The magic of the foodie weekend: a recap of fun places & events across Chicagoland

Cake pops served at the recent official launch of Offshore at the Navy Pier

What are you doing this weekend? There’s so much to do, see and eat in Chicago, that choosing can be really difficult. Don’t worry: I understand – as a matter of fact, I’m in the same boat! How can I say “yes” to some experiences, and “no” to others? I want them, and I want them all, lol

And yet, I have to pick – and with that being the case, my first pick is Taste of Chicago. With over 80 restaurants and food trucks on the list and a packed schedule to boot, this festival promises great culinary discoveries and a fun time all-around. I hope we’ll get the chance to go on Saturday, and catch a glimpse of Chef Arun Sampanthavivat at the Lifeway Foods Taste Kitchen. I recently attended a media event at Arun’s Thai restaurant and was blown away by the flavors, presentation, and incredible attention to detail. Stay tuned for the full review! 😉

If you’re looking for a more family-oriented and less crowded experience, I recommend you check out The Patio at Café Brauer, at Lincoln Park Zoo (LPZ).

Located just south of the Zoo’s main grounds and overlooking the pond within Nature Boardwalk at LPZ, the Patio at Café Brauer benefits from its superb location to deliver peace and quiet in the midst of Chicago’s hustle and bustle.

The Café is accessible by car or bus. I suggest you park at a distance and then walk to the Café for a truly immersive experience of the restored prairie ecosystem.

From colorful vegetation to fish and birds of various kinds, getting lost in nature in an otherwise busy city has never looked more exciting!

Once you get past the Café’s entrance and onto the patio…

…you have plenty of time to relax and to indulge in a good-size assortment of food and beverages. An outdoor beer garden and a satellite bar were recently added to the patio, offering drinks that can be enjoyed while overlooking the lagoon nearby. I was recently invited to get a taste of the dishes featured on the newly revamped summer menu, from vegetable samosas…

…to housemade guacamole and salsa…

…to Mediterranean hummus with pita and fresh veggies…

… and ending with a thirst-quenching, fresh fruit-filled array of daiquiris for good measure:

We were also invited to a private tour of the Zoo, which has free admission throughout the year…

… and got the chance to meet the Ape House’s latest addition, a baby ape whose mom was definitely basking in the attention 🙂

It was also worth checking out the other inhabitants of the Ape House, such as long-term resident Umande, which seemed very eager to engage with its human guests. Such a unique experience!

If taking pics of Chicago’s world-famous skyline is your thing, then checking out the Observation Deck at 360 Chicago (John Hancock Building) is a must. The Observation Deck offers stunning views of the city from above, and is also home of TILT, a moving platform that literally tilts you out over Michigan Avenue from the 94th Floor!

I recently familiarized myself with the summer schedule at the Observation Deck, which highlights a variety of Chicago-based individuals and companies, ranging from food to entertainment. The name of the program is 360 Chi Series, and its purpose is “to provide Chicago residents with engaging daily activities to highlight the city at its best.” One example is 360 Hoppy Hour, which takes place on Thursdays and showcases local beverage companies such as Revolution Brewing and KOVAL Distillery. 

Sipping on local drinks as the lights go down in the city – what can be better?

The Observation Deck does offer some views to behold. What do you think about the one below? Breathtaking, imo 🙂

If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat and something to drink while out and about in downtown, then I encourage you to visit Jake Melnick’s (if you haven’t already!). A solid destination for foodies and non-foodies alike, Jake Melnick’s is famous for its sassy chicken wings, exciting murals and reliable cocktails. My friend Marina and I had a fabulous time on their patio recently, celebrating the arrival of summer.

Let the patio party begin!

My friend loved the locally brewed Off Color Myshka stout she tried at Jake Melnick’s…

…and both of us thought the food was delicious and perfectly paired with the drinks on the menu. The BBQ pulled pork sliders had us come back for seconds (and thirds!), while the vegetarian black bean quesadillas showcased a perfect mix of light yet satisfying flavors. Exquisite patio fare – the kind of food that instantly makes you happy 🙂

A special mention should be made about Jake Melnick’s cocktails, which confirmed the reviews I’d read, and were delicious and inventive:

I cannot finish this post without writing about Offshore, one of the most fashionable new spots in Chicago, and world’s largest rooftop bar! Located atop Navy Pier’s Festival Hal, Offshore is a 36,000 sq. ft. venue with a full-service bar and kitchen, terraces, an entertainment and gaming area, seven fire pits, and multiple large social gathering spaces.

Offshore offers panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline…

… and its food and drink menus are classy, refined and yet accessible, being a perfect match to the serene ambiance.

Culinary direction is led by Executive Chef Michael Shrader, who gained accolades working for The N9NE Group, Urban Union Chicago and Monnie Burke’s. At Offshore, Chef Shrader focuses on seasonal, modern American cuisine with global influences served as small, shareable plates.

Maine lobster deviled eggs with tobiko, scallion, and Thai hot sauce

Meanwhile, Clay Livingston, formerly Partner and General Manager of Red Herring Lounge and Kitchen in Louisville, developed and curated Offshore’s beverage program, which features wine, champagne, local craft beer options, and playful house made craft cocktails.

Endless Summer cocktail made with rum, gin, strawberry and lime

I got a taste of Offshore’s food and drinks at its recent official launch, and I can tell you you’ll be in for a treat if you stop by this summer. From the delightfully crunchy chicken taquitos with lime sour cream, avocado and a charred tomato salsa …

…the spicy tuna roll with clean flavors and appearance and a delicious hint of wasabi…

…and the crimson oyster shooters that delighted and tantalized my tastebuds…

…to the fried Amish chicken sandwiches brimming with housemade slaw and a feisty, hidden burst of hot sauce…

… and ending with the prime burger served with bacon, aioli and a thick layer of white cheddar…

…all of the dishes fulfilled my expectations and showcased ambition, attention to detail, and a profound and humbling mastery of flavors. After such a feast, my friend Marina and I still managed to save room for dessert. She said the macarons were some of the best she’s ever had!

So beautiful!

Meanwhile, I developed a weakness for Offshore’s cake pops. I couldn’t find these on their dessert menu, but I certainly hope they are – or will be introduced soon.

After such a scrumptious dinner and much energy spent taking pictures, I could finally relax, cocktail on hand, and admire the stunning views and the sunset:

For an added experience, I recommend you check out Offshore on Wednesdays (at 9:30pm) or Saturdays (at 10:30pm) to get a glimpse of Navy Pier’s spectacular fireworks from the perfect vantage point.

Whether you visit Lincoln Park Zoo or Jake Melnick’s, Taste of Chicago or Offshore, you’re bound to find something exciting to do in our beautiful city this weekend. I hope you’ll take advantage of the warm weather and get out for lunch or dinner, for fireworks or zoo time. Good food, good vibes: summer is finally here, oh yes! 🙂

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