Category Archives: Travel

Charleston, South Carolina

16th December 2015

Nick and I have the opportunity to get to Charleston about once a year (thanks to our sister and brother-in-law who live in Kiawah), and we love to just get lost in Charleston and wander around and eat amazing food. That is one claim to fame that Charleston has, delicious, southern food! It may not be a Chicago, New York or San Francisco but Charleston has humble chefs allowing tourists and locals alike to enter into culinary heaven.

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Charleston is also charming and romantic. The whispering Spanish moss hanging from above but reaching out to touch you, the historic cobble stone streets that harbor so much history, the gorgeous homes that line the street welcoming you into this wonderful world. It feels as though it’s a hidden secret that you’re able to stumble upon because you took the right turn. If you haven’t visited sweet Charleston, there’s no time like the present. It’s beautiful year round (although I would avoid high summer as the humidity and heat can be a bit uncomfortable).

If you’re planning on visiting Charleston soon, here are some helpful tips we’d love to share with you! But let’s be honest, our main focus is always food, so here are our best restaurants in Charleston!

Two Boroughs Larder: This casual eatery is a great informal spot to have farm to table eats and snatch up some of your provisions while eating seasonal dishes along with carefully curated wines and local beers. This is an awesome spot to grab lunch!

Minero: This tiny local gem has fantastic casual Mexican food with excellent street style tacos, guac, and cocktails at a great price. Not to mention the Chef is a James Beard award winner.

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Husk: Well if you haven’t heard this restaurants name thrown around yet, I’ll throw it out there one more time. This restaurant has been mentioned from Bon Appetit, to Southern Living, to Food and Wine so it’s no wonder this table is tough to snag. This Southern kitchen cooks up local favorites and focuses on local bounty.

Taco Boy: Ok, so obviously we have a thing for Mexican food. This staple started out originally on Folly Beach but they now have a spot in Charleston and you MUST go. Their tacos are amazing, their nachos are too and I’m always crying that we don’t have one in Raleigh..

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The Ordinary: “Fancy Seafood. Oyster Hall.” I could not sum it up better. Supporting local fishermen, crabbers, oystermen, and further local producers, this restaurant serves up great food, drinks and a great atmosphere as the restaurant is located in an old bank. The same people that bring you amazing food at FIG, their passion for serving great food in Charleston is evident.

167 Raw: Literally a hole in the wall, ok more like the size of a fancy walk-in closet, this ALWAYS packed oyster house is super fresh (that’s how you should want your oysters, obviously). Bringing the taste of Nantucket down to Charleston, providing only the most fresh seafood from oysters to their famous Lobster roll, it’s worth the wait!

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Edmund’s Oast: This off the beaten path Charleston eatery is serving up over 40 beers on tap, awesome cocktails and adventurous food. They even have a Charcuterie Program, and that my friends, can make our hearts skip a beat. Almost everything is scratch made, and that also includes their house cured charcuterie. A perfect place to meet friends and hang out for an afternoon on their outdoor patio on a perfect day.

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After your meal you must get lost in this beautiful city. Walking off all the food you’ve consumed on the cobblestone streets or wandering through the cemeteries is a perfect way to spend your afternoon in Charleston. Don’t forget about some shopping on King Street. Snag some beautiful antiques or get that purse you’ve been thinking about. Don’t forget to take a carriage ride around town and learn historical facts about this fascinating city!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

7th December 2015

I can’t believe it’s already December. I’m really not sure where time goes each year, but one thing is for sure, we love Christmas time. There’s nothing like the warmth the magical lights of Christmas bring, the smells echo memories of Christmas past and everyone is united in the understanding of this time for giving. If you’re lacking in the holiday spirit this year, we wanted to suggest ideas of how to get in the Christmas spirit!

In the Raleigh area:

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In North Carolina:

  • Grab your family and go cut down your own Christmas tree this year! Check out Watagua County’s map of Christmas tree farms.
  • Nothing could be finer than to see the United States largest family home, the Biltmore, decked out in its Christmas best!
  • See over 3 million Christmas lights the Charlotte Motor Speedway with their light show.
  • Be dazzled by the annual holiday light celebration at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens.
  • Visit Old Salem and glimpse the glowing Moravian stars, spend Saturdays with St. Nick or take your own self-guided tour.

We hope these ideas give you some inspiration for this Holiday season and we hope it’s a magical one this year and we are glad to have a great State to celebrate the holidays in as well!

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!

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!

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.)

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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!

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!

Aimlessly wandering in summer 2015

26th August 2015

Summer 2015 has been pretty successful. It always seems like when summer hits, your life just flashes by exponentially. Even though we have longer days they seem to escape you with drinks and dinners outside, trips to the beach and spending time with family. I enjoy all the activities that are at your finger tips but I’m also getting pretty excited for the fall. Here are some glimpses of this summer so far..

Kiawah Island for July 4th weekend:

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IMG_1627Spontaneous trips to the Angus Barn with friends on a random Sunday night, including ordering two bottles of red wine and great conversation..

