Browsing Tag

loop

11694417_10153472394507760_1268864273_n
CheapWeek,

CheapWeek: Fourth of July Shenanigans

6/29 – Noodles & Company for Lunch

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: SIGN UP FOR NOODLES & COMPANY’S EMAIL UPDATES. Follow this link for several other emails you should sign up for in order to score some free or half-priced meals. I bring it up because I had a BOGO entree coupon about to expire and used it for lunch today and tomorrow. $18 worth of quality food for $9? I’ll take it.

My boyfriend and I went to his parents’ place for dinner. They are some pretty fantastic chefs, and tonight was no exception. I’m dying to repeat their garlic roasted potatoes recipe. Also Brooke, my boyfriend’s brother’s fiance brought me an incredibly thoughtful housewarming gift bag. How cute are these towels??

11693086_10153472394492760_1182168943_n

6/30 – Social Media Day and Articles I Wrote for Choose Chicago and Social Media Beast

So I’ll start off by linking to two articles that I wrote and were published today:

Barcocina: A Refreshing Bar and Restaurant Experience in Lakeview

Earlier in June I went to Barcocina and had the opportunity to taste a lot of different parts of their menu. This article for Choose Chicago reviews my experience. Spoiler Alert: If you live in Lakeview, you definitely need to check it out.

The other article is about all the different elements that go into a social post. Yeah, yeah I know it’s not about CHICAGO, but it is about one of my other passions: digital marketing. Check it out here if you’re interested.

11694417_10153472394507760_1268864273_n

I reached out to the guy behind BackPackChicago, another awesome Chicago blog with a focus on finding unique destinations and educating tourists and locals alike about the beautiful city that is Chicago. We had a lovely lunch at Ramen-san – my first time there. We both chose the “express ramen lunch” (featured above). It included a half bowl of ramen, rice with a choice of meat, and a side salad. It was nice to connect with another blogger just getting started in a similar niche. Look forward to some collaborations between the two of us in the future!

Finally, I spent my evening chatting with friends new and old at Social Media Day at Rockit. There were a lot of great speakers lined up, including some I’ve had the opportunity to speak with/learn from before like Choose Chicago’s Nycole Hampton and #Foodiechat’s Steve Green and several other notables of the Chicago scene. One problem – it was all but impossible to hear them and focus on what they were saying. Apparently Social Media Day is hosted in the same venue every year. Maybe next year they’ll provide more seating and better acoustics… Regardless, I had a blast and would go again next year if only for the networking. The sliders with aioli tater tots weren’t too bad, either.

7/1 – Townhouse Round Two

Last week, my boyfriend and I went to Townhouse Wine Bar. He had bought two Gilt City deals that were about to expire, so we made our way back for round two this week! We tried new things – Nachos with a really delicious jalapeno cream cheese drizzled over it, the Townhouse Burger (you had me at pretzel bun and tomato chutney), and got more tacos – soy-braised pulled pork this time. The food was still amazing, and if I have another reason to go back – I will. They have a lot of great daily specials and the cocktails are divine. Again, we got $90 worth of food for $45!

7/2 – Vegetarian Restaurant Focus Group and Furious Spoon

So I’m not sure if I’m sworn to secrecy on this or not, but I’m not going to ruin my chances of a similar experience. I’m talking about a focus group I was invited to be a part of at a vegetarian chain in the Loop, with locations all around Chicago and in other states. If you can figure out what it is based on that, you win a prize. Anyways, I got to try some pretty incredible food, give my opinion on different perceptions based on the interior of the restaurant, the menu, etc, AND they gave me a $25 gift card to come back. Without giving away too much information – they had a blueberry LAVENDER lemonade and perfectly-creamy frosted carrot cupcake that I will be coming back for. Dreaming about my return visit.

Trying to find a link for you guys to sign up for focus groups like this… I will keep you posted!

