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Allstate Arena

February 3, 2015
  • 6920 Mannheim Road
  • Rosemont, IL 60018
  • (847) 635-6601
  • Website

Like most girls her age, L is obsessed with Frozen.  We’re not really sure how or when it happened.  We watched the movie a few times and we didn’t think she was paying attention but she soaked in everything and over time, the whole Disney Princess thing became a reality in our house.

Last year, my parents really wanted to take L to see Disney on Ice at the Van Andel Arena.  L didn’t really know anything about Disney at that point, but we went and she enjoyed the show.  A few month ago, we found out Disney was putting together a Frozen on Ice show and the weekend it was in Chicago, was also the weekend of L’s 3rd birthday.

It didn’t take long for us to rally the grandparents and scoop up tickets to the Friday night performance.  Instead of a birthday party this year, we just did Frozen on Ice and I think L had more fun with that than she would have with a party.

The show ran two weekends in Chicago.  One at the United Center downtown and one at the Allstate Arena.  Unfortunately, the weekend we could go was the weekend it was at the Allstate Arena.

The Allstate Arena is northwest of Chicago near O’Hare Airport in the suburb of Rosemont.  The venue sits right off the Jane Adams Memorial Tollway (I-90) just to the west of where I-90 and I-294 meet.  In theory, this should make it an easy venue to get to….in theory.  Read more…

Todd’s BBQ – Oak Lawn

January 27, 2015
  • 11000 S. Cicero Avenue
  • Oak Lawn, IL 60453
  • (708) 346-0698
  • Website
  • Menu

Eating lunch at a grocery store.  Not something most people get excited about it.  Typically, I am one of those people.  If I’m grocery shopping anyway, I may go to the deli and grab something to eat so I don’t have to make another stop.  There are exceptions to that rule though and there are a few grocery store deli’s I have blogged about in the Kalamazoo area.  This blog post though, is something completely different.

The Chicagoland area is seeing a new grocer pop up all over the place.  Mariano’s Fresh Market is the newest line of stores from the Milwaukee based Roundy’s Supermarket chain.  The current CEO of Roundy’s is a former CEO of Dominick’s stores in the Chicago area.  The last Dominick’s store closed in early 2014 after years of struggles and Roundy’s picked 11 of the still open locations to turn in to Mariano’s.  It wasn’t because they were bad stores, they were just typical grocery stores and those are a dime a dozen in Chicago.  The new trend is towards more high end foods and bigger selections.  Something Mariano’s hits is the more urban upscale demo.

The store at the corner of 111th Street and Cicero Avenue in Oak Lawn is the one closest to my in-laws and we typically stop in every time we are in town.

We were in town for L’s birthday last week and on Friday morning, L and her mom needed to run to Mariano’s to pick up some balloons for the little party we had before going to see Frozen on Ice.  J figured I would just stay home and relax, but I asked if I could come along with the intention of picking up lunch.

Inside most Mariano’s is a pretty large food court.  They have fresh sushi bars, brick oven pizzas, huge salad bars, the option to have meat grilled right at the meat counter for immediate consumption, and BBQ among other things.  While J and her mom headed towards the salad bar, I headed towards BBQ.

Todd’s BBQ is a chain of BBQ restaurants inside many of the Mariano stores.  The small counter serves up just a few options of brisket, pulled pork or ribs plus Mac & Cheese or beans for side.  I was in the mood for beef, so I asked for the Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich and an order of Baked Macaroni & Cheese.   Read more…

The Original Hog Wild

January 25, 2015
  • Hog Wild14993 Pulaski Road
  • Midlothian, IL 60445
  • (708) 371-9005
  • Website
  • Menu

Like any parent, we make our child’s birthday is about whatever they want to do.  L’s birthday was last week and it included four days of celebrations with our families in Illinois.  On her actual birthday, we were at J’s parents house in Oak Lawn.  We had presents, cupcakes, princesses..whatever she wanted, but when it came time for dinner, she didn’t really have a pick.  I mean, she’s only three.  I’m surprised  her pick wasn’t McDonalds.

