Portland, Maine Food Scene

All, I’m back in school to get my Master’s and thus it’s been quite a while since I last shared some exciting travel experiences.  However, I can’t stop thinking about last month when I ate Portland, Maine.  It’s no wonder Bon Appetit named Portland the restaurant city of the year in 2018.  

I was in Portland for a bachelorette party, and my friend who is getting married is quite the foodie. This was the perfect trip for her and my foodie friends. First of all, I had no idea what to expect up in this beach towns I expected a very nautical vibe. Indeed, Portland is quite the opposite and the feel was closer to those on the West Coast, in Seattle, or Portland, Oregon. Regardless of location, everyone in Portland is so nice, happy and loves where they live and which made for a great experience on my visit.

Breakfast in Portland, Maine

  • Tandem Bakery: My favorite food stop of the trip. Not only was their coffee delicious, this little café is super cute and looks like a small bike shop that evolved out of an old gas station. Obviously, the food was the best part. I drooled over a breakfast biscuit loaded with pimento cheese, egg, and bacon.  I wanted everything on the menu, but with only three days in the city that would have been silly. Instead, I grabbed an everything scone to go, and that was the perfect mid-afternoon snack.

tandem bakery

  • Marcy’s Diner: Marcy’s diner is a small breakfast stop known for its grilled muffins. While all the food was good, I’d suggest going for these staples, and being prepared to wait at least 30 minutes, as it is quite the popular place!
  • The Holy Donut: If you are a donut lover, check out this all-natural donut shop for some creative flavors. The sweet potato donut is a must, but if you are only passing through, get a variety pack to share. You won’t be sorry.

Portland Maine Donuts

Portland, Maine Lunch and Snacks

  • Crown Jewel: This beautiful, instaworthy restaurant is located in Diamond Cove on Great Diamond Island, which I highly recommend visiting. You can take the ferry to the island and it’s a short walk from the docks. The restaurant gives a super beach vibe with its flagship crowned flamingo as part of its brand.  I think we ordered almost everything on the menu to taste and share, however my favorites were the grilled wedge, sweet & spicy bacon skewer, crab & corn fritters, and lobster ravioli.  Don’t forget to wash down the deliciousness with the apple beignets and salted chocolate cookie.

crown jewel portland maine

  • Duckfat: I am not the poutine girl, but let me tell you, this restaurant knows how to do it. Their Belgian fries are smothered with cheese curds, duck gravy, chives, and a sunny side up egg if you’re willing to get messy! Only a few people from the party made it here and we heard it from the group the rest of the weekend because we couldn’t even make it home with more than few fries for leftovers.

duckfat poutine fries

  • Maine Lobster Shack: I probably had about 5 different lobster rolls while I was in Portland, and this by far was my favorite place for the infamous sandwich. Order the Brown Butter Lobster roll, you’ll be in heaven.

lobster shack lobster roll

  • Portland Lobster Company: Another hot spot for lobster rolls, this place has outdoor seating right on the water and live music into the evening. Be prepared for crowds, but lots of fun!
  • The Garden Café, Portland Regency: Located outside of the Portland Regency Hotel, this café is relaxing and perfect for some day drinking or snacks! The quesadilla was on point.

Dinner in Portland

  • Drifter’s Wife: A foodie find, this urban restaurant is meant for share plates. Everything we had was fantastic. While the menu changes frequently, if the half chicken is available I’d suggest getting that and take on the carbs with the sourdough bread.
  • Diamond’s Edge Restaurant: Our party had an outdoor lobster bake here in Diamond Cove and the service was top notch.  The staff went over the top to make sure we had a good time. The atmosphere is a blast as you get to sit outside, relax, and enjoy the water while having a full seafood spread. I highly recommend visiting this place if nothing but to interact with the great staff.  This is another place you’d have to get to from the ferry in Downtown Portland.

diamonds edge dock

Don’t forget the Booze

  • CellarDoor Winery at the Point: Just a few minutes away from downtown is Thompson’s Point, which is home to a few really fun places for libations. Stop in and check out this winery, which is also a beautiful event space.
  • Bissell Brothers: While I didn’t get a chance to try the beer, Bissell Brothers Brewing Company is right next door and one of the most popular craft beer spots in the city.
  • Stroudwater Distillery: If you are looking for a fun atmosphere with fresh drinks, this place has a great outdoor patio to play corn hole and enjoy the sun. I had a fresh vodka watermelon cucumber cocktail concoction and now wish I had this place around the corner!

stroudwater distillery

Places to Stay

  • Portland Harbor Hotel: If you are looking for something walking distance to everything, this hotel was in a great location, a few minutes from local bars, and had a beautiful outdoor patio and fire pit.