Oh also… I entered Furious Spoon’s free-style rap battle contest to win free ramen for a year. Witness my humiliation:

7/3 – Door County for the Fourth of July

My company’s floating holiday was today, so I left early with my two best friends to go to my boyfriend’s family’s lake house in Door County, Wisconsin. If this sounds familiar, it’s because I was in Door County just two weeks ago for their Beer Festival. My boyfriend’s parents were gracious enough to have not only us, but their family and more friends of the family. It was a full house. We ended up sleeping in tents to give the adults (I still sit at the kid’s table) the best sleeping facilities. Although it wasn’t the most comfortable sleep of my life, it was an experience I haven’t had before.

7/4 – Second Amendment Rights

Our founding fathers fought for the bill of rights, or whatever, so we spent a good chunk of the Fourth of July shooting off guns at a local shooting range.

11733436_10153472394482760_1868984941_n

Upon returning to the cabin, I took a nap in a hammock.

And when I woke up, I had a dinner of cheese-filled wieners, cheeseburgers, beans and good Wisconsin beer.

11693086_10153472394487760_1148595934_n

God bless America.

7/5 – The Weekend is Over

After one last shopping run consisting of more cider, cheese curds, hot sauce, cherry jam, and artisanal olive oil (see below), we began the long drive home.

11721980_10153472391312760_16559628_n

On the way back, we stopped at Qdoba, and I’m starting to wonder why I’ve never given it a real chance. For $8, I got a badass quesadilla filled to the max. THEY HAVE AMAZING QUESO.

I fully intended on being productive that night (including writing this post), but I was exhausted from a weekend of fun and friends. Back to the real world!

Don’t just read about good deals – get them yourself! Find of-the-moment updates by liking Chicago Cheap Ass on Facebook.

chicago cheap ass (9)
Food,

Salads in the Loop – AND A GIVEAWAY

This article has been several weeks in the making. I contacted several restaurants and chains with locations in the Loop (and River North, hereafter referred to simply as “the Loop”), and all of them gave me an opportunity to try their products for free in exchange for an honest review of their salads and their establishments as a whole. After finalizing details, I went in and did my testing.

Finally, it’s time to give you an unbiased opinion on where you should be getting salads in the Loop.

Protein Bar

Salads in the Loop

Protein Bar is a favorite of many of my fit friends. With 11 Chicago locations (with exponential growth planned for the next few years), it’s not hard to find one close to work. I love that Protein Bar was the brain child of a man who wanted to do better by himself health-wise… you know you’re in good hands when that’s the genesis story of the restaurant you’re visiting.

Taste:What I like about Protein Bar is it’s “flavor profiles” that can be executed in many different forms. I’m talking about taking the same taste you’d find in an asian salad (what I got, pictured below), to a wrap, to a quinoa bowl. The salad composition is what sets Protein Bar apart from anything else on this list. Each bite contains a taste of every ingredient. It’s a perfectly chopped and blended salad. Make sure to ask for your dressing on the side – these salads are big enough for more than one meal depending on your appetite.

Salads in the Loop

Nutrition: Depending on what you’ve set your macros to (they don’t call it Protein Bar for nothing), there are multiple tasty ways to hit them. They have an extremely customizable nutrition calculator to support those goals. Salads will typically set you back around 500 calories.

Price: On the affordability scale, Protein Bar isn’t the cheapest place to get a salad in the Loop, but it’s certainly one of the highest quality salads you can get from a fast casual concept. If you’re planning on being a regular, you’d better download their loyalty app, which gives you $8 after every $88 spent (and a free smoothie on your birthday). They tend to send offers via email as well.

Freshii

Freshii is the type of chain that has cracked the code to creating an association between their brand and healthy living. I walked into the River North location pleasantly overtaken by a refreshing feeling. It’s hard to put into words, but I know you’ll feel the same when you check it out.

Salads in the Loop

Taste/Nutrition: There’s a soft spot in my heart for any salad that compliments a good cilantro-lime dressing. I got the Fiesta Salad and loved every bite. While Just Salad and Protein Bar have mastered the art of the chopped salad, Freshii has mastered the art of a fresh taste in every bite. I also tried their Kefir, which is kind of like frozen yogurt, but more nutritious. Finally, I sampled one of their green juices. It was an incredibly healthy lunch and I loved every bite! Their nutrition information isn’t quite as user-friendly as others on this list, but does exist online.

