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I’m somewhat of an anomaly in our extremely caffeinated world. I HATE coffee. I don’t know what it is about the brew – I’m just not a fan. As such, I’ve adapted to 9-5 job life by pledging my allegiance to another popular caffeinated beverage: tea. Tea has a lot of awesome health benefits, but really as far as I’m concerned, it just tastes better. Check out my picks for purchasing and enjoying tea in Chicago and beyond!
Argo Tea has to be my favorite tea spot in Chicago. They have so many delicious signature drinks that can be served hot or cold, and they rotate new ones in and out on a monthly basis. Past that, there are so many different customization options – they really have something for everyone. Loose-leaf tea canisters tend to cost about $10-12, which is a great value for the everyday tea drinker. When I buy a container of loose leaf tea, it lasts FOREVER. I have 3 or 4 that I use all the time, I got them a year ago, and I’m not more than halfway through any of them. They also have a solid LoyalTEA (see what they did there?) loyalty program that rewards the frequent hand-crafted tea drinker. Besides Argo Tea, the remaining tea spots on this list don’t necessarily advertise the fact that you can get a drink to go (as opposed to purchasing loose-leaf tea to brew yourself), but Argo Tea specializes in these beverages. I love their flavored green and white teas. If I had to pick just one to recommend, I’d suggest the Green Tea Strawberry. It mixes great with lemonade after being cooled down with ice!
Adagio is where I first fell in love with loose-leaf tea. I got a Groupon (still available through the link) for a tea tasting and (which included a ceramic teapot!) when a tea-loving friend was in town to visit. I decided to taste a few types of tea I hadn’t really given a chance to before – oolong and white tea. Their Ali Shan Tea is a premium oolong tea that I love. Did you know that oolong tea improves digestion? You’ll learn this and many other fun facts about tea if you go through the tasting experience! Personally, I’m pretty obsessed with green tea because of it’s metabolic benefits and how it tastes. But once I gave these two new varieties a chance, I keep replacing them whenever they run out. I would consider Adagio to be slightly more premium than Argo Tea, with a wider selection. They have a ridiculous amount of tea-related accessories – tea brewing apparatuses, travel mugs, etc. This store is the tea-aficionado’s dream.
DavidsTea is an interesting tea store. It has elements of Argo Tea and Adagio Teas, in that you can get a to-go drink and they have plenty of tea accessories. But there is something that also makes it completely different. DavidsTea offers a lot of unique tea blends that change the flavor you’d expect to get from the respective tea bases (green, white, oolong, etc). For some of my tea-loving friends, this is unacceptable. They don’t like DavidsTea because the tea has weird additives that make it into more of a novelty than a detoxifying beverage. DavidsTea is probably a good place to go if you don’t have many preconceived notions about how tea should taste, or aren’t a purist. My favorite tea is the Countess of Seville, which is a green tea that draws similarities to a black tea.
On the purely local business side of things in Chicago is the Coffee & Tea Exchange in Lakeview. This place is awesome. There are so many different tea (and coffee, obviously) varieties, and the presentation includes colorful and crafty hand-drawn signs (see picture). You can ask for as much or as little tea as you want, and it’s priced and packaged accordingly. The Coffee & Tea Exchange is a great place to go if you like to try a lot of different varieties and don’t want to be stuck with the same flavor for a long time. Or if you don’t want to shell out a lot of money at once for a large amount of tea that might go bad. I like their gunpowder green tea and super-affordable matcha tea.
Obviously great tea options aren’t limited to the geographic area of Chicago. In fact, all of the aforementioned companies ship across the United States if there’s not a physical location near you (Hi, non-Chicago readers!). But another option that requires even less effort is to purchase a subscription to a service that curates different teas each month. Teabox is one such service.
The packaging itself is reason enough to order a subscription. It’s functional and informative. It used to be (when I got this box) that you pay $15 each month (including shipping!), you get a specially-curated selection of fresh teas. The box I got focused on minimal-caffeine teas to wind down with at night.
What I love about each individual tea is the attention to detail. Check out the label that tells you what exactly the tea is, what it smells like, tastes like, what you should add to it (if anything!) and some very specific steeping instructions. I don’t think any of the aforementioned companies can make the same claims about attention to detail in the tea tasting experience. Teabox comes highly recommended by me as a company that truly understands tea.
