A Road Trip To The Chicago Suburbs To Judge Martial Arts ( with stops at IKEA,Portillos,Mago Cantina)
Sometimes my favorite trips are the simple ones to judge sport martial arts tournaments. Not big fights, not national tourneys and not big PR trips. I live all those, but sometimes just having fun in short ones with little or no pressure is the best. That was this weekend. My wife and I judged at a small but great tournament that was a fundraiser for wounded veterans up in the Chicago suburbs. Part of the way we drove two lane through the country on 47 and across old rte 66. I’ll do another piece about that area but here is a quick pick of tiny old school trailer selling coffee in a small town. Heck it might end up being its own story some Day. More about the trip after the jump.
The trailer sits in Forest IL along 47 which is about half way between my place and the burbs. It was closed but I’ll be making a trip just for it. OK, on to the real trip. The tournament was well run ( with my help of course, jk lol) so it went quickly. That left us plenty of time to wander around. Shopping, drinks and appetizers and dinner. First a few pics from the tournament including one of me with a guy I used to fight years ago. Good friends but we had some battles lol. It was his tourney.
After we left the tournament our first stop was IKEA in Bolingbrook. We love Ikea,and have bout lots of things there especially furniture for our kids. It’s just a cool place to walk around and get design ideas.
After that we did a little shopping at The Promenade Bolingbrook. It’s a cool mall but not the enclosed kind. Open walking environment with lots of restaurants and bars with great outdoor seating. My wife insisted that we were going to Portillo’s for dinner( an addiction!) but we decided to grab drinks at Mago Grill and Cantina. Great selection of sauces with our chips and salsa. We absolutely will return here for dinner and a full review. I had a couple great beers from Two Brothers brewing ( one of my faves & always great. ). Sandy had a piña colada mojito. She loves mojitos but hadn’t had one like that. Quite good with lots of fresh lime! Again we will be back! Check some pictures from Promenade and Mago.
No matter how many times or often we are in the Chicago area ( which is often) we makes lots of trips to Portillo’s! We have for decades. Great Italian beef,burgers and dogs. Always great food and such a cool look. They all have a slightly different kitsch to them depending on size. Great prices and just a fun place. One of my absolute favorite places on the planet. Tried other stuff but I almost always get the Big beef with spicy giardinera and fries. Can’t beat it. Huge and delicious! Take a look at what the one in Bolingbrook looks like, and part of my sandwich. I was hungry and forgot to take pictures! I’m a fighter that writes a little lol.
Im blessed to go all over and see all kinds of things, but a weekend like this close to home is awesome. Martial arts,drinks and food! The best. Check these places out. And hit this area if you get a chance. Warrenville, Naperville and Bolingbrook are all close together. Great food and shopping.
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We had eaten here shortly after it first opened but I didn’t have time to take pics and think about writing on it. First, it’s a true cool destination location restaurant. Our downtown area has become quite hip, and is often referred to as micro urban. I should say that it’s close to where I live but I’m 15 min away in a tiny town. Champaign has about 100k people which is still small to many folks. My town has less than 8k lol. So I often refer to Champaign places as home to me.
OK on to the fun stuff. First, if straight dominoes, papa John’s etc is the only thing you like, don’t go! I love all pizza but this is wood fired gourmet rustic. Great locally sourced meats and cheese’s plus produce. Lots of olive oil and charred edges on the crust. Very good, and the place is a true experience. It’s in an old publishing building and very industrial looking. I love that! You can stand and Look at the specially made ovens which came from Naples Italy. Heck you can see the woodpile!!
A few pictures and then we will talk about the meal after the jump. Enjoy.
To start of I had a great Morreti Rossa and my wife had the house Chianti. We ordered the cheese plate for a nice start. Great local area cheese’s that were fantastic as well as olives/sweety drops jam and bread. It was very good. Not too heavy or much but classically excellent. Artisan local cheese can’t be beat for an experience.
For the main we had the pizza pomodorini. Fresh mozzarella and fresh cherry tomatoes plus prosciutto Di parma/parmagianno reggianno and fresh arugula. Excellent. Fresh and nice charcoal edges. Again if this isn’t your thing it isn’t your place. Give it a try though. I’m a Giordano’s and Filippo guy but I love this stuff as well!
