zia – The New Mexican (as in the state, not recently prepared Mexican food) spot moves out to make room for the new Terragusto on Armitage. Guess we’ll have to find somewhere else to get our sopapilla fix.
Nicky’s – We’re pretty sure we’re talking about the Nicky’s Drive-Through on Roosevelt, but there’s so many damn Nicky’s restaurants on the south side, it’s hard to keep them straight.
Bleeding Heart Bakery – After some, uh, drainage problems last week, the popular bakery is back up and running – and offering a special "Kitchen Sink Cookie" (oatmeal with flax, dried fruits and chocolate) for $2.50.
God We Hope It Doesn’t Close: Mr. Beef – Bank problems loom for the popular River North beef stand. I mean, an Italian beef is an Italian beef. But you gotta love the ambience of the place, as well as the history. C’mon, somebody’s gotta pony up to help these guys out. We got about a buck-fifty in our pockets to help the cause.
Check back here every Tuesday with more openings and closings (and snarky comments, of course). And be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's list of new restaurants and bars.
Already on your third cup of coffee today? First of all, slow down. Unless you're an Air Traffic Control operator, you don't need to be that focused. Second, we have some information that might interest you. CoffeeFest 2009 comes to Navy Pier next weekend (February 20-22).
While the three-day event (admission: $40) mainly covers the business of the bean (scintillating workshops include "Easy Maintenance on Brewers and Espresso Machines That Can Save Big Money" and "The Ambiance of Your Café - Getting Crowds In Your Door"), you can count on a ton of samples, as exhibitors will be on hand from all over the country. And everyone can appreciate a good latte pour, right? The winner of the Millrock Latte Art Competition will walk away with $5,000; that should be enough to support that Starbucks habit for at least a month.
What's your recession food? Pasta? Spam (we said recession, not nuclear war)? Your own arm? For us, it's definitely peanut butter and jelly. Packed full of protein, fat, carbs and sugar, it's one of the more filling meals around for under a buck. Not to mention, it takes us back to the days when Mom would cut off the crusts and serve it up alongside a few carrot sticks and a glass of milk. Ah, those were the days.
Well, those days are back at the recently renovated Doubletree Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile, 300 E. Ohio. The Peanut Butter & Jelly Package, available weekends from now through March 1, is aimed at families with kids under 12. In addition to a welcome basket filled with PB&J sandwiches, Doubletree's signature chocolate chip cookies and popcorn, guests receive a free on-demand movie, complimentary use of the Lakeshore Athletic Club and discount certificates at area attractions.
It's a recipe for some awesome family bonding; at the least, it'll bring back nostalgia for a time when the only economic concerns you had were regarding your weekly allowance. Rates begin at $99 plus tax for a family of four; call (312) 787-6100 for reservations, or visit the Web site.
Despite what this year's "Top Chef" has shown us, culinary students can make pretty darn good food. And since these budding chefs are still learning, they're usually happy to have anyone sample their fare - which is why cooking schools have long been known as prime spots to score gourmet meals at casual prices.
Kendall College's Monday Night Dining Series continues this trend: For the next five weeks, diners will be able to taste "ethnic neighborhood" cuisine from five different regions (in order: Mexico, Poland, Southeast Asia, Greece, Indian) for just $38 each meal. That price gets you five courses plus non-alcoholic beverages, and it includes sales tax.
Dinners are BYOB, and seating begins at 6:30 p.m. The Dining Room is at 900 N. North Branch. Call (312) 752-2328 or visit the Web site for reservations.
• Chicken Sopes with Salsa Verde
• Posole Soup with Crisp Tortillas
• Salad of Mixed Greens, Cactus & Roasted Corn
• Roasted Pork Loin with Mole Manchamanteles
• Mexican Chipotle Brownie, Mango Ice Cream and Crunchy Tuile with Mexican
As the immortal Ron Michaelson once asked, "Why does lunch have to be so dull?"
Well, if the folks at NoMI had their way, it wouldn't be. The Park Hyatt's 7th floor restaurant offers up an out-of-the-ordinary Winter Lunch menu starting today.
For $25 (you might have to brown-bag it for the rest of the week), you get your choice of soup plus the chef's choice of salad - both served at once in a two-partitioned piece we'd like to see - followed by a main course and dessert. Soups include varieties like pumpkin and coconut with ginger and coriander; main courses include Peekytoe crab cakes and a steak sandwich with bearnaise aioli. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday. NoMI is located at 800 N. Michigan, (312) 239-4030.
