How to Get Ready For Date Night FAST

I KNOW you have been there. Uber is coming in 15 minutes and you need to make dinner for the kids, brief the babysitter AND get yourself ready. What are you currently wearing? Comfy clothes, of course, because you don’t live in adorable dresses and heels. Your hair? In a messy bun, ’cause ain’t nobody got time for a daily blowout. Makeup? Huh? What makeup? How do you get ready in minutes and still look (and smell) like you put some effort into your appearance? I am sharing my top products and methods that help me get ready for date night fast!

How to get ready for date night fast

Dirty Hair? You Care!

I could wash, dry and style my hair every morning but by the time evening hits, it has fallen flatter than post-nursing boobs. You know what I am talking about. Most mornings I am multitasking like a mother and have about ten minutes to hop in and out of the shower. If your hair is dirty, dry shampoo can be a GODsend but you need to apply it correctly or else you will look even worse.

How to Apply Dry Shampoo the RIGHT Way:

  • Spray the hairline around your face from at least a few inches away
  • Take sections of your hair parallel to your roots and flip them; spray
  • Use your fingers to massage the powder into your roots, bending over to move the product toward the ends of your hair
  • Brush gently after flipping back over

For volume, I like Living Proof’s Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo. For drugstore brands, Batiste is my go-to. Their Tropical Scent is lovely, or you can get a shade to match your hair color which eliminates that white powder buildup.

Speedy Makeup Application

Ok, you now have five minutes left and need to put forth a fabulous face. I always start with clean skin because oil and previous product residue can melt my new makeup application. I am a major fan of Dove’s White Beauty Bar, and never knew that you can use it on your face! I have used it on my body since I moved to Chicago and will NEVER switch.

I spoke with their dermatologist Dr. Alicia Barba, and she uses the Dove beauty bar on a lot of her clients’ faces before applying product. It doesn’t dry your skin out like soap, so you don’t have that tight feeling after washing. I am ALL about doing my makeup once at the beginning of the night and not having to worry about it for the rest of the evening. I love products that are long-lasting and can withstand a little wind, rain or sweat.

Here are my steps on a way to get ready for date night fast with a quick makeup application with products that I use. I have this DOWN so it takes me about 5 minutes:

  • Wash face. Dove White Beauty Bar
  • Moisturize. Honestly, I use whatever came in my beauty subscription box most recently. Olay or Neutrogena are solid choices.
  • Apply foundation. I need full coverage, so my top pick for liquid is Makeup Forever Ultra HD Foundation. I find that if I use this, I don’t need to go in with concealer so it cuts that step out. I use IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream for everyday use, but their shade range is limited. If you want a powder foundation (which I use to set my liquid) my favorite is bareMinerals Original Loose Powder
  • Add blush. I use Tarte Cosmetics Amazonian Clay 12-hour Blush. I used to be a Nars Orgasm fan but grew out of the “shimmer” because it was sliding towards glitter.
  • Apply eyeshadow primer. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. If I forget this step, my eyeshadow creases, and slides. I use Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion, but I hear CoverGirl’s Lid Lock Up is a less expensive alternative.
  • Apply eyeshadow, liner, and mascara. I use the Naked 2 Palette which is often sold out (and can be faked if you don’t buy from an authorized reseller, so I wouldn’t get this on Amazon). For liner, I recently discovered Muse’s ESUM Dual Eye Pencil at the Makeup Show Chicago that is super creamy AND double-sided. One end is a basic color like black or brown, and the other is metallic for adding a little shimmer in the corner. For mascara, my drugstore favorite is CoverGirl Lash Blast Volume. At just over $5, it is the best bang for your buck. It beat out designer mascaras in my test, performing better than Dior and Lancome. For a luxury brand, I use Urban Decay Perversion.
  • Use a setting spray. This is if you want your makeup to actually stay put all night. I use Urban Decay All Nighter, but many say the Elf Illuminating Mist & Set is a massive bargain that works well.
  • Don’t forget your brows… especially if you are blonde! Anastasia powders and pencils work well, and if you are a light blonde like me try Muse’s Esum Brow Defining pencil in blonde. I spoke with the Muse team at the Makeup Show, and they told me they added in green (instead of red or orange) to their formula so it would appear cooler. PERFECT match!
  • Lipstick is my last application. I use LipSense if I am going to a formal dinner where I need to look good throughout a looooong meal (this stuff lasts 18 hours if you apply the gloss repeatedly). Otherwise, I like a moisturizing, creamy, highly pigmented lipstick or gloss.

No Time For a Shower

Of course, we would all love to luxuriate in getting ready for a date night. I used to take half-hour showers before responsibilities in the form of children and well, life, came on the scene. I would even use delicious-scented lotion after showering, taking the time to have a glass of bubbly and turn on my favorite jams. Now? No time for a shower and I probably smell like a line cook because I have been making my kids’ dinner.

