Restaurant Review – Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House

Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House is a Gold Coast staple for upscale seafood, and famous for crab cakes, frog legs, and enormous desserts. Thanks to Hugo’s next-door proximity to its sister restaurant, Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, patrons of Hugo’s can also order Gibsons prime-aged steaks and other specialties at Hugo’s, which is owned by the same company.

Reviews of the venerable spot, which celebrates 25 years in 2022, trend toward impressive, with both service and menu. 

“I ate crab cake and was delicious… Lots of crab meat!” read one Google review. “My friend had a Halibut and was also really tasty. The location and good and if you feel like having a drink after lunch/dinner, lots of options around. Definitely would come back.”

Start your Hugo’s adventure with a cold appetizer, such as Wild Caught Sea of Cortez Shrimp, or Tuna Ribbons Yuzu with whipped avocado. Or, if you prefer, hot appetizers include a Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, served with a colorful hot pink mayonnaise. Or, try the pan-roasted P.E.I. Mussels with saffron, chorizo, and grilled Italian bread. Hugo’s signature Sautéed Frog Legs appetizer is served with drawn lemon butter.

Seafood entrées include Alaskan Red King Crab Legs, which come chilled or steamed, while Shrimp DeJonghe is paired with Garlic & White Wine. Faroe Island Salmon is served with an Heirloom Tomato vinaigrette and basil. Togarashi Seared Tuna Steak is paired with summer squash and soy ginger vinaigrette. Other seafood pairings include a Planked Lake Superior Whitefish, served with mashed potatoes, grilled tomatoes & red onion. Miso-Marinated Chilean Sea Bass is served with Hon Shimeji mushrooms, peas, and soy lemon butter.   

Other popular entrées include Grilled Marinated Wild Caught Shrimp, served with lemon butter & Basmati rice. For those who enjoy their steak and seafood together, Hugo’s offers a ‘Steak & Cake’ pairing a 7oz filet with their impeccable Crab Cake. Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes are served with hot pink mayonnaise, French fries & coleslaw.

Best steak & ribs I ever had in Chicago” said another reviewer.

Steaks come virtually every way you could love them. Filet Mignon come in 7-14 ounces of tender goodness. New York Strip steaks are 13-19 ounces. Other choices include a 16-ounce Bone-In Strip, a 22-ounce Chicago Cut, or a 26-ounce Porterhouse. 

Grass-fed Australian Steaks come in your choice of Ribeye, New York Strip, and Bone-In Filet. 

Ala carte potato and vegetable choices include a double-baked potato, baked potato, mashed potatoes or French fries. Sautéed spinach is served with olive oil and garlic. Traditional creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and grilled asparagus with parmigiano & lemon vinaigrette are among the choices.

Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House is located at 1024 North Rush Street, Chicago, and is open daily 3pm-Midnight. For more information, click here.

Alison Moran and Dean’s Team Chicago

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Thanksgiving Week Prep

Do you have your battle plan set with your cooking schedule and grocery list? I hope so! 

Monday is the day for you to get everything set up.  That means prepping your table and gathering every little thing you will need for the big dinner, down to the smallest detail possible!

Pro Tip: shop for non-perishables the week before, and leave Wednesday free for preparing all you can ahead like appetizers, stuffing, vegetable prep, etc. 

As you go through your menu, write down everything needed from pots, pans, and cooking utensils to serving dishes and serving utensils for each dish. It may seem obsessive, but trust me: it’s not fun to start cooking on Thanksgiving and suddenly realize you don’t have enough pans, or your electric carving knife has died!

If you’re anything like me and have been downsizing your kitchen, you may find you need to borrow a big platter or Dutch oven. If you need to purchase it they’re on sale virtually everywhere! 

The table itself can be set days ahead too. Simply cover the entire table with a clean sheet to keep everything dust free. Doing this early will assure that you have enough place settings for all your guests and give you time if you need additional pieces. 

