Author Archives: Amanda

World’s easiest chili

6th October 2015

Sometimes we just want to make everything simple and quick. Yeah, we enjoy complex meals and trying new things but this Chili recipe has been a go-to since college when I’d make a pot and have a couple lunches worth. It has stuck around ever since and I haven’t changed it either.

World’s Easiest Chili

  • 1lb ground beef (or you can do turkey)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes – plain
  • 1 large jar of chunky salsa (we usually use a medium or hot)
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of dark red kidney beans (or pinto if you’d rather)
  • 1tsp Cumin (add more to taste)
  • 1tsp Chili Powder (feel free to add more to taste)

Directions

  1. In a large pot brown the meat over medium heat.
  2. Adding seasoning to meat while browning.
  3. Once the meat is cooked through, add diced tomatoes, salsa, drained black beans and drained kidney beans.
  4. Bring ingredients to a quick boil and then simmer on low heat, covered for a generous amount of time if you can, if you can’t, this recipe can be done in 15 minutes.
  5. Add more seasoning to taste.

FADEB88D-7C96-4E18-BF6A-A05A45039DFFBon Appetit!

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Favorite Travel Resources: Finding Flights

5th October 2015

I realize that I’m always planning a trip for the two of us, so that means I use a lot of different resources to scour the best deal but also the most guaranteed deal. Of course you’ll see deals that seem too good to be true and a lot of times I’m anxious that they really are. If I have the opportunity to book direct with the airline or hotel, etc, I definitely prefer that just so that I feel more confident in the event something should ever happen. BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t look at other sites for help in finding the best deal. Today I want to share our favorites for finding the BEST flight deals!

Best sites for flights:

  • Fareboom – I love Fareboom because you can search multi-city flights, multiple days, international flights and pretty much any combination you can think of. It even has a fare-cruncher and flex search (if you’re flexible obviously). I haven’t booked anything directly through them but it really helps me narrow the airlines I’m interested in flying with and then I use that information on the direct airline site to compare. It’s easy and I really love this website!
  • American Airlines – I know this is odd to list just an airline, but I really enjoy booking flights through American. One of the things I love about American Airlines is that you can hold a flight for 24 hours without paying for it, and if it doesn’t work out you can release the flight! What other airline does that?! Plus American flies to many of my favorite destinations from RDU so it’s usually my airline of choice, so I don’t mind racking up miles on one airline either.
  • Orbitz This is probably my favorite of the “show me everything” sites. It’s not better than Fareboom for flights, but it’s not bad. I like it for hotels and domestic flights are pretty good as well. Of course you can’t search Southwest on these types of sites.
  • Travelzoo – I don’t use their search often, but I sign up for their emails and it’s AWESOME. I’ve nabbed amazing deals from flights to hotels on their site with their Top 20 emails, and occasionally they do send emails specific to RDU which is awesome. I highly recommend you sign up!!

Do you have any favorite sites that help you score the best deals? I’d love to hear what you use!

Fall to do List 2015

29th September 2015

I’ve seen a lot of to do lists out there and it really made me think about all that I want to accomplish this fall as the weekends are beginning and time will start slipping away quickly! Plus I absolutely adore fall in the South and I am so excited to have the cool air rush in and bring a calm over myself, plus Nick and I will be celebrating 3 years of marriage!

  • Stay at the Granpy Aut mountain cabin for our 3rd anniversary! (We stayed here for our 1st anniversary!)
  • Pick out pumpkins and mums from the Farmer’s Market for our front porch
  • Carve pumpkins with hubby
  • Cheer on the Wolfpack at the Halloween game versus Clemson football game
  • Go to the NC State Fair, have a candy apple and enjoy the sights
  • Drink coffee outside on a cool morning
  • Make Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon
  • Cheer on the Panthers at a home football game
  • Host a NFL Sunday for our Fantasy Couples League
  • Listen to great tunes at the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival
  • Attempt to make Pumpkin Soup (like this recipe from the wonderful Pioneer Woman!)
  • Watch planes land on a cozy day with hubby at RDU

I think we can make all these happen this fall! But I will have to update y’all on the progress of course. What do you all have on deck for this fall? We can’t wait to hear what everyone has on their fall to do list!

Chicken Tinga Tacos

24th September 2015

I absolutely love Mexican food. It’s probably my favorite food, but there are so many different options to eat as well! One of my favorite local restaurants, La Rancherita, seems like your typical restaurant but they have amazing tacos! My favorite is the Chicken Tinga Taco. Slow marinated chicken with a little cheese, sour cream, and of course slices of avocado. It’s not hard to make yourself and so hubby and I attempted the other evening. The nice thing is, you can throw the chicken in the crock pot and go! This recipe is even stepped up a bit more with a BACON pico de gallo!

