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Fat Albert’s Restaurant

April 23, 2017
  • 6854 S. Ashland Avenue
  • Chicago, IL 60636
  • (773) 737-6161
  • No Known Website
  • Menu

Every summer I explain how my dad, my brother, and my best friend from  high school go to a White Sox game.  We get wings, drink beer in the parking, and generally just catch up.  It’s the one time of the year that all four of us get together.

This year’s game was kind of thrown together.  We’re all getting busy with life and finding an open weekend for the four of us is getting hard.  I forgot that I’m reliving my childhood on May 13th and going to see New Kids on the Block…which screwed up our original date.  My brother is busy basically all summer and the only weekend we could find was in April. That day wasn’t good for me, but I was determined to make it work.

J will typically go with me on game weekend and stay at her parents.  Her parents were in Florida looking for a Snow Bird House the Saturday I was going to the game so she didn’t want to go home.  She had a lot to do on that day anyway, so going to Chicago didn’t really work for her.

I decided this was going to be a day trip, but I really didn’t want to park at the ballpark and pay the $20.  I decided instead to park at the CTA Park and Ride at 63rd and Ashland and hop on the Green Line.  That would take me to Bronzeville and put me within three blocks of the park….and would only cost me $5.

I can’t go to Chicago without getting an Italian beef.  I did some looking to see if there was any place to go after the game.  I found a couple places in neighborhoods I’m not sure I wanted to be in that late at night so I timed my drive to get to one of those places before the I had to get on the train to get to the park.

The place I found was Fat Albert’s Restaurant on Ashland Avenue just north of West 69th Street in Chicago’s West Englewood Neighborhood.  The restaurant is tucked in to an older neighborhood center with other businesses, restaurants,  and boarded up buildings.

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Walnut & Park

April 23, 2017
  • 322 W. Walnut Street
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • (269) 903-0578
  • Website
  • Menu

Getting up every morning to get L to school has afforded me the opportunity to stop in at more of the cafe’s around town for breakfast.  I don’t drink coffee.  I actually prefer to have a Pepsi as soon as I get up, so I really have very little reason to stop in to a cafe unless I’m looking for a quick bite to eat.

A little over a month ago, J told me about a new cafe opening up in the Vine Neighborhood.  This cafe is a little different though.  There’s a good cause behind it and something pretty unique in Kalamazoo.

Walnut & Park built from the ground up at the corner of….well…Walnut and Park Streets.  There used to be an office building on this corner, but the new owners, the Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program, or KPEP, ripped it down to make use of the land for a coffee shop just to the south of downtown.

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What’s The Scoop

April 16, 2017
  • 3667 Baldwin Street
  • Hudsonville, MI 49426
  • (616) 662-6423
  • Website
  • Menu

Pretty short weekend for J and I.  I had to work Friday and she had to work Sunday which left us with really only Saturday off together.  We had to cram all of our family activities, including the Easter Bunny visit, in to one day.

We told the kids that Mama called the Easter Bunny and asked if he’d come Saturday morning so she could be there when they found their baskets.  The kids were up pretty early and I wanted to be there to, so J got me up.  After the fun was over, I went back to bed while J took the kids to B’s music class.

When they got done, J texted and asked if I wanted to take the kids to The Critter Barn in Zeeland.  We took L there a few years back and loved it.  We’ve been talking about going for a while and it was such a nice day, we just decided to spend it along the Lakeshore.

We spent about an hour and a half petting and holding all kinds of animals.  B lost interest pretty quickly.  He just wanted to run around, but L loved it.  She kept going back to the chicks she could hold and the cat room.

We left The Critter Barn at a time that was a little too early for dinner.  Also, B didn’t want to sit still so we didn’t think a restaurant would be a good idea. J wanted ice cream though so I told her to look for something in Hudsonville.

What she found was What’s The Scoop.  It’s a little farther off the highway than I was hoping.  The small ice cream shop is on Baldwin Street in a strip mall right next to the Baldwin Street Middle School/Georgetown Elementary School complex near 36th Avenue.

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Kelvin & Company

April 14, 2017
  • 232 E. Michigan Avenue
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • (269) 530-5236
  • Website
  • Menu

There can never be enough BBQ restaurants in town.  That said, I’m always skeptical when a new one opens.  The shops that try to look slick are usually the ones where you get the least amount of food for the price.

I got really excited when I noticed a new place in downtown Kalamazoo.  It had all the right words associated with it.  BBQ.  Brisket.  Pork.  I was driving by every time I went downtown to see if it was open yet.