Then, give the house a good once over cleaning on the weekend before Thanksgiving! You can do a quick dust and vacuum on Thursday morning. Rewash all the dishes, glassware, and utensils. Make sure you have some extra TV trays and folding chairs. Put away knick knacks on side tables to have room for edibles and appetizers. Have ample coasters and napkins available so guests have something to set their drinks on. I use nice paper plates for appetizers (no need for more dirty dishes!). 

If you are having several kids over, have a kids’ table set with kid friendly snacks and construction paper, markers, and crayons to keep them occupied till dinner.

Big dinner planning doesn’t have to be scary, as long as you make an overall plan and stick to it! Start early, clean as you go along, it will be much easier after dinner. And remember, if guests volunteer to help, say “thank you, yes!” 

All and all, try to do as much as you can in the days before, but understand you can’t do everything – and that’s ok! Focus on your family, what you’re thankful for, and enjoy yourself!

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago

Calling In A Professional

Renovating your home can be a stressful and expensive endeavor. How much should you spend? Who should you trust? Who’s the best contractor/architect/designer/etc. in town? If you find yourself asking these questions as you consider a renovation, you may want to consider a renovation coach.

Expert opinions
Renovation coaches are a recent trend in home remodeling. Think of it as a project manager for your home renovation—someone who is great at working with contractors and vendors, and at keeping things running smoothly and moving forward as your renovation progresses.

Worth the investment?
Renovation coaches can handle projects of any size, and can be involved as much or as little as you like. They’re especially useful for managing bigger projects that involve several vendors and contractors, but they can also be helpful in simply recommending the best and most reputable companies for your specific project. If you don’t know who to hire to remodel your kitchen or basement, a renovation coach can be a huge asset.

Finding the right coach
There’s currently no national directory or association for renovation coaches, but it’s a fast-growing profession and chances are there’s a great one in your area. Take to the internet to find some coaches in your area—Houzz and Google are a good start. Vet several candidates and reach out to past clients to find the coach that can help you get the most out of your renovation.

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – Going Indoors as Cold Weather Arrives!

Time to pull out those scarves and heavy sweaters as “the other shoe drops” this weekend in Chicago! Much colder temps are arriving after a string of mild weather kept us outdoors. But that’s okay because we’ll just take our fun indoors! Who’s with me?

North America’s largest and most prestigious barrel-aged beer festival and competition returns to Chicago this Friday and Saturday with the 19th annual Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers. If you missed Friday’s tasting Session 1, Session 2 takes place Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Credit Union 1 Arena at UIC (525 S. Racine Ave.) (not the UIC Forum) in the Little Italy neighborhood. Plus, this year, you can experience this festival either in-person or at home. In-person attendees will be able to sample beer from over 125 breweries while those who opt to stay at home will receive a six-pack of hard-to-find beers which are selected randomly. And this year’s competition brings over 180 craft breweries from across the country submitting 330+ of their best wood and barrel-aged beer, cider, mead and perry for judging and tasting of course! The award ceremony will be hosted during Session 2 and live streamed for folks at home!

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Impress your family and friends with your culinary skill by attending a Thanksgiving Class with Soul & Smoke’s Chef D’Andre Carter this Sunday (6 p.m.) at Timeout Market Chicago (916 W. Fulton Market) in the West Loop. Learn how to make dishes such as herb-roasted turkey, traditional herb stuffing, mac and cheese, herb gravy, cornbread and more. You’ll also enjoy plenty of tastings along the way!  Each participant will receive some useful swag which includes a recipe card for each of the dishes, Soul & Smoke’s herb seasoning mix, a $25 gift certificate for a Soul & Smoke Thanksgiving catering order and a bottle of Soul & Smoke’s signature BBQ sauce. Heck, I’m impressed by the swag alone!