Teabox has changed their strategy slightly as of late. Now, their process is more personalized where you take a quiz to determine the type of tea that best suits your taste and lifestyle – the first company in the tea industry to go this route. Another awesome feature – it’s only $9.99 each month!
Argo Tea and Adagio Tea both donated products to be given away to you lucky readers! Enter below:
Where’s your favorite place to enjoy tea in Chicago? Or buy some to enjoy at work? Let us know in the comments!
*Disclosure: Argo Tea, Adagio, and Teabox each donated products and giftcards when I reached out to them about writing this article.
If there was one theme to summarize this week for me, it would be: delicious food. This week was about an equal split between having awesome food out at restaurants, and spending time in my own kitchen, executing delicious recipes.
7/6 – #Foodiechats and #BetterBurgerProject at Frontier
I’ve been lucky to become an active part of the #Foodiechats community. About a month ago, I took a trip to Aurora’s Two Brothers Roundhouse for a live event. This week, I was invited to an event at Frontier, sponsored by the Better Burger Project, which is a contest offered through the James Beard Foundation. Look for a dedicated #Foodiechats post soon. I had an awesome time and met some amazing Chicago foodies! Can’t wait until the next event 🙂
7/7 – Farmer’s Fridge on Spring Rewards and Roasted Tomato & Garlic Soup
I bought a credit on Spring Rewards for Farmer’s Fridge that was $2 for $5 and bought myself a Buffalo Chicken Salad for lunch ($8 total). As you guys have probably already figured out, I love Farmer’s Fridge, and even featured them on a post about Best Salads in the Loop.
For dinner, I made one of my favorite soups, Roasted tomato and garlic (with garbanzo beans). Look for a how-to coming soon on the blog!
7/8 – RPM Steak on Uber Eats and Weezer at the Taste of Chicago
One of my favorite restaurant groups, Lettuce Entertain You was featured on Uber Eats this week. They have so many awesome restaurants, including my favorite Chicago restaurant – Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. I ordered the Mediterranean Salad from RPM Steak using a free promo code (that you could’ve gotten if you were following me on Twitter!). Even if you didn’t take advantage of the savings this week, you should sign up for LEYE’s scratch off booklet.
After work, I headed over to Grant Park for the Taste of Chicago. I can already see a bunch of you rolling your eyes, but hear me out. Don’t go for the food. It’s over-priced and the portions are way too small. The most unique item there was rattlesnake sausage, but I wouldn’t want to eat that anyways (though my boyfriend did). Purchase natural sausage casings to store them properly. But the Taste of Chicago tends to attract big music acts, and you get to see them FOR FREE (unless you’re one of those person who HAS to be up close and personal and wants to shell out $25 for that privilege). So we snacked on some over-priced food, but got to see a big-name act, Weezer, for free. I had some bad-ass “Papas Bravas” from the Bruges Brothers food truck, which were reminiscent of spanish patatas bravas, but also had chorizo slathered all over them.
And look at these cute wine cans I found!
7/9 – Client Breakfast
Today was an interesting day at work. A couple members of the Social Media Beast team made their way to Burr Ridge. I used my Zipcar connection to secure our transportation, and had an awesome omelette once I got there. That was probably the highlight of my day… I took it easy that night. Everyone needs a break every once in awhile!
7/10 – Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, Chicken Enchiladas and 1000 Followers on Twitter!
Today was a big cooking day for me. I made some delicious Lemon Chicken Orzo soup after defrosting about three pounds worth of chicken. Here’s the recipe I used, if you’re curious. I love this kind of soup and made enough for a couple meals. Big batches are the key to taking care of a lot of meals with a proportionately low level of effort.
Because I had so much chicken, I made chicken enchiladas for dinner. I modified this recipe, which was pretty easy to follow, but be careful with the oven instructions. I was past-due for some homemade enchiladas, and made some cilantro-lime rice to go with it. I’m so happy to have moved to a place with a functional kitchen! It makes creating all this delicious food so much more enjoyable than in my old studio.
Finally, a personal goal was accomplished today when I hit the 1,000 follower mark on Twitter. Follow me if you’re interested in digital marketing news and (obviously) Chicago events and deals.