A few weeks ago, the time finally came.  Kelvin & Company opened it’s doors.  We weren’t the first ones in line because we were in Chicago that weekend.  The next weekend, we had family in town, so it took until almost the third weekend of the place being open before we finally stopped in for lunch.

Kelvin & Company is on the very busy Michigan Avenue just after the curve at Portage Street.  It takes over a space that was the Main Street Cafe for many years.

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Barraco’s Pizza (Crestwood)

April 12, 2017
  • 13445 S. Cicero Avenue
  • Crestwood, IL 60445
  • (708) 385-2002
  • Website
  • Menu

My parents weren’t really ready for the day to end after the White Sox game ended in Milwaukee.  We left Miller Park around 4:00 and started heading back towards Chicago.  My brother wanted to eat at Palermo’s 95th, but J called the restaurant on the way there and they said there was no way they could get 10 people in when we were planning on arriving.

We had decided we’d just skip pizza and head towards Portillo’s in Crestwood.  No one was super excited about that.  I mean, we all like Portillo’s, but it’s a place we eat at almost every time we go home to the Chicago area.  We were all pretty set on pizza.

I kept throwing out other pizza places to J but she really wanted to find a place that would take a reservation.  It was Saturday night at dinner time and that can be really hard to get a table for two in the Chicago area let alone one for ten.

At one point, I asked her about Vito & Nick’s.  We haven’t eaten there since 2009 and I thought my dad would really like it.  J was hesitant again, but throwing out Vito & Nick’s actually gave me another idea.

Barraco’s Pizza is a small chain of seven stores in the south suburbs of Chicago.  Why did I think of Barraco’s when we were talking about Vito and Nick’s?  Because the Nick in Vito & Nick’s is Nick Barraco.  I don’t know the exact link between the two restaurants, but there has been a lot of turmoil over pizza in the Barraco family over the years.  I know that Barraco’s Pizza serves a pizza similar in style to Vito & Nick’s and that’s what we were looking for.

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Miller Park

April 7, 2017
  • 1 Brewers Way
  • Milwaukee, WI 53214
  • (414) 902-4452
  • Website
  • Menus

Hamilton wasn’t the only tickets we had while we were in Chicago for J’s birthday.  A baseball game was part of the weekend festivities as well.

J’s birthday always falls around Opening Day of Major League Baseball.  She and I actually went to opening day at US Cellular Field (now Guaranteed Rate Field) a few years ago.  It was fine, but it was actually kind of a pain in the butt.  Us Southsiders aren’t used to large crowds in our stadium so showing up an hour before the game and not being able to find parking was frustrating.

Opening Day this year fell after we headed back to Michigan, but we were still able to squeeze in a little Major League Baseball by going to the last preseason game up in Milwaukee.

My brother noticed a couple of months ago that the White Sox were playing the Milwaukee Brewers the weekend prior to Opening Day.  We talked about going, forgot about it, eventually remembered, and when I checked for tickets, they were incredibly cheap, so we planned a huge family outing.

I bought 10 tickets that day.  Our family, my brother’s family, and my parents were all interested in going.  None of us had been to a game in Milwaukee and it was going to be B’s first MLB game, so we planned a big trip.

Miller Park has been home to the Milwaukee Brewers since 2001.  The team had played in Milwaukee County Stadium since the Brewers came in to the American League in 1970.  Miller Park was built right next door to the old stadium on the west side of Milwaukee.

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The PrivateBank Theatre

March 31, 2017
  • 18 W. Monroe Street
  • Chicago, IL 60603
  • (312) 977-1700
  • Website

Last fall, Book of Mormon came to Miller Auditorium as part of their PNC Broadway in West Michigan series.  It just so happened that it was in Kalamazoo on my birthday, so when J asked what I wanted, I jokingly said Book of Mormon tickets thinking she wouldn’t really be interested.  She was interested and we got tickets and I loved every minute of it.

As we were leaving the theater, I made a remark about wondering what would be there during her birthday.  She said it didn’t matter.  She wanted to see Hamilton: An American Musical.  I knew we weren’t going to go to New York to see the show, but Chicago has a sit-down production of the musical, so I started looking for tickets to that one.

Turns out, if you’re willing to go during the week, you can still get tickets a few months out.  J’s birthday was actually on a Friday this year which was sold out, but the Thursday night show had a number of tickets in the “cheap seats.”  She said she didn’t care where we sat as long as we got inside the theater.

That theater is The PrivateBank Theatre in downtown Chicago.  The 21-story building that houses the 100+ year old theatre and a Hampton Inn sits on Monroe Street between State and Dearborn Streets in the South Loop.
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