Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Free Public Outdoor Skating in Wicker Park

The Wicker Park ice rink is a community funded and maintained, non-refrigerated rink that opened for the first time last year. It is located at 1425 N. Damen Ave, right near the Wicker Fountain.

The rink will be installed this year on December 3, and it will open as soon as the ice freezes naturally. The Chicago Park District's field house will be open as well, with a space to warm those cold toes. 

We dare you to take our very own ice challenge! First drink some free hot coffee or hot chocolate at Ray's. Then run to the rink and take a picture of you laying on it. Print out the picture using the guest computer at Ray's. Finally, post the picture on the skate wall of fame (fridge). Each contestant will get a special prize!

All Ages Skate:
Mon-Thurs 9am - 7pm
Sat-Sun 10am - 8pm
closed on December 24, 25 and 31
closed also on New Years

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Where to Buy Your Winter Gear in Bucktown / Wicker Park

If you are considering a visit to Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast in the next 6 months or so, chances are you'll have to prepare for the elements, mostly just that one element, cold. If you forgot to pack your parka, here are a few places in the neighborhood where you can pick up some gear.

Arc'Teryx: New to the hood, this place is not kidding around. You know it's legit because practically everyone in Alaska is dressed head to toe in this brand (if they can afford it). It's definitely $$$ but well made and lasts close to forever. 1630 N Damen Ave.

Fjallraven: (Full disclosure, NO idea how to pronounce that)
This place popped up a while before Arc'Teryx and falls into the same genre of high-quality-high-pricetag goods that will keep you nice and toasty dry during the long winter months. Check it out at 1708 N Damen Ave.

This is Patagonia the place, not the brand, but it's awesome so I'll leave it here

Patagonia: A little further west in Lincoln Park, this store would make a great stop on your way to the Lincoln Park Zoo. A little more affordable, still totally respectable and rugged, Patagonia is also supposed to be great about having a fair and honest supply chain, so it's definitely better than throwing your money at Walmart (Chicago actually doesn't have any Walmarts within city limits but you get the idea...). 1800 N Clybourn Ave

Moosejaw Mountaineering: They've got you covered from coats to ice climbing equipment, but unless you're gonna try and scale the outside of Trump Tower in protest during the winter you probably won't be needing the ice picks. Well, maybe for your car door handle when it freezes over... 1901 N Clybourn Ave

Title Nine: If you EVER played sports as a young lass you probably started getting their catalogs in the mail. Lots of bright colors and "fun" prints, if you used to shop at Limited Too when you were younger, this is the outdoor store for you. (Women's clothes only) 1024 W Armitage Ave.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Breakfast/Brunch Double Header Options In Bucktown / Wicker Park

I don't like baseball. I find it exhausting and frustrating to spend $11/beer while watching an insanely long "sporting" event where being an athlete doesn't seem like a prerequisite. However, I know this is not a majority opinion in Chicago and have more than a few cohorts who not only appreciate a live game, but train like marathoners to fully enjoy the elusive double-header opportunity.

If you're staying with us at Ray's, chances are you plan on catching a game, but I want to go ahead and challenge you to the double header of breakfast/brunch in the neighborhood. For repeat guests, you know that we do not mess around with breakfast, we will feed you straight into a mid-morning food coma, so what better challenge than to follow that up with one of the great brunch places in the neighborhood? (Extra points if you can pull it off on Sunday, after starting off with our Eggs Benedict) Here are a few within walking distance

Dos Urban Cantina: Sundays 10am-2pm there is a $24 Bruch BUFFET. And it's one of the best Mexican Restaurants in the area (being staunchly Arturo's loyal this is tough to admit). 2829 W Armitage Ave.

Saved by the Max (via NBC)
Saved by the Max: We love theme-bars/restaurants. If you were allowed to watch Saved by the Bell as a kid (I wasn't) you'll especially appreciate this spot-on (so I've been told) homage to their local hangout on the show. Originally planned to be a short-lived popup, Saved by the Max has stuck around a thrived for months now. This place is normally packed with people who think ahead and make reservations, (sorry, book tickets for their "experience") but they are allowing a limited number of people in for brunch walk-ins on the weekend. 1941 W North Ave

Harvest Moon: Looking for less of a epilepsy-inducing atmosphere and more of a sleek warm farm-to table existence for your gluttony? Try Harvest Moon. They're new, and based loosely off of an Eastern-European mentality. And they have sweet potato waffles. Enough Said. 1805 W Division St.

