Archive for the ‘Raves’ Category

Big Jones – Marvelous Southern Coastal Cuisine in Chicago

Raise your hand if you’re having employment and money woes. Oh, hello, most of America. Me, too! And if my boyfriend were here, he’d raise his hand, too. But he’s out chasing work, which makes it all the more important that his birthday dinner on Sunday be enjoyable and memorable.

Thanks to my half-Southern roommate, I had once been treated to the marvelousness that is Big Jones restaurant at 5347 North Clark Street. And since my boyfriend is a Southern boy at heart, and an adventurous foodie to boot, I thought a nice birthday dinner at Big Jones was the perfect choice.

From start to finish, our evening at Big Jones was delightful. Granted, we were there on a Sunday night, so we probably got more personal attention from our server than we may have otherwise, but honestly, from the complementary red pepper and cream cheese appetizer, to the crab cakes, to the super fancy bevvies and entrees, everything was just lovely.

Big Jones’ cocktail menu is an impressive array of specialty beers, carefully chosen wines, and mixed drinks that will have you feeling like sophisticated ladies and gentlemen even if you stumbled in the door exhausted from a video shoot in rumpled jeans and a hoodie (oops, maybe that was just me). I can vouch for the deliriously delicious The Original Sazerac, (Remy VS Cognac, Absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters, and a touch of cane syrup), as well as the True North Cherry Coke (True North Cherry Vodka and Coca-Cola).

My boyfriend tore through a generous plate of Shrimp and Grits (with savory house tasso gravy and organic white hominy grits) while I dug into a sandwich made of crisp Black Eye Pea Cakes dunked in Green Goddess dressing. Both were excellent.

How much did our waitress’ attentiveness add to our enjoyment of our meal? A lot. When she noticed I was nibbling my way through the cherries in my True North Cherry Coke, she brought me more, in a shot glass. Then she bought us each a birthday drink, and I’m pretty sure she gifted us the Mississippi Mud Pie (with a single candle) we had for dessert. Incidentally, the pie was encrusted with some freshly caramelized marshmallows, prompting me to remark (accurately) that I could easily do with a small plate of nothing but toasted marshmallows for dessert and be very happy.

The music selection is also a perfect match – B-side Motown charmers and very pleasing Southern-tinged classic pop. So check out Big Jones if you are planning a special evening out – you’ll be glad you did.

I’m just so urban now…

Whew. I haven’t been in my metblog account in what feels like an eternity. Turns out that exploring Chicago and settling in takes longer than I anticipated.

I’ve been doing a lot of things Chicago-related. Just in the past three weeks, I’ve gotten new ink at Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Company, discovered some amazing food, and seen some great shows.  I’ll save the food and shows for other posts, since I’m a bit backed up. But right now, let’s talk about my tat!

A few weeks ago, when a friend was in town for her birthday, we decided we were going to get tattoos. Kind of an impulse, I know, but it was something I had been thinking about for a while.

I made some calls and was referred to The Chicago Tattooing and Piercing Company (1017 W. Belmont). We hopped on the bus and headed south, and when we walked in the door, we were pleased with our decision.

The business is very clean and professional looking (unlike the place where I got my first tattoo) and the man who did my tattoo (Mike) was lovely. He was patient with me, and he explained everything he was doing as he went along. He even talked me out of getting it on a specific part of my body, because the quality would be bad. He didn’t have to do that, and I know a lot of 19-22 year-old girls that are proof positive that not every tattoo artist does do that!

The whole thing, which I’ll post a picture of just as soon as I have a functional camera, only took about 20 minutes and was fairly cheap….as far as tattoos go, anyhow.

So, if you’re itching for some ink, and I know you all are (right??), head over to the Chicago Tattooing and Piercing Company.  If nothing else, they won’t let you get a bad tattoo….

Edgewater Produce – Cheap Produce, Monkeylicious Dry Goods

With consumer goods prices burgeoning and my “still somewhat timid freelance writer” schtick not yet helping me rake large piles of cash into my wallet, I’ve been looking for more ways to cut costs.