Affordability: Think along the same lines as Protein Bar.

Just Salad

Salads in the Loop

Courtesy of Just Salad team.

Just Salad is a recent Chicago addition, after finding success initially in New York. They opened with a bang, offering $1 salads and wraps on their first day. I scoped out the line and it was around the block. I decided to wait to try Just Salad in a more manageable setting.

Taste: As with many other salad providers on this list, you can opt to create your own salad creation, but should definitely give their mixes a try. These guys are salad artists. Like Protein Bar, they chop up the salad very well and you can taste all of the flavors in one bite. I got the buffalo chicken salad and several jealous stares from coworkers.

Salads in the Loop

Nutrition: Salads clock in at about 350 calories (including protein) and go up from there based on the dressing. I got a simple lemon dressing that only added 5 calories and still tasted amazing. The salads are well balanced in terms of protein to veggie ratio. Use their comprehensive and interactive nutrition calculator to drill down the specifics.

Affordability: Just Salad isn’t cheap, but they have a great special worth mentioning. Buy a reusable bowl for $1, and every time you bring it back, you get free two “Essential” toppings (veggies, fruit, grains, etc) or one free cheese topping. If you’re a regular, this will definitely add up! I think it’s an interesting take on a loyalty program that takes the environment into consideration. They also have an app to offer additional savings for loyal customers.

Cosi

Salads in the Loop

Taste: Of all the featured salads, the least amount of love went into my Cosi salad. As Cosi isn’t primarily about salads, I guess I can’t be too sour about it. And they were extremely busy even when I went in after the lunch rush. The adobo lime chicken salad didn’t have anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t as special as some of the others listed.

Nutrition: Salads ring in around 400 calories or more, but come with a side of bread. Probably not the best place to go for a healthy balanced meal. I want to go back and try one of their sandwiches or bowls and review them again. But for this scope of this article, I’ll let my review stand.

Affordability: Cosi offers a loyalty program that offers you a free meal after your 10th visit. Otherwise it’s similar pricing to any aforementioned salad restaurant on this list.

Farmer’s Fridge

I will admit to a slight bias when it comes to Farmer’s Fridge, but only because I used to work for them. That’s right, their earliest social media marketing came with help from yours truly. But as you can probably guess by now, I don’t promote any brands I can’t get behind. Farmer’s Fridge is an awesome and unique concept – it’s a salad vending machine. This is where I usually lose people. Yes. The salads are refrigerated. And replaced on a daily basis. The leftovers are donated to food pantries.

Salads in the Loop

From: Farmer’s Fridge Facebook

Taste: Farmer’s Fridge salads are arranged in layers to keep as fresh as possible throughout the day. Once you shake in the dressing and distribute the different parts, prepare yourself for a flavor blast. All the ingredients are fresh and organic, so you can enjoy your salad guilt-free (is a salad every guilty, though?). The Cheater has one of my favorite flavor profiles, but look out for their monthly special salads to keep it interesting!

Nutrition: Starting this week, each salad has updated nutritional labels! A good feature is that most salads separate dressing nutrition facts from the rest of the nutritional information, so you can weigh using theirs (you should, it’s delicious) versus your own if you’re on a super low-calorie diet. Plus, as previously mentioned, only high-quality ingredients go into each jar.

Affordability: A regular salad will cost $6-8, a protein add-on is another $2. After 6pm, all salads are $1 off, and Farmer’s Fridge tends to offer promotions over their social media channels and through their email newsletter. You can return the mason jar it comes in to the kiosk, or upcycle it. I use mine to hold jewelry, tea bags, trail mix, and granola bars.

The above represents just a sampling of the places to get salads in the Loop. I think the major takeaway is that you should try a few and pick your favorite to rack up some loyalty points. Or stay in touch with the brands that tend to offer special promotions over their own channels!

