Before moving to Chicago, Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh began their culinary careers in New York as a way to support themselves while they looked for work as actors. It wasn’t their acting that brought the duo to stardom, however. Against odds of 10,000 to 1, they sent a tape into the Food Network and, to their surprise, became the first-ever winners of the Next Food Network Star contest, landing their own show on the cable channel. That success enabled them to grow their catering business’s small café into a full-fledged restaurant serving up brunch, lunch, and dinner.
"Our focus is on what we love, which is mid-century food and the American culture of dining, and that kind of collective memory we have . . . taking those recipes and updating them for a modern palate," Steve says. For example, they top sweet potatoes with black-thyme-pepper marshmallows and create corn dogs with rabbit sausage in red-velvet butter. Steve says that they love creating conversation at their tables, especially as guests reminisce about memories evoked by dishes such as tuna noodle casserole and their Hearty mac ‘n’ cheese. "For Dan and I, that's a major part of the dining experience," he says. "If we can get their heads moving as well as their mouths, we feel pretty successful." Their efforts have paid off. "The duo is making magic by keeping it simple," said Phil Vettel in a review on WGN. "There's at least one wow ingredient on every plate. A simple burger is brightened with triple-cream cambozola cheese, sugar-cured bacon, and garlic aioli. Bacon-wrapped shrimp arrives on a pile of wonderful white cheddar grits . . . It's fun and delicious."
Dan heads the kitchen, while Steve forges many of the signature cocktails, aiming to discourage the intimidation that often surrounds craft cocktails. He and Dan even authored a book whose 200+ drink recipes include every cocktail made at Hearty, proving that everyone can make the drinks at home. Steve's even been known to chat up tables in hopes of introducing them to a new drink. "It's amazing, the amount of people who don't think they drink gin—so I have to force them," Steve says. "Once you have a gin that is different than that gin that you drank in the 1980s that was so harsh and juniper-heavy, once you're having one of these new American gins along with just simple fresh citrus and the other spirits… you understand what the fuss is about." He's also curated an exclusively American wine list with bottles from unexpected sources—including Dr. Frank's Salmon Run rkatsiteli from the Finger Lakes in New York, which he calls "floral and highly acidic . . . Everybody loves it."
For every color in Roscoe’s Tavern & Café rainbow-striped logo, there’s a reason to visit the multi-faceted bar. During warmer months, a quaint sidewalk café sits outside the entryway. The interior is spacious enough to accommodate pool tables, a dance floor, live-band karaoke, and a regular schedule of drag shows and other events. Of course, the real draw is the bar’s well program—more accurately called a “drink well” program, as it promises higher-quality well vodka, whiskey, rum, gin, and tequila. It’s helped Roscoe’s earn a spot on Out magazine’s list of “The 50 Greatest Gay Bars in the World.”
With 25-year-old roots in Boystown—the wooden Indian in the doorway is a neighborhood mainstay—the staff at Roscoe’s has a vested interest in helping the surrounding community to thrive. They work with local businesses and charities, including Dance for Life Chicago, a performance-based non-profit that boosts awareness and raises funds for HIV and AIDS care, education, and prevention. The staff also helps patrons register to vote and join neighborhood associations so that they can make their voices heard without having to train a flock of really loud parrots.
Groupon Celebrates Pride Month
Over the last 50 years, the gay-rights movement in America has overcome tremendous obstacles to become a powerful voice for inclusion and diversity. Even as it has grown, the movement—like Groupon—is local at heart, and we applaud the commitment to real change that improves everyday lives.
At Groupon, we are happy to add our voices to those celebrating PRIDE, their achievements as a social movement and a continued march to equality for the LGBT community. Plus, we love a chance to dig that rainbow wig out of storage.
This month—and throughout the year—we salute our merchants and customers who support PRIDE and all efforts that promote dignity, respect, and equal opportunity. We're highlighting these merchants' deals with a special badge to show Groupon's pride in working with people who share our values.
You could film a training montage for pretty much any type of sports movie at Lakeshore Sport & Fitness. Built on 3.5 acres in Lincoln Park and spanning 185,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor sport and fitness space over four levels, the sprawling fitness center encompasses two swimming pools, a quarter-mile indoor running track, courts for basketball and squash, and four fully-equipped locker rooms. Avid tennis players of all levels and ages can take advantage of the eight indoor and three outdoor tennis courts with private instruction from U.S. and Euro tour pros, or try their alternate swing with recreational and competitive paddle tennis programs.
To complement these areas, fitness instructors lead cardio classes such as cycling, kickboxing, and Zumba, and core-strength classes, including yoga and Pilates reformer classes. Those looking for an advanced group fitness workout can check out Marcelo Ehrhardt's Athlete Zone class, which includes plyometrics, strength, cardio, and flexibility training. The fitness center also hosts workouts in the pool, where kids learn to swim and competitive swimmers learn to avoid dissolving into foam. Passes grant access to the facility's advanced fitness tools, such as the body composition analyzer Inbody 520 and the function movement screen (FMS), used by pro sports teams to identify the body's movement imbalances and asymmetries.