Dove's via DNAinfo
Dove's Luncheonette: This is a big favorite of locals, and offers the benefit of being just about as close to the Blue Line as possible, so if you are planning on going downtown or (heaven forbid) back to the airport after brunch you only have to put forth the effort of like 65 steps to be sitting down again and whisked to your destination.  Fun atmosphere, delicious food, solid choice. 1545 N Damen.

Or just linger in the kitchen long enough to gain a second wind and order more Ray's breakfast!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Seafood in Bucktown / Wicker Park Chicago

For a City known for it's food (or at least the quantity of food it's residents can eat) we've done pretty well considering our "coastline" is a lake full of questionable fare. If you're visiting from somewhere you can hear the waves crashing and crabs mating, chances are you're bound to crave some seafood every once in a while. Here are some options close to Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast:

The Angry Crab: These folks have a location up north of Lincoln Square as well as a new joint in Wicker Park, plenty walkable from Ray's. They opened to huge crowds at the Wicker Park spot; Angry Crab had a cult following even when it was tucked way up beyond where the Damen bus stops running, and now that it's in the center of the neighborhood, they are shelling seafood like nobody's business. Check it out at 1308 N Milwaukee Ave.

Sink/Swim: This place is nestled in a row of bars frequented by industry folk (Scofflaw, Best Intentions, Go Tavern and liquors) and as such, remains pretty steady throughout the week, especially during $1 oyster happy hour ( everyday from 9-11pm). And in their own words "although our main focus is fishes, we offer a wide range of dishes". Something for everyone. It's got sleek decor and professional staff, but I've gone there in sweatpants and not been kicked out. 

Honorable Mention: Parson's Chicken and Fish, but we've written about this place so many times that it just feels redundant to mention it for seafood as well as fried chicken, outdoor bars, winter bars, bars with games, bars with sports, hipster bars, and whatever else we've included it in.

Some popular places that require a bit more of a hike (aka public transit or an UBER/Taxi). Our local options are more laid back and casual, but these guys below could benefit from clean pants, a reservation, and a credit card.

The Publican: They just have the best EVERYTHING. Bread/cocktails/meat/seafood. You can't go wrong. ever.  Unless you're stuck with the check.

Hugos Frog Bar and Fish House: Always busy, but for good reason. (They have a location on the Near North Side, as well as Naperville, if seafood and suburban strip malls strike you as a good combo)

Shaw's Crab House: Again, one location downtown, and one in the burbs, who knew this was a thing? They offer both a traditional white tablecloth seafood restaurant experience, and a more casual bar atmosphere. So maybe just wait until your date shows up and decide which direction to go. Be SPONTANEOUS. but also, make a reservation.

There are plenty more places to get your fish on, but we aren't huge fans of pointing people towards something inside of a mall downtown, or within sight of a Cheesecake Factory, so some Magnificent Mile staples have been left out of the list.

Happy Crabbing. 


Friday, September 16, 2016

Locally Focused Events this Weekend

There's always something to do in the neighborhood, here are a couple recomendations from us here at Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast for the next few days:

Backyard Dinner: Bang Bang Pie is a neighborhood staple, just about a 15 minute walk west from Ray's, and they're throwing a benefit for a great cause this Sunday September 18th from 6-8pm. Local eats, cocktails, beer, and music will all combine to provide a great evening supporting Growing Home - an agricultural nonprofit. Check out more details at growinghomeinc.org (Tickets are $75 so make your significant other pay for it if you got in a fight this week and they lost)

Andersonville City Made Fest: Sticking with the local theme this weekend, Andersonville is highlighting beer, goods, and music that all hail Chicago as their home. Breweries include Half Acre, Revolution, Empirical, and Right Bee Cider, so come thirsty - the weather is supposed to be lovely. Saturday and Sunday Noon-9pm on Clark st between Argyle and Berwyn

Bucktown 5K: Feel like having a more active weekend? The Bucktown 5K is this Sunday at 830am and runs right through the neighborhood.  Work off all that beer you had on Saturday.