Dove Deodorant Wipes and Dry Spray

I recently discovered Dove Deodorant Wipes which is a major game-changer for freshening up in minutes. These can be used anywhere on your body- stinky feet? Give ’em a wipe. Armpits no so fresh? Yep, tackle them with the Dove wipes. These remove odor and sweat, so even if you didn’t have time to hit the shower after the gym (or chasing your toddler), you can still smell fresh. They are the perfect way to get ready for date night fast! I use the Dove Dry Spray Antiperspirant after because it dries fast, meaning no residue gets on my clothes.

Comfortable Yet Stylish

I have been on dates where I get a stomachache because my pants are too tight. Or I keep pulling up my strapless bra because it just won’t stay put. You want to be comfortable and focus on the conversation and company, not underwear riding up your butt.

I love dresses because I don’t have to match two pieces of clothing together, this allows me to get ready for date night fast. They also make me feel a little fancy and are honestly more comfortable than pants in my world (more room for food). I love fabrics that I don’t have to iron, because, again…ain’t nobody got time for that. Jersey material doesn’t tend to wrinkle if hung up and stretches as you move. A wrap dress in this fabric is my go-to, and shirt dresses in something other than 100% (wrinkly) cotton or linen are an easy option as well. In the video, mine came from Apricot Lane.

Date Night Dress

Also, try a maxi dress or a jumpsuit. I have a basic black jumpsuit that I can wear solo, put a denim jacket over, wear with a sweater, add a blazer…you get the idea. Super-versatile. I spent money to have it tailored because it is a total chameleon- no one would notice if I wore it every day because I can add things to it.

If pants are your thing, make sure you balance loose with fitted. A loose top + loose bottoms = sloppy, and a tight top + tight bottoms = no room for dessert.

Let’s talk about underwear. There is nothing that ruins an outfit more than that dreaded VPL (visible panty line). I prefer either Commando or Hanky Panky, but Target makes some laser cut undies that are a lovely low-cost option.

Oh, shoes. You don’t necessarily want to wear sneakers (’cause that’s what you have been running around in during non-date-night times) and stilettos make you want to weep. I think ankle booties are a perfect compromise, and heel height can range from kitten to towering depending upon your pain preference. Even if you want to wear all black, popping on a pair of printed or patterned ankle booties can make it seem like you put more effort into your outfit.

Jewelry. It is often a last-minute thought, but I always feel more pulled together with fantastic jewelry and a lovely lip. I do either small earrings and a statement necklace, or statement earrings and a delicate necklace so I can get ready for date night fast. Bonus points for adding in a bracelet if you have time.

Cheers to looking fabulous FAST for date night!

Disclosure: I received Dove products for review purposes, but was not compensated for this post. I just REALLY liked them. All opinions are honest and my own as always.

Day Date: Food Tour with Chicago Food Planet

Food has the power to connect us, to help us tell the narratives of our lives, to recall memories long-buried but still connected to powerful emotions. Food also has the power to help generate new memories, made ever more sensory than a basic visual experience. In almost every new city I visit, I schedule a food tour. It is one of the best ways to orient yourself in a new place- you get both a tour of a particular neighborhood as well as a narrative about the city’s history and hot spots. Companies pre-arrange samples of the city’s most delicious delicacies, and you led by a local guide. Chicago Food Planet, the #1 food tour company in Chicago, offers an array of food tours that delight all of the senses. This makes a food tour the perfect day date!

Chicago Food Planet Food Tour


What to Expect on a Food Tour

A food tour generally lasts 2-3 hours with an average of five stops for food/beverages. Some packages include drink pairings with your bites, others are strictly focused on the food. Come hungry- I have never left a food tour with room in my belly. I am generally stuffed to the max!

Most food portions are smaller than a full-size meal or dish, but some locations serve up a huge helping. For example, at a donut place, I had a regular-sized donut with a small coffee. At an Italian restaurant, I dined on a massive meatball, but no additional pasta.

You walk anywhere from a half-mile to almost a mile and a half on the Chicago Food Planet tours. Check out the comparison here to determine what distance your group is able to walk. Make sure to dress for the weather because it is rain or shine!

Guide on a Chicago Food Planet Tour

Your guide is a valuable tool- use them! Many food tour guides are either native or have lived in the city for at least a few years. It is their job to know what’s hot and what is just hype. After the tour, make sure to ask them for suggestions of other venues to hit up while you are in town. They also make excellent photographers 🙂

Food Tour Attendees

Types of Food Tours

What I love about Chicago Food Planet is that they have a variety of tours that appeal to different tastes and styles. They also occasionally add a limited-time option in, like the Wrigleyville Brunch Crawl (yep, I already signed up for that one next!). They do update the locations that the tour visits depending upon attendee feedback and new restaurant openings.

Their main rotation includes-

Best in Chow– iconic Chicago-style dishes

Navy Pier Signature– cultural anecdotes and 50 acres of restaurants & bars; suitable for kids

Gateway to the West Loop– hip eateries with top chefs

Second City Classic– classic Chicago tastes from more traditional Mom & Pop shops

Chinatown Adventure– culinary and ethnic immersion at sit down restaurants

Sample Food Tour Itinerary- Gateway to the West Loop

We met our guide, Terry, at the appointed spot and made introductions. He gave us a brief rundown of what we could expect and led us inside to the first tasting.