7/11 – Tour de Fat and Cafe Gaudi
I forced myself out of bed bright and early for New Belgium Brewing’s Tour de Fat. My boyfriend somehow managed to break his bike (#spokeproblems), so we both decided to rent Divvys in case we got too drunk to bike home. That’s what I love about Divvy versus bringing your own bike everywhere. Sometimes you’re going to want to make one way trips, and you can’t do that with your own bike. We took part in the bike “parade” with a lot of crazy bikers and bikers. Next year we’ll have to come in costume! We had a few beers afterwards at the carnival. There was a silly “fashion show” featuring event attendees and free style rappers, describing each participant. We tried some of New Belgium Brewing’s small batch beers including their Hop Tart (yum!) and Pear Ginger (meh) beers. We listened to a couple bands, got some Curry Wurst from the Donermen food truck, and called it a day. At least for the Tour de Fat.
We had a Groupon to spend at Cafe Gaudi, but stopped first at one of my boyfriend’s old haunts – Quencher’s. I hadn’t previously been to the bar and was anxious to try it out. They had my favorite shitty beer (does that even make sense?) from when I studied abroad in Barcelona – Estrella Damm.
After Quenchers, we took the blue line to Cafe Guadi for some tapas. It was anything but authentic Spanish, but it hit the spot. We got patatas bravas, croquettas, bacon wrapped dates, and a few other “tapas” with a pitcher of sangria. Then we officially called it a night.
7/12 – Awesome Breakfast, Awesome Dinner and Apartment Organization
One of my favorite weekend traditions is making a big, bad breakfast. I realized that today was the first time since moving that I actually went through with it! The boyfriend and I cooked up potatoes, eggs, and bacon for a perfect start to the day.
We woke up really early after passing out really early, so I spent the rest of the afternoon organizing my apartment and running some errands. I love days that I can devote completely to these activities. I also had a chance to work on some freelance projects, which is a weight off my shoulders.
Finally, I curled up on the couch to watch the end of Shark Week, and made a bad-ass bacon chicken pasta bake.
What a great week.
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Connections are everything, and that was pretty characteristic of the awesome things that happened this week. Always put your best foot forward when meeting new people (and maintaining old friendships) – you never know where they could lead!
6/8 – Farmer’s Fridge, Quirky and #Foodiechats
Farmer’s Fridge is very close to my heart after being a part of it’s early months. I wrote a post about Salads in the Loop a few weeks back and am doing a giveaway featuring one of their salads! Anyways, this week, Farmer’s Fridge opened a new salad vending machine in a 7-Eleven location in River North. They were doing specials everyday ranging from free salads or 25-50% off. I got there for one of the free ones! Always a nice surprise. Make sure you’re following their social channels or subscribe to their newsletters – they tend to do things like this with the launch of new locations, which is happening fast.
An interesting thing happened when browsing a big Quirky sale. Quirky is an up-and-coming company that sells products everyday people invented. They have a lot of promotions and the products are a great value. Something weird happened and my order totaled $15, when it should’ve been 3x that amount. I reached out to the company and they said I got lucky and they’d honor the sale! The order was inspired by a cool beach tote with a mesh bottom to shake out sand.
The highlight of my day, however, involved a trip out to the suburbs. I was invited to participate in a #Foodiechats experience. For those who don’t know about #Foodiechats, it’s a weekly Twitter chat connecting foodies around the world (and it’s about to become something even bigger). This event was at the Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora, conveniently next to the train I took in. We sampled food from their upcoming Summer Festival and a healthy plethora of Two Brothers Beers. I won’t go into too much detail here because I plan on writing a follow up post, but it was a night to remember! Lots of thanks to my friend Taylor who got me in on this event!
6/9 – Xoco and Lentil Marinara
Today I made my second ever trip to Xoco. It’s one of the office favorites, and a Rick Bayless restaurant creation. I met with a friend who helped me move to buy him lunch. We discussed this blog and he will be helping out with a section about networking and speaking events! I think it’s something this blog is missing, as it is aimed at young professionals in Chicago.
For dinner, I made my favorite creation – a lentil marinara “pasta” with zucchini noodles. It’s one of the “cheapest” things I make, but also one of the most flavorful and healthy. I’ll write up a recipe and take some pictures for you guys next time I make it! 🙂
6/10 – Influenster and Sox Box
I recently joined an online community called Influenster. As I am constantly trying to build up my online communities, it only made sense to cash in on it in some way. Basically, Influenster gives me the opportunity to try new products for free in exchange for using and talking about them. So there will likely be an upcoming blog post about what I found out I’m getting from them first. It’s a PUR sink attachment to purify water. I bring a Brita water bottle with me everywhere I go… this will make it even easier for me to use clean, purified water when I cook!