Having sold my Ford Explorer (did I really drive that thing?) before I moved from Indiana to Chicago not long ago, I’m not feeling the pinch at the pump like you auto-owning Chicagoans are, but these days I’m riding my bike as much to save myself the $1.75 on the CTA as to get some fun summertime cardio.

I’ve been cutting my own hair. I’ve been sneaking snacks into the movies. I’ve been bringing my own food with me whenever I leave the house.

And I’ve been forgoing the convenience and selection of the Andersonville Jewel for the vastly cheaper and more interesting Edgewater Produce (5509 N. Clark St., near Bryn Mawr), a small Mexican grocery store right across the street from Jewel. Some prices might slowly be creeping up — the cheapest eggs have jumped from $.99 to $1.29 — but the produce and Mexican staples are cheap and delicious. They also have a small but nice baked goods selection, cheap tofu (if you swing that way), and a delightful assortment of strange and delicious Mexican candies and treats.

And while I go mostly for things like the bulk dried fruit and trail mix-type snack selection, even my boyfriend the foodie (who uses strange and fancy gadgets like skillets and spatulas) is happy with the selection of meats, veggies, and the colorful array of ethnic sauces and spices that populate the shelves there.

And the best part — the eagle-eyed shopper will spot little snapshots of comedy embedded in the Edgewater Produce experience, like the labels on the bulk foods. Exactly which pointy rice snack makes the “fancy Oriental mix” fancy? Does the energy in the “energy mix” come from the fake M&M’s? And how much of my RDA of ape-liciousness will I get from a half cup of “banana chimps?”

– photo by Bryan Bowden

Three cheers for the hippies!!

So, I started taking percussive dance at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Man. Not only is Old Town totally awesome, the class is amazing!

There is no required skill level for my class, so it’s very diverse and fun. From novice to professional dancers, to hobbyists like myself. I had to dust off my old tap shoes in order to, well, percuss, and it was sooooo much fun. it’s like STOMP!, but I’m the one stomping!

I had so much fun that I didn’t realize how sore I was until a day later! My body is definitely mad at me – I haven’t danced for sport in, ohhhh, a decade or so. Mild pain and discomfort aside, I love this class.

I love Old Town.

Uptown Eats

My dad was in town this weekend, which means I got to break the monotony of grilled cheese and cereal and eat at a Real Restaurant. Sweet. This week’s choice was Magnolia Cafe in Uptown, and boy, was it ever tasty. As a vegetarian, the pickings were pretty slim, but the options I did find were darn good. I started off with yummy little thyme and goat cheese potato cakes that were totally worth burning the crap out of my tongue for, followed by, quite possibly, the best mixed green and bleu cheese salad I’ve ever eaten. (I didn’t realize how into the greens I was until my dad, after watching me greedily chase around the last dried cranberry on my plate for twenty seconds asked, “Good salad?”)

Dinner was a wild mushroom and herbed ricotta pizza, and although the crust was fantastic and the other toppings were delicious, the overly chewy mushrooms made this my least favorite point in the meal, but that was soon forgotten when the gooey chocolate bread pudding arrived accompanied by a perfectly shaped scoop of vanilla ice cream. I feel bad that my dad is cutting back on his sugar intake right now, but man, did I not want to share that dessert, so it worked out well for both of us.

Salon update and headshots, etc

Okay, I went to my new stylist on Saturday, and I only have two words to describe my experience; holy hell. Not only were the salon employees awesome in general, but my new (and favorite) stylist Ken was ah-mazing!

I sat in his chair, crazy nervous, and attempted to explain to him what my ideal haircut/color was. I did a terrible job (my verbal fluency is the first thing to go when I’m nervous), and he still managed to give me the most amazing overhaul I’ve ever had! It was everything I imagined and then some! So, if you need new hair, or just a haircut/touch up, go see Ken at Salon 10 (5245 N. Clark). Tell him Nellie sent you.