And as always, keep Ray's in mind for next time your family is in town, or a staycation/vacation depending on where you call home. We serve local Ham & Bacon from Jake's Country Meats, and harvest our own herbs for our breakfasts right outside the back door!


Monday, September 5, 2016

Late Summer: What To Do And What's New

September marks the near end of Chicago's Summer season of festivals and outdoor activities, but that doesn't mean you can squeeze in a few outdoor evenings, and warm up in some new neighborhood spots if the weather turns.

What's new in the Bucktown / Wicker Park / Logan Square Neighborhood:

From: Chicagoist
Furious Spoon Logan Square: The famed Chicago Ramen spot that has made such a wave in Wicker Park has just opened up a new location in Logan Square. What this means for guests of Ray's B&B is that there is not 1, but TWO spots within a 20 minute walk to stuff your face with delicious noodly goodness. Even better? They are offering an all-you can eat deal September 5-8th, and 12th-15th (11am-6pm). For $25 you can challenge yourself and friends to financially responsible gluttony.  More info can be found via this Chicagoist article.

The Stopalong: Many people come to Chicago hankering for deep dish pizza. If you stay with us, chances are you've witnessed a heated debate or two among Ray and staff as to which is better, deep dish or NY style thin crust.  The fact is, the person writing this blog abhors deep dish pizza, and therefore is very excited to welcome a new spot to the neighborhood that is right in line with her culinary beliefs. The Stopalong opened last week, and is now one of the closest spots to both the B&B and the 606 trail.  So grab some pizza and then walk it off while you argue with your significant other about what the proper way to cut a pie is.

What's going on in Chicago at large:

German American Fest: Even though this seems to be the preferred festival for college freshman to sneak into and chorg beers, it's still a really  great weekend festival, and one of the late season's best. Easily accessible from Ray's by public transit (damen or western bus, or steps off of the Western Brown line El stop) means that you can save your money for a boot, or just fill up your commemorative plastic stein one more time. The festival runs Friday September 9th - Sunday the 11th, with a parade at Noon on Saturday. Check it out, wear some lederhosen, and ditch the healthy summer diet for beers and pretzels, we're all going to be in parkas soon anyway.

Windy City Wine Fest: If you're looking for something fun to do downtown that doesnt' involve taking a selfie at the bean, then this may be for you.  Windy City Wine Festival is exactly what it sounds like - it's a festival dedicated to the best liquid on earth (water's OK too I suppose). It's a huge ordeal, and takes place this Friday and Saturday (September 9th and 10th). Tickets range from $25-$50 and can be found here.

There you have it, go out and enjoy the last bits of Summer however you like. And then come back to Bucktown and stay with us, we'll feed you a nice big breakfast to help sop up some of that wine.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bucktown Arts Fest - Our Favorite Neighborhood Event

Bucktown may not be the most well - known Chicago neighborhood (even though we think it's the best) but we do get to boast one of  the best festivals of the summer: the Bucktown Arts Fest. Here are a few things we love about it:

-Close to Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast (aka us, duh)
-Vendors from all over the country with quality products and a variety you won't see at the standard street festivals (looking at you Do Division & West Fest)
-Smaller, more intimate setting and a true neighborhood feel
-FREE - no pressure for a "donation" that other fests will make you feel is mandatory
-It helps fund great neighborhood initiatives, like art classes, the neighborhood pool, and summer day camp.

If you are looking to see what kind of vendors they have, here are a couple of our favorites:

Alter Images
Bella Joy Pottery - Ceramics artist with some great whimsical designs, we especially love the coffee mugs
Alter Images - This artist does some crazy cool stuff with digital art
Vault Furniture - August and September are 2 of the biggest moving months here in Chicago - this furniture artist may have the perfect piece for your new place
Mosaic Art Professionals - I tried taking a mosaics class once, I dropped out after 3 weeks because I was not immediately good at it, this place makes me wish I stuck with it.
Rebel Nell - Great mission behind this Detroit - based business.
And of course countless more Jewelry/Fine art vendors and artists. Check out the full list here.

