A Winter Guide to Chicago

Written by Megan Biddix
Photography by Brooke Van Groningen

Moving to Chicago was an easy decision for us and we’ve loved it more and more in the three years that we’ve lived here. One of the things that we didn’t realize until living here is how different each neighborhood is, making them so enjoyable to explore.

I work as an event coordinator, so it’s not only my job to keep up with all of the hot, new things to do in the city, but is also a joy for my personal life. When Brooke asked me to put together a winter guide to Chicago my first reaction was “of course, I’d love to!” but the more I considered it the harder it seemed because there is truly so much this city has to offer.

Here’s just a glimpse of my favorite Chicago winter-inspired activities, experiences, and good eats.

Good Eats

Whisk | West Town

A Ron Swanson-inspired bacon enthusiast's dream, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner – but you must come for the brunch. Be prepared to wait for up to two hours and BYOB, but the variety of savory and sweet breakfast selections are just too decadent to miss!

Bro Bagel | Bucktown

This tiny storefront is the best cure to the winter blues boasting the best, freshest bagels in town! Stop in to grab-and-go, or, wait for one of the four spots at the counter. Open only for breakfast and lunch with unbeatable prices! We like to grab our everything bagel breakfast sandwiches to go and take them to our favorite coffee shop, Ipsento, to sit and enjoy them with a latte in hand.

Ramen | West Loop, Fulton Market

It’s hard to choose between the many ramen options in the city, but here are two favorites. High Five is a hidden, intimate space serving, as most would agree, “the best ramen in the city.” Opening at 5pm, the line begins forming two hours prior just to put your name in since the space only accommodates around 20 people. If you can’t handle the 2-3hr wait, head on over to Ramen-San. Ramen-San is a neighborhood noodle joint that slings hot broth, ice-cold beer, and ‘90s hip-hop music.

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Damn Fine Coffee | Logan Square

My favorite oatmilk vanilla latte in the city and conveniently located only four blocks from our home. The natural light and hanging plants make this fresh space so homey. Get there early for a selection of locally made pastries.

Activities

Sprout Home | West Town

The cutest plant shop with large varieties of types and sizes, as well as locally made artisan pots. You’ll forget all about the freezing temperatures outside when you’re inside this house-plant oasis. Put your name in at Whisk and walk over and pick out a new plant while you wait!

Garfield Park Conservatory | Garfield Park

One of the two conservatories in the city with free entry and wifi – you can stay for hours exploring and relaxing. The desert room is a personal favorite with its neutral colors and warm climate.

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Experiences

Sporting Event

To leave the drab outdoor weather behind, enjoy watching the Bulls or Blackhawks at the United Center and engage in the thrilling and lively atmosphere of a local sports game. We had the best time and it didn’t hurt the Bulls pulled out the W!

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Honorable Mentions

Good Eats: Lula Café, Beatrix, Bongo Room, Parlor Pizza, Daisey’s, Three Arts Café

Activities: Penguin Foot Pottery, Ace Bounce, Bad Ax Throwing, Scratch Goods, Le Labo Perfume

Experiences: Second City, Magic Lounge, Chicago Architectural Boat Tour

Stay: Ace Hotel, Marine Layer Loft, or the Biddix’s Air BnB.

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Megan Biddix

Megan resides in Chicago, IL with her husband Chris and goldendoodle, Millie. She is an event planner who loves coffee, barre and exploring new cities in her free time. Follow her on Instagram.


See Things Closer x KNEAD Bakehouse

St. Louis! Knead Bakehouse + Provisions is turning one...can you believe it?! If you’re like me, you might be surprised because it feels like Knead has already been a part of the community forever but it's true, they’ve only been around for a year and they have for sure made their mark. It has quickly become a favorite of ours for breakfast and especially a place to bring out-of-town guests to as well.

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The first time I ate at Knead, I felt transported to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. I was swept straight back to when I visited Aaron’s hometown for the first time when we were dating. It was that good. I love it when food transports you to a certain place and makes you forget you’re in your hometown. That's why I am so passionate about trying new things, both when you’re traveling and when you’re exploring your own town (#seethingsclosercityfind).

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I was even more excited when I learned that AJ, one of the owners of Knead, went to culinary school in Lyon, France. Are you kidding me?! I’ve only been to two cities in France (Lyon and Paris) and one of them is where he studied at culinary school? The coolest. Another reason I must have felt transported to a different place.

