Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's in Bucktown, Chicago

If you are like most of us, chances are you haven't even begun to think about how to spend the most over-hyped night of the year.  While I normally hold the opinion that there is nothing wrong with retiring at 1030 pm on December 31st (still 2 hours after my bedtime), if you are insistent on getting out and about and drinking/dancing/etc then I've compiled some options for you close to Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast!

Club Lucky is having an early seating the includes a chef's special dinner and NO COVER. If you choose a seating after 930 pm you get a bottle of champagne, party favors, and live music to ring in the new year for $25 (in addition to dinner).  It's a nice local staple that is a great and cozy way to spend the last evening of 2013.

Hot Chocolate is offering a 4-5 course Paris-themed menu with optional add-ons and a great classy atmosphere about a 10-15 minute walk away from the b&b.

Don't feel like paying for food when you want to save all your calories/money for drinking on one of the liquor industries most lucrative nights of the year? There are plenty of bars in the area, some with all-you-can-drink passes available for purchase and some who are just operating as if it's any ol' night of the year. A few of our neighborhood favorites are Lemmings, Map Room, Jack and Gingers, Gallery Cabaret, Floyds, Green Eye, and many, many, many more (we have a LOT of bars here, these are just some really good, really close ones).

Thinking you may take the festivities a bit too seriously to make the drive home?  We may still have rooms available at Ray's - give us a call!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas WITHOUT

Before starting my job at Ray's I don't think I had ever shopped on Amazon apart from the occasional book, because that's all I thought they sold…

Cue Desiree, our Kitchen Manager at Ray's Bucktown B&B; a regular Amazon junkie, turned me on the the sheer volume of useful, ridiculous, obscure, and tempting wares that the internet giant has to offer.  And as much as I thank her for sharing the wealth (only wealth of mind, not pocket now that I spend it all regularly) I still have soft spot for that whole "Buy Local" Thing.

And so it brings me to this: This year, we challenge you to at least do some of your shopping by checking out what artisans, artists, and boutiques have to offer here in Chicago.  The Chicago Reader has a good article on some enticing options that you can read here, and below are some more suggestions as well.

Rudy's Roundup: We've mentioned this store before, and for  good reason.  It's the perfect place to pop in to fill out some stockings with small, offbeat gifts and cards, and you could easily spend an hour in the tiny shop, hiding out from the elements.

Bucktown Holiday Arts Show: Not a store, but this event is coming to Holstein Park, right around the corner from us and will be showcasing a lot of local talent with gifts that range from fine art to Holiday themed trinkets. December 14-15, Noon-5pm each day.

Cat & Mouse Game Store - perfect for picking up that certain something that will turn forced "family time" this holiday season into something actually enjoyable. (Note: Not EVERYONE likes Apples to Apples)

Recovered Rubber - If you're into the whole "up cycling" thing, check them out (You can also purchase from their Etsy store)

Diptyque - Technically not local (They started in France) but this local storefront is great for all things aromatic - candles, body products, perfume, etc etc.  If you are impervious to scent-overload headaches it's definitely worth a look if you are shopping for someone with a more luxurious sense of self.

Try these out, and if you have any more local suggestions, please let us know!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Huzzah! It's a Bazzah! (ok it's a bazaar but that doesn't rhyme)

It is officially 2 days away from being acceptable to play holiday music, but we are ahead of the curve here at Ray's and want to get a jump start on our spirit, since it's takes Ray a while to agree to put up decorations.  If you are on the bandwagon and in the neighborhood we suggest that you check out the Bucktown Bazaar, this weekend at Holstein park (right around the corner from us).

It will highlight everything from crafts to fine art, with a focus on local vendors, and it's a great place to jumpstart your holiday shopping. Saturday and Sunday (Nov 30 & Dec 1) from 11am-5pm.  You can read more about the event here, and below are some pics of past items from the event's Facebook page.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Holiday Lights - Bad Eyesight's Greatest Joy

If you have horrendous eyesight, chances are you know the secret joy of the holidays - take off your glasses, stare at some holiday lights, and cue the inspirational magic! (But if your eyes are as bad as mine, just be sure not to move).  If you're a holiday light junkie, you should definitely check out tonight's festivities on Michigan Avenue.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is today, just off of the Chicago Red line stop on the El.  It's one of the few outdoor events during the colder season, but well worth bundling up.  If you can look past the garishly corporate sponsors, they do offer some great family-friendly activities.

Lights Festival Lane offers activities such as painting part of a large mural project, a photo booth, an appearance by some Disney Star that we've never heard of (Megan Nicole? maybe your kids know who she is…), not to mention a chance to meet Chicago's most watched morning news team! Yay!