Nonna’s/Formento’s– Nonna’s is more of a grab and go sandwich/pizza/salad joint that is quite popular. The meatball sub and chicken parm sandwich on the menu definitely had me drooling. There is a small counter to eat indoors, or outdoor seating if you prefer. Formento’s, the sister restaurant attached to Nonna’s, is where we had our tasting. A massive meatball was presented to us with a perfect wine pairing. This is comfort food in a familial atmosphere- food that you want to settle in and pass around for a long, lazy Sunday dinner with family and friends.

Meatball and Wine Pairing at Formento's Chicago

Kuma’s Corner– We headed to Fulton Market, which has completely changed since I lived in the West Loop. No longer a smelly corridor with meat carcasses for sure- this is now a gourmet haven for foodies. It is across from Stephanie Izard’s newer Chinese restaurant- Duck Duck Goat.

Kuma’s Corner is unlike most restaurants because they strongly stick to the theme- Heavy Metal. Metal music was blaring as we entered the cavernous bar/restaurant, and Family Guy was playing on the multiple TVs that lined the place. Craft tappers gleamed from behind the bar, no Miller Lite in sight. We sampled the Led Zeppelin- Applewood Smoked Bacon, BBQ Pulled Pork, Cheddar, Pickles, and it was an absolute slice of heaven. They paired this sample with a craft beer that was fairly light.

Kuma's Corner Burger and Beer Pairing

The manager came out to chat with us and share some of the culture. Every month, they donate a portion of the sales to a different charity. They also reach out to touring metal bands and ask them to come to play a set for the customers. Kuma’s tries to involve their staff as much as possible- some have even created artwork for their beer!

Bonci- Yes, Chicago is well-known for its own style of pizza but THIS takes the cake…or er…pie. This is a Roman-style pizza called Pizza al Taglio, or pizza by the cut. The pizza is baked in sheets, then cut and charged by weight. There is an almost overwhelming offer of different flavor combinations (12–15) ranging from basic Margharita to Pumpkin Sausage (which I had…craving it now even).

After you select your flavor, they pop it in the specially imported Roman oven to finish it off. There is limited seating, so take it to go if you truly want to sit and savor.

Bonci Roman Pizza

The owner is Gabriele Bonci who trained as a chef in Rome at some of the finest restaurants. He is now known as the Michaelangelo of pizza with 1,500 creations under his belt. The dough is handmade with heirloom wheat flour and takes 72 hours to create. The end result is crispy, crunchy crust while somehow also slightly chewy.

Kinton Ramen– I am a major ramen FANatic, having nourished my poor college self on the cheap stuff long ago. I now have grown to appreciate a truly well-crafted bowl of this noodle soup and understand the labor of love it takes to create. Kinton Ramen in a new addition to the West Loop food tour- they are a restaurant that has locations in Korea, Japan, Canada and now the US.

Kinton Ramen Chicago

In order to make their broth, they have to simmer pork and chicken bones for more than 20 hours. Noodles are hand-made with high-quality ingredients using a unique method that creates the ideal texture. Honestly, I ate my whole bowl then started in on my husband’s. It was THAT GOOD.

They also served up a pot sticker and some hot sake, which meant that they had to roll me out of there.

Do-Rite Donuts– sweet, cake-like donut perfection plus crispy fried chicken = sweet and savory heaven. Do-Rite does three things right- donuts made fresh multiple times per day, brined and marinated fresh fried chicken, and Dark Matter coffee with a hint of chocolate.

Do-Rite Donut and Coffee

You can even order a sandwich with a donut instead of a bun- pure indulgence. Bonus- they have gluten-free and vegan options every day.

Check out a video review of my food tour!


Booking Your Tour

Chicago Food Planet makes booking a food tour pretty easy. Head to their website, figure out which tour sounds good to you, and find it on the calendar. This would also make an ideal double date- there is something for everyone.

If you arrive early or want to stay after the tour, I recommend giving the scooters that litter the sidewalk of the West Loop a little try just for fun. I also recommend using a helmet, which I didn’t have. The Uber scooters were incredibly easy to use because you pay as you go through the Uber app.

Uber Scooter

Cheers to enjoying fantastic food samples from some of the most iconic and up and coming restaurants in Chicago while learning about the history and culture of our unique city!

Disclosure: I received complimentary passes to a Chicago Food Planet food tour for review purposes. All opinions are honest and my own as always.