I found this recipe off pinterest via Host the Toast:

Crock Pot Chicken Tinga Tacos with Bacon Pico De Gallo
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Ingredients
For the Chicken Tinga Tacos:
  • 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Bacon Pico de Gallo:
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 small radishes, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 8 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled, to top (Does anyone have advice on where to find this cheese?! I can NEVER find it!)
  • 1 avocado, sliced, to top
  • 16 corn tortillas, warmed
Directions
  1. Combine the Chicken Tinga Taco ingredients in a slow cooker and set to low for 5-6 hours, or until chicken shreds easily. Discard the bay leaf. Remove the chicken from the tomato sauce mixture and shred with two forks. Return the shredded chicken to the slow cooker, stir to combine, and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  2. As the chicken cooks, make the Bacon Pico de Gallo. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the onion, garlic, radishes, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. Toss to mix. Then, toss in the crumbled bacon. Set aside.
  3. Scoop the Chicken Tinga mixture into corn tortillas, top with a slice of avocado, Bacon Pico de Gallo, and crumbled cotija cheese (if you can find it! ha!). Serve warm.

YUM!! Can’t wait to make this recipe again soon!

Raleigh Sister Cities Exchange: Compiégne, France

22nd September 2015

Last week Nick and I had the opportunity once again to be a part of Sister Cities International at our local level in Raleigh and host our sister city of Compiégne, France for a golf exchange. Everyone I encounter seems to not know much about Sister Cities International and we have loved our experience being involved thus far and want to continue to spread the message of Sister Cities. The mission of the Sister City exchange is “promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time.”

Last year we had the opportunity to visit Compiégne, and this year we hosted Eric as part of the golf exchange. Eric arrived on Thursday evening and flew back on Tuesday evening. Being a host means you’re responsible for a place for them to stay, breakfast, dinner and all transportation. Our dinners were basically taken care of, as we had receptions and events every night with the entire group that was participating. There were 7 French people visiting and about 15 of us living in Raleigh that were involved every evening. Nick and Eric played golf almost everyday, and I joined once at Lonnie Poole. We also had the opportunity to take everyone to an NC State football game!

Here are a few glimpses of our time together!

Eric brought us a nice selection of French wines and of course, Champagne!

It was sad to see our visitors go but we will cherish the relationships we’ve made, we will stay in touch and hopefully we will see everyone again in September! Au Revoir!

Bon Appétit: Test Kitchen

20th September 2015

We have been subscribing to Bon Appétit magazine for about two years now and when we have the opportunity we love to test out their recipes. We make some of the recipes for ourselves, but when it comes to inviting people over for dinner, we definitely try to put our best foot forward. Recently some friends came over for dinner (looking at you Meghan and Ernie!) and so Nick and I took to our magazines to pick out some options for our menu. We decided on Snap Peas with Arugula-Mint Pesto and Spicy Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Parsley. We followed up our main course with the Chocolate Mousse you may have read about here.

I was in charge of the peas for the meal and it was a fun process. I didn’t get the green beans, only the snap peas so the recipe appears just a bit different! We actually made home-made arugula-mint pesto, and it was my first time making pesto, but it was great! The recipe was relatively simple and we had awesome leftover pesto for pasta and sandwiches.

Ingredients

Servings: 8

  • ½ cup raw skin-on almonds
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 2 cups (lightly packed) baby arugula
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, shaved, divided
  • 1 cup mint leaves, plus more for serving
  • cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces sugar snap peas
  • 12 ounces green and/or wax beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges (for serving)

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened in color, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop half of almonds and set aside. Pulse remaining almonds with garlic, arugula, half of Parmesan, and 1 cup mint in a food processor to a smooth paste. With motor running, stream in oil; thin with 2 Tbsp. cold water to reach a pourable consistency. Season pesto with salt and pepper.
  • Cook peas and beans in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl of ice water and chill until cold. Drain peas and beans; pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice and 3 Tbsp. pesto; season with salt and pepper.
  • Arrange peas and beans in a large bowl or platter over remaining pesto. Top with more mint leaves, reserved almonds, and remaining Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.
  • Do Ahead: Peas and beans can be blanched 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

For our protein of the evening we also referred to Bon Appétit for a tasty chicken recipe. We did the spicy grilled chicken with lemon and parsley and Nick was in charge of the grilling. This recipe was also relatively simple but can definitely get very spicy so mind your spice level when making this recipe.

