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Events, Food, Life, Transportation,

Chicago Ideas Week: Exploring Chicago on the Cheap

It’s no secret that I love participating in Twitter Chats.

Yesterday, I was asked to cohost Chicago Idea’s Week Twitter Chat: #Ideaschat (Tuesdays at 11am CST). In a nod to this blog, the topic was “Exploring Chicago… on the Cheap.”

In addition to just documenting this momentous occasion (my first time hosting a Twitter Chat!), I’d like to share some of my favorite responses for each of the questions, which all revolved around topics my blog holds dear!

Question 1:  What is your best tip for living in Chicago on a Budget?

Question 2: Festival season is approaching! What’s your best tip for attending on a budget? What festival will we see you at this year?

Question 3: What’s your tip for getting from one place to another in Chicago (on a budget, of course!)?

Question 4: Where do you go when you want the most bang for your buck for a meal?

Question 5: What’s your favorite free Chicago activity?

Thanks for everyone who participated and made this chat useful and informative! I know I learned something new about the city I call my home.

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Dating, Life,

Top Ten: Cheap Chicago Tinder Dates

Many of my friends have been in situations where they’re planning a first Tinder date but are unsure of what to do. Keeping in mind that they might end up not even liking the person, it’s important to find cost-effective solutions to get to know someone.

Cheap Chicago Tinder Dates

  1. Go to the beach.

    Cheap Chicago Tinder Date - Beach


    While going to the beach is limited to the (few) summer months in Chicago, this is actually a nice, low-key way to get to know someone new. You can BYOB (at your own risk!) instead of paying an expensive bar tab. You may also get to see what your date looks like in a swimsuit. Win-win all around. For those who like to multi-task, the beach is a great opportunity to soak in the sun and play a game of beach volleyball, so that even if your date sucks, you can cross gym and tan off your list for the day (the only thing left to do is laundry!).

  2. Go on a picnic.

    Cheap Chicago Tinder Date - beach


    Ok, it might sound lame to you, but there are so many beautiful parks in Chicago. There’s the Chicago Botanical Garden, Millenium Park, and more. You can even visit the Lincoln Park Zoo to make it look like you really planned things out. If you’re a foodie, make some delicious sandwiches to really impress your date. Have them bring the booze. Sharing is caring (and cost-effective).

  3. Go on a bike ride.
    Cheap Chicago Tinder Date - Bike


    Most Chicagoans already have a bike, but Divvy day passes are only $7 and are a good excuse to explore Chicago while getting a cardio workout. I highly recommend riding the lakefront path for a picturesque view of Lake Michigan. You can even tie in the picnic or beach idea if things are going well and you want to extend the date.

  4. Improv shows.

    Cheap Chicago Tinder Date - Improv


    There certainly is no shortage of improv shows in Chicago. They make for a great first date because they help break the ice. Tickets range from free to $20 per person, but everyone has an improv friend looking for audience members (just ask!). I suggest getting your buzz on before going in (ideas for happy hour coming up!), and buying something to sip on once you get to the theater. Here are a couple solid options for improv shows:
    Second City
    iO Theater

  5. Go to the Movies.
    No, I’m not talking about the typical expensive movie theater route. See a post I wrote awhile back about cheap movie-seeing alternatives.
  6. Check out a concert.

    Cheap Chicago Tinder Date: Concerts


    Depending on how discerning your tastes, Chicago has plenty of shows in the $10-20 range any night of the week. Another option worth looking into is Jukely, which offers “unlimited” concerts for $25/month. To guarantee a plus-one, you can pay $45/month for “unlimited” concerts for two. Jukely represents a lot of Chicago music venues, so there’s bound to be something you (and your date) will enjoy. Plus you’ll seem like a badass for having concert ticket hookups.

  7. Go out to eat (or drink).

    Cheap Chicago Tinder Date: Eat


    Let’s talk about a unique approach to the standard first date plan. Before planning a date, check out SmallTabs, which has aggregated happy hour specials from almost 500 bars in Chicago. You can organize your options by day of the week and Chicago neighborhood.

    Also worth mentioning are some cool bars that will give you an extra bang for your buck. Check out Guthrie’s to test your date’s hand at various board games. Headquarters, which has two locations (River North and Lakeview), pairs free arcade games with craft beers and specialty cocktails.

    Another option for saving a few bucks your meal is to sign up for Spring Rewards. Spring Rewards allows you to be a Cheap Ass on the sly.

  8. Batting Cages, Mini-Golf, etc.
    If the idea of getting your date hot and sweaty gets you going, consider doing something active. Sluggers tends to run Groupon deals all the time for their batting cages. And, although I haven’t personally been there, Diversey Range seems to have decent pricing for mini-golf ($10 per person).
  9. Art Gallery Openings.
    Cheap Chicago Tinder Date: Gallery


    A rather unique approach to a first date is attending an art gallery opening. This is a good way to open up and get into your date’s head. It also makes you seem cultured. Plus, there’s usually free wine.

  10. MuseumsArt galleries and museums? You must be a really classy date. Several of Chicago’s finest museums have free days once a week/month/etc. Check out Choose Chicago’s list that breaks down where and when to go.

