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.