If you thought a 0 degree windchill meant no outdoor music, you were wrong!  Granted, the last performance we can find begins at 3pm, so they kept it to the warmest part of the day, but you can check out the music line up here.

And Oh My, if you're aching for a celebrity appearance that will resonate with you, while you watch Disney stars with your children, I am pleased to announce that the one, the only, the age defying Mario Lopez will be hosting the "Largest Holiday Carol" event put on by 93.9fm.

All kidding aside, the real pull for the festival is the Tree Lighting Parade which really ushers in Chicago's Holiday Spirit.

Lots of stores stay open a bit longer during the Holiday events, so if you are not keen on any of the activities, you can still grab a cider/hot chocolate/coffee/nipper, and wander around shopping and looking at the lights (being guided by your responsible companion if you've taken off your glasses) until your fingers get numb and you return to the warm oasis of Ray's.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chicago Book Expo - Get Your Independent Read On!

Here in Chicago we would like to make it known that we have literary champions just like those hoity-toity Brooklynites on the other side of the country.  New York is not the only place that churns out talent like a hipster churns out irony.  Take this weekend to delve into the scene with the Chicago Book Expo in Uptown.  Held at St Augustine College, the yearly event has a program schedule including book signings, readings, workshops, and bilingual programming, not to mention an after
party at Fat Cat on Broadway Avenue.

You can find directions to the event here, or you can ask us the best way to get there from Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast.  Some highlights of the schedule include a presentation by Bookslut, a spot on smart self publishing, and an author
showcase via Curbside Splendor.  You can find the full schedule here.

Details: Sunday November 24th, at 1345 W Argyle Street, (Chicago IL duh), 11am-5pm.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sue's got a Beer!

So this here manager of Ray's has 2 main loves: Beer, and History.  So naturally when I heard that Sue (our Dinosaur at the Field Museum) was the inspiration for a new beer brewed by locals at Off Color, I had to check up on the news.

The original name for the collaborative beer was going to be "Sue Brew", which had a certain ring to it, but "Tooth & Claw" was settled on instead.  Seeing as how Sue is such a big attraction for kids, and beer should not be, it seemed a more subtle homage might be appropriate.  The tap handle is actually a reproduction of one of Sue's claws!

You can only find it at the Field Museum, which happens to be a great place to spend a day now that the weather is turning, and below are some helpful links and ideas about how to spend your time in between trips to the tap.

-Menu for the Field Bistro - Newly opened, and possibly the only place to grab a Tooth and Claw

-FAQ about Museum etiquette

-Dozin' with the Dinos - You and your family can actually have a SLEEPOVER with Sue!

-Opening the Vaults - a temporary exhibition on the wonders of the World's Fair, one of Chicago's most interesting and influential chapters

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chill Fest for the Chilly Weather - This Weekend!

What to do with the impending Chilly Weather? (first possible snowfall predicted this afternoon).  Perhaps grab a scarf and hat and plan out your Saturday (November 16th) around ChillFest, a brand new event in the neighborhood.  ChillFest is a cross-neighborhood showcase for local artists playing acoustic sets throughout Wicker Park and Bucktown in unusual venues such as restaurants and retail spaces.

It's an setup that encourages a bar-crawl approach to a music festival, getting you out there into the real neighborhood instead of your usual summer festival that has you crowded on a main street, offering little to no ambience, and just plain pissing off most driving residents.
And it's the first venture of its kind in the neighborhood, so we are anxious to see how it goes and will hopefully be checking it out ourselves.  Take a look below for more info!

Schedule - Who's  Where
Map - Where are those 'Wheres' where they're playing? (can't resist a good tongue twister)
Artists - Who's Who
Venues - What's Where
Videos - Watch Who's gonna be there

Check it out!  It'll be a good Saturday to spend hopping from place to place, allowing you to warm up in between.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Neighborhood Restaurant: 90 Miles Cuban Cafe

Photo from
Even though it's technically in Logan Square, 90 miles Cuban Cafe is only about a 15 minute walk from Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast, and also boasts one of our favorite restaurant amenities - it's BYO.  It's got an all season covered patio (it was 30-something degrees last night and we were perfectly comfortable) and a pretty engaging service staff.  Here are some things we thought you might like to know:

-Their slogan is "taste the forbidden" - so even if our dear motherland is not so crazy about citizens visiting Cuba, you can still get a taste for the food.
-Our waiter (we regretfully did not take the time to remember his name) has been there since the day they opened, and will not let you order something he doesn't think is one of their best.  Seriously, he refused to take our initial order of the Vaca Frita, and only came back after we had chosen Fricase de Pollo.  He also made quite clear that he would still have rather us ordered the Churrasco.
-The Cafe con Leche (coffee with milk, sweet) is not to be missed.
-If you bring a bottle of wine to share (or 2, or 3), they will not let you leave with an open bottle.  Technically it's "illegal" and they could get in trouble.  They are willing to make a scene over this if you are...
-appetizers are in the 4-8 bucks range, we got the empanadas, 3 for $6 or so.
-Entrees are around 13-22 bucks.