While I was only in Portland for three days, I think I ate like I was there for three weeks. Foodie friends, get your taste buds and tummy ready! 

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Things to do in Dallas: Weekend Trip!

I went to Dallas in the beginning of March for a long weekend and the weather was absolutely stunning. It was the perfect time of year to escape the Chicago chill for sunshine and jean jacket weather down south.  We were able to check out many of the different neighborhoods in Dallas and I highly recommend bouncing around to discover the different areas.

Best Places To Stay In Dallas

South Side Dallas

Our first night we stayed at the Nylo Dallas South Side. A friend mentioned they had one of the best rooftop views of the city, and we thought, why not take advantage? Oh they did indeed.  The rooftop SODA bar was a great way to introduce ourselves to the city views. The bar includes an indoor/outdoor patio and a pool that closes at sunset.  The other great part of this boutique hotel was the lofty and industrial feel along with bright artsy inspiration. The staff was more than accommodating and seemed to really enjoy their jobs.

nylo soda bar view

Downtown Dallas

The rest of the weekend we stayed in The Adolphus Hotel downtown. Rated among one of the top hotels in Dallas, this is quite the opposite of where we stayed our first night.  The Adolphus was dreamed up by Anheuser Busch founder Adolphus Busch as a luxury hotel back in the early 1900s and while the lobby maintains the historic feel, the rooms were up-to-date and well designed. I had some major envy for the hotel room mirrors! The hotel also has a great rooftop pool to relax in during the day and apparently a bar, but we didn’t’ get a chance to see it while we were there. Good news is there is a bar right in the lobby area that is hopping during happy hour and late evening.

Things to Do in Downtown Dallas

There are some great things to do in Downtown Dallas within walking distance of the Adolphus Hotel.

Food & Drink

  • Frankies Bar: This fun underground sports bar was right around the corner from the hotel and is great late night hang. The bar plays 90s music videos you can watch late at night when your eating their pizza or chicken wings!
  • Crafty Irishman: We stopped here for a quick snack and drinks. They had good appetizer options – we chose the corn beef and cabbage egg rolls.  The drinks were also really good. The restaurant is known for its Crafty Coffee which is an Irish Coffee with Baileys. My favorite was their Gun Powder which is crafted with Hendrick’s Gin, Elderflower, Lime, and Cucumber. I think this is going to be my new summer drink – refreshing!
  • Flying Horse Cafe: This is located in the Magnolia Hotel, directly next door. They make great lattes, power smoothies and breakfast tacos!

Sites

  • Klyde Park: Every time I passed this beautiful park it was loaded with food trucks, and people dancing, playing games, picnicking or just relaxing!
  • Eye: It’s always watching you!
  • JFK Assassination Tour: While I didn’t get the chance to do this, I heard great things about this historical experience.
  • Reunion Tower: Also on my list – another great way to see the skyline!

Things to Do in Dallas South Side

The South Side is a growing area and has some newer top-rated Dallas restaurants.  Here are some of the hot spots we visited while we stayed at the Nylo hotel.

  • Melted: This was our first stop, and home to some great cocktails and an abundance of cheesy sammies! I ordered The Beach, a chicken, bacon, avocado, cheddar and cream cheese sandwich. *Melted* in my mouth! The bar also opens up to an outdoor picnic area, so everyone’s happy.

Melted-Dallas.JPG

  • Mac’s Southside: A late night win on my part.  This neighborhood bar had a friendly bar staff and even better pizza menu.  I took a risk and ordered a margarita pizza with pepperoni and can’t believe I waited 33 years to try this invention! Delish!
  • Opening Bell Coffee Shop: This cute coffee shop and live music venue has been well received by both locals and Dallas visitors.  We went here for breakfast and got the avocado toast, breakfast tacos and a mocha latte. All food was well presented and yummy!

opening bell avocado toast dallas

Places I want to check out next time I’m in South Side: Industry Alley Bar, Checkered Past Winery, Full Circle Tavern, and Midnight Rambler.