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If you have yet to try Knead out, you must go. Knead sells loaves of its sourdough Rustic Loaf and its brioche to go. My first few visits were for breakfast because I could not turn down their kolache, but I recently tried their lunch menu and it was to die for. I can not believe I have been missing out on an amazing lunch spot this last year. I tried their butternut squash soup and grilled cheese and holy moly. You just have to go and try it for yourself.

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And speaking of trying it for yourself...you should go this weekend! Knead is celebrating their first birthday BIG! Both on Saturday, November 17th, and Sunday, November 18th, from 8am to 3pm! They will be offering 10% off as a thank-you, @rudysflowertruck will be selling flowers from 9-1 on Saturday and Sunday, and @redletteredgoods will be selling hand-lettered products from 9-1 on Saturday. And I hear they will have ridiculous amounts of birthday cake, too! ;)

I hope you will pay them a visit soon (this weekend?!) for breakfast or lunch and come back and share what you got. But have no fear, it's all good so you can’t choose wrong. And be sure to tag your photos with #seethingsclosercityfind, as I would love to see you out exploring our city and trying something new!

Knead Bakehouse & Provisions, 3467 Hampton Ave., Southampton, St. Louis, Missouri

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*this post is sponsored by KNEAD Bakehouse, an amazing cafe in St. Louis, MO. #seethingsclosercityfind

A Health Guide to St. Louis

After I’d been living in St. Louis for about three years, I suffered a stomach infection in 2016 and then again in 2017. I’ve been rebuilding my gut health ever since, and an unexpected result of this journey is that it has changed the way I live my life here. 

Right around 2016, so many great healthy options started popping up all over St. Louis. If there was any time when I needed to rebuild my gut health, then I’m glad it happened when the health and fitness lifestyle was becoming so trendy. In this post, I’m excited to share some of the places that are not only helpful if you struggle with food allergies or other related health issues, but will also allow you to still get out and explore this awesome city.

Here's a complete guide to all my favorite healthy things to eat, see, and do in St. Louis!

Favorite Healthy Restaurants + Cafes

Revel Kitchen

Revel Kitchen has two locations, one in Brentwood and one in Clayton, and they have kombucha on tap. Whattttt?! Oh, and they have great fresh pressed juice, salads, bowls, and smoothies too. 

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Wicked Greenz

Visit Wicked Greenz for all your L.A. lunch needs. I love their fresh ingredients and the beautiful lighting in there. 

Clover & the Bee

This beautiful new brunch spot opened in early 2018 in Webster Groves and it’s 100% worth the drive outside the city. Any spot that combines gorgeous design with tasty food is a win in my books. Oh, and their fresh juices are a must when you visit.

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Hello Juice

Hello Juice is almost too cool for St. Louis. Jk. We can hang. It is so cool, delicious, and healthy for all your smoothie bowl and avocado toast needs. Get there stat!

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Kaldi’s Coffee

To start your weekend off caffeinated, I highly recommend any of Kaldi’s Coffee shops, which are each beautiful and cozy in their own way. If I had to pick a few favorites, the Demun, Laclede Ave, and City Garden locations would be my top three. City Garden feels like you’re in NYC, Demun is like a second home in a darling neighborhood, and Laclede Ave’s location is just stunning. But no matter which location you go to, their vanilla latte can’t be beat.

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Blk + Mkt

Did you know sushi burritos are a thing? Well, now you do. Bulk + Mkt is killing the game. And the poke bowl game. 

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Nudo House

It’s not often you can find Pho and Ramen in the same place. Look no further. Nudo House is definitely worth the drive out to Creve Coeur (until they open their second location on the Loop in 2019). 

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Pure Vegan Cafe + Yoga

I’m not 100% vegan, but I try to eat that way a few times a week. Vegan Cafe does it so well you forget you’re eating vegan. They do such a good job and their carrot smoothie tastes like carrot cake — what more could you ask for? Their yoga classes are also great, and most are drop-in and donation-based. 

Knead Bakehouse

Knead makes the most amazing sourdough bread and pastries from their sourdough. Eating here truly made me feel like I had been transported to San Francisco. I also love their homemade juices and that they serve delicious Blue Print coffee. They’ve got it going on!

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Favorite Health Destinations

Tints | A non-toxic nail salon

Tints was everything I didn’t know I needed. Not only is it beautiful and clean, but they have a selection of polish that is five-free (free of five of the most hazardous ingredients typically found in nail polish, that is).