Overall it's a great spot, if you get there before around 7 it's not too busy at all, but will fill up throughout the night - it remained pretty busy and we were there around 630 on a Monday.  Located at 2540 W Armitage Ave.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cold Weather Activity: Cosmic Wonder at the Planetarium

Ever wonder what to do once the warm weather is over?  Perhaps you should check out all Chicago's great indoor activities!  Museums are open all winter long and we will occasionally be highlighting great events and spots to take in.

Cosmic Wonder is a show at the Planetarium running all winter long.  If you remember those field trips as a kid to the planetarium staring up at the ceiling of stagnant stars wondering how long until you got to go to the gift shop and buy your "girlfriend" a glow bracelet so that maybe she'd sit next to you on the bus ride home, then this will make up for it.  Shows of this kind have come a long way the goal of Cosmic Wonder is to immerse you in the cosmos.  It's based on an interactive model that integrates audience questions and participation.  The show goes through April 4, 2014 at the Adler Planetarium (easy to get to by public transit)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bang Bang Pie Shop Extravaganza

Bang Bang Pie Shop - The epitome of hipster success in business, is putting on a one-day event this Saturday - October 26th. The First Annual Harvest Market will feature vendors from near and not-so-far including:

-Fleur flowers and goods, in case you need to make up for something
-Hillside Orchards fruits and veggies - in case you need a pre-holiday health fix
-Bus Shop sweaters and clothes - in case you forgot you were in Chicago in October
-City Lit books - in case you want to pretend to be literate to impress that cute hipster who nabbed the last piece of your favorite pie
-Nourishing Notes cards and goods - in case you need to write an apology note for spilling your coffee/cider/cocoa on said cutie.
-Martyn George culinary goods - to make your kitchen and dining area look like the set for an anthropologie photo shoot.
-Hands Occupied crafts - blogger, crafter, and librarian- she's waayyyy cooler and more productive than you, maybe buying some of her stuff could get you into gear.
-CROP Chicago Rarities Orchard Project - bringing orchards to the city.

And of course Bang Bang will be providing mulled cider, candied apples, and popcorn, etc.

Free and open to the public, Saturday 11-3 at 2051 N California (about a 15 minute walk from Ray's)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Air and Water Show

In case you were wondering if we always have sky-writers, jets, helicopters, and the like constantly hovering over our city, fear not, you are not in a jet-themed video game, it's just the Air and Water Show!  If you're in town you may find some helpful information below.

City of Chicago Air and Water Show information - Information on headliners, announcers, admission (free), as well as pics and videos from past years

CTA Information on public transportation during the Air and Water Show.

Looking for a good place to watch? Check out this Link of good viewing points.

Lots of boating companies are also doing special outings out on the lake during the weekend for an added thrill, so be sure to check out Wendella, Shoreline Sightseeing, Seadog, Chicago's First Lady, and Chicago Line Cruises for availability.

P.S. NO BLUE ANGELS THIS YEAR. I know, we are just as disappointed as you are.

Have Fun!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

You may think we forgot we had a blog but....

We've just  been really really busy!

For those of you who think running a B&B would be a job described as "quaint", "low key", "relaxed" or "a fun hobby".  We would love to have you come work with us for a day.  Don't get me wrong, it's a great business! However, it is a looooot of work.  But this brings me to the point of the blog - Work Hard Play Hard!  Here's a recap of what we've been doing with our playtime:

Wicker Park Fest was in the neighborhood a few weeks ago (if you followed us on Instagram you would have seen a pic, so maybe you should get on that - @raysbucktown) and proved to be a pretty solid way to kill some off time.  A local acrobatic school - Aloft Loft - had a member working some promo for a drink company hanging from a crane on silks dispensing drinks to admirers below.  Plenty of local and area bands kept the music going until a decent decided upon hour, and for once, we saw a perfectly full but not uncomfortably crowded street festival - with just the right amount of dogs to pet.

The Goat Party - a fundraiser for one of the neighborhood's biggest events - the Bucktown Arts Fest - is another event that we like to attend every year.  It's also becoming quite the tradition for Ray to get his picture taken with the poor souls who are dressed up in giant goat heads dancing around the party.  We donate a one-night stay every year to the silent auction so maybe next year you should attend and take a stab at bidding on some of the goods!  A staff favorite was this shirt by transit tees, though even after a few glasses of wine Ray still wouldn't front us the funds to have a fighting chance at winning.