Things to Do in Uptown Dallas

When you have a chance, check out a Dallas Stars or Mavericks game at the American Airlines Center. Otherwise, here are some great outdoor bars and Dallas restaurants to hang out:

  • Happiest Hour: A bit closer to Downtown, this bar is top rated for its large rooftop and patio area. It’s within walking distance to the American Airlines Center, so a perfect pre or post game hotspot! 
  • Nickel & Rye: An outdoor Whiskey bar with other creative cocktails
  • Blackfriar Pub: A casual doubledecker pub perfect for people watching
  • Parliament Dallas: A small cocktail bar with a speakeasy feel

Place I want to check out next time I’m in Uptown: Quarter Bar, The GingerMan.

Things to Do In Dallas – Deep Ellum

One of our favorite places in the city was Deep Ellum and artsy area chock-full of fun bars, restaurants, murals and sculptures!

deep ellum texas sculpture

  • The Backyard: An extremely large bar full of games and dog art!
  • Pecan Lodge: This Dallas restaurant is known for its lines that wrap around the corner. We got in around 4:30 with no wait on a weekend for this Texas BBQ joint. The brisket was fantastic!

pecan lodge texas bbq

  • Stirr: Another great rooftop bar with amazing sunset views of the city. Their drink specials were on point – $5 for your choice of a handful of their craft cocktails.

Stirr-Sunset-Dallas

  • Anvil Pub: We hit this place up for a few drinks and had the best time talking to the bartender. Apparently it’s a must for bloody’s and brunch on the weekend! Next time!
  • IdleRye: A hip restaurant with Polish and Louisiana roots.

We heard great things about Idle Rye, Brick & Bones, Frank, Hide Cocktails, and Truck Yard, which we will be sure to visit during our summer trip.

If you are going to try to drive around the outskirts of Dallas, my number one recommendation is to go into Highland Park.  The most beautiful mansions are built here and fun to cruise through! Who knows, you may run across a celebrity!

Would I go back to Dallas?

Of course I would. The weather was perfect, people were friendly, and bars and restaurants were all a great experience. I’m just getting started!

Looking for more things to do in Texas? Check out my post on Austin!

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays and I’m so lucky that Chicago is one of the most popular places to celebrate the Irish.  I visited for the holiday before I moved to Chicago, and the city’s energy during this time was definitely an influencer in my decision to make Chicago my home.

Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations

The main attraction for St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago is the River Dyeing.  This always happens the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day at 9 am. Boats cruise up and down the river dropping an orange vegetable dye in the water turning it a beautiful shade of green similar to the Emerald Ilse in Ireland.  You need to grab your spot early, as the crowds populate the river starting around 8:15 am.  The best point to watch the river is at the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Wacker Drive. On the same day, at around 12 noon, Chicago hosts its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Michigan Ave.

Dyeing the Chicago River

Chicago River Dyeing

Chicago Green River Boats

The day after the river dyeing is the South Side Irish Parade.  This long-standing tradition is also rumored to have been quite the party in the past and one of the favorites among the locals.  Overtime, this has been a great day for families to gather, celebrate the holiday and eat and drink any Irish fare.

Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Bars

If you are going to watch the river dyeing but want a place to enjoy some libations after, anywhere along the Riverwalk will be fun during this time.  Two that are known for the shenanigans are:

A place I’ve gone to in the past which is a bit of a walk from the river in the Loop is called Plymouth, which has a fun enclosed rooftop to keep you warm but enjoy some sunshine.

One place I’ll always recommend is Butch McGuire’s which is a fantastic Irish Pub completely decorated with green stringlights for the holiday. I love to celebrate holiday’s here.

More Chicago Irish Pubs

Regardless of the holiday, Chicago has many fun Irish bars throughout the city.  Here are a few to consider checking out if the crowds are too much close to the river:

More Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Events

There is no lack of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Chicago, and many last throughout the month of March.  Here are some other things to do within the Chicago area during the great St. Patrick’s Day season.

  • Oak Forest Fleadh – The first weekend of March is a great way to kickoff events in Oak Forest. This includes a 5K, Family Parade, and Open Bars.
  • Tinley Park Irish Parade – This event happens the Sunday after St. Patrick’s Day

If celebrating in Chicago is so fun you’re ready to go celebrate with the Irish, check out my post on my visit to the wonderful country.

Bachelorette Party in Austin, Texas

I love Austin, Texas! I headed down south to host a Bachelorette party for one of my best friends this past August.  The weather was hot, but bright and sunny – perfect for our plans the short weekend.  I was there only Friday-Sunday so I have plenty more to see, but I also have plenty to share already about my amazing time.

