Week #33 – Pump Room

The Pump Room at Public Chicago, has been on my to do list since the beginning of the year, and I was so glad to check it  off my list with Nate and our college friends Brian and Kelly.

Brian and Kelly recently moved to the burbs, and asked us if we wanted to get together for dinner in the city. The pressure was on, as I wanted to make a good decision since they were making the effort to come see us. After a delicious—and filling—dinner at Chicago Q (one of my favorites for barbecue), the night was still young, so we figured we’d grab a drink before heading home. I believe Kelly suggested the Pump Room, and it was like she read my mind. It was a nice cool Chicago evening (we’ve been having a lot of them lately—I love it), so we walked over to the historic Pump Room.

Now, I should mention, the Pump Room first opened in 1938, and used to be a see-and-be-seen-place by celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Better Davis, Judy Garland, Paul Newman, Clark Gable, Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn—should I keep going? The restaurant and bar reopened in Fall 2011, and has been getting great reviews ever since.

When we walked in, we were on a mission to find some seating. As we looked for chairs, it was hard not to get distracted by the beautiful interior design of the restaurant and hotel. We walked through the bar, the library, the coffee bar, and into the screening room, where Breakfast at Tiffany’s was playing. After cozying into the big, comfy sofas, we decided we needed to relocate or else we’d fall asleep (because it was so relaxing—not boring!). We were lucky to get a table after a short wait in the bar. We had a view of the restaurant, and I have to geek out and tell you the modern circular lighting in there is gorgeous. The gold curved wall behind the bar was also a glamorous touch.

Although I didn’t eat (and I didn’t get a good look at the plates either…darn), I did have room for a cocktail, which was a grown-up version of a summertime: Vodka Thyme Lemonade with Belvedere Citron vodka, fresh lemon, thyme, and soda. It was refreshing with a bite, which I enjoyed. The sprig of thyme in the glass gave it a little sophistication too.

Our table was perfect, and the noise level around 8 or 9 pm was lively, yet easy to carry on a conversation (much appreciated!). The tables of customers were very eclectic—from an out-of-town couple on their cell phones to an anxious younger guy waiting for his date.

I really enjoyed this spot, and would like to return for another round at the bar and dinner (small plates featuring a farm-to-table concept). Maybe you’ll join me?

Pump Room
1301 North State Parkway
Gold Coast

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Week #18 – WhirlyBall

Well, friends, the mystery is solved. I now know first-hand what WhirlyBall is…and it’s pretty fun!

I was excited to see WhirlyBall on the agenda when I received the invitation for our friend Scott’s 30th birthday. I asked around a bit to see if other friends had gone and what they thought of WhirlyBall, and I only heard positive things. How’s that for word of mouth advertising?!

Saturday night was the big night. After filling up on Art of Pizza (some of the best pizza in the city!) and homemade cake at Scott and Katherine’s, we were ready to compete.

I played about three games, always on Team Red. (Tip: the black cars were rumored to be the faster cars.) My strategy was to knock the whiffle ball out of my opponent’s scoop, and T-bone people to throw them off when trying to pass. Ha.

If I’m going to be brutally honest, I was terrible at offense, but was confident in my defense skills (I was always a badass full back in soccer), and I was terrible at scooping up the whiffle ball. (I got extremely nervous and usually lost out to my opponent who was faster than me.) Needless to say, I never scored.

The biggest surprise I found—other than how much fun it is to hit your friends in bumper cars—is that you get really hot, temperature-wise. I really didn’t think I’d have to put too much effort into it, but if you take it seriously, you can get heated up!

Other nice surprises of the WhirlyBall facility are the big bar area where they have huge TVs and an excellent craft beer selection (I had a tangerine wheat beer named Clown Shoes), along with many arcade games, air hockey tables, pool tables, and—you guessed it!—a photo booth. (See below for my photos with Nate.)

Some unofficial rules I learned from playing WhirlyBall. 1. Ladies, don’t wear high shoes. My wedges looked really cute when I was hanging out in the waiting room, but they were not nearly as cool to drive in. 2. Prepare to get banged up! I have four sizeable bruises on my legs. Ouch!

If you have a fun group of friends who aren’t afraid to get competitive, WhirlyBall is a must. I’m so glad I tried it, especially while celebrating a good friend. Happy birthday, Scott!

WhirlyBall
1880 West Fullerton
Bucktown

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Week #14 – RL Restaurant

Imagine walking into the charming home of a good friend. The first room you enter is the library and you can instantly tell he has exquisite taste—lots of dark wood, a roaring fire, velvet wallpaper, a zebra mirror over the fireplace with fresh-cut hydrangeas—should I keep going? You’re invited to have a drink at the full bar before dinner, and even though you have to wait a little before you’re seated—it’s not a problem because you’re at your friend’s house.

And your friend is Ralph Lauren.

I’ve wanted to go to RL for years, and for some reason or another, never made it until now. Man, have I been missing out.

As soon as we sat down, it was like a feast for the eyes. I was completely enamored by the décor—there are countless photos and paintings all over the walls. As a former furniture and home writer, I was in heaven. The element of coziness that they’ve established in this restaurant is pretty amazing.

Our waiter couldn’t have been nicer and was extremely attentive the entire evening. We (my friends Bridget and Tara) started with a bottle of Wild Horse Pinot Noir, followed by the oyster special (Bridget), spinach salad (Tara), and shrimp cocktail (me). For our main courses, Bridget ordered short ribs that fell off the bone and melted in your mouth. Per Bridget’s recommendation, Tara and I both ordered cheeseburgers that were pretty big and pretty delicious. (I should mention, too, that RL is managed by the same group who runs Gibson’s, so imagine that level of quality and service in a real-life Ralph Lauren ad.)

We didn’t save room for dessert, but the experience left me full for days. We thought it would be amazing if we could have a standing dinner reservation here we loved it so much, but I’ve also heard the brunch is very good too.

If you enjoy fine décor and want to treat yourself to a delicious, gourmet meal, you must try RL. And don’t forget to shop at the Ralph Lauren home store next door!

RL Restaurant
115 East Chicago Avenue
Gold Coast/Streeterville

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