So that's been our playtime as of late, but hopefully we'll have more time as the season slows down!

Monday, June 17, 2013

We stay pretty busy here at Ray's, especially during the summer - which explains the lack of blog I hope...And the lack of our festival attendance record.  After serving 30+ people breakfast, cleaning rooms, returning phone calls, and befriending neighborhood dogs who really only like us because we smell like bacon, it's hard to find time to get out and enjoy the city to it's fullest.

That being said, the next few weeks and months boast some of the BIGGEST celebrations in the city, so here's some information that hopefully you will find helpful!

Chicago Craft Beer Festival - it seems like every month there is a beer-related event here, but hey, we like our brews! Not only that, how many cities host one of the summer's favorite beer festivals at an actual parish? Not many I would bed, but St Michael's started hosting last year, and it's a great time. Need to know where exactly St Michael's is?  Check out a map here.

This welcome matt should unify all PHC fans out there. 
Now this next suggestion may not appeal to the same crowd as the Craft Beer Festival, but our manager happens to have a strong love for both beer and  A Prairie Home Companion (If you're not familiar, shame on you, it's delightful).  They happen to be performing a live show at the Ravinia festival on Saturday, and you should definitely consider packing some snacks and heading up to Highland Park to check it out.  Lawn seats are $35.  Even though it's not really in the city, the park is located directly adjacent to a Metra station so it's still relatively convenient even without a car.

Closer to home we've got the Green Music Festival this weekend on our very own neighborhood artery, Damen Avenue.  If you're heading down to do some shopping around the 6 corners (Intersection of North/Milwaukee/Damen) Then you'll probably be able to hear the festivities going on just a block south.  Highlighting environmentally-conscious goods, beers, and activities, it's a good place to walk around and enjoy the (hopefully) good weather that Chicago enjoys for an entire 3 months.  Want to know who is lined up for music and entertainment?  You can find all the info here.


This weekend may have a lot going on, but it's really just training camp for one of the busiest, craziest, weekends of the summer here in Chicago.  That's right, the Pride Parade!  If you get there early you can count on a lively afternoon watching floats go by, catching beads, and imbibing.  If you miss the festivities it's still always entertaining to walk down the street as they clean up and take in the "aftermath".  To catch the full list of events happening all weekend check out the events page of the Chicago Pride website or stay tuned for our next post as we will delve into more detail.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Do Division! And do other things too!

It's finally here, the first really big street festival of the season, and just down the way from Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast at that!  Do Division has some of the best early-summer street food, plenty of vendors and trinkets, and not to mention some pretty good music.

Here at Ray's we have a few favorite Festival bands, and while not everybody we like will be making an appearance you do have neighborhood staples Subterranean and Empty Bottle organizing the lineup so we doubt you will be disappointed.

While you are groovin' check out some of the vendors.  Above is last year's booth for Fair Earth - a small business focused on high quality, eco-minded, fair trade jewelry, accessories, and randomly delightful artifacts. If you have the chance stop in and chat, a few employees did a photo shoot with her last summer and she is quite an inspiration.  If you also want to know who else will be there, what to nosh on and drink, etc check out the event's facebook page for more info.

Since the weather is finally pretty solidly nice for the next few days it would be a great time to take advantage of all the architectural tours and river cruises the city has to offer, our favorite is the longstanding standard, put on by the Architecture Foundation of Chicago.

Not feeling the outdoorsy spirit?  Here's a list of even more cool stuff going on this week - indie short film festival, fashion events, and more!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May Festivals - Installment 1

May 2013 festivals

American Beer Classic - Here at Ray's Bucktown B&B we like beer.  ok, we love beer.  Although we definitely cannot claim to be knowledgeable of the subtlety of brews, this festival looks like a blast. On Saturday, May 11th, over 10,000 beer lovers will congregate at Soldier Field to appreciate local and major breweries in the Midwest.  What would a day of beer drinking be without a little competition?  You can vote on your favorite on the event's iphone app.  Our manager is pulling for a personal favorite brewery - Dogfish Head.

The 29th annual Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival is coming up on May 25th-26th. This is generally considered the "kickoff" for summer street festivals here, and if this weather continues on it's course we can hope for a balmy 65 degrees!...if we're lucky.

Some of the best local bands and musicians in the midwest will be there and the full lineup can be found here. Arts, crafts and fashion will all be featured at this outdoor event.  It's located right off the belmont Red/Brown/Purple line stop, or you can take the Damen bus north from Ray's and then hop on the Eastbound Belmont bus.