Day Date: Spa Self Care at Lincolnshire Marriott

When you hear the word date, do you automatically assume it is with someone else? I mean, you can’t really date yourself…or can you? Dating is about communication, respect and getting to know someone. I would say that we ALL need to do this with ourselves from time to time, and this is what self care is truly about. Self care is a term that is tossed around and tends to have the connotation of selfishness, associated mainly with getting massages and manicures. What self care truly is, at its core, is taking care of our mental, physical and emotional health. When we set aside time on our busy calendar to check in with and treat our health, this is self care. The Lincolnshire Marriott is a hidden gem for spa self care, and I planned a day date for myself there! I am sharing my experience as well as some at home spa self care tips.

Spa at Lincolnshire Marriott

Self Care at the Spa

The Lincolnshire Marriott has a spa that is open to the public and includes and array of top notch services. The hotel itself recently underwent a $28 million dollar renovation, so stepping into the lobby feels incredibly upscale and updated. For me, massage is a mandatory part of my self care routine as is excellent skincare. Massage helps increase circulation, reduce stress & anxiety, lower blood pressure and SO much more. I actually schedule a massage every two weeks- it has helped my anxiety immensely.

Spa Treatments at Lincolnshire Marriott Spa

Skincare is also at the top of my priority list. Every night before bed, I wash my face religiously (even if I have had a few too many cocktails and all I want to do is crash). I also schedule seasonal facials to address current concerns due to weather, aging, and stress. Both massages and facials help me listen to my body, what it needs at any given point, and respond accordingly. They also help me feel and look my best- clear skin and relaxed muscles go a long way in the self-confidence department.

MAssage bed at Lincolnshire Marriott Spa for self care

Spa tip– Leave your cell in your car. Hearing any tech notifications makes my mind wander to stressful thoughts, so I make sure to ditch my coms.

Honey Infusion Anti-Aging Facial

I scheduled the Honey Infusion Anti-Aging Facial at the Spa at Lincolnshire Marriott, which is 80 minutes of masks, creams, eye serums and moisturizers, 100% spa self care. Many of the products used are infused with honey, which is moisturizing, full of antioxidants, and has antibacterial properties. The Lincolnshire Marriott has huge ties to this golden gooey goodness- they actually have an apiary that is host to 600,000 bees! These bees have produced nearly 50 gallons of raw honey this year, and the resort celebrated National Honey Month in September with many honey-themed specials, including this facial.

self care Spa products at Lincolnshire Marriott

The facial was more than just someone slapping on some masks and calling it a day. I always debate whether I should get a massage or a facial. One feels better, one is probably more visually effective. The best part about this 80 minute mini-vacation is that massage is involved as well as a complete anti-aging regimen! Plus, everything smelled DIVINE since many of the treatments and masks used natural fruits and honey. The product that smelled the best was a Citrus Lip Balm (that I of course had to have, and it is available for purchase). It is part of the Lip Trio that they sell as well- a complete exfoliation and moisturization for your pucker!

Spa self care Citrus Lip treatment

Spa tip: Can’t make it to the spa? Create your own spa self care DIY Tumeric Honey mask at home! Mix together 1 tsp. organic tumeric root powder, 2 tbsp. organic ground oats, 3 tbsp. organic plain yogurt and 3 drops raw or Manuka honey. Spread onto face, let sit for 15-20 minutes and rinse with warm water.

Solo Lunch

Have you ever intentionally eaten lunch solo? I do it quite often, and I relish the time alone with my thoughts. Although I LOVE going on dates with my husband, friends and family, a little time to myself is a slice of heaven. Table for one is not intimidating if you look at the time as self care. I always order a cocktail when I am having lunch by myself- it is just more fun that way. No judgement from my lunch partner, right?

Self care cocktail at Wright's Bistro

I also tend to look at the menu more because I am not chatting and exchanging pleasantries with my table mate. I don’t hurriedly pick something at the last minute because I was answering questions about my current obsessions.

Wright's Bistro- post spa lunch

I popped into Wright’s Brew & Bistro after my spa self care services. Midweek, the lunch crowd was fairly sparse, so I was able to snag a seat by the window with a view of the pool deck. I ordered the Carnitas Tacos (delish) and of course a post-massage cocktail to continue the whole relaxation thing I had going on.

Post-spa lunch carnitas tacos

Spa tip: Make sure to hydrate after a massage! Cocktails are probably not the best idea, so do as I say not as I do and stick to something more along the lines of H2O.

Self Care at Home

Heading to a spa once a year is a lovely treat, but continuing with rituals and healthy habits at home that lift you up and calm the noise? THAT is when self care truly makes a difference. I carried a few of the spa self care tips I learned at the Spa at Lincolnshire Marriott to my own home.

*Bedtime Routine-

*Find a tea you love (I just discovered Vadham Teas– great story, even better TEA!)

*Walk in nature (Lincolnshire Marriot has gorgeous grounds for wandering)

*Sit down and eat lunch by yourself and savor the food

*Treat yourself to a cocktail midday (as long as you aren’t driving…)

Cheers to scheduling a date with yourSELF and taking care of business…the business of listening to your body, mind and emotions and taking CARE.

Disclosure: I received a spa treatment for review purposes. All opinions are honest and my own as always.