Ingredients

Servings: 8

  • ¼ cup hot smoked Spanish paprika
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup coarsely ground black pepper
  • tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 3½–4-pound chickens, preferably organic, backbones removed
  • 4 lemons, halved
  • ½ cup parsley leaves with tender stems

Preparation

  • Prepare grill for medium-high, indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill; for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off). Combine paprika, salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl.
  • Working one at a time, place chickens on a work surface, skin side up. Using your palms, press firmly on breastbone to flatten breast. Season chickens all over with paprika mixture, patting to adhere.
  • Grill chickens, skin side up, over direct heat, rotating occasionally and moving to cooler side of grill as needed to control flare-ups, until browned, 5–8 minutes. Turn skin side down and grill, rotating occasionally, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Turn chickens skin side up and move to indirect heat. Grill, rotating occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thighs registers 165°, 50–60 minutes. Transfer to cutting boards and let rest 5 minutes.
  • Grill lemons, cut side down, over direct heat until lightly charred and juices start to caramelize, about 4 minutes.
  • Place chickens on top of bread and scatter parsley over. Squeeze 2 or 3 lemon halves over; serve with remaining lemons.

Viola! Bon Appétit y’all! We loved these recipes and will definitely keep them in our play book.

Prepping for House Guests – International Edition

10th September 2015

As you might remember, Nick and I participated last year in Raleigh’s Sister City golf exchange program and had the amazing opportunity to go to France and play golf and immerse ourselves in the culture of our sister city of Compiegne, France. We loved every second so this year we are returning the favor and hosting a guest of our own! Last year, our dearest Guilhene and Jaq opened their homes to us and helped provide breakfast and dinner for us as well as all transportation from Paris to Compiegne and around town (See part 1 and part 2 here!). This year we will be doing the same for our guest, Eric! We welcome him tomorrow and we are SO excited! (We’ll follow up with a post on our activities after our time with him is over.)

house guests

We are so excited, but with hosting a guest for a week, there are some steps to prep your home for your guests arrival, especially in the South. You know, Southern Hospitality..

  1. Do a deep clean – clean the sheets, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, stock up on groceries and snacks and also toilet paper, paper towels etc. Do this a couple days ahead so that you won’t be rushing at the last minute.
  2. Make it feel like home – Although guest can obviously use the whole house, sometimes their room may be more of a retreat. Provide some fun reading material, books, magazines, etc. Little touches like bottles of water or snacks are always a good idea. We have some local candy we purchased to provide for our guest and magazines about the area.
  3. Fresh flowers – When you can it’s always nice to have fresh flowers in the guest room but also around the house. It’s an extra touch that goes a long way.
  4. Bathroom essentials – I like to have a stack of fresh towels and wash cloths for our guests to use. They’re in a tray and I place it on the bed upon arrival. I also make sure there are toiletries in the shower (soap, shampoo, conditioner) but I also make sure underneath the cabinet may have things our guest needs and I don’t want them to feel weird looking! I have neatly arranged extra items, more soap, lotions, toothbrushes, combs. We also have a small jar that I placed a razor, shaving cream, mouth wash and tooth brush and tooth paste for Eric.
  5. Wifi – In this day and age, it’s nice to have your Wifi information at the ready for your guests to use, think about framing the information next to the bed for easy access.
  6. Food – Provide extra bottles of water, fruit and healthy snacks that any one would be interested in eating after a long day of travel or in our instance, playing golf!
  7. Prep on your foreign language – If possible, it’s always wonderful to prepare yourself with helpful phrases in case your guest is not as fluent in English – and if nothing else, just to be respectful.
  8. Personal gifts – For our guest, we want to make him feel like home, so we’re helping provide a golf glove, golf balls and a shirt for him to remember his time and to not stress about flying with so much!
  9. Have fun – More importantly, enjoy experience and don’t sweat the small stuff too much! It’ll all work out in the end and you’ll have a great time!

Do you have any tips and tricks?! We’d love to hear them!

 

Staycation at the Umstead Hotel & Spa

8th September 2015

Nick’s birthday approaches close to the busy season for all of us. Work, football, work… So he was not big on doing anything much for his birthday. I knew that our weekends for the next two months are going to be hectic so I really just wanted to get away together and enjoy some one on one time. Plus it’s always more relaxing when you’re away from your home and not dealing with household duties.