If you aren't looking to be tied down to what's going on on one particular weekend, then throughout the entire month of May, the Chicago Blues Festival takes place in Chicago - click here to see a link of the upcoming blues performers at the Randolph Cafe and other locations.  With acts spread out over several events and venues it's pretty easy to find something that fits your taste.

There is plenty more going on this month don't worry!  But seeing as we here at Ray's are both breakfast cooks and blogging gurus we must continue later.  Here's to not having another 45 degree day for a while!

we hope.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spotlight on Roscoe Village

Here at Ray's Bucktown B&B we are very proud of our neighborhood, but to ignore others in this "city of neighborhoods "would probably be in bad taste.  So in an effort to acknowledge some other aspects of Chicago's neighborhood landscape we have chosen to spotlight the great Roscoe Village.

Roscoe Village is a neighborhood just a bit north of us and boasts some great summer street festivals, restaurants, shops, and boutiques - it's also very family friendly and is a great way to wile away an
afternoon with the wee ones.  Here are some of our favorite spots!

Kitsch'n on Roscoe - if you're still hungry for breakfast after a morning at Ray's this is a great place to check out. This weekend they are hosting a Tacos, Cerveza, and Tequila event, and you can find details here.  With a focus on comfort food, and tounge-in-cheek 70's decor it is a spot after our own hearts!  They boast a beer garden, award-winning breakfast/brunch fare (they were on Rachael Ray's $40 a day) and truly unique, laid-back atmosphere.  Located at 2005 W Roscoe, just a quick trip up Damen Avenue from Ray's B&B.

photo curtesy of Yelp
If you're in more of a mood to shop than nosh on hangover food, then Roscoe's got some options.  If you're a local, or happen to travel on vacation with a moving truck in tow, check out Praha.  They just moved to the neighborhood from a nearby location and offer some really eclectic, moderately priced, colorful and unique items. Lamps, decor, furniture, knick knacks, and a friendly and knowledgeable staff. Located at 2201 W Belmont Ave.

Shangri-La Vintage is consistently voted one of the best spots for it's specific niche market, and boasts some of the best real vintage finds.  It's no Salvation Army thrift store, and you can always find something from a handbag to a period outfit.  Of course, being of the hipster nature, they do not have a website that we know of.  But you can see their front door from Kitsch'n on Roscoe.  Located at 1952 W Roscoe.

If you've got kids, no worries, the tykes can have their own fun.  Hamlin Park has a more than decent playground setup, and even a pool for those 2 months that Chicago gets unbearable hot instead of bitterly cold.  After a jaunt around the park you can always take the exhausted kiddos to Black Dog Gelato to refuel their sugar tanks.  For the adults, try the Whisky spike variety to help you through a hot afternoon with the little darlings. 1955 W Belmont.  Formerly located only in Ukranian Village.  If you want some info on the new location check here.

All said and done Roscoe Village is a prime spot for wandering around on a nice day.  It's full of boutiques, shops, and has one of the best wine and liquor stores around in case you want to hit up a byob restaurant.  Of course be sure to check out their summer festivals as well, the most popular being August's Retro on Roscoe Festival.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring! Or at least not winter anymore.

Spring is just around the corner, we swear.  It almost hit 60 degrees more than once last week, so that's a start.  As some of you may know, and others are about to find out, we do a lot with the warm weather here at Ray's Bucktown B&B:

-We compost - Everything. Ray drew the short straw yesterday and was put in charge of turning the compost, a job that is normally reserved for whoever's birthday it is.  We have a system that works really well for us; we throw all compostable food and kitchen scraps into a large bin throughout the year, covering each day's layer with a reserved stash of dryer finished compost, and then once the bin gets full we turn and transfer it to our large stockpile of garden-ready-goodness.  If you're looking for a free source of compost for your summer garden let us know!  Our tiny single lot back garden definitely won't be able to use it all!

-On a roll from the compost project, and already dirty, Ray moved on to prepping our garden, checking to see what perennials were already coming in and what we need to plant more of.  After getting rid of the stems and seeds that we don't need (Cheech and Chong had quite the influence on Ray as a teenager and that wise old adage never left him) he discovered that we already have Lemonbalm, chives, leeks and oregano peeking through.  We will definitely be needing to purchase more basil, as our manager - yours truly- tends to consume it all with tomatoes on toast for breakfast before it ever sees a guest.

-Spring is Ray's favorite time for bird-centric discussions (as is every. other. time. of. the. year/day/week) and of course pointing out the first goldfinch of the season is much more important than watching the scrambled eggs and french toast on the grill.

While we won't qualify for a stop on the Bucktown Garden Walk we hold are own, and if you are a green-thumb master we are always open to tips and suggestions!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Veggie Friendly Dining Options - not necessary waistline friendly...