Returning to the Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Ave.) in the Wrigleyville neighborhood for its 7th year this Saturday and Sunday is the Chicago Critics Film Festival. Here’s your chance to see buzzed about unreleased films and overlooked movies deserving to be seen on the big screen. This year’s lineup includes the 40th anniversary screening of the Chicago-set Michael Mann film “Thief,” the new Netflix western “Power of the Dog,” and many others!  Check out the complete festival lineup on the Music Box Theatre’s website.

Taking over 25,000 square feet on the street level of Water Tower Place (835 N. Michigan Ave.) is The Dr. Seuss Experience now through January 2, 2022 (12 p.m. – 6 p.m.).  From “The Cat in the Hat” to “Horton Hears a Who!” and “The Lorax,” along with six other timeless Dr. Seuss favorites, visitors will encounter and enjoy these classic treasures by magically stepping into the pages of each of the books and interacting with the characters! Not only is this experience great for kids, but also for adults who still embrace their inner child!

Extended through February 6, 2022, due to popular demand, Immersive Van Gogh was custom designed for Old Town’s 14,000 square foot historical Germania Club Building (which goes by the name Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago) to offer a look into the mind of the world’s most iconic impressionist artist. Visitors are transported into Van Gogh’s most famous masterpieces such as Starry Night, Sunflowers and The Bedroom Arles with large scale projections, music, storytelling, and even an opportunity to lay down in a socially distant circle with a pillow to take it all in!

Sue Moss and Dean’s Team Chicago

Neighborhood News – Lincoln Square, Chicago Loop, Gold Coast, Wicker Park

Colder temperatures can’t stop a great city from having a good time! This weekend, indoor and outdoor activities are abundant, family-friendly, and great for the kiddos! 

Available Light,” an exhibition of photographs by Chicago artist Andrew Steiner, begins with a reception Friday, November 12 from 6pm-9pm at Eat Paint Studio, 5036 N Lincoln Ave., and runs through December 11. Steiner’s photos document Chicago’s Covid-19 shutdown starting in March 2020. Eat Paint Studio describes Steiner’s photos as “a personal documentation of the past two years and an outward search for meaning and beauty.” Free.

Sequence Chicago at Navy Pier features Chicago’s lively arts and cultural scene this Saturday, November 13, from 3pm- 6pm, featuring great musical performances at the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion Food Experience Corridor. The program also showcases works by local artisans. On Saturday, November 13, Joe Rickter performs from 3pm-4pm, followed by Eli & Company from 4pm-5pm, and Dennis Caravello rounds out the trio from 5pm-6pm. Free.  Masks are required for everyone over 2 years old while indoors, regardless of vaccination status, per City of Chicago mandate. 

The Lyric Opera of Chicago breaks new ground as they present Florencia en el Amazonas, their first Spanish-language opera on the mainstage, 20 N. Wacker Drive, on Saturday, November 13, at 7:30 pm. The opera is inspired by the literary work of Gabriel García Márquez The story, by Daniel Catán, revolves around a glamorous diva on a life-changing adventure on the Amazon. The show stars soprano Ana María Martínez as Florencia. The show runs through November 28, and tickets start at $39. Masks are required for these indoor performances.

In a new immersive exhibit at the Field Museum, Wild Color explores the meaning of color in our world. Color, as the description says, evokes emotions, signals alarm, and creates disguise and illusion. Visitors will learn how to decode the hidden messages that different colors can send. In one of the exhibition’s many highlights, you can transform into a fluttering yellow butterfly through the art of projection. Fun for the whole family! Ticket prices vary, check website for details.

This weekend, Facets’ presents its 38th Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, one of only two Oscar-qualifying children’s film festivals in the world. Limited in-person screenings at Facets and virtual screenings feature more than 250 films from 40 countries for children, teens, and adults, featuring over 250 films, as the website says, “break new ground in their approach to storytelling, offer unique or seldom-heard points of view, and demonstrate artistic and technical mastery.” Check their website for details on ticket prices, times and locations.