The Blackhawks played tonight (and won!), but I was invited to a Sox game with my company and some of our clients. It was my first time in a box, and I felt like a celebrity. All-you-can-eat food (hot dogs!), beer, and the most delicious dessert cart to pick things from. And you can’t beat the view. Thanks to whatever clients couldn’t make it – I had fun in your absence!
6/11 – Devil Dawgs and Techweek
Probably knowing how hungover we’d all be after the Sox game, we had our monthly lunch, featuring the culinary wonders of Devil Dawgs. Besides crazy hot dog creations, they have some amazing sliders (the Elvis with peanut butter and bacon is to die for) and chicken sandwiches. I haven’t tried their milkshakes yet but want to. Through a mistake on our end, or theirs (I’m not sure), I didn’t get my slider this time 🙁 But I’ll be dreaming about it.4
I found out today that I got a free media pass to Techweek Chicago. I went last year and had an amazing time meeting tech industry professionals and listening to experts I really respect speak about things that matter. Do you write for a company blog? Freelance or have your own blog? You might be eligible for for free media passes – not just for this event, but many others in Chicago. Concerts, speaking events and more usually give out free media passes depending on the industry you write for. It’s worth looking into! They also have free attendee badges available for specific events if you want a taste of Techweek without paying for a full badge.
6/12 – Activate and Chicago Blog Week
So Zipcar, my weekend Brand Ambassador job, has a partnership with Activate. Activate throws parties in alleys in the Loop and brings together tons of artists and music – it’s a great time. We’re doing an instant photo booth and get to meet a lot of attendees. By some crazy turn of events, I found myself face to face with Dante, the founder of Chicago Blog Week. To make a long story short, I may be a speaker at the event! More details on that as they unfold. We plan on meeting later this week 🙂
6/13 – Mae Concert
The first concert I ever saw was Mae and The Audition, in a church in Wheaton. It’s crazy how far I’ve come since that day, but Mae (and The Audition, really) holds a special place in my heart. So I bought tickets months in advance from someone who couldn’t make the show. Didn’t have to pay any of the extra fees – score! I went to the Bottom Lounge and sang my heart out to all my old favorite songs. It was a special tour, focusing on my favorite CD of theirs.
6/14 – Aroma Workshop
I bought a Groupon a couple months back after hearing how awesome Aroma Workshop is. I took my boyfriend with so we could each create our own signature scents. We smelled a lot of different scent bases – from fruity to musky and everything in between. One of Aroma Workshop’s employees expertly combined 4 different possibilities to choose from. We each left with the perfect signature scent to suit our tastes – so much more personal than a store-bought cologne or perfume. If you buy the Groupon, it works out to be about $30 per person. Aroma Workshop also carries a variety of bath products that you can combine with your scent. They keep your combinations in their computer system so you can refill in the future!
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5/25 – Postmates Epic Burger
The week started off on a great note since Monday was Memorial Day. I cooked up a big breakfast for my sister and boyfriend, and ordered a pretty rad lunch from Postmates, which was offering free Epic Burger (up to 2) for Memorial Day weekend. I beat the “surge” pricing by ordering right when the freebie was offered, but throughout the weekend saw it go as high as 3x the delivery price. No bueno. When using Postmates plan accordingly.
5/26 – Cooking Leftovers
I had to be out of my apartment by Friday night, so this week was spent getting creative with what was left in my fridge. It’s amazing how many different things you can make with a limited amount of materials. One delicious but weird combination was some turkey sloppy joe meat with rice and broccoli.
5/27 – Yelp Burger Binge, Reddit, StumbleUpon and the University of Iowa
This week was Yelp’s “Burger Binge” week and several delicious Chicago burger joints had $5 specials. Perhaps the best special was at Flub a Dub Chubs, where I got a ridiculously good burger (the “Grandma K” burger had a pretzel bun, goat cheese, and bacon), fries, and a drink for $5. Normally that would’ve been at least $15. You may have missed this year’s Burger Binge week, but follow Yelp Chicago on Twitter for more local Chicago events.
I made huge strides today in blog traffic after discovering how great of referral traffic can come from Reddit and StumbleUpon. I double my monthly average visitors in the span of two days. Unreal.