It's getting warmer out - by that I mean we have switched from snow to freezing rain.  Spring is in sight!  Time to get healthy.  Here at Ray's the herbivores used to greatly outnumber the carnivores among the staff, so we've collected quite a few favorite restaurants of the veggie friendly variety, and though they definitely aren't always healthier, it couldn't hurt to eat a few more veggies as the weather warms up yes?  We suggest checking some of these places out:

Quesadilla Le Reyna del Sur -  The closest option here at Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast, Quesadilla's offers a variety of faux-meat mexican fare. It will probably even please the average meat-eater.  Carry-out and sit-down options, with about 10 tables total.  They also have their own juices in case you are feeling a little under the weather and need a boost of greens.

Handlebar - A long time favorite of Ray's, and probably mentioned in our blog archive more than once, Handlebar is always a good solid choice.  They have a full bar, nice outdoor seating area, and really tasty veggie comfort food.  Can't really go wrong when their slogan is "Food Booze Good Times".  Check out their menu here.

Mana Food Bar - Loosely translated as "the life force in nature" Mana strives to provide meatless dining in a warm and tasteful environment. Outdoor seating in the warmer months and they even deliver; good if you are trying to slim down but still want to be as lazy as possible.  Check out their menu here - they even have a sizeable list of options if you have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon.

Green Zebra
Green Zebra - It's been a while since we've dined here (we may have gotten a little rambunctious during a staff outing...) but sooner or later we will show our faces again.  Contemporary vegetarian fare in more of an upscale environment provides a unique experience.  They focus on local produce, and their service was above average.  If you'd like to check out their current seasonal menu check it out here.
Chicago Diner Logan Square

Chicago Diner Logan Square
Chicago Diner  - An old staple, this lakeview spot has recently opened up a location in nearby Logan Square.  It's not going to be your healthiest meal ever, but it will almost certainly be a delicious option to drag your non-veggie comrades to.  It's all vegetarian/vegan but has a pretty good selection of "fake" meat dishes, and offers both real and faux cheese on most dishes.  If you're veggie but want to indulge in Chicago food with reckless abandon, Chicago Diner is a good bet.

These are just a few of our favorites, but if you are visiting us at Ray's Bucktown B&B we've got an even more extensive list of options!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I'm Green, You're Green, We're all Green for...Nitrate Free Baceen...?

Here at Ray's we try to be as "green" as possible.  You won't see us walking around in hemp sacks, but we do try to do our best while still remaining normal people who run a business.

We buy meat and eggs from local farmers, and try to purchase organic when possible.  Naturally, being the dead of winter, Chicago is not swimming in fresh produce, but the Logan Square Farmer's Market trucks on throughout the coldest months holing up in the Congress Theater every Sunday.  Here are a few of our regular stops for goods:

Jake's Country Meats - run by Lou Ann...and  her husband (she seems to really be the one in charge :)  ) get us our bacon and ham every week.  Take a look at the website to see how their animals grow up - it's practically a cartoon.  Wide open grass spaces, trees for shade, rainbows and butterflies abound i'm sure.  No nitrates in sight and you can REALLY tell the difference with the ham compared to store bought.  Trust me on this.  My nickname at work is HAM HANDS.  Check out their video to learn more.

Tempel Farms Organics is our magic egg source.   In the summer they provide eggs and organic produce at the outdoor market, and in the winter Dave the Knife Sharpening Guy - relative to Tempel Farms, is nice enough to bring our eggs to the indoor market.  We've noticed with these eggs that the yolks look better, they hold together better (good for when you're used to getting frustrated flipping over easy eggs and cursing the gods when they break) and the whole experience is much richer.  We buy by the case but you can purchase just a dozen or so, or sign up for one of their summer CSA shares

Now once our guests have scarfed down the all-natural-nitrate-free-organic goodies for breakfast, they are often too stuffed to polish off that last little remnant of their breakfast plate - the garnish.  No worries!  We compost!  Leftover garnish and scraps from our ingredients get respectfully dumped into our kitchen compost and then transferred to the great outdoors to finish their journey (no meat, dairy, or pastry allowed!).  We had our contractor build us a special large compost bin which every couple months or so the luckiest employee or two gets to rotate and turn it to keep everything composting nicely.  Usually this duty falls on whoever's birthday it is, or the person wearing nice clothes and/or white.