While we are stoked for this weekend, and you'll see us walking around in our Ray's B&B T-shirts handing out some discount cards, we are of course keeping our door open for those who may want a tour of the B&B.

As always: #stayatrays

Monday, August 15, 2016

Air and Water Show 2016

It's that time of year again, the Air & Water Show returns to Chicago this upcoming weekend. While the beach is the most traditional place to enjoy the show, any rooftop or deck will bring you just as much enjoyment. You can even just look up if you've got a view of the sky and see them practicing throughout the week.

It's Chicago's 2nd most popular festival  - and the best part is it's 100% FREE (though I'm sure if the city could find a way to charge for it they would). Here's what you need to know:

Date: August 20th & 21st
Time: 10am - 3pm (both days)
Who's There:

Where to watch: If you're an early-bird and can get to the beach at the crack of dawn that's really the best place to view. The show's website tries to steer you to attractions such as the John Hancock Observatory or Sears Tower (Willis Tower), both of which require $$$ admission, but if you can find a nice lakefront bar you'll have the benefit of A/C, a cocktail, and, well, less speedos in your face. A couple good places to try: 
  • J Parker (on the roof of Hotel Lincoln): really close to the lake and Lincoln Park, probably one of the best choices, while still being far enough from the lake to beat the worst of the crowds
  • Cerise: Quirky, fun, right downtown, so the skyscrapers might obstruct your view a bit, but really they're pretty cool to look at too. 
  • Kensington Roof Garden and Lounge: This place just looks super cool, check it out and let us know what you think. 
Keep in mind that anywhere but the beach will keep you from seeing some of the more water-centric events and performers, but you'll still get a good view of the heavy hitters in the sky. 

And as always, after your fun, come home to Ray's Bucktown Bed & Breakfast. #stayatrays

Friday, July 22, 2016

This Weekend in Bucktown / Wicker Park and Chicago at large.

This weekend is going to bring the first real heatwave here to our neighborhood, so before you head out make sure you know where our neighborhood cooling stations are: Cooling Station Locations.

General Weekend Goods: 

Check out Estereo - Logan Square's newest hip bar by the same group resposible for the last hip bar - general first look rundown can be found at DNA info. It's a bit of a walk from Ray's, but doable, just bring a lot of water, we have a heat wave upon us.

Friday 7/22

Taste of River North: This runs through the weekend and is in most ways a classic Chicago street fest with cover bands, food vendors, and porta potties.

Grant Park Music Festival: The New world Symphony is in residence at the festival both Friday and Saturday night.

Saturday 7/23

Wicker Park Fest: Often voted the best street festival of the summer Wicker Park fest sets up only a mile from Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast for Saturday and Sunday. They have a kids fest, arts, vendors, music, and plenty of "culture" - whatever they mean by that. definitely worth a visit, especially if 

Sunday 7/24

Recover! (but don't worry, our Sunday Eggs Benedict/Florentine special should help)


Monday, July 11, 2016

Rose All Day - Wine Bars in Chicago Near Us

The Monarch
Webster Wine Bar's Most Dusty & Delicious
Here at Ray's Bucktown Bed & Breakfast you might catch us enjoying the occasional Mimosa after breakfast service is over, using the all important vitamin C in orange Juice as an excuse. But we also love our summertime Chicago companion - Rose (who knows how to put an accent on Blogger???) and all wine really.

Chicago has a reputation as a beer-drinking-brat-eating Midwestern Hub of all things hoppy and meaty... but here are some of our favorite places in bucktown and neighboring hoods to down a little pinot:

Red & White
Webster Wine Bar - technically now in Logan Square after relocation, but definitely walkable - this is probably the best place to chill out with a great selection of impecable wines, and a friendly atmosphere close to home here at Ray's. Our manager likes this place so much she follows them on instagram...did we mention they lead viticultural expeditions???? (Wine vacations. yes)

Red and White - not a bar but one of the best wine stores in the country, and right on Milwaukee Avenue about a 10 minute walk from the B&B.

The Monarch - not technically a wine bar but has a decent list and nice gastropub atmosphere. Also resides in the heart of the Wicker Park / Bucktown Neighborhood on North Avenue.