Finally, my old management professor Ken Brown (now the Associate Dean of the business school!) gave a shout out to my blog on his blog.
5/28 – 25 Degrees burgers and Falafill Groupon
Because one burger is not enough to qualify as a “binge,” I went to another of Yelp’s Burger Binge week spots for lunch with a friend. 25 Degrees had a great burger special for $5 when they were usually $13. Although I noticed while there that they do a lunch special that’s $13 for a burger, fries, and a beer. I’ll be back! This time I got a Specialty #1(Arugula, Thousand Island, Bacon, Mindoro Blue, Fontina Cheese) and sweet potato fries with a garlic aioli dipping sauce. Not a bad way to spend lunch!
I spent the night getting some packing done and wanted to use one of the last Groupons I had for my neighborhood. This one was for a place called Falafill, which is a fast casual mediterranean place. The Groupon was for two entrees and two sides, but honestly the entrees were sufficient without needing the sides. I got a bowl with meat, rice, and a pita. They let you take that to their “Mezza Bar” where you load up on typical mediterranean veggie dishes. You can fit a lot of these sides in the bowl. Entrees are $9.50, but worth it if you load up before you leave.
5/29 – MOVING
Today was a mess of boxes and logistics. My boyfriend and his brothers graciously helped me move from my old apartment to my boyfriend’s garage (have to wait a few days to move into my new place in Roscoe Village). Having strong men around to help with these sorts of things is awesome – just make sure to reward them with pizza and beer!
One thing worth mentioning is that I FINALLY tried 5411 Empanadas before vacating the neighborhood of Lakeview. They had some incredible flavors like the above pictured Malbec Beef, a Goat Cheese/Dates/Bacon empanadas, and a Chorizo/Patatas Bravas version. At $2.50 a piece, they won’t break the bank and can make a good snack or meal. They have a food truck that circles around the Loop! Check their Twitter for locations.
Finally, my latest blog post for Choose Chicago was posted, which is about Remington’s – a new restaurant addition to Michigan Avenue.
5/30 – Wisconsin Beer and Cheese Cruise and Chuck Palahniuk
Saturday was the busiest day of the week (keeping in mind that I just packed up my life and moved out of my apartment!). My boyfriend and I got up early to go to Navy Pier (tourists) to board the Mystic Blue for a Wisconsin Beer and Cheese Cruise. I’d been to an event by the same organizers before and was excited to see how it would differ on a boat. The weather sucked, but luckily the festivities were indoors. We got 20 tickets each and a tasting glass and honestly didn’t even make it through all of the tickets because each vendor gave such generous pours. Various cheeses, sausages, and pastries were passed around as everyone tasted all the great alcoholic beverages Wisconsin has to offer. I would definitely do it again!
After the boat came back to the pier, we hustled to Union Station for the next part of our day, which required going to Naperville. If you’re not a regular Metra commuter, you may not be aware of the Weekend Passes, which allow you unlimited train rides on Saturday and Sunday (and some holidays) for $8. Usually train fare to the suburb where my parents live is that much for one way, so don’t forget to ask for this deal!
Once in Naperville, we split a cab with some other attendees of the event we were headed to. My favorite author, Chuck Palahniuk, was in town for a speaking event to promote his new book. Tickets were $40 and included signed copies of that book and the Fight Club 2 comic. It was a pretty incredible event – he read some short stories, led some fun competitions, and answered fans’ burning questions. We hung out at the hotel bar afterwards to watch the Blackhawks win. We were lucky to catch Chuck Palahniuk as he was heading out and got a picture! He answered my burning question about the ending of Survivor, but I won’t spoil it here… 🙂
5/31 – Ay Ay Picante Groupon
After getting home late Saturday night, I had to sleep in. I had a pretty lazy day, although I did publish another article reviewing the Fitbit Aria. I had another Groupon burning a hole in my pocket (so to say), which was only about a mile from my boyfriend’s house. Plus it’s BYOB! We went to Ay Ay Picante which serves Peruvian food. I’ve got to get acquainted with the menu because we’re going to Peru this September 🙂 The Groupon was for $30 worth of food and it was about $20 more than that after two entrees and an appetizer. I’d recommend it!
5/18 – #BikeLakeview and Zipcar
— Lakeview Chamber (@ThisIsLakeview) May 18, 2015
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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!