Just a look into how cool and progressive we are, you know, not to brag or anything.  We also grow our own garden of herbs - which we can't seem to locate a nice summer picture of, so this may give you an idea: it's pretty much an urban fern gully.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Spend the Day in Wicker Park / Bucktown

For those of us who call Chicago home there are a few things we wish out-of-towners knew:

-Don't call Chicago "The Chi" - it will give you away
-Don't put ketchup on your hotdogs
-Public transportation is your friend
-Deep Dish pizza is a challenge not to be taken lightly
-Magnificent Mile doesn't own the best shopping - one could argue that right in the backyard of Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast you can find some of the best, most interesting and independent shops in the city.  Here are some of our favorites and why:

4 Miles 2 Memphis is a new fixture in the neighborhood - thanks to the hard work of one the cast-members of American Pickers. Upcycled silk, taffeta, satin and lace make their refurbished appearance as artfully crafted "green" goods such as posters, gifts, clothing,etc.

Rudy's Roundup is a staff favorite and many a white-elephant gift has been bought here over the years.  This year's purchases included a tea infuser shaped like a robot, star trek playing cards, and various unique and humorous greeting cards.  It's a local "treasure" for sure, and not something you would ever find on the Magnificent Mile

Even when it gets windy out, the true trendsetters and secretly prosperous hipsters may be seen wearing hats from Goorin Bros hat shop.  Yes, if you do your research you will find out this is in fact a chain with locations throughout the U.S. but it's a fun shop idea and reflects well the eclectic nature of the shopping district in Wicker Park / Bucktown.  Hats for all ages and styles!  Just, if you buy a quality-made fedora, remain aware that you are, in fact, still wearing a fedora.

If you need a caffeine break, or simply want to protect your new hat from the Chicago wind-tunnel along Milwaukee Ave, you can rest up in Filter Cafe - in true hipster style they do not have a website, but it's worth a stop, especially if you are 400 feet away at Rudy's Roundup.  They have the largest capacity for seating in the neighborhood, with plenty of couches and tables to pick from, and a decent food menu as well.  It's right in the middle of awkwardly-silent and annoyingly-loud.  The perfect din for either getting work done or chatting to the fedora-wearing stranger next to you bonding over your hat-wear tastes.

Moving right along, we come to Reckless Records - one of the spots that makes Wicker Park what it is. Huge selection, and even if you emerge to find you have wiled away the daylight hours you will be happy you did.  Chances are you'll walk out with something you didn't even know you wanted.  But you bought it anyway. 

photo from
Quimby's Bookstore and Myopic Books are the best of a dying breed; good, old fashioned bookstores. Myopic is large in comparison to most crowded and unorganized used bookstores and manages to keep their stock pretty well divided by genre and author alphabetically.  They also host poetry readings and other such finger-snapping events.  Quimby's leans more towards the independent author scene, hosting zines and comics from local artists and authors as well as those well known to enthusiasts.  Check out No More Coffee zine, authored by the incredible man-friend of our own dearest manager.

Tired from all your shopping and people watching?! Come stay at Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast of course!

Monday, February 11, 2013

20 Things To Do During A Chicago Winter

Winter in Chicago doesn't have to be a lost cause - check out these awesome things you can do while sheltered from our winter wonderland.  And once you're tired from a day out and about, why not stay at Ray's Bucktown Bed and