Since we live in Raleigh, we are conveniently located to a beautiful five star hotel, the Umstead Hotel & Spa. While we love the spa, staying and going to the hotel are definitely a big splurge, so we settled on spending the night and relaxing by the pool! Oh! And we were able to have brunch too!

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Always wonderful to have extra special touches for the celebrated occasions! Happy birthday Nick! After our brunch we checked into our room and headed to the pool but first we were greeted with a lovely snack from the Umstead. Love the personal touches!

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We did not luck out on the weather but we were able to relax and order room service for dinner and eat in bed. Something we don’t do in our own house, so we were glad to snuggle and enjoy dinner in our room and just spend precious time together. It was a perfect little weekend away, even if it was just for one night!

Thanks Umstead Resort and Spa! We will be sure to return and next time I’m sure we’ll have to add on a spa treatment because we LOVE their spa!

Pasta Carbonara – easy week-night meal

4th September 2015

We love pasta around these parts. There’s nothing more satisfying than an excellent pasta, and that is sometimes hard to accomplish! One of our newest interests in super quick and easy week night meals is Pasta Carbonara. Grab some bacon or pancetta, some noodles, eggs, and a little parmesan and you’re good to go. You probably already have all these ingredients at home and that’s what makes this recipe a go-to!

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Mmmm pancetta: get.in.my.belly! And VIOLA! Pasta carbonara! Just like that! Well, below are the steps but it is really easy, I promise!IMG_2018

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon olive oil

6oz pancetta (or just pour the whole package…)

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1lb spaghetti (or any other favorite noodle really!)

3 large eggs

1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese

3/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese

Ground black pepper to taste

Feel free to top with parsley too!

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it starts to sizzle. Add the pancetta and cook until it is crisp by stirring often. Take the pan off the heat until ready for the next step.
  2. Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and then add salt. Add in the noodles and cool until al dente. Drain and then reserve at least 3/4 cup of pasta water.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and the cheeses as well as the pepper to taste.
  4. Working quickly after the pasta is done, pour pasta into a large mixing bowl and combine with the pancetta (lightly drained from grease) and the egg mixture. Add enough of the pasta water to make it creamy. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and feel free to garnish with parsley and extra parmigianno!

Bon Appetit!

 

Our List of the Best Restaurants in Chicago

1st September 2015

We’ve been traveling to Chicago for the past five years of our relationship so we’ve discovered some wonderful spots in Chicago. We also have two wonderful aunts and uncles that help us navigate Chicago to the best of their ability (one being a food writer for the Tribune, the other a graphic designer, designing for Chicago celeb chef Rick Bayless). Needless to say, we are able to find amazing spots through them, but also a lot of our own personal network here in Raleigh.

Everyone who knows us, knows that we have a supreme love for Chicago and so we are always asked for tips and recommendations, so I wanted to compile them in one place for you all! Most of the restaurants we have personally visited, or they’re on our list to visit but have needlessly heard amazing things so I added them in case you have the opportunity to go!

Dillie&Dallie’s List of Best Restaurants in Chicago- yes, we’re going there!:

High End Dining (perfect for a very special occasion!)

Grace: recommended to us through Chef Duffy’s former coworker, this recently rated 3 Michelin star restaurant attracts celebrities and locals alike. Though the small restaurant makes nabbing a table quiet the task. Be prepared to spend a bit on this meal but it’ll be worth it. One of the best restaurants we’ve ever been to!

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Alinea: We have never had the privileged to eat at this world renowned restaurant but word from friends and food critics alike, this restaurant is one of the best in the world. Known for its innovative molecular gastronomy, it’s more than a meal, it’s a performance.

Spiaggia: A favorite of President Obama, this restaurant overlooks Michigan Avenue, The Drake Hotel and Lake Michigan and serves wonderful upscale Italian inspired dishes. We ate here after getting engaged in 2011! <3

Nomi: Located inside the Park Hyatt with excellent views of the famous water tower and Michigan Avenue, this restaurant serves inventive New American food and has a wonderful pastry chef! Had the privileged of eating here in 2010 for my birthday.

Next: Another super hot ticket from the chefs who brought you Alinea, this table is a tough score. Although we have not eaten here, the reviews seem like it will not disappoint. They constantly challenge what you see and what you taste by being overly imaginative and always pushing the envelope. We will taste test anytime!

Best Restaurants (that won’t blow the bank – perfect for birthdays and a special treat!)

Frontera Grill: Chef Rick Bayless’ long running hot ticket restaurant with authentic Mexican dishes that pay homage to his time spent in Mexico. Fantastic Mexican food, wonderful cocktails and an environment reminiscent of visiting for yourself. If you can’t nab a table here, definitely grab a bite around the corner at his other restaurant Xoco. I’m also very partial to all of his graphic design work thanks to Carrmichael Design, (shameless plug for family of course!)

