Celebrating their 25th anniversary in the end of October, the hop gurus at Brew and Grow educate burgeoning beer makers on the art of crafting cold ones via hands-on introductory courses. During 2.5-hour classes, duos learn the ins and outs of the brewing process, including basic terminology, equipment, and the differences between ales, lagers, and root beer. Pupils will sip various suds while learning about ideal ingredient combinations, then concoct customized barley pops. Though they can't immediately take class creations home, participants will be able to return to the brewery in approximately one month or after malted barley has passed its fermentation exam to tap and taste their personalized potables. At the end of the session, students will be able take home a choice of two comprehensive home brewing guides, either How To Brew by John Palmer or Radical Brewing by Chicago author Randy Mosher.
Discount Tire’s professional technicians install and service a vast trove of tires and wheels to keep wagons rolling safely. Experienced, trained mechanics manage an inventory replete with tires by brand names such as Goodyear, Michelin, and Bridgestone ($60–$100/tire for most vehicles) and a huge range of wheels ($50–$100/wheel for most vehicles). Proud owners of newly outfitted buggies receive advice on how to improve their rubber-road marriages or ability to do donuts on the lawns of rival librarians. Along with recommendations on products and services, tire installations include new valve stems, road-hazard protection, and lifetime rotations.
At HomeTown Fitness, guests of all fitness levels can pinch inches in a spacious gym, more than 20 exercise classes, or personal training sessions with knowledgeable staffers. Equipment including treadmills, elliptical machines, and free weights help clients build muscles on their own, while group spinning, kickboxing, and yoga classes can also be tailored to meet each individual's fitness goals. The upscale health club caters to different age groups as well. The nationally recognized SilverSneakers program targets senior citizens, and a Kid's Korner engages children 3 months to 11 years old with games, activites, and Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions led by trained babysitters.
Back to Bed is a trusted source for sound sleep, growing from a single store in 2000 to a mattress empire with more than 45 locations across the Chicagoland area. Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster, and Simmons Beautyrest mattresses await rigorous testing at each of their show rooms, where sleep-savvy employees can help shoppers determine if they're more suited to a firm or soft mattress or to creamy or chunky peanut butter. Back to Bed also induces relaxation in a nonhorizontal form with a selection of plush massage recliners and Human Touch's Perfect Chair, which cradles bodies in a muscularly neutral position.
At any moment, visitors to Wilderness Falls might run into the resident moose. He isn’t grazing: Maddux the Moose, the family fun center’s fuzzy mascot, spends his time playing its two 18-hole, outdoor mini-golf courses and accepting high-fives and hugs from enthusiastic guests. Maddux isn’t the only fixture that may make guests feel as though they’ve wandered into the woods¬; the two mini-golf courses are pretty rugged themselves. The Bear Course, which hosts the annual Chicago Mini-Golf Championship, leads putters past a 35-foot waterfall, into a dark cave, and across creaking wooden walkways, just like the race all of Harrison Ford’s clones run to determine which one will get to play Indiana Jones. Alternatively, the Eagle Course leads players around winding rivers and on a climb to the top of a 40-foot mountain of rock.
Of course, it’s not all roughing it. In the middle of the greens sits the tented arena that holds Wilderness Falls’ batting cages, including six baseball cages and three softball cages. An arcade lights up the indoor space with the glowing screens of video games, and party rooms hold birthday and team celebrations.
From a single shop opened in 1978, Amazing Fantasy Books & Comics curates a selection of new monthlies, graphic novels, manga, games, and action figures in four hotspots. Colorful characters from mainstream and independent publishers fill the pages of new issues ($2.99+) and graphic-novel collections, such as The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time ($10) or Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant ($17.95). Text-based novels recount tales of pulp vigilantes such as the Green Hornet ($15.15) and Zorro ($13.55), and 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography ($13.50) illustrates the spiritual leader’s life story with Japanese-style black-and-white art. Gamers can pick up a Don Quixote board game and join the valiant fight against alternative-energy sources depicted in Cervantes’s novel ($26.21).
Choice-meat maestros at both Stefanelli's new location in Lockport and longstanding shop in Blue Island stock shelves with italian sausages, imported wines and cheeses, and fresh carry-out-menu items and catering platters. The breaded eggplant sandwich ($4.99) slumbers under a blanket of red sauce and cheese, and the muffolatto sandwich ($6.99) dresses to the nines in a three-piece suit of hot capicola, ham, and mortadella, garnished with a corsage of genoa salami. Cap off meals with a traditional cannoli ($1.49) picked fresh from an Italian cannoli tree. Alternatively, the catering menu ratchets up proportions with platters of pasta, chicken entrees, and sandwiches such as the torta round sub ($29.99), sized to feed 10 people or an entire convention of toddlers. The full pan of baked mostaccioli ($39.99) arrives topped with cheese and a desire to feed at least 20 people, and the half-pan of chicken or sausage vesuvio ($29.99) feeds 10–15 people and comes sidekicked with italian potatoes and mushrooms drizzled in a white-wine sauce.