5/11 – Cosi and Geja’s Cafe
If you read last week’s #CheapWeek, You’ll know that I’ve been systematically trying the best salads the Loop has to offer for a future post. Today I went to Cosi and had their Baja salad for free! Blogging definitely has it’s perks. They sent me a few extra free entree cards, so I’ll be back soon!
Today was a great day for food. Beatrix had a text offer for BOGO cookies. These things are as big as my hand (and way more delicious).
I’ve had my eye on this set of pantry organizers for awhile. They’re $100 for a set of 10 different sized containers, and I was just waiting for a good reason to pull the trigger. Even Amazon couldn’t offer a better price. Then I thought outside of the box… They have these organizers at Bed Bath & Beyond, and Bed Bath & Beyond always has 20% off coupons. Score! The moral of the story, if you’ve got your eye on a product that never goes on sale, find a place that has non-exclusionary sales.
I owed my boyfriend a nice dinner out and it just so happened that a Groupon I bought for Geja’s Cafe was about to expire. After he took me to RPM Italian last week, it was only fair that I should return the favor with a romantic date night experience. The restauranteur behind Geja’s Cafe came into Groupon while I still worked there, and I was inspired by his passion for the restaurant. Anyways, we had a blast. The food was incredible. I’ve never been to a fondue restaurant before so it was a treat. The Groupon covered $65 worth of the food, and Spring Rewards kicked me back an additional $15. It would’ve been quite expensive, but careful planning made it less so.
5/12 – Postmates Panera Deal and Cemitas Puebla from DoorDash
Postmates has awesome freebie deals all the time, I’m guessing, as an attempt to raise awareness for the brand and acquire new users. This week, they offered free Panera “You Pick 2” and I happen to have a lot of free delivery credits available. Lunch never tastes as good as when it’s free.
I was not feeling awesome today, and was lazier than usual, so I decided to pull the trigger on checking out DoorDash. GiltCity frequently has free offers to try new companies, and I managed to score $15 off. DoorDash apparently also gives you a free $5 credit on your first order. So I got a cemita from Cemitas Puebla and some kick-ass guacamole and chips with delivery for free! My delivery guy was a little late (though nothing ridiculous), so they proactively credited my account with another $10. Great customer service, all around – I will use it again.
5/13 – Free Ubereats from DMK and Sopraffina
This week was one of the best weeks for free food to date. I hope you have an account with Uber, because they’ve been sending out free promo codes for their new service, UberEats. If you haven’t heard about it yet, basically, Uber curates a menu each week with selected items from a couple restaurants each day. You might have read about how much I love DMK Restaurants – so I used my free promo on a patty melt they offered this week. Also a turkey sandwich from Sopraffina. Just paid $5 after saving $20!
5/14 – Krewella concert!
So every once in awhile, something truly amazing happens. This time, it was Krewella coming to Chicago for a free show, sponsored by Pandora. But that’s not all. There was a FREE OPEN BAR. And, we left the show with a free portable phone charger. Yes, there are miracles.
Also worth noting is my second blog post for Choose Chicago went live today. Check it out of you want an in-depth look at Wine Festivals coming to Chicago this summer.
5/15 – Rest
I spent today recovering from the craziness from the rest of the week. Nothing terribly exciting happened, but it was a much needed break.
5/16 – Cubs Game
One of my best friends from college came to Chicago to visit this weekend, and wanted to check out a Cubs game. It was the first one I attended of the season, and I was trying to find the best price for tickets. I ended up waiting until the last minute, when what I should’ve done was wait until a day or two before. Tickets costed $35 where I could’ve got them for $20. Oh well, live and learn. My sources tell me that since school is out, tickets will be harder to get at great prices closer to the game, so plan accordingly!
5/17 – iO Theater
My beautiful best friend is making her way up in the modeling/acting/improv world and I was privileged to see her in her element. I went to see her student show at iO Theater, and it was only $5 for multiple acts of student talent. Check it out! They have good food and drink to complement the comedy.
So far, I’ve purchased three Groupon Getaways. I’ve gone on two trips and have the third planned for this fall.
I took my first leap of faith with Groupon Getaways in January 2014. Randomly messaging my best friend Nico (who wrote an awesome article about improv for Chicago Cheap Ass recently!), I said,
“There’s a deal on Groupon to travel to Ireland for 7 days for $1,000 – airfare, hotel and rental car. Should we do it?”