Date Night at Hofbrauhaus: Beer, Brats and a Bash

If you don’t have time to fly to Munich, a date night at Hofbrauhaus in Rosemont is the next best thing. The official Oktoberfest has been on my bucket list for quite a while. My husband and I used to throw an Oktoberfest party at our home, welcoming over 100 of our friends with handmade German food and homebrewed Oktoberfest beer. Yes, we even own authentic attire. I ordered genuine leiderhosen from a German imports company in New York. My dirndl dress could pass for the real deal (if you saw me across the room).  For a date night filled with heavy steins of crisp, rich beer, hearty German fare, and foot-stompin’, shoulder swaying fun, Hofbrauhaus in Rosemont is the ideal location.

Date Night at Hofbrauhaus

Here is a little taste of what the Hofbrauhaus has to offer!

Hofbrauhaus History

Hofbrauhaus Rosemont is related to the 400-year old original establishment in Munich, Germany. I can vouch for the authenticity. I visited the Munich location in 2001 and had a few steins amongst a rowdy crowd. The word “hofbrauhaus” translates to “official brewery for the Duke’s Court.” In the late 1500s, the Duke of Bavaria hired a brewmaster to create a rich brown ale to suit his taste. By 1607, this concoction was so popular that they built larger brewing quarters- the current location of Hofbrauhaus in Munich. The beer has remained famous and an important part of German history. It was used to put out a fire, inspired Motzart’s opera “Indomeneo,” and was traded to prevented pillaging and plundering of Munich. See? Beer is IMPORTANT.


You won’t find a quiet place to chat for your date night at Hofbrauhaus- save that for the drive (Uber) home. The jovial, celebratory atmosphere at Hofbrauhaus is known in German as Gemütlichkeit, or a friendly, hospitable, relaxed environment. First of all, seating is communal. Parties are seated at shared tables with benches- you might be rubbing shoulders with a family or a group of elderly men decked out in their leiderhosen.

Atmosphere at Hofbrauhaus

Don’t expect to sit and have a calm meal. Many rounds of songs, cheers and chants are led throughout the evening. Customers are encouraged to stand on the benches with beer in hand, swaying along to the music and occasionally clanking steins with their neighbors. Dirndl-clad waitresses rush to and fro, shuttling liter steins like professional weight lifters. Yes, the dresses are low cut, so if your date is *ahem* staring a bit, realize it is part of the authentic uniform. Next time, wear one of your own!

Waitress at Hofbrauhaus

Food and Beer at Hofbrauhaus

In terms of what to drink, order a liter of beer if you at all like brews. I wouldn’t recommend wine, mixed drinks are fine I guess, but heaving a massive mug of foamy beer is part of the experience for your date night at Hofbrauhaus. German beer at Hofbrauhaus is all natural, you won’t find chemicals or preservatives. The Oktoberfest beer is quite heavy- if you don’t love heavy beer but want to taste it, order a half liter. The lightest beer they usually offer is the “Original”- a lager that is still very flavorful.

Hofbrauhaus beer selection

Come hungry! The food at Hofbrauhaus isn’t canned, from a mix, or casually thrown together. All of the food here is made on-site from real ingredients. If something can’t be made on-site in the authentic way, it is imported. The pretzels- a must have item- are flown in frozen directly from Germany. My husband and I always order the Riesenbrezen Combo which includes a massive pretzel paired with Obatza Cheese, sweet mustard and onion mustard. They also have a massive appetizer tower which is perfect for a group, or to order for dinner!

Insider tip- add beer cheese as well; it is creamy, a little hoppy and simply divine.

Hofbrauhaus appetizer tower

As for the entree, there are over 20 signature items as well as sausage specialties, sandwiches, side dishes and salads This is not the place to order a salad and a water, please. I am such a sucker for sauerkraut, and Hofbrauhaus imports theirs from Germany. The Bavarian potato salad is also excellent, no mayo or eggs here, just tangy goodness.

Dessert? Why not! Apfelstrudel (apple strudel, in case you couldn’t figure that out) is my favorite, and the Black Forest Cake is a super sweet treat if you are craving a sugar rush.

Dessert at the Hofbrauhaus Chicago

You can also drink your dessert by ordering another round of beer, or even a shot. If you want to do a group shot, grab a shot-ski- yep, multiple shots lined up on a ski that you all take at once. This is perfect for a double date night at Hofbrauhaus!

Insider tip: If you order a shot, be prepared. A scary-strong woman named Linda with a wooden paddle comes around and literally spanks you. No joke. She doesn’t take it easy- I have been on the receiving end of this and it STINGS.

Entertainment at Hofbrauhaus

I usually try to pair dinner with some type of entertainment for a date night, but the Hofbrauhaus has everything rolled into one. They have bands perform on the stage that runs the length of the main dining hall throughout the evening. These aren’t just any bands- they are actually from Germany or Austria and fill the hall with the sounds of “Ein Prosit.” When they strike up a lively song, all of the patrons at Hofbrauhaus jump on the benches and sing along!