Sunday, November 14 is the last Wicker Park Farmer’s Market of the season…”unless it snows!” says their website. The Farmer’s Market takes place at 1425 N. Damen Ave. from 8am-2pm, and features fresh-to-table vendors such as Avrom Farm, Baked Cheese Haus, Beacon Doughnuts, and Ben & Ben Co. Crepes. From 9am to 9:45am, kids can enjoy Storytime with Cruelty-Free You & Me at the Mr. Wicker Sculpture. Lots more fun to be had! Free.

Alison Moran and Dean’s Team Chicago

Restaurant Review – mfk

“mfk. is an intimate, seaside focused eatery on the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview East at 432 W. Diversey Parkway. We like little fishes, grilled crustaceans, crusty bread and cold rosé. We like rhum and agave spirits. We like seersucker suits, Iggy & The Stooges and dancing the night away. Come on by if you do, too. The kitchen is open throughout the day until 10 pm and until 11 pm on the weekend.”

Management, mfk.

Located on the border between Lincoln Park and Lakeview, mfk. has earned numerous dining awards, including a Michelin Bib Gourmand Award every year since opening in 2014. Many reviews of the Spanish-inspired restaurant were rapturous, including one on Google that opined,“Having traveled to Spain this past summer, I can say without hesitation that the food at mfk. vastly surpasses the quality of what we experienced in Spain itself!”

Another Google reviewer wrote, “A great little place in the big city. The food was spectacular,  I suggest the Spanish tortilla. Cocktail specials and very friendly and knowledgeable staff. The details regarding the menu and how some of dishes are made was most impressive.”

The menu is limited, but each plate is given the care it richly deserves and served beautifully. Start with tapas-style small plates such as Castelvetrano olives + cornichons, with herbs de provence, red onion, fresno peppers, sherry evoo (extra virgin olive oil) and citrus peel. Or, a Pqm bakery ciabatta spread with Maldon butter, garlic and olive oil. Suzuki Crudo pairs guacamole with a squid ink tostada, radish, honey-citrus and sambal.

Second courses in this subterranean boîte include a warm farro salad, pairing butternut squash, apples, chevre, toasted walnuts, and fresno honey. Or, try roasted maitake mushrooms, combining white beans, toasted almonds, harissa butter, and piquillo purée. Potato + smoked piquillo croquettes combines salmorejo, manchego, and pickled fresno peppers.

Third courses include the whimsically named clams ‘n’ ham with manila clams, house smoked pork, pastis, tomato, and a toasted ciabatta. Fideos pairs shrimp, smoked pork, mussels, and toasted capellini, with a delectable saffron cream. duck confit is served with roasted rainbow carrots and hazelnuts in duck fat jus. 

Mfk. Is located at 432 W. Diversey Parkway, Chicago. Their website lists it as being open Thursday-Sunday, and reservations are highly recommended. For more information, click here

Alison Moran and Dean’s Team Chicago

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Foundation Problems: Water Is Not Our Friend!

The foundation is what holds up our home! As such, while doing routine checks outside our houses in the fall, we need to pay special attention to the quality and maintenance of our foundation.

There are many reasons your foundation could begin to erode,  especially depending on where you live in the country. For example, homes near saltwater bodies need to look closely for damage caused by salt air. Certain other areas have distinct types of soil that are highly compressible and can cause cracks. Problems can also arise simply due to poor maintenance.

But no matter where you live, water is usually the main component in foundation failure. I remember early in my Real Estate career learning from an old Home Inspector that “water is not our friend!”

Concrete is porous and water can leech in and during freeze/thaw cycles can crack the foundation. Walkways and patios need to pitch away from the house to divert the water. Downspouts and gutters need to be present and of sufficient size to take the water flowing off the roof away from the house. 

Pro Tip: Make sure that the downspouts are set in such a way that the water is not dumped too close to the house. Gutters can’t save you if the water coming out the downspout simply runs back towards the foundation! 

Unfortunately, water is always the greater force and sometimes our best efforts can’t keep away all damage. The good news is our houses often give off tell-tale warning signs of foundation damage before it becomes too late!