Half expecting her to say no, she surprised me. We booked it.
I was actually working at Groupon at the time, and even the employees had their doubts that a discount vacation package would be worth it. I was excited to be the guinea pig amongst my group. My best friend and I departed just as the weather was starting to become unbearable in Chicago, and landed on the lush green paradise known as Ireland.
I’ve actually been to Ireland before, but it was with my parents. Going with a friend was a completely different experience. She had friends who met up with us that she originally met when studying abroad. We started in Kilkenny, partied in Killarney, took it easy in Limerick, and ended it off in Dublin. The hotels ranged from a Days Inn in Kilkenny, to a classy boutique hotel in Killarney, to a modern installation in Limerick, and a fancy hotel in Dublin. Surprisingly, it was the fanciest hotel that charged extra for wifi and didn’t provide toiletries. As a whole, the hotels would’ve cost as much as the flight (or more) if purchased separately.
We had our own rental car, which gave us the freedom to go wherever we wanted. For the most part, we followed our four-city itinerary, but enjoyed making stops between cities to take in the beautiful landscape. A few things to consider when traveling via rental car:
Nico is an amazing driver, so I let her take over. Ireland driving is on the “wrong” side of the road, which is not typical of Europe, but something to keep in mind!
To summarize, the sum of the parts would’ve cost way more than the whole package, but Great Value Vacation’s Ireland package on Groupon Getaways offered a major value for an adventurous traveler.
Fast forward to a year and a half later…
I challenged another friend when I saw an unbeatable price on a trip to China. Another Groupon Getaways package, this one happened to be with a different travel agency called Friendly Planet. This deal was about $1500 for 10 days – airfare, hotels, ground transportation, a tour guide, all breakfasts and some other meals. While the Ireland trip was very much DIY, this trip had a lot of oversight. I’ve had enough experience in Europe to want to push the envelope, but I had absolutely no experience in Asia.
Comparing the two – Europe is so similar to the United States in terms of food, language, customs, etc. Asia is the exact opposite. Most people don’t speak English in Asia, and the street signs are basically illegible. The food is not something you can prepare yourself for by eating Americanized Chinese. You have to conduct yourself a certain way you may not be used to, in order to respect the locals. I don’t think I could’ve navigated without a tour guide and a driver, or at least, I wouldn’t have gotten to appreciate the country as much.
Another interesting part of this tour was that you could opt in to optional excursions each day, like going out to dinner with the group with an acrobatic show afterwards, or guided tours of temples and silk worm factories (to name a few). For the most part, purchasing these optional tours was well worth the money. They included food, a tour, admissions, and transportation. Even if it was cheaper to plan on my own, it would’ve taken longer to get around, with imperfect knowledge of the area and attractions.
On the last day of the tour, we did a version of one of the paid excursions on our own. We didn’t go to all the tour spots and it took awhile, but we did save a fair amount of cash. So the moral of the story is – do your research. Also, you’re not missing out if you don’t do all the tours. Sometimes you need some time to explore a foreign place without any direction.
Traveling to an Asian country usually requires the purchase of a Visa. This is NOT something you cant put off until the last minute, and you must come prepared with all the requested documents. There’s a Chinese embassy downtown Chicago and walking in (as opposed to mailing it through an agent) saved me some money, but it was still $150. Plan accordingly. And on that note, make sure your passport is valid through 6 months after your trip.
A mix of guided and unguided
So the final Groupon Getaways tour package I’ve purchased is to go to Peru this September. Gate 1 Travel operates this tour, and I suspect it will be a hybrid of the two aforementioned trips. While my China trip consisted of an older crowd that was bussed from place to place, the Peru trip is described in terms of a lot of outdoor exploration. It was in the same price range as the China trip (~$1500) and includes many of the same features: airfare, hotel, guided tours, ground transportation, and some meals.
All the agencies I’ve worked with have handled the booking process in similar ways. Sometimes you can fill out all of your personal information online, sometimes you can do it on the phone. Either way, it doesn’t take long. One of their “upsells” is travel insurance. I’ve never purchased it because I’m cheap, but I think it’s usually $100 per person throughout the course of the trip. If you want to be able to reimburse the cost of your trip if plans change or are prone to emergency medical situations, it may be worth it.
Have you used Groupon Getaways to plan a trip?