Since she didn’t pick a place for dinner, I did.  My brother had tipped me off to a BBQ place about six miles from my in-laws.  He has never been there himself, but he has told me many of his friends and co-workers make the hour drive from the Kankakee area just for some delicious BBQ.

The BBQ joint is The Original Hog Wild on Pulaski Road just south of the intersection of 147th Street (or if you’re really familiar with Chicago, just south of 149th street, but 147th is the closest major intersection) in Midlothian.

The restaurant looks awfully out of place in the city.  It has the honky tonk feel to it.  Just a little BBQ shack along a busy north-south connector a few miles outside of the city of Chicago.

My in-laws surprisingly had never eaten at Hog Wild either.  My father-in-law always heard there was no parking and there is actually a shuttle that will take you from a public lot to the restaurant, but there is actually some parking on site.  It looked like a large lot to me, but just looking at the size of the dining room and waiting area, I get the feeling that lot is not enough on a busy night.

The restaurant is cash only and they make sure you know that before you get to the order counter.  There is an ATM by the door and several signs along the way to remind you.  We called our order in, so it was waiting for me when I stepped in to the order line.  It was 4:30 on a Thursday, so the restaurant wasn’t that busy yet.  There is a guy standing out away from the register with an order pad taking orders, so you just have to grab the slip and take it to the cash register when it’s your turn.  My order was waiting so I just stepped up and asked for it.  One of the meals was a combo, so it came with a fountain drink.  I grabbed that after I paid the $50 tab (with cash, of course) and headed in to the dining room to fill it up.  The menu I looked at said they had Pepsi, so I was disappointed to find a Coke machine, but whatever.  I still drank it.

The restaurant is about a twenty minute drive from my-inlaws, so by the time I got back, everybody was ready to eat.  I opened up the bags on the table and started handing out everyone’s meal.

J stuck to her usual sandwich.  She ordered the Pulled Pork which came on a sub bun.  The sandwich was massive.  J pulled probably 2/3’s of the meat off the sandwich and it was still too much for her.  The meat isn’t pulled very thin and it’s swimming in a sweet BBQ sauce.  J likes it that…I don’t, so it’s a good thing I didn’t actually order it.  It was a hard sandwich to eat just because there was so much meat and it was destroying the bun.  After pulling off some of the meat, she still only ate about 3/4’s of the sandwich before it was just too much for her.  We put the rest of it back in the Styrofoam container for later.   Read more…

Perrin Brewing Company

January 18, 2015
  • Perrin Brewing Company5910 Comstock Park Drive NW
  • Comstock Park, MI 49321
  • (616) 551-1957
  • Website
  • Menu

There are so many great breweries in Grand Rapids and so many I haven’t been able to check out yet.  After spending a night on the southside of Grand Rapids, we wanted to hit up some place for lunch.  We don’t get to Grand Rapids often as a family because I work there five days a week.  J doesn’t like making me drive to Grand Rapids on my off days.

Even though it was probably the furthest from where we were, we decided to drive out to Perrin Brewing Company for lunch.  Both of us have gotten several recommendations on the place, so we made the 25 minute drive from Cutlerville to Comstock Park just to grab a couple of beers and some delicious food.

Perrin Brewing really isn’t near anything.  It’s on Comstock Park Drive just off 7 Mile Road NE between Alpine Avenue and Pine Island Drive (closer to Alpine).  The building is a huge warehouse that houses both their brewing operation and a  large taproom.

We walked in to the industrial space just before noon on a Saturday.  The sign at the door said to seat yourself so we headed towards the all season patio near the front of the space.  During warm weather, it appears as if large waist level garage doors will open up and bring the outside inside.  During the cold months, these doors are closed and there are warming lamps hanging from the ceiling.