Rotted wood on the base of exterior door frames and windows can indicate a water problem, as well as sloping upper-level floors, horizontal or diagonal cracks in the foundation or walls, and efflorescence left on masonry surfaces, mainly on basement walls near foundation windows and corners where downspouts are located, usually identifiable by white minerals or stains. A moldy smell in the basement is also a big indication of a water problem.

 If you find any of these warning signs, have your foundation inspected immediately! Take it from me: it may not be as bad as you think, but delaying it will only make repairs more expensive. 

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago

Five Tips For Reducing Clutter

It doesn’t take much time to go from a perfectly organized room to a cluttered, chaotic mess. Papers pile up on surfaces, coats and bags end up on furniture, shoe boxes and shopping bags get stuffed in the first place you can find. But if you’re proactive, you can avoid the common clutter traps. Here are five ideas for reducing clutter:

1. Have a place for the things you bring into the house each day: Do what you can do create an easy place to put your outerwear, mail, keys, phone, and the other things you bring home each day. Coat racks, mail holders, and a catch-all basket give you an easy, consistent place to put your everyday items.

2. Get a basket for once-worn clothes: There are some clothing items that may not need to be washed or put away immediately after one use, like sweaters or denim. These items often end up on the bedroom floor. Instead, put them in a specific basket for items that aren’t yet ready for the laundry room.

3. Keep kitchen tools off the counter: It’s really easy to let items pile up on the kitchen counters, and all that clutter can be frustrating when it’s ready to make a meal. To reduce clutter, use wall racks to keep cooking utensils off the counter.

4. Designate a no-clutter zone: This one’s simple. Simply choose an important surface or space (like a coffee table), clear it of clutter, and focus on keeping that one area totally organized.

5. Keep the dining room table set: Not only is a set table pleasant to the eye, but it also makes it nearly impossible for the table to gather clutter. Thanks to the plates and silverware, there’s no room for your junk mail.

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – Welcome November and An Extra Hour!

Now that October and Halloween are behind us, it’s time to welcome November and the upcoming Thanksgiving Day holiday. Not to mention, we get an extra hour on Sunday as we turn back the clocks! So, let’s take some time this weekend to unwind a bit with some exciting events!  

Enjoy an evening out this Saturday at the immensely popular Dinner Detective Murder Mystery Show held at the Courtyard by Marriott Chicago (165 E. Ontario St.) on the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago. Not only is this show set in the present day, but it also takes place all around you. Also, you can choose whether to participate or not in the show. The performers are dressed just like everyone else and are seated all around the room, possibly at your table, leaving all the guests to figure out who is a part of the show and who is not! Tickets include a 4-course meal, cash bar, and prizes. Everyone is a suspect, even you!

Need to shed a few pounds after eating all the leftover Halloween candy? This Sunday offers three physical events to assist you with that:

It’s back for another live season! The Hot Chocolate 5K/15K is headed to Grant Park (301 S. Columbus Dr.) in The Loop where you can race and celebrate amongst Chicago’s biggest chocolate aficionados.  This annual race lets participants indulge in all types of sweet treats at the post-race party where a chocolate lover’s oasis awaits you along with exciting vendors and some great tunes! Plus, participants will receive a fleece-lined jacket and a medal that looks like a cup of hot cocoa!

The Polish Independence 10K/5K Run/Walk returns to Montrose Harbor, Grove 16 (600 W. Montrose Ave.) in the Uptown neighborhood. Join in person on Chicago’s lakefront or sign up for the virtual run. This race commemorates Poland’s resurgence as an independent state on November 11, 1918, which traditionally is held in major Polish cities but was introduced here in the United States in 2018.  All participants (in person and virtual) will receive a runner’s bib, a custom finisher’s medal, and an event T-shirt! Plus, all ages are welcome!