4/27 – NYC Bagel and Soupbox
Monday’s are hard. I like to make them better with delicious food. So I started my day at NYC Bagel Deli with a savory bagel and a copious amount of cream cheese for under $3. Although I brought a lunch, I decided I was past due for a visit to Soupbox. Soupbox is awesome because you get generous samples of as many flavors as you want. And you can mix two flavors. Bread comes free on the side!
4/28 – CP Trade Show at Navy Pier
As mentioned in previous posts, I work for an awesome company called Social Media Beast. Our sister company, Concierge Preferred (CP), has a lot of connections in Chicago, and brings them all together for an annual trade show. We all attended the show on Tuesday and had an amazing time connecting with representatives from participating businesses. We even raked in some first-class freebies. Here’s what I walked away with:
-Free “Second City” tickets
-No cover passes to Howl at the Moon (and the dueling pianos at the event played my song request!)
-Free indoor skydiving session in Rosemont
-Free Navy Pier ferris wheel admission
-Free Chicago Segway tour tickets
I’m trying to decide if I should keep these freebies or share them with you, my lovely readers, as giveaways. Let me know if any of the above are of interest to you in the comments 🙂
Besides the above freebies, there was plenty of food and drink from Chicago’s top restaurants. The best part of all? The event is free, so you better make sure to get your Cheap Ass there next year! Just make sure to show some love if a business there impresses you.
4/29 – James Beard event at Mariano’s
The Mariano’s in the West Loop has some pretty cool events, and I’ve been to two in the past month. On Wednesday, I invited a couple of girlfriends to a happy hour featuring Blackbird’s mixologist, Kyle Davidson. Light appetizers (but lots of cheese) were served with unlimited craft cocktails. The event concluded with Blackbird’s mixologist teaching us how to make two specialty cocktails. This was well worth the $20, and was one of the more affordable ways to celebrate the James Beard Awards coming to Chicago.
I ended the night by redeeming my BOGO coupon to Noodles & Company for their new Buff Bowls. So glad I did! $9 covered a relatively healthy lunch for the next two days.
4/30 – Haircut at Civello
I’ve been desperately in need of a haircut, and I usually time it out so I can take care of it when I’m home in the suburbs. But, split ends are split ends. I took a chance at a new place. I’m honestly not very high maintenance with my hair – I’m brush and go. As far as haircuts, a simple trim will usually do the job for me, so I decided to check out a beauty school a few blocks away from work – Civello. They happened to be running a Groupon deal for a $15 haircut. I was pleasantly surprised with my experience. The haircut (which was awesome) included an aromatherapy scalp massage, a deep conditioning treatment, and a cut. I ended up buying some product (detangler) because it all smells so damn good. They also gave me some curly hair treatment samples to take home! I made sure to tip my hairstylist well as you ALWAYS should when using a Groupon.
5/1 – Henry’s Swing Club
I recently won a poetry writing contest at Henry’s Swing Club for 5 free sliders, 7 free cocktails, and 5 free giant pretzels. My haiku really captured the spirit of the bar… read it here.
5/2 – Kentucky Derby and Rioja Wine and Tapas Festival
I’m pretty good at betting on horse racing, so I love events like the Kentucky Derby. It’s a good excuse to dress up and get drunk. And maybe win some money.
This particular Kentucky Derby Saturday was especially cool because I received free tickets to the Rioja Wine and Tapas Festival. I expressed an interest in covering the event for Choose Chicago, told the organizer how obsessed I am with Spanish culture, and she hooked up it!
I had an amazing time chatting with the people in charge of the event, drinking delicious Rioja wines (reds I can actually enjoy), and sampling tapas prepared by chefs from all over the United States.
Afterwards, I checked out Joe’s on Weed Street, which was completely blocked off for the Derby. And it was packed. Unfortunately, I was a little late in making my bets, but I still had a good time enjoying the first nice weather we’ve had in a while with a tall, cold one.
I finished the night off at the NFL Draft Town – a free fan festival to complement Chicago hosting the NFL Draft. Chicago is such an amazing city. A lot of great things have been happening here and we all reap the benefits.
5/3 – Relaxing
No major Cheap Ass hustling today. It’s been a long week, and I spent the day sleeping in, making a big breakfast, going to the gym, writing blogs, and eating dinner with the new Game of Thrones. Excited to see what the new week brings in!