Next item on the agenda – headshots. I’ve been dreading the stupid headshots for a long time, but I think I finally have to buckle down and just get it done. My friend Lindsey is going to do them, and let me just tell you, she’s amazing. She’s one of the only people I trust to take my picture, and she’s an all-around amazing artist. If you’re in need of a good headshot, or just a good piece of art, you should definitely check her out.

Hip Hop Hooray

Despite the fact that my roommate had rented the entire first season of Tell Me You Love Me and pizza was on the way, I still managed to peel my rear off the couch last Thursday in time to check out an open mic in Humboldt Park. And despite the fact that I have an unhealthy obsession with Tell Me You Love Me (and pizza, if we’re talking openly here), goddamn am I glad I ditched both in favor of catching the brilliant lyrical stylings of Phillip Morris.
Political and complex with a touch of blistering wit thrown in for good measure, Morris’ brand of hip hop will have you bobbin’ your head on the dance floor…and giving some serious thought to the social injustices featured in his rhymes. Don’t miss his upcoming show, April 4 at Betty’s Blue Star Lounge, where he’ll be taking to the stage with cellist and Tomorrow Music Orchestra member, Lilianna Zofia.

Food Orgasm With a Side of Beans


Hot damn. If you haven’t paid a visit to La Cocina de Frida, Andersonville’s latest Mexican eatery extraordinaire, I don’t know why you’re sitting at your computer right now. Go. I sampled the Enchiladas Enfrijoladas stuffed with fried plantains last night, and by “sampled” I mean “stuffed into my gaping maw at an alarming rate, leaving fellow diners disturbed and slightly nauseous.” The free chips arrived with a deliciously smoky Chipotle salsa, which I highly suggest double-dipping with an order of guacamole. The mole negro and flan are reportedly top notch as well, although I didn’t have the pleasure of gorging myself on those. Yet. I’ll keep you posted…

¡Viva La Illinois Masonic!

In the spirit of “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone*”, I would like to sing the praises of the Women’s Health Care center at the Illinois Masonic Hospital. I’ve been a patient of the Women’s Health care center for many years, and I have only had great experiences. I love my doctor, and she knows everything about me–my medical history, my family’s medical history, my family’s family’s medical history–and she amazingly remembers little details that most doctors would overlook. I never feel rushed, and I honestly feel like she really cares. I’ve never had a doctor like that before, and I recently have found myself bragging about how great they are to numerous people and recommending them to friends.For example, for a little while I was going to an amazing nurse practitioner (who sadly isn’t there anymore) who absolutely went above and beyond the call of duty: I called at about 9pm one night to leave her a message about some samples of a prescription I was about to start taking. She answered, catching me totally off guard, then asked ‘Where do you live?’ Yes, at 9pm on a weeknight, she drove to my house to bring me the samples. I was totally blown away by that. So I did what any old gal from the South would do, I packed up some vegetable soup and cornbread that I had just made so she could have a nice hot dinner.So imagine my shock and horror when I called them last week to make an appointment and update my new insurance info, only to find that (HORRORS!) the Illinois Masonic does not accept it! No more extended medical records! No more wonderfully comfortable doctors! Sadly, I cannot afford to pay out of pocket, so now I am having to start all over again with a new set of doctors–doctors who don’t know my personality. Who don’t know which of my joints have arthritis. Who are…different. But I refuse to give up.So cheers to you, Women’s Health Care Center. I’ll hopefully be back in your care soon.*I realized how great they were before I learned that I have to stop going there. How totally, wonderfully great.

CPR Training Days

The Red Cross of Greater Chicago has set themselves the goal of training 2,000 people in adult CPR in two days of training. There’s a Suburban session in Willow Creek on Saturday, February 24 and two sessions at Navy Pier on Saturday, March 10. It’s $5 and then you’re Red Cross CPR certified and, you never know, you might save someone’s life someday.

If you don’t have the time, but you have $30, consider getting the American Heart Association’s CPR Anytime, a home training kit. You get a DVD and a mini-Resciannie. You won’t be certified, but the maybe-saving-a-life bit still applies.

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