It was a great meal in a very cool place. Made for a nice and different experience in our area. The only downside was service this time. I never complain about that but she disappeared! Dropped off the pizza and never saw her again. We really wanted more drinks (especially me!). Gone. We have fun wherever we go and laughed about it but it wasn’t great. Nobody seemed happy to be there. I hope it was a one off as I really like the place and will return, but that needs work. We travel often, eat everywhere and pay well as a general rule. This was off.
Again, it’s a great place and we had a wonderful time. Check it out if you’re in the area. If you’d like to be part of our sponsor/ad/ ambassador program email us. From inexpensive links to features or social ads/spokesperson work. Hit firstname.lastname@example.org today. Also follow @combatsportlife on Twitter.
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A link to today’s restaurant
the Esquire is one of the oldest and in the Chambana area. I started going there with my Dad decades ago. It was tiny then. Classic little bar. A grill right in the window, the cook took your order and served you. Back then you could get like 3 things.
Today it has expanded quite a bit. Two separate bars in two rooms. Lots of windows looking out on to the growing downtown area. It’s become a but if a tech hub around here and that has really helped our downtown become quite cool. The Esquire has changed but stayed the same. Exposed brick walls. Lots of pool table,gaming and juke boxes. I’ll post some pics of the menu and some other things and we’ll talk a bit more.
The menu is bar/bistro but pretty wide. They have good individual pizzas as well. The bar/beer list is great. The prices are great. I’ve tried a lot of it but I kind of go back to my two favorites. A cheeseburger and fries with a Domain DuPage from Two Brothers Brewing. The burger is great, and they have the coolest fresh condiment bar. That makes the difference!! Plus that is an awesome beer. I normally lean toward IPA or similar but if a place has this French country ale I get it! Very smooth, doesn’t bomb your senses or stomach and it’s made here in Illinois.
It’s great place to relax and just enjoy spending time. It’s family friendly, clean and just one of those rare places I look for in my travels. Fortunately this one is right here for me. If you like classics come check this place out.
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Just for fun and something different, I thought I’d do a food/travel piece like that. A tiny description/thoughts on a place with a couple of food/drink/ambience pics. Let’s face it, you come here to read my goofy statements and see some pictures! I’ll never win any awards for this but you guys just keep showing up lol! Let’s do this.
First Nobu at Caesars in Las Vegas. As with every in Caesar’s, it’s great. Cool look with open modern area and skirted off private booths. Sushi,sushi,sushi!
Murphy’s Pub on the UIUC campus in chambana. A classic bar with great burgers. A nice dive that isn’t a dive.
Mama Sherry’s in Destin Florida. Pizza, wings and other great things. Great food at great prices in an area where food isn’t always cheap. Beer and wine specials, just an overall vibe that feels like vacation.
Jean Georges in Aria, Las Vegas. Beautiful, world class Steak house. Stunning selection of meat and seafood with great servers. The wine list and staff Aline make it worth a visit. Expensive but worth it. One of my favorites.
Black dog Smoke and Ale House in Champaign. Great BBQ in a cool old railyard building. Listed as one if the BBQ places in America. Great sides and a fantastic bar list. The ambience is with the trip alone.
Costa Di Mare in Wynn Las Vegas. One of the most knowledgeable staffs I’ve ever been around. I got a lesson in fish, and sourcing it from unusual places. Prep and cooking. Wine etc. It was amazing. Truly like nowhere else I’ve ever been. Like everything at Wynn, it is first class, and expensive.
Look for more in depth reviews of some these at another time. Just wanted to whet your appetite a bit, and entertain you. Yes a bit all over the page but so am I ! Burgers to sushi from a guy who likes to fight and write.
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For those who follow me you already know why I do these pieces. New people? It’s all about learning what an area is like when you go there. Not the glitzy fake shots but what it looks and feels like. Yes I get paid to Promote some places, but I always tell you what it is like. Really Iike! While I have been all over and treated to an incredible life, I’m a normal guy. I grew up throwing hay and hunting. These posts are how I show my kind of people what they should look for.
So in the continuing series of this kind of post please enjoy my thoughts, opinions and pictures on the area. Before I start the pictures which I will kind of put into areas and ideas ( I’m an old fighter not a journalist!!) Let me say that I LOVE!!!! Destin!!! The water is as gorgeous as anywhere I’ve been in the world. Great restaurants from gourmet to bar food ( my fave). Sugar sand beaches and great shopping. Above all, it has these things in a relaxed southern environment!!!! So let’s get ready to see what it looks like.