Finally, Farmer’s Fridge has generously offered a free salad as a giveaway! Enter below if you’re a Chicago resident (can’t get them anywhere else… for now), and I’ll announce the winner by June 15!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

11276029_10153345471897760_433863240_n
CheapWeek,

#CheapWeek – Remington’s, Blackhawks, and Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest

5/18 – #BikeLakeview and Zipcar

Today was a good day for freebies. After checking in to Kuma’s Corner using the hashtag “#BikeLakeview,” I won a $25 giftcard to any participating Lakeview Chamber of Commerce store. It pays to know what’s going on in the social world. If you’re on Twitter, you should check out the Chicago lists I made, keeping track of these promotions (or just follow me. I retweet great offers on a regular basis).

In other news, Zipcar will be giving away free passes to a popular Chicago music festival soon. I do work for them as a brand ambassador on the weekends, so I already scored two one-day passes for me and my boyfriend. 🙂

5/19 – Just Salad and Bull & Bear

I came to the office today with a bunch of packages waiting for me. I’ve been using the office as my shipping address because I’m about to move. Two of the packages were some pasta sauces I’ll be reviewing soon (complete with recipes!), as well as a half-priced Graze snack box. The final box was a perk claimed from Klout. If you haven’t heard of Klout before, it’s a platform that aggregates the sum of your influence on all the social channels you’re active on. Every once in awhile, you’re eligible to receive cool “perks” offered by different companies. In the past, I’ve gotten dog treats, fast food gift cards, and more based on the topics I’m an “expert” in. This time it was a free Clinique moisturizing lotion – worth $30!

#CheapWeek - Remington's, Blackhawks, and Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest

For lunch, I went to Just Salad, in order to finish my research for the upcoming post about best Salads in the Loop. I got an awesome Buffalo Chicken salad and reusable salad bowl… I’ll explain why you should also get this bowl in the upcoming post 🙂

After work, I hung out with a couple of my old Groupon coworkers. Our original plan was to go to Rockit Bar & Grill, but as part of their re-branding, they neglected to create a daily menu of specials. LAME. So instead we hit up an old favorite, Bull & Bear, where we got half-priced appetizers (bacon cheese fries) and half-priced bottles of wine. We ended the night at Highline, where it was surprisingly easy to get a spacious booth in front of a TV to watch the Blackhawks game.

5/20 – Remington’s and Chicago Craft Beer Week

Today was easily the best day of the week.

It started with getting a free book in the mail after participating in an AMA webinar the previous week. I love business books, so this was a really nice surprise.

#CheapWeek - Remington's, Blackhawks, and Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest

Then I headed over to Remington’s with a friend for the best lunch I’ve ever had (especially on a work day). We sampled cocktails, appetizers, soup and two different sandwiches in the name of an upcoming Choose Chicago blog post. I’ll save the details for the upcoming review, but know that it was amazing and you need to try it out for yourself.

#CheapWeek - Remington's, Blackhawks, and Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest

As my boyfriend is a homebrewer, we couldn’t get through this week without planning on going to a Chicago Craft Beer Week event. I gave him a list to choose from, and he decided on a Medieval Craft Beer dinner at Cobra Lounge. All Rise Brewing operates out of Cobra Lounge, so for $35, we had unlimited beer and a dinner of spit-roasted pig, turkey, roasted veggies, salad, cheese, fruit, and cake. They even gave us to-go boxes at the end so we could enjoy it again the next day! What a deal. I’m told they’re thinking of doing this more often, so you should follow them on their social channels if that’s something of interest to you!

5/21

Everyone needs a day devoid of craziness – this was mine 🙂

5/22 – Pitch Perfect

Today I finally saw Pitch Perfect. The only thing I want to mention here that hasn’t already been said elsewhere on this blog is that if you can get out of the city to see a movie – do it. The further you are away from the city center, the cheaper tickets will be. Instead of paying $12 per person to see Pitch Perfect, it was $12 for two tickets in Forest Park. Probably stating the obvious, but definitely worth mentioning.