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I love getting my nails done as a guilty pleasure, but I also try to use “clean beauty” products. Before Tints, I had even stopped getting mani/pedis. I love their online reservation system, no tipping policy, and self-serve coffee and wine selection. Oh, and while you’re there, pop over to The Juice Bar next door!

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Palm Health

I joined Palm Health in January for medical assistance with the stomach issues I mentioned earlier. In March, I took the plunge and joined their wellness side as well, to take advantage of their work-out classes, gym, steam/sauna/salt room, and cafe. It has added so much value to my life. If you are in need of functional medicine, I couldn’t recommend Palm Health enough - it has totally changed my life for the better.

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Flowers and Weeds 

Flowers & Weeds is probably my favorite plant store in St. Louis, with Bowood Farms coming in a very close second. It’s perfect for city dwellers. Not only do they have brilliantly healthy plants and beautiful pots for sale at affordable prices, but they also have a potting station in the back, in case you don’t have a patio or yard for potting at home. There are giant bins of soil that you can scoop into your pots right there in the store. Oh, and they have a terrarium-making station—what more could you want from a plant store?

Holistic Fitness - Massage with Emmy

Who doesn’t love treating themselves to a massage every so often? I found Emmy at Holistic Fitness and am never turning back. She specializes in scoliosis and has been such a gift!

Float STL 

I’ve been hearing about “Floating” from friends for a few years and my husband even tried it before me last year, but I finally took the plunge (pun very much intended) in February and danggggg, it was incredible.

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Here’s how Sean Lavery from Float-Toronto has described the experience:

“You are floating in 850 pounds of epsom salt so you won’t be fighting gravity and the water is kept at 93.5 degrees which is skin-receptor neutral, which means you lose track of where your body ends and the water begins. Your ears stay just below the water, and the tanks are insulated against sound. After you shut the door and turn off the light, you float in total darkness. During your float the outside world is gone, and amazing things happen. It turns out that when you’re not fighting gravity or constantly taking in information, your body has a lot of extra resources at its disposal. Your mind is free to mull things over without distraction, your brain pumps out dopamine and endorphins, and your body gets to rest, de-stress, and heal.”

Needless to say, Floating is 100% worth the hype. I have literally never experienced something where you can truly escape from being overstimulated. No sound, no gravity, no light. For living in such a tech-heavy world, the gift of disconnecting from all the stimulation is really surreal.

And, if you’re in St. Louis, I loved my experience at Float STL and they will give you $10 off with this code: pb-640692.

Favorite Fitness Studios

Pure Barre 

I love the low impact yet high intensity workout that Pure Barre offers. No ballet experience needed, we all just meet at the barre ;) The instructors are so talented and make you feel so known. They make working out fun, which is no easy feat. 

Vegan Cafe + Yoga (see above)

Palm Health (see above)

Favorite Activities

Go Ape! 

If you don’t mind heights, take the day to drive out to Creve Coeur and do the ropes course at Go Ape! This brand knows how to do it. It’s so much fun and will make you forget to check your phone. 

Creve Cour Kayaking 

While you are climbing the tree tops at Go Ape! go rent a kayak or paddle board at Creve Coeur Lake. It’s $10 an hour and is such a great escape from city living. 

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Forest Park Paddle Boarding

If you don’t want to drive out of the city to get your paddle boarding on, check it out at Forest Park at the Boat House. You will never feel more like a St. Louisan than paddle boarding in front of Art Hill. 

Curling 

After becoming obsessed with curling this past Olympics, I did some research and found out that there is a curling club in Creve Coeur where you can take beginner lessons and play a game. They even have beginner leagues that my husband and I hope to join in the future. In the freezing temps of winter, it’s so fun to find escapes to have fun indoors. This is definitely our newest favorite. 

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Rent a Limebike + Scooter 

You’ve most likely seen the bikes and scooters taking over the city. I love seeing how they are helping us city folk be more active and spend more time outside, away from our phones. I hope these are here to stay. 

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City Garden + Kaldi’s Coffee

If you need a getaway but can’t actually leave town, may I recommend City Garden? The Kaldi’s  location in the garden makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Madison Square Garden in NYC and all the sculptures scattered around are so much fun to admire while sipping your favorite coffee or tea. It’s a must-see.  