If you prefer something indoors, then the SkyRise Chicago event is for you! Over 3,000 people will be taking part in this 8th annual event climbing the 103 floors of Willis Tower (233 S. Wacker Dr.) in The Loop to benefit the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Their goal this year is to raise $1,000,000! You can help either in person at the event or virtually to Advance Human Ability!

The 38th annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival takes place this weekend through Sunday, November 14th. This event is one of only two Oscar-qualifying international children’s film festivals in the world and is proud to present a diverse selection of high-quality films for children and teens. It’s also the oldest and largest children’s film festival in North America featuring over 250 carefully curated films from around the world! CICFF is offered virtually or with limited in-person screenings at Facets Cinema (1517 W. Fullerton Ave.) in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.  The full schedule is available online.

The largest and most realistic dinosaur exhibit in North America is back, bigger and better than ever!  Jurassic Quest returns to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (5555 N. River Rd.) in Rosemont this Saturday and Sunday. This exhibition features over 100 prehistoric animatronic dinosaurs, dinosaur themed rides atop a Carnotaurus or a T. Rex, and live dino shows. Plus, there will be opportunities to visit with the one-of-a-kind baby dinosaurs and the Jurassic Quest team of dino trainers! There’s also face painting, science activities, crafts, and plenty of photo ops too!

Sue Moss and Dean’s Team Chicago

Neighborhood News – Chicago Loop, Wicker Park, Gold Coast

November is here, but the celebration of all things spooky continues in Chicago locations everywhere. Also, the cooler temperatures can’t stop some phenomenal outdoor activities this month! Enjoy November!

A very special night is planned on Thursday, November 4, as Morgan’s on Fulton, 950 W Fulton Market, presents Taste of Fulton Market, from 5pm – 9pm. The event is a benefit for the Illinois Restaurant Association’s Employee Relief Fund. The event also celebrates the centennial of the historic building. The ticket price includes a special cocktail and a sampling of food items from Fulton Market’s celebrated bars and restaurants. Tickets are $55 per person.

For those who celebrate the spirit of Halloween past October 31, check out the House of the Exquisite Corpse at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division St., starting Friday, November 6 at 7:00 pm. The Wicker Park/Bucktown area theatre promises that “Through puppetry, sound, performance art, movement, and illusion, Exquisite Corpse will horrify and enrapture. This new immersive experience beckons you to gaze into nightmares you won’t soon forget.” Sometimes, they say, these nightmares gaze back…Tickets are $26 per person.

What does the Constitution mean to you? Broadway in Chicago is presenting the national tour of ‘What the Constitution Means to Me,’ starring Cassie Beck through Sunday, November 7, at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower, 175 E. Chestnut, Chicago. Author Heidi Schreck’s Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-nominated play imagines how the Constitution will shape the next generation of Americans. All patrons, regardless of age, must have a ticket, and is recommended for ages 12 and older. Tickets range from $81.50-$106.50 per person.

The Lyric Opera opens its indoor season with ‘The Magic Flute,’ composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s blend of the human and the supernatural, comedy and romance. The plot of this classic tale features a prince, Tamino, and a princess, Pamina, who “triumph over every obstacle in their search for wisdom and enlightenment, and are finally united in love.” The production also pays homage to the silent movies of the 1920s, which was praised by The Guardian, according to their website, as “a joyous yet profound staging in which animation takes centre stage…[taking] live video to new heights on the opera stage.” The Lyric Opera requires all audience members to be vaccinated.  Tickets range widely in price, check website for details.

Who’s up for a brisk run and great chocolate for a great cause? The 2021/2022 Hot Chocolate 15K/5K® on Sunday, November 7, in Grant Park, 301 S Columbus Dr.,  starts at 7am and will support the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to help end childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. As the website says, every finisher gets their own finisher mug, complete with chocolate fondue, dippables, and, of course, their famous HOT CHOCOLATE! For entry fees and other information, check the website.

Alison Moran and Dean’s Team Chicago