Nico Osteria: One of the newer hot spots in Chicago, we were lucky enough to try out this past summer. An Italian-inspired seafood restaurant with authentic pastas, fresh fish and other samplings offering breakfast, lunch and dinner! Super hip vibe and not too stuffy to meet friends after work or for a romantic date.

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Longman and Eagle: We unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to personally visit but it comes HIGHLY recommend by Chicagoians. A very “farm to table” approach with the best local ingredients to highlight their American fare with an excellent whiskey selection and a beer list for all hipsters.  No reservations and usually a wait. They also have brunch!

Avec: Another one on our list to visit but renowned just the same. Part of the One Off Hospitality Group (known for some of THE BEST restaurants in all of Chicago, you’ll see me mention more, like the above Nico!) Avec serves Mediterranean and Midwestern influenced shared plates in a super hip and clean atmosphere.

Girl & the Goat: We had reservations a month in advance… for 10pm.. This restaurant is no joke in trying to nab a table. Unfortunately we did not end up going to eat here but word on the street is that it’s damn good. Chef Stephanie Izzard won Bravo’s Top Chef in 2004 and hasn’t stopped since. The food is family style with a menu of global influence and rotating craft beer showcasing Chicago breweries, this is a homey spot to meet friends or family.

Other Best Restaurants (at an even better price point, waiting still probably required)

BigStar: It’s one of our favorites. It’s a simple taco joint that is always slammed packed with locals more than tourists as it’s located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood which is so hip and trendy you’ll just want to move right in! Another restaurant from the One Off Hospitality Group, this easy dining experience is perfect for a summer evening on their open patio. Amazing guac, tacos and margaritas it’s a casual place that has lines every day of the week. We LOVE it and go every time we’re in Chicago.

Publican: One word: swine. Or pig, or pork, or however you’d like to describe it and it’s OH SO GOOD. Although the eclectic menu is also known for their oysters and beer, anything you order is bound to be amazing. Even Anthony Bourdain recognizes this! Their brunch is amazing and I’m sure dinner is too. They also opened up a butcher shop next door and I wish I lived in Chicago to take advantage. Also a member of the One Off Hospitality Group (of course).

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The Purple Pig: Cheese, Swine and Wine. I don’t know about you but we are very big lovers of all these things. Fresh sliced prosciutto, pork liver pate, pork jowl, pork chop… pecorino, cheddar, parmigiano, bufala… Adventurous and wonderful small plates allow you to sample many different options as everything sounds so delish it’s hard to decide. Good thing they’re open late so you can always go for dinner and stop by after many more drinks!

GT Fish & Oyster: Redefining the American seafood scene with shared plates that are always changing through seasonal catches. It’s been Michelin starred and raved about in Food & Wine it’s obvious you should probably visit if you have the chance! We haven’t been but it’s been on the list for quite a while!

Just Because You’re in Chicago:

Portillo’s, Gino’s East or Lou Malnati’s (be our guest to suggest your favorite deep dish!), Weiner Circle (because Hot Doug’s closed..), and before you head home grab some gourmet popcorn by Garrett’s Popcorn Shop.

Best Bars in Chicago:

Three Dots & a Dash: Feel like a cocktail in the middle of Chicago that transports you to the Polynesian islands? This is the place. The environment allows you to escape to a faraway land with fantastic cocktails and retro bites. It’s a great place to visit at least once and you’ll always remember your time here!

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Cindy’s at the Chicago Athletic Association: One of the newest bars in Chicago boosting amazing views unique to Chicago thus far. Beautiful views of Millennium Park, the Art Institute and Lake Michigan. But this bar also has amazing cocktails! Although the bar is a bit small it’s a great place to visit, day or night!

The Violet Hour: This hip spot serves artisanal cocktails to more Chicagoians that tourists as this spot is located in one of our favorite spots of Chicago, Wicker Park. This bar has even won a James Beard Award! We haven’t been but word is, it’s great.

Signature Lounge at the Signature Room: Although the atmosphere of this bar is a bit dated and cocktails aren’t out of this world, I recommend it purely for the amazing view it entails. Take in every inch of Chicago from the 96th floor of the Hancock building. If you were to visit the observatory you’d still be paying, so why not just pay for a drink and enjoy the view?

What do you think of our list? Anything you’d add or remove? I love a good food discussion so dig in!