5/23 – BLACKHAWKS JERSEY

#CheapWeek - Remington's, Blackhawks, and Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest

It was one of my boyfriend’s cousin’s birthday today and again I found myself out in Forest Park. Yes, I know this is CHICAGO Cheap Ass, but Forest Park is accessible via CTA Blue Line. Anyways, we went to O’Sullivan’s Public House and drank while watching the Blackhawks game. They were giving away raffle tickets for an authentic Crawford jersey after the game, and I WON IT. I don’t often win things, so that was pretty awesome.

5/24 – Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival

#CheapWeek - Remington's, Blackhawks, and Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest

Source: TransitTees.com

I ended off the week by inviting my sister to spend the day with me. She and my parents live in the burbs, so I love showing them around downtown when they have the chance to come up. We started the day with shopping, then dinner. We checked out Buena Vista in Lakeview, which is BYOB. BYOB restaurants are the greatest thing, and there are so many in Chicago. I’ll write a post about my picks, soon. After dinner, we checked out the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival. They had cover bands, snacks, and some good shopping. It was a suggested donation of $5, which is pretty typical of neighborhood festivals. We picked up some delicious donuts and some awesome tank tops from Transit Tees. I spent a good chunk of change today, but a lot of it went towards treating my sister who’s birthday is coming up… money well spent!

Don’t just read about good deals – get them yourself! Find of-the-moment updates by liking Chicago Cheap Ass on Facebook.

11251608_10153306451572760_595347837_n
CheapWeek,

#CheapWeek: 5/4 – 5/10

5/4 – BMA and Maggiano’s

This week was a busy one for me, especially as far as professional development goes. On Monday, I attended the Business Marketing Association (BMA)’s event “An Afternoon with the Stars” at 1871. I love 1871, because it’s such a cool community of entrepreneurs and startups. Just being there makes me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. We have a partnership where we handle BMA’s social media channels and in return, get to attend the events for free. There are a lot of really cool events and speakers, and the lunch events are usually at Maggiano’s, which is an added bonus. I think a lesson can be learned from BMA and Social Media Beast’s partnership – bartering isn’t dead. If you have a skill that would help a business you’re obsessed with, you might be able to make a trade.

Anyways – speaking of Maggiano’s… My boyfriend had a gift card to go, so we went after the networking event. I don’t know if I’m late to the game on this or what, but Marco’s Meal for Two is an incredible value. You share an appetizer, get two entrees to eat in the restaurant, two to take home, and a dessert. That’s four complete meals (two per person) for $40 total ($20 per person). It’s some heavy stuff, so I don’t recommend it on a regular basis, but it was a nice treat. Our waiter was awesome, so extra points for that.

5/5 – Einstein Bros Bagels and Argo Tea

coup

I got a coupon for BOGO breakfast sandwiches from Einstein and decided to use it this morning. If you haven’t already, sign up for their email newsletter. That’s $6 for two ridiculously good breakfast sandwiches that I spaced out over two days.

Argo Tea sent me $5 to spend for Cinco de Mayo, which I used on my favorite beverage – the White Tea Acai Squeeze. They send out $2-5 in savings every other week or so, so you should probably join their loyalty program if you’re as obsessed with Argo Tea as I am.

I went to another networking event at Cole Haan, but ate dinner at my boyfriend’s place. We’re starting a tradition of making our Cinco de Mayo fare at home, because it’s not worth battling the crowds at the bars and Mexican restaurants. Besides, tacos made at home last for days.

5/6 – Protein Bar and Hot Pursuit

Protein Bar

Today I started my salad tasting rounds for an upcoming article about the best bang for your buck regarding salads in the Loop. I went to Protein Bar and met brand evangelist Teddy who let me try an asian salad and wrap. More on that to come!

Hot Pursuit

Later that night, I went to a pre-screening with an old friend from high school. We saw Hot Pursuit, and you totally could too if you read this article about how to see movies on the cheap.