IMG_1636Visiting the beach I spent every summer growing up on.. I still enjoy visiting Topsail Island:

IMG_1650Leisurely brunches spent outside in the sunshine at Joule Coffee in downtown Raleigh:

IMG_1670Visiting Nick’s mom at the lake with our aunts, cousins and grandparents at “Camp Gigi”:

IMG_1771Concerts in downtown Raleigh on a decently cool evening in August:

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Nick was able to go out to Washington to work the 2015 US Open (for golf) and rumor has it, it is very beautiful out there and we must travel back and visit Seattle:

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Summer days spent playing golf too at Lonnie Poole:

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How’s your summer looked so far? Any fun things that have happened? That you want to still do before it comes to an end? Let us know!

Summer 2k15 – Chicago Part 4

17th August 2015

Our final day was a quick one as our flight out of Chicago was at 3:00. We decided to take advantage of having a few hours though, and using our final Explorer Pass admission and headed towards the Chicago History Museum near Lincoln Park. The museum was really great. We took a docent tour and learned some neat facts about the history of Chicago.  They also had a Lincoln exhibit but we were unable to wander around due to an event. I definitely recommend checking out the museum at least once. It was quite informative!

One of the other great parts of visiting the museum was the walk to the museum where Chicago’s Brownstone game was seriously on point. I mean look at these two houses, can I just move right in?! Chicago is definitely a city I’d love to live in, and every time I’m there I’m reminded why!

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After visiting the museum we headed for our last meal in Chicago. I’m not a huge fan of deep dish pizza but I knew mom had to try some before she left so that we covered all the bases on Chicago staple food. There was a Lou Malnati’s on the way back to the hotel so we stopped in and order two personal deep dish pizzas! I really can’t think of any better ways to end our trip to Chicago. I think mom was impressed as I tried to show her some of the best of Chicago, but there’s always more to explore and that’s why I love going back!

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Cheers y’all!

Summer 2k15 – Chicago Part 3

13th August 2015

Day 3 in Chicago was pretty laid back. We wandered around the Mag Mile again and were able to stumble upon Eataly, Mario Batali’s venture to unite the world over amazing Italian food, products and cooking through our love for food. In Chicago, it’s a two story mega-store with cafes, cooking classes, wine, gadgets and amazing cheeses and meats of course! We didn’t spend too much time because you can spend too much time! I do wish we had one in our city because it’s a great opportunity to get products you might night be able to find elsewhere and to snag some really great meats and cheeses for all the wine nights you have!

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After shopping we headed to The Purple Pig to grab some lunch with my aunt. The Purple Pig is described as “Adventurous small plates plus house-cured meats & a lengthy wine list in small, lively quarters.” It accurately lives up to this description for sure! We dined on beets with goat cheese, meatballs, the “JLT” with pork jowl, octopus with green beans and many other yummy small plates. As it states, cheese, swine and wine, and it is just that. It’s a great place to go any time of day but you’ll be sitting at communal tables so make sure you’re ok with that.

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Photo via The Purple Pig Facebook Page

The Purple Pig is conveniently located off the Mag Mile and just a skip from the river making it the perfect lunch spot for visiting Chicago. So naturally after lunch we used our Explorer Pass again and took the iconic Chicago Architecture Tour. The architecture tour is one of my favorites in Chicago. I always love learning about history and what makes up the Chicago skyline. Plus you may notice a lot of buildings from certain movies, such as Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon where they completely destroy Chicago.. shame! The tour really allows you some beautiful views of Chicago, and there are even cocktails on board. What’s not to like?! I’ll let you be the judge by the photos below!

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The Sears (Willis) Tower - where Hubby & I were engaged!

The Sears (Willis) Tower – where Hubby & I were engaged!

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The Architecture tour is so fun and the views are just incredible. I simply love Chicago if you cannot tell. It’s even better in the summertime when you have gorgeous blue skies and no snow!

After our tour we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and take an Uber to Wickerpark/Bucktown area to grab some delish tacos at BigStar! BigStar is one of the places you HAVE to visit and since it’s still super hip there is always a wait, and it’s always busy. It’s located in one of the most fun neighborhoods in Chicago (I think) and it has great shopping, restaurants and bars to visit and just a few miles outside of Chicago. But back to talking about tacos from BigStar… The guac! The margs! Taco de Panza! It’s all so yummy and they’re even open late night. They have great outdoor seating and just a great vibe all together. I HIGHLY recommend visiting!

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Post dinner, it was time for some drinks. If there is one place to go on your last night in Chicago (without having already visited the Signature Room) it’s Three Dots and a Dash. A totally unique bar, with equally unique drinks. One walk down the alley and you’ll think you’ve taken a wrong turn and once you head down stairs, you’ve definitely taken a turn to the South Pacific. Three Dots and a Dash is named after Morse code giving homage to their Polynesian past and contains epic rum drinks in unique tiki glasses. If you’re visiting with a group, go for the Treasure Chest No. 3 complete with a bottle of Dom Perignon and serves 6-8. Otherwise, any of their cocktails are great! This is such a fun spot and I definitely recommend it to visitors of Chicago.

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After Three dots, it was time to hit the hay. We had our last full day in Chicago, and tomorrow we were heading home, but not without one more stop with our Explorer Pass!