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.

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.