Hotels in Austin Texas

We stayed at the Hilton Austin and I would definitely stay there if I went back again.  The staff was fantastic – they welcomed the party with open arms, made sure that we had cold water in our refrigerator each day, and did what they could to suit our needs.  In addition to the rooms being comfortable, they have a great spa which includes a rooftop pool and tiki bar overlooking the skyline that we got to relax and enjoy during the day on Friday.

Hilton Austin Skyline Views

Austin’s Rainey Street

My favorite place to go when I was in Austin was Rainey Street. This is a stringlight filled street lined with Bungalow House bars.  Every ‘house bar’ is close together so you can easily walk up and down the street trying out new places.  The bars are usually open to enjoy the weather and lead out to a backyard for continued libations.  There are also plenty of places on this strip that have live bands.  While I failed to take some photos of this awesome and innovative bar design, I wanted to make sure I shared some fun stops.

Container Bar Rainey Street

Austin Bar Scene

Other than Rainey Street, the place to be is around 6th street to experience amazing outdoor and rooftop bars, food, and live music.  I did a quick round of bar hopping here and got to check out a handful of fun places and some amazing music. If you are tired of walking around, make sure to try their Pedi Cabs to get from one street to the next.

Austin Food

Austin is another popular place for Food Trucks! We got to enjoy a fun dinner by Boca, which is located right next to Container Bar. I ordered the Chips & Queso, Ground Beef taco and Berkshire Bacon taco.

Our nice dinner out was at Emmer & Rye which is right off of Rainey Street. We had a pre fixe menu set up for us since we were such a large group and the food was incredible.  I would definitely go back there.

Lake Travis

While I didn’t get to take in as much of downtown and the foodie scene I wanted (next time), I spent almost a full day on Lake Travis while I was there. It was well worth it and absolutely fantastic.  We rented a boat with a slide (and a Captain to drive I might add) and did a Saturday Funday out on the lake.  What I didn’t expect was about 30 boats tying themselves up next to each other and the most fabulous day party of my life.  If you are going to Austin for a Bachelorette party, do not miss taking advantage of a day party out on Lake Travis.

Lake TravisLake Travis Boat Rental

If I went back to Austin

I will definitely be back in Austin, Texas, and there is way too much that I still have to see and do. I’d check out a few of their hot restaurants, including checking out their best pizza. I’d also continue to take advantage of the live music capital of the world and try to hit up Austin City Limits.

Additional Bachelorette Party Travel Ideas

I’ve been to quite a few bachelorette parties that have included travel! Here are some additional posts you may be interested in checking out:

Bachelorette Party in Clearwater Beach, Florida

I had never really placed where Clearwater Beach, Florida was until I kept telling my friends and coworkers I was headed to the beach in Tampa for my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party in January.  Most responses were, “you are staying in Clearwater, right?” I had no idea how close it was to Tampa and that it was such a popular destination spot.

First of all, if you are looking to leave the cold, depressing weather in the middle of winter (especially if you experience anything like Chicago’s) this is a fantastic place to go in January or February.  The weather was in the mid-to-high 70’s the entire weekend we were there and everyone immediately had a smile on their face once we hit the beach.

Where to Stay in Clearwater Beach

We found a great rental house north on the island that was right off of Mandalay Avenue.  We were able to walk to all the beach bars on the strip within 10-15 minutes.  It was great exercise and was just close enough to get to where we needed to go.

Fun Beach Bars in Clearwater Beach

  • Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar – this was my ultimate favorite place to be. Think a nice huge white patio overlooking the beach with live music and a fantastic breeze.

Palm Pavilion View

  • Jimmy’s Crow’s Nest – located in the Pier House 60 Hotel, this was my second favorite place in in Clearwater. A big rooftop that play music videos on a big screen and overlooks the island strip and marina.

Jimmys Crows Nest View

  • Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill – this colorful bar had fantastic live music and a great variety of fruity cocktails. It’s also known for some good seafood!
  • The Shipwreck – A pirate-like hole in the wall that serves some funny named shots that pack a punch
  • Beach Fire Bar & Grill – A smaller beach bar that plays calm, local music
  • Surfside Taphouse – If you are looking for beer and a more regular bar feel, this is a great spot to stop
  • Marina Cantina – right on the Marina there is a triple-decker set of restaurants that you can go to and hang out on the rooftop, order drinks, food and enjoy the marina

Cantina Marina View

Food in Clearwater Beach

We ate a home a lot during the trip but I must say I had some fantastic Mexican food. Spotted Donkey Cantina in the Hilton had some amazing house margaritas and probably the best white queso I’ve ever had in my life.