Hofbrauhaus entertainment

If you visit Hofbrau on a Friday or Saturday night, you and your date can participate in “Masskrugstemmen,” which translates to “the lifing of a liter mug of beer.” All contestants have to hold a full liter of beer straight out in front of them with one arm. If that arm bends or dips, they are out. This is a true Bavarian sport!

Bavarian stein holding contest

I truly hope you consider a date night at Hofbrauhaus, especially during Oktoberfest through October 31st. As for parking, they have valet as well as validated parking in the nearby garage. Rideshare apps can have a difficult time finding it for pick up, so I usually walk to the movie theater and schedule my ride from there. I recommend making a reservation on the weekends- although the place is massive, this is a popular time of year! They do have a fairly large bar where you can enjoy a mug if you do wait. Hofbrauhaus is located at 5500 Park Place in Rosemont’s Parkway Bank Park.

Cheers to letting loose and embracing the German spirit- nicht lange shnacken, kopf in nacken (stop talking and start drinking).

Disclosure: I received a complimentary dinner at Hofbrauhaus in exchange for review purposes. All opinions are honest and my own as always. Photo credit for professional photos- Leigh Loftus

Dog Date: Big Star & The T-Shirt Deli

Since adding Ginger (an adorable teddy-bear-ish Australian Labradoodle) to our family in October of 2018, I never thought about having a date with my dog. I was focused on training, and scooping poop, and crying over the loss of a few good pairs of sandals (RIP my limited edition Ipanema solemates). I didn’t think taking this cuddly yet crazy creature out in public was ever going to happen. With the typical puppy behavior of:

  • Jumping up on friends, family and strangers alike
  • Straining at the leash like she was giving Usain Bolt a run for his money
  • Employing her puppy play tactics of nipping our kids

…a dog date was not in the cards.

DOG DATE: Big Star & T-Shirt Deli

Eventually, I spoke with a few friends that had rectified similar situations and shipped sweet and scattered Ginger to doggy boarding school. She was able to interact with other dogs, learn some basic commands, and settle down while walking on a leash.

Planning a Dog Date

A month after her return, I knew we were ready to have a day out with friends- a puppy play date with cocktails (for me, ice water for her), and a little shopping spree. The thing was, I had NO clue what establishments were puppy-friendly. What do I do if she decides to take a downward derriere move at a restaurant? Lift a leg inside a store? Could we have an outing that consisted of something other than bootie-sniffing (her, not me) and ball throwing (me, not her)?

My answer came in the form of an email from the T-Shirt Deli. I used to live in Bucktown and as a person who simply adores apparel and creativity, I would peer into the window and marvel at the marketing genius that created this concept. The T-Shirt Deli is a storefront (and online shop) that creates custom t-shirts in a deli setting. The T-Shirt Deli now has two locations- Andersonville (1482 W. Berwyn) and Bucktown (1739 N. Damen). They asked if I would like to come in with a friend and make a shirt on them to test out their set up. There was even a mention that I could bring a four-legged friend (!). I was thrilled. Now to set up my dog date.

First stop, Wicker Park

On a hot summer day, Ginger’s tongue is usually lolling outside of her mouth as she grins happily, prancing along, excited to go on adventure. Our first stop was Wicker Park, where they have a dog-friendly area that includes off-leash allowance and a doggie drinking fountain. I wanted to tire Ginger out so she would crash at lunch, not crash my lunch and allow her to use the *ahem* facilities prior to dining.

Tip: Windy City Paws, a Chicago Dog Walking company, has a great blog for dog owners that offers a ton of info about your pooch and the city. They also have a Dog-Friendly Event Calendar to plan your next dog date! If you go to a park without a doggie water fountain, make sure to bring a water bottle and bowl for your pup, or a nifty product like this. The Lesotc Pet Water Bottle is ideal because it has a cap that transforms into a stand-alone bowl. Grab it on Amazon for around $15 here.

Second stop, Big Star

A favorite restaurant of mine (and all fellow taco-obsessed Chicagoans) is Big Star. Side note- why are restaurants housed in former gas stations always so charming? Anyways, I recalled walking by Big Star previously and seeing puppies chilling on the patio. As I walked my weary puppy up to the hostess stand, she immedately seated us at an outdoor table in the shade in a corner, out of the way of other patrons (leashes can totally be tripping hazards as can wandering dogs). After we were situated, she returned with a water dish just for Ginger, which my waitstaff kept filled to the brim with icewater. Honestly, I don’t even get this treatment at many restaurants! We met our friends Roxy (a rescue Chihuaha) and Aneesha & Tina (both human) for an afternoon of Palomas, tacos, and dog treats for our dog date.

Tip: Bring a friend with you just in case you have to go to the bathroom. Most restaurants allow dogs on the patio, but not inside the restaurant, so you better hold it if you gotta go. Don’t tie your dog to the table- this could be a disaster if your dog bolts. Hold the leash or clip to your belt. I also bring treats and quiet toys to entertain, as well a plenty of poop bags and a sanitizing spray + paper towel just in case there are emergencies.

