In Town Tourist: Living Social Adventure – Dinner + Drinks Around The World

10 Nov

Welcome to the In Town Tourist – this is a new category of my Stew’s Brew blog that will cover fun you can have in the Chicagoland area – being a tourist in our town.   Our family, and especially my wife, Robin, loves to seek out and do fun things in the Chicago area – and not everything needs to be a big costly activity. With the advent of Groupon, Living Social, Daily Steals, Daily Swoop – the deal of the day sites, Robin has become a rabid consumer of fun to be had in our fair city. Just this summer we have kayaked on the Chicago River, taken a Segway tour, taken a movie tour and more.

Additionally, we always enjoy just “going and doing” in the area – finding street and community fairs, taking the bikes downtown, going and walking or hiking, touring neighborhoods and more.  After so many of our friends have said to us “Oh man, that sounds fun!” after talking about one of our adventures, I’ve decided to blog about them in this section, In Town Tourist.  Now, that all said, this is not meant to be a review of these events – just a way for folks to learn about fun to be had in the Chicagoland area.

Tuesday evening of this week, we – Robin and I along with my in-laws Merle and Julie – went on a Living Social Adventure – Dinner + Drinks Around The World.  Living Social Adventures is a new “product” of the Living Social company – which, like Groupon, offers “deals of the day” on their website and via email.  In a different twist, Living Social puts on these adventures themselves – they have staff that joins you, take care of the transport, and well, make the whole thing a very fun and seamless adventure!

The Dinner + Drinks Around The World was a trolley tour (OK, a bus in Trolley Clothing) that took you to three great Chicago landmark neighborhoods – Greektown, Chinatown and Pilsen, aka “little Mexico”.  In each location, we went to a landmark restaurant  – appetizers in Greektown, dinner in Chinatown and dessert in Pilsen.

We took the 5:30 PM tour – they also had 6:30 and 7:30 tours, and were picked up at 646 North Franklin St. in the River North area – a great beer bar, Hop Haus, is at that location.  The trolley arrived about 5:15 and we were greeted by Brian and Nikki – two very energetic Living Social staffers who were our hosts on the trolley for the evening.

From there, the trolley made its way to The Parthenon restaurant in Greektown (314 South Halstead Street – just west of the Kennedy Expy.)  for appetizers of  hummus with Pita, saganaki, the traditional flaming cheese appetizer, and of course – shots of Ouzo.  The hummus was wonderful – not a traditional all-chickpea hummus – tasted like it had eggplant in it like babaganoush.  And of course the Parthenon waiters did their usual showy presentation of the saganaki by dousing sizzling platters of sauteed greek Kasseri cheese with brandy and igniting it – a burst of flame and a shout of Opaa!  – then they extinguish the flame with fresh lemon juice and it is bon appetit time.  Ouzo, if you’ve never had it, tastes like “Good n Plenty” candy – a black licorice/anise flavor, and while sweet, is not syrupy.  It is classified as a liquor not a “liqueur” as it is usually 60 proof/30 percent alcohol.  Good stuff.  This is the first time I’ve had it with food and it really went well with the saganaki.  We usually drink it as an after-dinner drink.

From there, it was back onto the trolley for a 15 minute ride down to Chinatown.  Chinatown is located just north of the Stevenson expressway and just east of the Dan Ryan expressway in Chicago – the “centerpoint” of the Chinatown district is the corner of Wentworth Ave. and Cermak Rd.  There is so much to do in Chinatown, that I’ll be posting another blog post just about Chinatown in the In Town Tourist theme.  We went to the Triple Crown restaurant – it is a Hong Kong style Chinese restaurant right in the centerpoint of Chinatown by the  “gate” and the Chinese cultural center.  At the Triple Crown we were served Tsingtao beer (which tastes all the world like Budweiser – both are made with rice adjuncts), plus a HUGE plate of food that included an egg roll, black bean chicken, spicy green beans and a mountain of fried rice.  My father-in-law can’t drink beer, so they were very accommodating and brought him a plum wine instead – which the Living Social host, Kate, said tasted “like Manischewitz”.   One funny feature at Triple Crown was an extra-large plasma TV in the dining room tuned to an odd Chinese program, which seemed to be promoting some sort of health-care regimen.

After that, it was a short drive  in the trolley over to Pilsen.  This was my first foray into Pilsen, and I have to admit, I always thought it to be a dangerous neighborhood – but the area we were in was full of gentrified new/rehabbed housing, art galleries and such, plus the traditional Mexican businesses, and didn’t have that “dangerous” feeling at all.   Pilsen is on the near southwest side and is basically across the Dan Ryan expressway from Chinatown – west of the Ryan, north of the Stevenson. The trolley brought us to Cuernavaca, a large Mexican restaurant that is just east of the intersections of West 18th Street and Racine Ave.  At Cuernavaca, we were served Mexican pastries – which was basically fried tortilla with cinnamon sugar – delicious!, a rice pudding and then your choice of Kahlua with coffee (or plain Kahlua in my case) or Horchata cocktails which was a Mexican rice milk mixed with vodka.  We loved the pastries, were “so-so” on the rice pudding, and of course, enjoyed the Kahlua.  Cuernavaca is also known for their immense margaritas – these things were as big as your head, and while we didn’t have one, we were told they were delicious!

After that, the trolley motored us back to River North and the Hop Haus to wrap the evening.   All in all, a great night – very reasonably priced and tons of fun.

I would strongly recommend going on the Living Social site and checking out their Adventures – they seem to be very organized and have a number for sale – they are all for a limited time and they introduce new adventures frequently.  For those outside of Chicago, Living Social Adventures is in 30 cities across the USA so far.

Happy touring!


More photos from our night:

One of the energetic Living Social staffers at The Parthenon

Hummus and pita at The Parthenon

Opaa!  Flaming cheese – saganaki –  at The Parthenon

The funky green light wall at Triple Crown

Mmm … beer.

Confucius say, “don’t put tiny street sign so high you can’t see it.”

Three of our Living Social guides – Nikki and Brian (center and right) were our bus guides.

One Response to “In Town Tourist: Living Social Adventure – Dinner + Drinks Around The World”

  1. carpetbagger November 10, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

    Wow. You’re taking me back 20+ years to when I was a clerk outside the Euro dollar pit at the Merc. I worked arbitrage on the phone for a trader in London who tried to take advantage of price changes before they crossed the pond. You had to be accurate and fast. It was pretty stressful, and the London trader didn’t exactly make it easier. He was a screamer.

    The job didn’t last long but at Christmas, one of the pit traders who we gave a lot of business to had a party at the Parthenon. Lots of food. Lots of drink. Lots of fish with their eyeballs staring at you. And I never could develop a taste for grape leaves. They still just taste like sour leather to me.

    Sounds like you had a great time.

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