Lakeshore Sport & Fitness gives exercisers ample reasons to stick around after their workouts end. During the summer, the rooftop boasts outdoor yoga classes and the restaurant Harvest, which offers seasonal dishes, craft beers, and cocktails. All year, the 1320 Market serves healthy smoothies and meals, while the onsite spa rewards muscles for their hard work with acupuncture and several types of massage. The club's childcare services and child classes and camps let parents enjoy these extended stays as well.
Exhale Spa seeks to transform its clientele inside and out. The founding team of fitness professionals and aestheticians sought to create an environment where they could empower visitors with pampering spa treatments, invigorating fitness classes, and lifestyle education, helping clients attain a sense of control and holistic balance. Now with 19 locations across 11 cities, Exhale Spa and its signature services have earned mentions in numerous national publications, including People magazine, the New York Times, and O, The Oprah Magazine.
Exhale's signature Core Fusion classes incorporate dance-inspired stretches, yoga poses, and Pilates exercises into total-body workouts that build long, lean limbs and sturdy abdominal muscles over time. For an even more varied workout, the instructors introduce boot-camp techniques, cardio exercises, or multiplication tables to select sessions. Yoga classes present a similar amount of breadth and variety, drawing inspiration from a number of introspective and physically oriented styles. To help hasten physical transformations, nutrition and wellness coaches teach attendees about the impacts of diet. These sessions build an awareness of healthy eating habits through custom meal plans and by teaching clients how to identify the edible parts of a fruit basket.
Many of the center's traditional spa services seek to inspire confidence. Facials pamper and refine skin using everything from green tea and fruit extracts to microcurrent technology, and mani-pedis revitalize digits before glazing nails with a vibrant new coat of color. Bodywork treatments look beyond physical relaxation and focus on holistic concerns. Massage therapists can use Eastern or Western modalities to soothe overstressed musculature, and acupuncture treatments and reiki sessions jump-start natural healing processes by encouraging the free flow of inner energies.
At Deleece Restaurant, fillets of caramelized salmon and cuts of heritage Berkshire pork don’t just sit on plates—they transform into edible works of art. The chef drizzles dishes with swirls of pear-ginger sauce, sprinkles microgreens over geometric plates, and coaxes tuna tartar into gravity-defying towers. The mastermind behind these globally influenced creations is Chef Ernesto Palaia, who also works to fill meals with organic produce and heirloom varieties. The menu brims with upscale meats, from Indiana duck breast and Amish chicken to the Nueske's bacon that crowns a club sandwich. Palaia also plumbs the ocean for fresh seafood such as Prince Edward Island mussels and plump diver scallops, which he prepared for Ben Hollis when the television host visited Deleece for a W.I.L.D. Lakeview feature. Palaia’s contemporary seasonings for these dishes range from lemongrass-chili aioli and lime-agave-nectar yogurt to fig-mostarda sauce. Burgers might brim with everything from house-made bacon jam to Wisconsin aged white cheddar.
Despite the sophisticated nature of its culinary offerings, Deleece maintains a down-to-earth atmosphere in its new location next to the Mercury Theater. Owners Lynne Wallack and John Handler preserve the warm, neighborhood feel of their previous location—where they resided for 16 years—with the help of staff members such as Anthony, their expert bartender. He and his staff craft specialty drinks ranging from a summery lemon-basil manhattan to a wintery smoldering hot toddy, which can soothe throats raw from shouting advice at movie characters at the Music Box Theatre a few doors down. Tipplers can also sip more than three dozen wines and beers from Belgium and Ireland or brewed right at home in Illinois and other Midwestern states.
Long after most of the Near North Side's restaurants and bars have locked their doors, Bijan's Bistro’s kitchen keeps on cooking. A beacon for late-night crowds, the eatery serves a late-night menu until at least 3 a.m. six nights a week. Although, befitting the restaurant's bistro moniker, the chefs aspire to create more than your average bar fare. The twilight menu seeks inspiration from cuisine across the globe, presenting diners with dishes such as guacamole and charred tomato-jalapeño salsa, wok-seared edamame with smoked sea salt, and a seemingly simple house salad that the Chicago Reader nonetheless lauded as, "outstanding." Even the regular dinner menu seems unwilling to commit to one style of cuisine, opting instead to include comfort foods from virtually every time zone. American classics such as meatloaf or macaroni and cheese with apple wood-smoked bacon might seem out of place alongside the roasted duck a l'orange and the Moroccan couscous tagine; however, this variety simply ensures that virtually everyone can find a dish that intrigues their palate. Centerstage Chicago praised this commitment to inclusivity,noting that, "like a good friend, Bijan's is there for you 365 days a year at almost any hour of the day." With its high ceilings, rich wood tones, and ample lighting, the bistro's dining room adds to that air of warm intimacy. White linens dress the handful of tables that help fill the room, although the stool-lined bar allows patrons to settle in a bit more casually. During the warmer months, the restaurant opens its sidewalk seating section to the public, encouraging diners to enjoy their meals while keeping an eye out for their favorite manhole cover.