Third Stop, T-Shirt Deli

After wrapping up our lovely lunch, we walked a few short blocks north to The T-Shirt Deli. Immediately upon entering we were greeted with grins from the staff- they seem to truly love dogs and friendly faces. The concept of the T-Shirt Deli is this: plan your t-shirt like you would plan your sandwich. Pick your color and style, font and saying, customize it to your taste and your humor. They have books upon books of inspiration as well as a wall of colors, prints, cuts and weights of short-sleeved t-shirts, long-sleeves, tanks, sweatshirts, baby apparel and, of course, dog attire.

T-Shirt Deli Dog Tshirt

I knew what saying I wanted before I set foot in the store- a little mom/dog humor that stole a few lines from a cult classic film of the aughts, Mean Girls.

I tossed out my idea to the gals behind the counter and they were on it. They figured out how many lines it would take, how to center it, then asked me to pick a color and font. I selected a charcoal sweatshirt for myself (because um…in the Midwest we wear sweatshirts over every other piece of apparel about 5 to 1) and a light grey t-shirt for Ginger. I loved the “Lunchbox” font- a little retro, not too bubbly, and chose a gorgeous metallic for my saying. Ginger, being the little lady, received magenta letters.

Tip: You can spend hours persusing the books, searching for the perfect design. Ask the super helpful staff for their input- they are graphic artists and know what look best!

Mean Girls Quote Dog Tshirt

As we waited, I chatted with friends and checked out the decor of the deli. If deli chic was a thing, the T-Shirt Deli definitely would embody every aspect. The walls were decorated with faux sausages and hanging baskets chock full of deli-style wrapped goodies. Font, color and layout samples were on display under glass in a massive deli counter and books were available to peruse at a table complete with leather-topped swivel stools. A small bistro table with slatted chairs invited customers to visit while their orders came to life.

T-Shirt Deli Sample Shirts T-Shirt Deli Stock T-shirt Deli T-shirts, Sweatshirts

Retail Therapy with Your Dog

I waited for around 30-40 minutes while my two designs were freshly prepared by their t-shirt artists. Wait times vary depending upon their traffic, and you are welcome to lounge or head to nearby shops for a little retail therapy. Lush, the cult cosmetics and beauty store famous for their bath bombs, is located a few doors down and allows dogs to shop along. Plus, Lush is majorly active in the fight against animal testing- yay for Fido!

A little video to sum up our dog date in Chicago:

Here is our complete look from The T-Shirt Deli- doesn’t Ginger look totally Fetch? What an adorable souvenir of our dog date!

Custom Dog T-shirt from T-Shirt Deli

She even sported her new custom T-shirt at a Chicago Dogs Bark at the Ballpark game and received many compliments.

Dog T-shirt from The T-Shirt Deli

Overall, we had an absolutely fantastic dog date and fondly recall our outing every time we wear our matching T-Shirt Deli attire. Ok, maybe I fondly recall it and Ginger tolerates me stuffing her into a skinny T, but it was a memorable day date for both of us!

Cheers to spending having a date with a four-legged friend who is the epitome of unconditional love! And if you want a human date night idea, check out this show before it wraps!

Disclosure: I was provided with products from The T-Shirt Deli for review purposes. All opinions are honest and my own, as always.

Date Night: Angelo’s Wine Bar + The Recommendation

During the summer months, date night dining al fresco is one of life’s greatest joys. Conversation doesn’t reverberate in a crowded room but instead floats on the breeze as people lean back a little more in their chairs. Diners linger longer over chilled glasses of dry white wine, settling into a spot that is only available a few months out of the year. After dinner, a couple is ready for a bit of adventure and drama. The combination of Angelo’s Wine Bar and The Recommendation at Windy City Playhouse strikes the perfect balance of laid back and intense, relaxed and though-provoking.

Date night- Angelo's + The Recommendation

Angelo’s Wine Bar

Albany Park- 3026 W. Montrose

After seeing the decor and upscale feel of this eatery, you would never guess that Angelo’s Wine Bar has been around since 1962. Although the offerings have changed, the charm of the establishment has only increased. The staff greeted us warmly and we were able to have a pick of seating on a Sunday evening. The patio is simple yet elegant, bistro lights strung atop the fenced-in perimeter of the dining area and surrounded by brightly-colored flowers. Since our show started at 6 pm, we had time for a brief appetizer before hopping over to Windy City Playhouse to continue our date night.

Outdoor Patio at Angelo's Wine Bar- Chicago

Date Night Food and Drinks

I am the type of person who will ALWAYS order the sampler if such a menu item is available. At a brewery, I always love the lineup of child-size glasses nestled in a wood paddle so I can compare, contrast and find my favorite. Angelo’s offered a Flight & Bite, which included five 2 oz. pours of their wine on tap paired with five mini appetizers for $22. The wines were incredibly varied, ranging from a smooth and slightly spicy Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend to a light and airy Grüner Veltliner. Bites included craft sausage, Proscuitto, smoked cheese, Marcona almonds and more.