So the next time you go on a first Tinder date, stand out from the crowd and do something interesting. Or at least save some money before you decide if your date is worth it.

What cheap Chicago Tinder dates have you gone on that you would recommend?

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Chicago Chef Week: Save or Splurge?

You can’t be a true Chicagoan without knowing the majesty of Chicago Restaurant Week. It’s a week full of excuses to eat at some of Chicago’s finest dining establishments with multiple-course prix-fixe menus that will set you back $22 for lunch, and $33 or $44 for dinner.

First off… what the heck is Chicago Chef Week?

I asked their social media team.

I had actually not heard of it prior to a one-off email from Opentable. But it seems to take a very similar approach, though is run by a different organization, than Chicago Restaurant Week. There are not quite as many restaurant participants, but that’s part of the strategy. They proactively reach out to chef-driven restaurants and allow submissions as well. Pricing is just slightly different – $22 for lunch at select restaurants, $44 for a four course dinner at all participating restaurants. There tends to be one choice with the prix-fixe menus – not as many substitutions or choices within the courses (as in Chicago Restaurant Week). For 2015, Chicago Chef Week runs April 19-24.

Some deals are more worth it than others. So what should you do – Save or Splurge? A general rule of thumb is that if you can find the items on their Chicago Chef Week menu on their regular menu, it’s a great deal. I’m not even going to try to persuade or dissuade you from any of the 70+ participating restaurants, but I will give you a game plan. The common theme among my picks is this – you should check out all of these restaurants, but plan it around other current events and specials, not just Chicago Chef Week.

Best bets for Chicago Chef Week

Piccolo Sogno Due lunch - Chicago Chef Week

Lunch at Piccolo Sogno Due

I’ll definitely be checking out Piccolo Sogno Due for lunch. Three courses for $22 and just a few blocks from the office? Sold. They had a special Chicago Restaurant Week menu as well so this kind of thing is right up their alley. Plus, they offer a lot of different choices so I know my dining mate and I will both get what we want without compromise.

I also want to go to RPM steak for dinner, since they would usually be way outside of my price range. They both offer wine pairings with dinner so you can get an idea of how much the dinner will set you back. RPM Steak’s menu would set you back $47 without the garlic bread if you ordered the least expensive items. I initially wanted to go to RPM Italian, but don’t see a lot of crossover between the items on their Chicago Chef Week menu and their normal menu. If I’m going to RPM Italian, I want to have the best possible experience, so I’ll wait on this one.

From Japonais' Marketing Team

From Japonais’ Marketing Team

I used to work at Groupon, and Japonais was on the first floor of the building. It’s usually on the pricier side. If you’re a sushi lover, here’s your chance to experience a four course dinner by Iron Chef Marimoto for just $44. Without dessert and ordering the lowest-priced options on this prix-fixe would set you back $45.

Blackbird Chicago Chef Week

Used with permission from Blackbird’s marketing team

Blackbird is only offering lunch, but it’s the same as their regular prix-fixe menu which is usually $25… a $3 savings. No BS here, it’s worth a spend.

From: ttps:// The $22 dinner special

The $22 dinner special

Ceres Table is an Italian restaurant in Lakeview that I waited to check out until my parents owed me a birthday dinner so I could try out their full menu without reservation. They have a $22 3 course dinner deal running most days. There’s also a $40 prix-fixe menu special that’s on going in honor of their Bib Gourmand. Without seeing their exact menu, I’d say your Chicago Chef Week time is better spent checking out a place that rarely has any specials.

A10 Chicago Chef Week

Used with permission from A10’s marketing team

A10 is another Bib Gourmand restaurant that’s privy to running deals. In fact, they currently have a Groupon deal live for $69 for two people, drinks included. Save your Chicago Chef Week experience for another restaurant and enjoy this one with the Groupon.

Bread & Wine seems like a good bet for dinner, but a better deal is their current Gilt City promotion – dinner for 2 for $55. Word on the street is that Gilt City is offering 25% off right now with code APRIL25.

I just went to an event at Mariano’s featuring chef John Coletta of Quartino. This dude can make cauliflower exciting – you won’t believe what he can do to pasta. Quartino specializes in Italian tapa-sized plates meant to be shared. So one of the best chef week specials may be their dinner menu, which gives you options off of the regular menu and is meant to be shared. That’s right – $44 for two people. You can buy $44 worth of wine to make up for it if you’d like.

I can’t end this article without mentioning Publican Quality Meats, because Chicago is obsessed with it. I just watched The Layover (an Anthony Bourdain production), which drew special attention to Publican in it’s Chicago episode. Price wise – this place is affordable on a regular day depending on what you’re buying. If their menu includes a charcuterie board, an entree, and dessert… it’s probably worth it for the full experience.

Not all of the menus are live yet, so I’ll update this post with more information as I receive it, if it’s especially pertinent.

Are you starting to get excited about Chicago Chef Week? Reserve a table on Opentable. You can also get more information and up-to-date menus on Chicago Chef Week’s website.

Which restaurants will you be checking out during Chicago Chef Week?