5/7 – Freshii, Naansense, and the Digital Professional Institute

Freshii

Today was day two of salad tasting, and I went to Freshii to see how it compares to Protein Bar. I met the General Manager, Nick, who walked me through a couple different menu items and let me taste their kefir froyo, a delicious chicken salad, and a green smoothie. Check out my full write-up in the next week or two!

Naansense

I knew I’d be in the Loop until at least 8pm, so I grabbed dinner at Naansense. Have you heard of the Freebie app? It’s currently based in Chicago and you can try new businesses for free based on your social influence. So I got a free Chicken Naanwich and it was divine.

11251608_10153306451572760_595347837_n

Right after, I hoofed it over to the Digital Professional Institute for a free SEO strategy session with Leslie Herskowitz of Performics. Using case studies from big e-tailers she’s worked with, we learned more about getting found via search. This is becoming more and more important to me as I build up ChicagoCheapAss.com! Follow the Digital Professional Institute for more free and paid events. I just signed up for a few more.

5/8 – RPM Italian and Kelsey’s Bar

Today was an exciting day. My boyfriend’s brother proposed to his girlfriend. They make an awesome couple and it was really a matter of time until everything was official. My boyfriend and I tagged along for the festivities and celebrated with the happy couple at RPM Italian. I’m so spoiled having gotten to check out both RPM Italian and RPM Steak in the same month… Anyways, while neither of those places is “cheap” by nature, they comped $40 from the bill under a “Birthday” stipulation to make the engagement dinner a little more special. I’d say one of those two occasions would be a good time to check out either of the RPM’s… just make sure to tell your waiter what you’re celebrating!

Einstein Bros Bagels

After RPM, we went to Kelsey’s in Lincoln Park. Word on the street is that if you sweet talk Brooke she may throw you some free shots… just make sure to tip well!

5/9 – Fishing in Mchenry, IL

11263718_10153306451597760_517720787_n

The rest of my weekend was spent with family and friends. Today I joined my boyfriend with his good friends at one of their lakehouses. I caught a catfish. It was pretty baller.

5/10 – Mother’s Day!

Today was spent in the suburbs with my family celebrating Mother’s Day. I got my mom a pretty nice gift, but then she turns around and brings me a present, too. What an amazing lady. It’s a belt with a beer opener buckle she found while thrifting. One of these days I’ll write a post (with the help of my mother) about how to thrift, where to go, etc. She’s the one who taught me how to never pay full price for anything. She’s my inspiration.

chicago cheap ass (3)
Food, Recipes,

Work Salads – An affordably healthy lunch

This post isn’t specific to Chicago, but when I started this blog, I told people I wanted to incorporate tips for money saving in general. This one also happens to revolve around health.

About 2 months ago, a coworker and I decided to try an experiment. We’re both fairly health-conscious and recognized a need to offset holiday over-indulgences. Seemingly simultaneously, we decided to each buy and prepare a set rotation of salad ingredients. Here’s what we decided upon and split up:

Produce

  • Peppers
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Onion or Scallions
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Carrots (shredded)
  • Avocado

Protein

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Cheese (we choose feta, although occasionally I use mozzarella)
  • Almonds

Extras

  • Craisins
  • Salad Dressing

Obviously, what you pick is based on taste preferences. My coworker and I luckily like the same things on our salads. Sometimes we rotate items week over week to keep it interesting.

Other solid ingredient suggestions:

  • Beans (Black, Garbanzo, Lentils)
  • Kale or Brussel Sprouts for additional green superfood powers
  • Quinoa to add some carbohydrates
  • Different types of cheese to rotate flavors
  • Different types of nuts (though use sparingly as they pack a lot of calories)

The produce and meat we buy have to be replaced/refilled on a weekly basis. The rest of our supplies last two weeks to one month.

If you work in the Loop, you can easily spend $10 a day on lunch. On average, I probably spend about $10 each week or less replacing what’s been used. Since produce goes bad quickly, you should try to partner up with a coworker who likes salads and can be content eating them everyday. That’s the hard part. But once you get started, you’ll save money and lose pounds.

What other ingredients do you use to keep your salads interesting? Let me know in the comments.