I’m going to wander a bit in these pics with a short description overall. First up some random beach shots, mostly down near embassy & the beach hut but a few other shore shots. The water here is gorgeous and some of the cleanest softest sand I’ve been on.
There are many great restaurants and bars in the area from casual Beach places to chef driven Culinary masterpiece spots. Take a look at some food and spots.
There are some very cool shopping spots from tourist kitsch stores along the beach drive (Alvin’s island) to the awesome Destin Commons.
Destin is gorgeous and relaxing with world class food and shopping. I had a great time here and look forward to sharing more about it with you. A couple more random shots just for fun
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Let me start with a couple of short statements. I’ve been going to this place with my wife since she was my girlfriend ( A loooong dang time! ). We don’t get there as much because of my travel schedule but this meal reminded me I need to change that! Awesome!! Second, at some point I’ll do a full review and the inside pics. We ate al fresco and it’s true Street side cafe experience. Love it, but the inside is so very cool that I feel almost criminal not showing you. I’ll have to make that happen. So now on to the thoughts on food and the pictures!
The place is known for its bread obviously, and rightfully so. If you love the classic euro/Swiss feel and food this place is truly a destination for you. They are also known for fondue and it is wonderful. This time we changed gears and tried things there we had not before. As is normal for us, we just kind of ordered several things and ate whatever. And fed each other lol. Almost 50 and together for over three decades and still like young daters lol.
Besides all the bread they brought us first, we had the crab cakes ( my wife’s true love! ). Served on a bed of greens they were outstanding. Obvious use of proper breading made in house. We also ordered a pizza margherita. Let met say I am not a crispy crust guy. This was great. It had that just scorched edge to it. We both loved it.
We also had the fried goat cheese. Again an obvious perfect use of bread crumbs that just happened to be available in a place famous for bread. Perfectly crisp with creamy melting goat cheese inside. Served with a plated bed of honey and strawberry. Simple yet perfect.
Beverages you say??!! Why yes we might have. They carry a few JT Walkers beers and that makes me happy. JT’s is literally walking distance ( done it!! ) from my house. Maybe a mile. I love the Hail To The Chief IPA. It’s one of my go to beers when I’m around here. So of course that’s what I had. Fabulous as usual. My wife had the sangria. She is a sangria snob. Orders it often. Rarely impressed lol. She liked this one!! I have to guess that’s a good sign. Take a look at my usual random picture set and we will talk location ( and advertising/sponsorship). Take a look at things we love as well Things we love
The restaurant is located in what we use to call the Tbird plaza. Why, because it used to house the third movie theater and tbird pizza. The theater is now the famous canopy club! This is all on the UIUC campus on the Urbana side. Right near Krannert Center. I know we are rural farm folk ( which I love ) but I’ve traveled the globe for fighting and marketing work. This area is truly world class. Take a trip and enjoy it. If you’re from the Chambana area and haven’t been here, I’ll be coming for you!! Seriously though go enjoy this place and this area.
If you want us to come eat,drink and review your place then contact us today. Beyond that if you want great promo/pics and chatter about yourself, hit us up. From social ads to full campaign work. Plus you can get a globe hopping beat up retired fighter as your spokesperson!!!! I might limp but I photograph well! Seriously, work with us. Worried about money? We can work something out. Email firstname.lastname@example.org today. Also follow @combatsportlife and @tompkinscontent on Twitter
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A common theme with me is just walking around an area and enjoying it. Seeing how it’s built. Having coffee while I walk. Later having a cocktail and a measly to just take it all in. As a blogger I like to take tons of random pictures of an area. It helps people see what something looks like and how it feels. Sooo much easier to describe and hopefully allow people to have the feeling of being there.
The Palazzo, The Venetian and the Grand Canal Shoppes in Las Vegas happen to be one of the best places in the world to do that. You get both the feel of being in Italy, actually in Italy ( yes I’ve been there) plus you’re in Vegas Baby!!! Visually Stunning, great stores and food. Clean!!!! Can’t beat it. I’m going to mostly just post pictures here for two reasons. One, I’m going back there soon to do a full review. Two, I just want you to get the feel of walking it and have your own ideas. OK and it’s Friday so I’m ready to quit writing and have a drink while I grill ! I!l hoo on s bit between picture sets, but mostly just think like you are there. Describe it to yourself in the pictures you see.