A waiter saw us come in and was right behind us with menus.  He left them on the table then gave us a few minutes to look over the tap selections.  I noticed they had sampler sizes, but it didn’t say anything about flights. I’m assuming they do, but I wasn’t in the mood to drink that much so I just ordered a You Bretta Run.  This sour, which they call “wildly tame and drinkable,” is made with brettanomyces yeast.  Yeah, I have no idea what that means.  It was just one of their specialty beers, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Sours are not at the top of the list as my favorite beers, but I really enjoyed this one.  It had that sour taste that makes you pucker a little, but it actually is a really easy to drink beer.   Read more…

Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery

January 18, 2015
  • Cranker's Restaurant & Brewery454 68th Street SW
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49548
  • (616) 827-1919
  • Website
  • Menu

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine from work was finally lucky enough to get the hell out.  He had found a new job with better pay and better hours…the dream for most people that work in my business.

His going away party was last Friday night at Buffalo Wild Wings in downtown Grand Rapids.  J and i decided we were just going to make a day trip out of it and reserved a room at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Grand Rapids South on 68th Street.  This particular Holiday Inn has a pretty nice pool area with a splash park and a zero-depth pool for the kids.  L loves to swim and since we were planning on going to Grand Rapids anyway, why not make a night out of it with something we all could enjoy.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate.  The big pile-up on I-94 had just happened and every time we left the house that day, we couldn’t see much of US 131 from the Stadium Drive bridge.  We had to cancel our plans.

The hotel actually has a 48 hour cancellation policy, but after a call to the corporate office, they finally agreed to let us reschedule.  That was fine because we still wanted to go.  The only downside is that we missed the party.

To make up for it, I asked my friend if he and his girlfriend would want to meet for dinner Friday night after they got off work.  They were both game and I picked a place pretty close to our hotel so we would have maximum swim time.

Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery has been in the unincorporated community of Cutlerville for sometime although up until pretty recently, it was known as Cranker’s Coney Island.  Once the original restaurant in Big Rapids started brewing beer, they decided to take advantage of Grand Rapid’s status of Beer City USA and turn the Grand Rapids Cranker’s into more of a traditional restaurant instead of the breakfast heavy Coney Island place.   Read more…

Speedy Cafe – Wayland

January 14, 2015
  • Speedy Cafe1155 W. Superior Street
  • Wayland, MI 49348
  • (269) 792-4189
  • Website
  • Menu

I go through a lot of gas driving between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo five days a week.  Most of the time, I like to stop at Speedway gas stations due to their Speedy Rewards program.  I quickly rack up the points and use them to buy iTunes gift cards so I can buy movies for L.

There are a couple of Speedways along US-131, but I usually stop at the Wayland store just because it’s pretty easy on and easy off.

Earlier this summer, I made my usual stop in Wayland for gas and the Speedway was gone.  There was a fence around the property and the building had been torn down.  There were signs outside saying they were rebuilding, so in the mean time, I started getting my gas at the Shell station across the street.

When the new Speedway finally reopened last month, it opened with Speedway’s newest concept.  The Subway counter that was inside the old building was gone and the new Speedy Cafe concept was introduced.   Read more…

Butch’s Beach Burrito’s – Spring Lake

January 12, 2015
  • Butch's Beach Burritos - Spring Lake728 E. Savidge Street
  • Spring Lake, MI 49456
  • (616) 842-3900
  • Website
  • Menu

Summer in Grand Haven is awesome.  The beach scene is fantastic and the food along the channel is the perfect summer time fare.  In the winter, Grand Haven can still be pretty awesome, but Pronto Pup and Butch’s Beach Burrito’s close up until it gets warmer.  Fortunately, Butch’s has a second, year-round location.

The Spring Lake location for Butch’s Beach Burrito’s is just to the east of downtown Spring Lake inside the Shell Gas Station on M-104 (Savidge Street).  The location has a fairly large dining room, but just doesn’t have the atmosphere of the location in Grand Haven.

The order counter is in the back of the space.  A co-worker and I pulled in not too long before closing time, but we were far from the last people to order dinner from Butch’s that night.  There was no one eating in, but there was a steady line of customers for take out pretty much the whole 10-15 minutes we were there.

The fare at Butch’s is pretty standard Mexican food.  There’s nothing too crazy on the menu.  It’s mostly just burrito’s and tacos.  However, they did have a special on Enchilada’s that night and that’s what C.W. went with. Read more…


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