A Few More "Honorable Mentions" a bit further away:

Volo Restaurant & Wine Bar  (Roscoe Village)
Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar  (Roscoe Village)
D.O.C. Wine Bar  (Lincoln Park) - ask for Justin!

Want to learn more about Rose wine? Check out this article by one of our favorite wine bloggers:
  A Guide to 10 Different Styles of Rose

And as always.... #stayatrays

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Movie Night in Holstein Park - One of Chicago's Best

Here at Ray's we are lucky enough to be about a 90 second walk from one of our favorite places to hang out in the City -Holstein Park.

Hostein boasts one of the most impressive field houses in the city architecturally, especially for being tucked into our little neighborhood. If you are a fan of brickwork you should definitely check it out. They also have a playground, free pool, and several community programs.  You can find the pool schedule and rules of conduct on their website.

Last night Holstein was the host of Movies in the Parks, a popular summer program here where you can park it on the lawn of your neighborhood park and watch a movie outside, and if you're lucky it'll be a night like last night, cool breeze, no bugs, and no screaming babies (a couple barking dogs but, we think they're cuter than babies anyway). It's a pretty low-maintenance way to spend your evening but here are a few tips to help enjoy yourself:

B-DON'T  be that person who sits on an elevated camping chair, unless you are clear at the back, or enjoy daggers in the back of  your head from all the more conscientious folk.
-DO bring a snack or two - no loud wrappers please (a nicely curated meat and cheese plate is always nice, just beware of sitting next to a pup with such a spread)
-IF you can't forgo your favorite bottle of pino, (It's unclear whether alcohol is permitted) do so discretely and without any keg stands please.
-ALWAYS recycle, and toss your trash, this is not a frat party and Holstein holds daycamps every morning - stepping on a broken beer bottle can definitely ruin a 7 year old's soccer game.

Get there early if you want a prime seat, but the screen is large enough to see from anywhere, it's more the sound level that improves with closer seating.

Our first movie of the summer was Labyrinth, a "film" in which David Bowie plays a Gremlin King (see exhibit A to your right, featuring a tightly-knickered Bowie dancing with his Gremlin minions) who has abducted a baby and lures a 15 year old girl into his Castle Labyrinth. It's weird, it's got songs, it's got gremlins, it's got a bog of eternal stench, and when you watch it with subtitles some more creepy nuances come out that you may have otherwise missed. Definitely something worth checking out.

Holstein is a small park and therefore we only get 2 movies a year, the next one is Zootopia on August 29th - if you are staying at Ray's you should seriously consider going - it's a great way to feel like you're a part of the neighborhood.

Also, here is a full list of the Movies in the Parks dates and locations: http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/events/movies/

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Oh Hey Look - It's Summertime!

We wait all year long for this season - insist on apartments with "outdoor space" so that we can soak up some rays during these glorious 12 weeks or so when we can, vow to visit every street festival we can, etc etc. And then before we know it, it's over, the heat gets turned back on and our "outdoor space" lies dormant for another 9 months. So lets make the most of it shall we? Here are some of our favorite outdoor spots in Bucktown as of late:

1. Our garden here at Ray's - we have a small herb garden out back (think urban Fern Gully) that is perfect for a brief afternoon break in between cooking breakfast and cleaning rooms, checking in guests, and playing local tour guide.

2. Red Door - We've mentioned this place before, probably for it's patio and we're doing it again.  Stumbling distance from Ray's and you can find a good list of cocktails and comfortable food options. They even serve Dorilocos! What's that? Check it out here.

3. Small Cheval - You may have heard of Au Cheval the upscale diner burger destination, but what you may not know is that they have a little sister - Small Cheval, right around the corner from Ray's, and it boasts a small outdoor patio where you can post up for some neighborhood people watching (fair warning, you will definitely not forget the train is nearby...but we like to think the el noise adds "genuine local atmosphere")

4. Madison Public House - Our manager lived across the alley from this bar/restaurant when they first put up the "coming soon" sign and started renovations.  True to the timeline of construction, she had moved out long before they opened, but they are now in full swing. There's nothing innately that special about Madison Public House, except that not too many people know about it, and, sometimes they have a basketball hoop set up on the patio so you can challenge your friends to ill-advised athletic competitions after enjoying a few beers. Perfect if you're an alum of UW Madison. (also train-adjacent)

5. Orbit Room - This one technically falls in the Avondale neighborhood, but when did branching out ever hurt anyone? Orbit Room has an unexpectedly good patio, and it's off the beaten path, adding to it's unpretentios "1970s Elvis" (according to a yelper) vibe. Decent beer/drink list, decent food, great music, service, and atmosphere.