  1. The Art Institute  - If you don't fancy the normal practice of museums charging exorbitant admission prices when you are already only pretending to like art, then you are in luck.  Free weekdays at the Art Institute for Illinois Residents until Feb 13th.  Not from this great state?  You can still get in free on Thursdays from 5-8pm
  2. Shedd Aquarium - Luckily, for as much money as teachers make, they are in no rush to bundle up 50 kids and truck them to a museum only to carry around their snowpants for 3 hours.  Which means less school groups, which means an exponentially more enjoyable experience during the colder months. Illinois resident? check out the list of discount days here.
  3. Ice Skating - Millenium Park is the most popular destination for making a fool of yourself with tiny sleds tied to your feet, but check out a few more options here.
  4. The Skydeck - The "Willis" (Sears) tower has a glass-bottomed ledge on the 103rd floor.  Perfect for a variety of things - torturing friends suffering from fear of heights, bringing a broom and pretending to be Harry Potter playing an urban game of Quidditch, or even proposing.  Yes, they make arrangements for those wanting to hop on the bandwagon of proposing to your significant other while they pee their pants out of fear.
  5. Signature Room at the John Hancock - Avoid the admission fee ($17.50) for the observatory and grab a drink at the Signature Room - just a floor or two away. propose here and you may avoid the pants-soiling atmosphere that you would get if you chose the skydeck instead.  
  6. Navy Pier Imax Theater - This way, if people ask if you've been to Navy Pier you can say yes, without having to suffer through the actual experience of Navy Pier.
  7. Garfield Park Conservatory - It's the best, it really is, just trust me on this one.
  8. Chicago History Museum - During summer months, there is no way you would think to stop in here unless to get some much-needed A/C - it's right next to north ave beach.  But in the winter-time parking is much easier, and you would do well to hole up here for a few hours and learn some stuff.  
  9. Museum of Science and Industry - See "Shedd Aquarium" - similar reasons to go during the winter season (less kids) - for a list of free days, check here.
  10. Birding at Montrose Harbor - Obviously Ray, the Avian-obsessed, made this a must have on the list.  Apparently there is decent birding near this beach at a bird sanctuary, and no, he will not count seagulls towards your life-list.  We've tried.
  11. Oriental Institute Museum - The most under-appreciate museum in the city in my opinion.  Small but extensive, it features artifacts from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Assyria, and all the ancient heavyweights.  Learn something.  Housed at the University of Chicago.
  12. National Museum of Mexican Art - Off the beaten path this museum is in the Pilsen neighborhood - somewhere worth visiting even if it's just because admission is FREE and you can find some pretty awesome authentic food in the neighborhood.
  13. Brew & View - If you want to feel like you're going out, but don't really want to do much, Brew & View is perfect.  Housed in the Vic theater in the Lakeview neighborhood right off the Belmont Red line El stop. $5 gets you a double/triple feature movie - that's about 83 cents an hour for 6 hours of second-run movies, sticky floors, uncomfortable seats, and most likely copious amounts of beer to get you through.
  14. Planetarium - Lots of discount days in the winter months and "Adler After Dark" is a nice alternative to the normal museum experience.
  15. Architecture Foundation - The tour guides know their stuff, even if that does make them a bit snooty, but they're the best at what they do and offer a range of tours, some safely sheltered inside for warmth such as the new Pedway tour - "warm walk, cool architecture"
  16. Theater - Book of Mormon - This musical just will not die, so it must be good. Lots of other stuff going on in the theater world here as well.  Want to see Mike Tyson in a one-man show? Yeah, we've got that (February 15th &16th only)
  17. Gene Siskel Film Center- Why ANYONE would pay $12 a pop to see Channing Tatum in ANYTHING when this theater is so close and so much cheaper I have no idea.  It may be a different story of course if Ryan Gosling is playing in a multiplex, obviously no one can resist that.  But the Siskel Film Center has a continuously impressive lineup of indie and foreign films, reasonable prices, and it's a nice venture downtown on a cold day, you only really have to walk a block from the heated train to the heated theater.
  18. International Museum of Surgical Science - Did you miss the traveling "Bodies" exhibit? This will be a nice substitute.  Sufficiently creepy i'm sure.
  19. Swedish American Museum - It's no wonder we have a Swedish Museum, a Ray's employee graduated from a Chicago university at which "Reid" was a more popular name than Ben and brunettes were the minority. Celebrate your inner viking at this Andersonville spot - and check out the neighborhood while you're at it, lots of good stuff.
  20. Brewery Tours - Many a Saturday could be well spent on a brewery tour at Half Acre, Revolution, Goose Island, Haymarket, and even Koval Distillery.  Warm yourself and whet your whistle.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Restaurant Week

Around Bucktown:

So Chicago is no Hollywood.  It's a fact.  Our weather this time of year leaves a lot to be desired and you trade in attractive blonde people for walking michelin men in sleeping bag coats.  BUT occasionally we do get our turn in the spotlight.  Chicago Fire - a CBS show in which "America's everyday heroes face life and death" has made Bucktown a regular spot on their shooting schedule.

Around Chicago:

Contrary to popular belief, not all Chicagoans hibernate from November - May (though many do) and there are actually quite a few things to do in Chicago in the winter.   Keep checking back as we relay 20 things to do during winter in Chicago - highlighting a new activity every day or so.  Even if it takes us till April to figure out 20 things to do, it'll still be cold.

Right now we've got something great going on: Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week is in full swing, but there are still 5 days to enjoy all that the city's warm, heated, restaurants have to offer.  With over 250 participants spread out through several neighborhoods, you're bound to find something that tickles your fancy.  It works like this - you get to try out a bunch of great restaurants that run affordable prix fix menus for lunch and dinner. ( $22 for lunch, $33-44 for dinner).  Just down the street, a guest favorite, the Bristol, is taking part; check out their menu here.

Francesca's Forno, right on your way here if you get off of the Damen Blue Line stop, is also a part of Restaurant week. While the Bristol is known as higher-end american fare, Francesca's will hit the italian shaped spot in your belly.  Restaurant Week menu here.

Some other nearby spots to hit this week:

...Fair warning, if you leave restaurant week leftovers in the B&B fridge, the mysterious foodie monster may eat them.