Wine and Appetizer Pairing at Angelo's Wine Bar- Chicago

After the show ended at 8:30, we scooted back to Angelo’s before last kitchen call at 9 pm to conclude our date night. I had spied Cacio e Pepe on the menu, which has been gaining popularity as a simple yet decadent dish made with three simple ingredients. My husband dined on their pan-seared scallops which included slightly crispy cauliflower, feta, and olives. Both dishes were divine, mine in its executed-to-perfection simplicity and his in the marriage of salty and savory flavors.


Angelo’s definitely has their share of specials. From “Taste of the Mondays” (featuring 1/2 off all 30 wines by the glass) to the weekend brunch all-you-can-drink Mimosa or Bloody Mary Brunch with purchase of a shared plate, there is something every day of the week. Bears fan? They also have $5 draft beers on game days, so the sports/beer fan in your relationship can be happy while satisfying the fine wine/dining partner.

The Recommendation

Windy City Playhouse- 3014 W. Irving Park Rd.
Tickets: $65-$100; sign up for the Rush Ticket List for potential day of tickets at half-off

The Bar

After a little fine wine and dine, you can scoot on over to the Windy City Playhouse mere minutes away. Parking has always been easy for me- there are plenty of spots along Irving Park on both sides. As you walk into the playhouse, you are greeted by music in the period of the show (Party Like a Rockstar, anyone?). Sidle up to the bar and peruse the specialty cocktail list, which includes show-themed libations such as Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell and The Drunk Tank. I love to keep these in mind and see where they fit into the performance. Cocktails are available for purchase before the show, during the 20-minute intermission, and after the final scene. My favorite bartender, Nolan, is onsite to entertain and whip up delicious concoctions.

The show starts promptly at the set time in an unexpected way, so pay attention and be prepared to immerse yourself in this story of privilege and the disparity between what is fair and what is real.

The Premise of “The Recommendation”

Do you know someone for whom everything simply falls into place? Especially early on in life, when their parents artfully arrange their path without thought of or principles or legitimate qualifications? Some beings are able to skate through life with charm and connections, not aware of the challenges and roadblocks of the hoi polloi. This is where The Recommendation starts- with Aaron Feldman as the golden boy entering his Freshman year in college. He is paired with Iskinder Ioduoko who does not share the same privileges and benefits that Feldman has reaped his entire life.

The Recommendation- immersive theater in Chicago
Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow

Although from vastly different backgrounds, the pair becomes friendly, moving through their college experience with humor that will bring back your own memories of this period in life. You watch as Aaron and Iskinder graduate to young adulthood, each set on their own path to (in)dependence.

The Recommendation at Windy City Playhouse
Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow

Your Date Night Experience

The audience moves from room to room in the show instead of just the actors shifting scenes, which emphasizes the immersive nature of this presentation. Limited to 34 audience members, each participant (yes, you do get to participate on an experiential level) gains a true sense of being a part of the story. Seating ranges from a dorm room bed to a jail cell bench, keeping you on your toes and more than a fly on the wall. You are completely involved in each scenario and emotionally-charged scene. Snack and beverages for the audience are interspersed throughout the show that incorporates different themes and moods, creating a unique date night experience.

The Recommendation at Windy City Playhouse
Photo Credit- Michael Brosilow

The actors are intense in parts, lighthearted and carefree in others. Since you are up close and personal, you are able to observe their body language, eye contact and microexpressions like no other performance you have experienced. I felt Feldman’s fear through the animal-in-a-cage expression, Iskinder’s faux confidence through his ramrod posture and stiff movements, and the insecurity and yearning of another character, Dwight Barnes, in his hunched shoulders and fidgeting.

Questions to Ponder

This show, dubbed a “psychological thriller” by many, inevitably raises questions about the fairness of life. Here are a few that came up for me- I love discussing an intelligent performance during our date night.

Have you been asked for help by someone in need, but paused to consider the ramifications for yourself?

How has your privilege or lack thereof influenced your life path?

How can someone seemingly stuck in a circle of criminal action or labeled a criminal break their cycle or stigma?

If you were applying for a job, would you accept help from an outside party even though you aren’t the most qualified for the position? If you did, do you think that makes you part of the problem or are you just taking advantage of opportunities?

How do recommendations or referrals tilt the playfield? Do you believe all recommendations or you take them with a grain of salt?

Overall Thoughts

Overall, this type of immersive theatre production is my absolute favorite and makes an entertaining date night. You are entertained and involved, often rapt and completely engrossed. Actors might speak to you on occasion, asking you a question or having you hold on to a prop. The only requests are that you don’t speak directly to an actor unless spoken to, and do not touch them as they move about the set. Keep an open mind, try to relate to different characters and situations, and stay curious.

Cheers to an experience for both your taste buds and your mind at these two excellent venues!

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to The Recommendation for review purposes. All opinions are honest and my own, as always.