We don't know too many people who live by the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower (unless you count that mime in front of Water Tower Place), so the new "Neighborhood Friends" menu at the hotel's Cafe des Architectes seems oddly named. But in any case, you won't need to bring an electric bill bearing a local address to take advantage of chef Martial Noguier's creations on Sunday and Monday nights - as long as you're willing to pony up the $29 ($19 for children 6-10, free for kids 5 and under), you're good to go.
The three-course menu includes a choice of appetizer (broccoli veloute, poached egg with pork belly, cured baby coho salmon), entree (roasted root veggies, Lake Superior whitefish, chicken breast with sunchokes, flat iron steak) and dessert (warm bread pudding, creme brulee).
With a deal like this, you might consider moving in. Just don't tell the mime - he tends to be protective of his turf.
If you booked a room at the Peninsula Chicago this month with the intention of spending a luxurious evening at its flagship restaurant, Avenues, you were unfortunately met with disappointment (and we feel so bad for you, Mr. or Mrs. Moneybags). Chef Curtis Duffy closed the place for January for some rest and retooling. But come Wednesday, Avenues is back - and according to MenuPages, its "spring" (a little optimistic, no?) menu is full of surprises. We're especially interested in "Consomme of it's Carcass," not least because of the grammatical error.
Remember when Kramer wanted to open a pizza parlor where every customer would be able to make his own pie? Yeah, that was a bad idea. But La Madia's Chef's Table does let you get up close and personal with the pizza-making experience - and you won't have to shove your hands into a ridiculously hot oven.
Chef/owner Jonathan Fox hosts this monthly gathering, at which guests can watch him handcraft his artisan pies and enjoy wine pairings and seasonal menu items along with their slices. The event normally takes place on the first Wednesday of each month, but in February it'll actually be on Tuesday, February 3. Reserve your seat ($35 per person) now, as space is limited.
Leave the pizza-making to professionals like La Madia's Jonathan Fox.
Calling all oenophiles: Bin 36 kicks off its monthly wine-tasting series, Wednesday Wine Around, this week from 6-8 p.m.. For $25, you'll get two hours of beverages selected by wine director Brian Duncan, as well as hors d'oeuvres courtesy of executive chef John Caputo.
The opening theme is "The Absolute Hottest Wines Under $20." Hopefully, there will be no "Office"-esque disputes over which wine is hottest. Get tickets on the restaurant's Web site.
You've heard of hair of the dog. Well, SushiSamba Rio's new Sunday brunch deal, beginning this weekend, serves up the whole darn pooch. Before you go crying to PETA, let us clarify - the midday meal includes no family pets on its menu, nor does it have sushi, for that matter. Food-wise, it's not quite that adventurous, though offerings like Asian pear pancakes and Kobe sliders, plus a Brazilian stew made with pork and beef and served with orange slices, sound enticing.
But what we're really excited about are the three complimentary cocktails per person. We're talking mimosas, bloody marys, caipirinhas - or just fresh-squeezed juices, if you really can't handle the hard stuff (or you're underage).
$16 per person ($8 per kid under 12) gets you one entree and the aforementioned drinks. Brunch is served 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Reservations are recommended: (312) 595-2300.
So you've probably heard all about Chicago's Restaurant Week, happening February 20-27. If you haven't, you'd better make your reservations now; Centerstage has a list of the best deals to be had.
But did you know that the 130-restaurant bonanza is actually preceded by a smaller, but no less worthwhile affair? Think of Chicago Originals Restaurant Week as the official event's hip little brother. Like its sibling, the event includes specially priced meals for lunch ($24.09) and dinner ($29.09) at restaurants where most folks could usually afford little more than an app or two. The difference is that all the participating spots are independent, locally-owned eateries (think Cafe Matou, El Nuevo Mexicano and Prosecco). And just to prove that good things can come in small packages, there's an added bonus: you get two weeks of deals, January 25-30 and February 1-5.
Check out the Web site to view a complete list of participating restaurants and menus; not all restaurants offer both lunch and dinner every day, but some will offer you a bottle of wine for an additional $20.09. Their inferiority complex is your gain.
1. Pretending to be annoyed by all the Mag Mile shoppers that get in your way on the sidewalk, when really we're happy they're spending all their money in our city. Just relax with a sense of superiority because we know where we're going.
OK, it's not so bad when the shoppers are Bono and Oprah ...(Sun-Times file)
2. The serenity of Rush and Division during the day, compared with the all-out insanity the area produces once the sun goes down.
3. Watching people at the bar through the Prohibition-era two-way mirror in the bathroom at Streeter's Tavern on Chicago.
What are your favorite three things about the Gold Coast?