Spotted Donkey Queso

We also hit up a popular casual spot called Frenchy’s Original Cafe which had some delicious garlic french fries and fried oreos for dessert.

Frency's Cafe Crab Fries

Cruising Around Clearwater

We also did a booze cruise on the Calypso Queen which was a great deal – all you can eat buffet and all you can drink. We boated around on the ocean for a few hours and passed Hulk Hogan’s house and some other C-level celebrities. Speaking of, apparently Hulk Hogan is a big thing there.  He even has his own store.

Pier 60, the main pier in Clearwater, is also a fun place to walk up and down.  You can people (and bird) watch.

If I went back to Clearwater Beach…

There are a bunch of spots on the strip that I’d like to check out if I went back to the beach.  I was not in a wine mood this weekend, so a lot of the spots I’d like to go center around checking those out!

Weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana

In September, we headed to Indianapolis, Indiana for a short weekend to celebrate one of my friend’s weddings.  I was excited to take advantage of this roadtrip since I had never been to Indy! About a three hour drive from where I live in the Chicago Suburbs we enjoyed our sunny travel through all the rural windmills to get to this fine little city.

Indiana Windmills

Hotels in Indianapolis

We stayed at the Omni-Severin Hotel which is located centrally in the city near the Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Around for over 100 years, the hotel gives an early 1900s vibe and the hotel in itself is a great place for a staycation.  The wedding was held there and had a beautiful reception, but in addition the hotel offers a great bar that has a speakeasy feel called Bar Severin.  They also have a restaurant and another wine focused bar called Wine Thief.

Food and Drink in Indianapolis

Our first night we were there we stayed close to the hotel and hit up Kilroy’s, a relaxed American-pub known for its Stuffed Breadsticks and wall menu of giant 32 oz Long Island Iced Tea varieties.  Be careful, they are strong!

Kilroys Stuffed Breadsticks Indianapolis

We also went to the Claddaugh Irish Pub which offered fun Whiskey flights. Close by is Howl at the Moon for those who have never had the opportunity to go to this popular tourism spot in cities.

Claddagh Irish Pub Indianapolis

The next day we went to lunch on Massachusetts Avenue, which is a cute strip known for more for the foodie culture.  We went to Bru Burger Bar which was fantastic.  It has a great patio area to eat and a nice variety of burgers on the menu.

Mass Ave Indianapolis

Bru Burger Bar Indianapolis

Touristy Things to do in Indianapolis

Points of interest in Indianapolis are all very close together.  We saw or past the following on just a short walk at night and the next morning in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Colts Lucas Oil Stadium

Soldiers and Sailors Monument Indianapolis

What I Would Do If I Went Back to Indianapolis

Being a short weekend and also one to celebrate a fun wedding, I did not get a chance to really experience the food culture and the nightlife.  These are a few spots I’d hit up if I went back:

Maude’s Liquor Bar, West Loop, Chicago

Happy New Year!

I brought in the 2017 Chicago restaurant game right.  While it’s been open and well-reviewed for a handful of years now, I headed to Maude’s Liquor Bar in West Loop for dinner for the first time the other night.  The restaurant is dimly lit, small and quaint, fitting about 20 tables in its first floor walk-in space and includes an exclusive-like bar.  Known for its cocktails and French-inspired dishes, we decided to sit back, relax and enjoy our first 2017 dinner out at a restaurant in Chicago. 

I started and stayed with their Vodka Smash the whole night.  Smashes are a fresh, mule-like drink customized with your favorite type of liquor. If you like sparkling wine, my friend loved the French 75, which is one of the three sparkling inspired drinks on the list. There’s plenty of shaken and stirred drinks on the menu plus a respected wine list to keep patrons satisfied.

Maudes Liquor Bar Cocktails

The food options at Maude’s are incredible and I wish I could have tried everything.  We shared the French Onion Fondue, which is a French onion soup like dip with bread.  We also had the Braised Short-rib, Scottish Salmon, and Cassoulet.  The Scottish Salmon was perfection and my favorite, but the others were quite delish, too.  We ordered the highly recommended Lentils for sides along with Brussel Sprouts and they were well received from the party.  We ended the night with a Crème Brulee.  One of the largest I’ve seen of the dish at a restaurant, I had no complaints.

Maudes Liquor Bar Salmon

Overall, the service was really great and this is a fantastic date for a romantic date night out with your significant other or with a group of four.

If I went back to Maude’s Liquor Bar (which I plan to), the other items I’m looking forward to trying are the Croque Madame and the Ricotta Gnocchi.