We left out some of our regular spots, in an effort to highlight something new, but definitely worth checking out as well are Parson's Chicken & Fish, Jack & Gingers (DOG friendly patio) Big Star, and many more.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

What's Happening This Weekend

Welcome to March! If you live locally you know February 28th was 60 degrees, and March 1st brought a quasi-blizzard. Yay spring. However this weekend in chicago will provide you with something to do, no matter the weather.

Around Chicago:

Whiskey Walk: Make good decisions and stumble through 8 different whiskey tasting venues - perfect way to get into the St Patrick's day spirit (which, FYI is not until the 17th)

Visit a Piano Bar: Chicagoist just picked out their top 6 piano bars in the city, and it's nearing the end of cozy piano-bar season if you ask us, so get in some instrumental enjoyment while you can!

Our Neighborhood:

2-Hour Comedy Hour @ Gallery Cabaret: If you are one of our loyal readers (we're thinking positively...) you know the Gallery Cabaret is one of the closest bars to Ray's - not to mention one of our favorites.  Most nights we go there, we stumble upon a comedy open-mic of some sort - equally cingeworthy and entertaining. Settle in early for a table and stock up on cheap pitchers of beer, you may even catch some live music (Gallery Cabaret however did not make it on Chicagoist's list of best Piano Bars, bummer)

Hopewell Brewing Co: a newly minted brewery withing walking distance of Ray's B&B just opened and focuses on a small 5-beer tap list.  Open Saturday 12-12, and Sunday 12-9.

At Ray's:
We are nearing the end of our slower winter season, and just installed some fancy new toilets to celebrate! They are truly awesome. Wanna see for yourself? We still have rooms available Friday night (Booked on Saturday) at Ray's B&B


Monday, February 29, 2016

Potholes & Cocktails

It's been a while - let's jump right back into what's going on at and near Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast

Chicago At Large: 

Potholes as Art: 
Driving down Fullerton Avenue is comparable to the backroads of Jamaica (just ask our staff, who have been witness to both). So if we're going to endure flat tires and broken axles, why not have something to look at while we wait for a tow? A local artist is hosting a Kickstarter (already fully funded with 24 days to go, but some cool tokens of appreciation if you want to get in on it) to resurrect a new series of artwork this spring - check out one of our favorites, from the "Treats in the Streets" campaign:

Our Neighborhood: 

We love Bucktown, but neighboring Logan Square has some pretty cool stuff to offer as well, even within walking distance (on a warmer day than today...).  One of our manager's favorite treats to herself every once in a while is to endulge in a cocktail at Lost Lake. Now Lost Lake is no ordinary corner bar, it's a Tiki Bar! and by tiki, we mean it's a tropical paradise (but you'll still have to travel there in your parka). You may not remember your time there, the drinks can pack a punch, but you can always purchase a Magnum PI tiki mug - who doesn't love that as a medal of honor for a night well spent? 

On the Home Front At Ray's:

Wintertime allows us a little more time to dive deep and attack projects that we've been meaning to tackle for weeks (or months...or years...). Our front desk has been tidied up by our manager and assistant manager, which makes us much more excited than it should. We may be getting some vintage lockers to hide away the personal belongings we seem to accrue (currently consisting heavily of scarves, boots, and maybe the occasional bottle of wine), and are spending a little too much time on petfinder.com searching for that perfect next addition to the B&B family.  Ray wants a dog, but doesn't want to take care of it, so we're leaning towards a lower maintenance feline. One staff member was campaigning hard for a ferret, but don't worry, we shot her down.

Ray Out in the World:

He used to go off on adventures and not bring us back so much as a postcard, but I think we have finally worn him down, any guesses where he just returned from? (He brough home cigars...we're working on the tone of the gifts next)