When your night includes a surprise ride on the Holiday Train, you know you did something right.
Yesterday was all about my friend Lauren, who turns the big 2-5 this weekend. Today, in fact!
I met up with Lauren and our friend Kelli in the late afternoon to do a bit of pre-celebrating in the form of visiting not just one, but two different bookstores in Lincoln Square.
This was my first time in the area, and I loved it! So many cute little shops and restaurants. Although we did not have too much time to explore, we will definitely be back again. First stop: The Book Cellar!
This is a wonderful independent bookstore, with shelves upon shelves of new favorites and old classics.
We walked around ooh-ing, ahh-ing and taking several silly pictures. The birthday girl loves Superman.
Once we had successfully scoured the shelves, we were off to Ravenswood Used Books.
The store was essentially a maze of shelves. Stacks upon stacks of every book you can possibly imagine!
European history, U.S. history, fiction, non-fiction…everything. The store owner even helped us learn the proper way to say Ayn Rand. Did you know that “Ayn” rhymes with “mine?”
You can thank me for the conversation starter at your next holiday party. 😉
Once we had finished our book shopping, we got back on the El and headed for the origin of the night’s festivities: dinner at DMK Burger Bar.
The restaurant does not take reservations, but fortunately all 15+ people showed up promptly at 6:00 and we were seated! I started out with one of my very favorite beers: 3 Floyds Gumball Head.
I can almost never find this in Chicago, so it was a real treat to have it on tap! The waitress also brought out complimentary chili-rubbed onion strings for the table to share.
There were many tempting things on the menu: burgers of all varieties, macaroni and cheese, shakes. I ultimately decided to go with the #2: grass-fed beef (yay, Mama B!), chili-rubbed onion strings, Amish blue cheese and spicy chipotle ketchup.
I won’t beat around the bush. This burger was perfect. Easily one of the best I’ve ever had. I love blue cheese on a burger, and the spicy ketchup had a great kick to it that reminded me of barbecue sauce.
Well done, DMK!
Of course, the fries were also not to be missed. You can order small, one-person portions for $2-4 each. Kelli and I decided to take advantage of this and try almost all of the varieties. My favorite? Parmesan russet potato fries with truffle cream. Yum.
The sweet potato fries were a close second place, though the lemon tobasco aioli was not my favorite.
Kelli also suggested we try the Wisconsin cheddar and scallions. These were great, too!
By the end, our mouths and bellies were very happy.
The next stop of the evening was in Uptown, so we headed back toward the El. Imagine our surprise when this rolled into the station, complete with Santa Claus and his jolly elves…
The CTA Holiday Train only runs at certain times on certain tracks. We couldn’t believe our luck!
I think this might be the first time where I did not want to get off at our stop. I was too busy enjoying the elves with their buckets of candy canes, the red and green decor and the Christmas music.
Not to mention the appropriately Santa-themed seats. This might have been my favorite detail.
Kids young and old were clearly enjoying themselves. 😉
Too soon, our stop arrived and we said goodbye to the Holiday Train. Fortunately, there were more bright lights ahead. Our final stop of the evening was the Green Mill, a cocktail lounge off the Lawrence stop that has a pleasantly warm, old-fashioned atmosphere and plays jazz music all through the night.
I can’t think of a better way to cap off a birthday celebration for Lauren, who adores live music.
And on that note…
Happy 25th birthday, Lauren! I’m thrilled I was able to celebrate your big day with you!
Hope all of you have been having a wonderful weekend! What’s going on in your neck of the woods?