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I would love to hear of any of your “healthy” St. Louis stops below! What am I missing?! :)

Newest Favorite Ethical Fashion Brands

Today I’m excited to share some ethical fashion brands you all might have not heard of, or maybe you have and just want to know more about them. Whenever I have a “hole” in my closet, I often try to find an ethical fashion brand that could fill it.

Quality over quantity is the key in this post.

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Key

$ - $5-50

$$ - $55-$100

$$$ - $100+

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Athleta ($-$$)

I recently learned that Athleta was a B Corp, which is a responsible, accountable way of doing business, so it’s been so fun to know that a store that you can shop at in the mall is making strides to do better business — not to mention their sale section is where it’s at!

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Albion Fit ($$)

If you are ever shopping for quality, sustainable swimsuits (one pieces, bikinis, mom & me, they have it all!), Albion is your place. Their suits are handmade in Guatemala, and they are so well-made and stylish. I love all the patterns and how confident they make me feel.

Patagonia ($$)

I heard about Patagonia’s business practices on NPR’s podcast, “How I Built This,” and I was blown away by what I learned. Not only do they use fair-trade business practices, they care so much about the environment that they are trying to change the fast-fashion industry by offering a lifetime warranty on all their clothing.

You can ship your Patagonia (even if bought second-hand and you don’t have a receipt) to them and they will patch it, fix a zipper, etc. on your items and then ship them back to you just to extend the life of your products. Talk about amazing. That will definitely keep me coming back, and I also just love how timeless their pieces are.

P.S. They have a great 50% off sale twice a year and it’s usually when I make my Patagonia purchases.

Marine Layer | Chicago, IL

Marine Layer | Chicago, IL

Marine Layer ($$-$$$)

I found Marine Layer via Google while searching for a fun, unique gift for my husband. I was first drawn to their charity T-shirts that change a few times a year, but they also have great staples for men and women. They have many locations around the U.S. and I even got to visit them in Chicago — I highly recommend finding a store to see their quality for yourself.

Amour Vert ($$-$$$)

I have yet to purchase anything from Amour Vert but I have a serious crush on them. If you ask me, they are the Zara or Anthropology of the sustainable fashion industry. Their pieces are stunning and so well designed. When I have a need for a quality, well-made dress, Amour Vert will be the first place I look.

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Faherty ($$-$$$)

For my last recommendation, I wanted to share about Faherty. Even though I have also yet to personally purchase from them, a friend of mine has and raves about them. They have great flannel and outdoor pieces. If there is a specific piece you like but it’s not in your budget, I recommend signing up for their email newsletter — you can find out about sales and promotions, like the great deals they had this past Christmas.

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Tried & True

($-$$) Everlane

I’ll never tire of writing about Everlane. They have brought so much value to me, I can’t write an ethical fashion post without mentioning them. From my personal wardrobe to work attire, they have everything, including underwear that I am currently loving. And, all of their products are so well made and the quality is great.

Frank & Oak | Vancouver, Canada

Frank & Oak | Vancouver, Canada

($-$$) Frank & Oak

I’ve posted about Frank & Oak a few times before, but just like with Everlane, they are so worth bringing up again. Like most of the brands I’ve mentioned, they carry men and women’s clothing and are an Ontario-based brand. I love the pieces I have from them — they are made with such care and have lasted me many seasons already. My newest favorite pieces are a crop top blouse and a green cargo jacket for fall. They also have lots of locations around the world that you should for sure check out if you are ever near one. :)

ABLE | Nashville, TN

ABLE | Nashville, TN

($-$$) ABLE — shoes + clothes

ABLE has recently been renamed from FashionABLE, for those who know that name, but they are a longtime favorite of mine. They are a Nashville-based company that got started with making beautiful leather purses, but they now have recently started lines of clothing, shoes and jewelry. Their mission is to empower women to believe they are capABLE. I’ve had their black bucket purse for 3+ years, as well as their flats for work and their sandals, and they all still look incredible — so I highly recommend ABLE for yourself or for gifts.

($$-$$$) Nisolo

Nisolo is a handmade shoe company also based in Nashville, TN, and their shoe makers are based in Peru. I loveeee my Nisolo shoes and when you have a need for a new pair of quality shoes, definitely check them out. Their shoes cost more than I would typically spend, but I put them on my Christmas list last year (I’ve found that my birthday or Christmas list is a great time to invest in a bigger ticket item). Their black leather Oxfords have been so comfortable and such a good fit into my lifestyle for both personal needs and for my work wardrobe. Every few months I visit my local shoe shiner and he makes them look good as new ;)