From the Frescos in the lobby to getting a gourmet pizza from a Mario Batali restaurant that feels like your eating outside. Your senses will continually be stimulated in a relaxing manner. Coffee, pastries and gelato.
One of the best things though is just walking even on the walkways outside. Again it’s the feeling of where you are. Authentic and fun. Take a look.
From the simple pleasure of listening to the gondoliers singing in actual gondolas to great food. You can wander here and not spend a dime yet still be entertained. You can also spend a lot and be entertained lol.
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So something that has become a tradition in our family trips is finding a place for pizza and wings. We all love pizza and hit that up wherever we are, but Beach locations require a pizza and wings place. Why?? First because it’s awesome!! Second, because we spent years travelling for fights and tournaments plus dance comps for my daughter. Now fights and rodeo with my adult children. Along the way at a dance national in Daytona, we found a great pizza and wings place after finally getting back to the beach late in the evening. After all day at the comp we just wanted to hang out. Pizza and wings ( beer and wine for mom and dad) on the beach at midnight hit the spot. The fact that it was a great deal made it better. Thus a tradition began
We are fortunate to travel all over and have luxurious travel experiences. Still, my favorite is find that great, quaint place with a great deal on this kind of food. Frankly, it’s how I got here. My loves won’t change!!!! So on this recent trip to Destin we found Mama Sherry’s. In between the high end strip malls with chains and along the road to the marina, this oasis of family vacation fun can be found. You have to either be a local, know it’s there ( because you subscribe to this awesome blog) or know how to search these places out. That said, it is on the main drag on 98 although easy to miss.
I’ll make this quick and to the point, then I’ll get to the pictures( what you want!!!). We had the hand tossed pizza with pepperoni. A classic without pretense. It was great. We had an appetizer of fried pickles ( my daughter’s fave from bluegrass nationals karate tourney waaay back). Excellent!! We also had wings with a honey habanero glaze. Perfect! This isn’t molecular gastronomy. This is classic people food. Enjoy it for what it vis. I love both, but this is my world!!!! I had a couple of Mama’s Irish Red ( a private label made by Bud, think Killian’s). Big beers and cheap!! My wife had a couple bof house red wines. Again cheap! See a theme?? Eat well, have fun, keep some money. OK so next are the pictures. Check out the food and drinks but also the place. Fancy? Nope. Awesome? Oh yeahhhh. If you don’t like this kind of thing you probably aren’t interested in what goes on here. Lighten up, I’ve been around the world and this is great. Check the pics and see how much after the jump.
Twitter. o all that food and alcohol that was delicious, plus old school Florida ambiance. Less than $50 with tip ( and I tip really well). It more than fed three people ( with lots of leftovers ). Easily feed a family for that or less. Finding budget eats at the beach with a family is something I will always want to show you. I’m always going to be a guy who grew up in a Midwest farm town!!!
Enjoy. Go there and tell them we sent you. If you want your place reviewed or a link here hit us up. From social care on twitter/fb to full campaigns or just getting us to stop by we want to talk to you. Affordable for any business, email firstname.lastname@example.org. follow @combatsportlife and @tompkinscontent on Twitter
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Yes I’m a guy ( a hairy beast of a washed up fighter guy at that!) yet I still shop! Especially in cool locations when I travel. OK so mostly my wife, Sensei Sandy shops and I get coffee or a cocktail and people watch. Same thing right??!! A cool set of shops in an interesting place actually gets my interest. Remember I run media/marketing firm and did 20 years on Wall Street, any commerce gets my interest!
Harbor Walk Village is flat cool. From great restaurants and bars sitting right on the water to interesting shops. Yes there are normal places you would know, but there are many Beach/harbor vibe cool places. Nice to just wander around.
Several things that are different make it extra cool. A little area of food trucks that are awesome, including an airstream trailer. Gives the place a great harbor vibe. It is also the home to the Destin fishing fleet, the largest charter fleet in America. You will see Massive fish being brought in. Soooo cool!! You can go on a dolphin cruise starting here. We did that and I’ll be doing an article/review of it before too long. You can also book a pirate cruise here, looked cool if you had young children.
Since most of you are looking this to see pictures and not my incredible writing lol, I’ll start posting them. Catch you after the pic and video jump to talk a bit more about the area. The even more pics and video!!
So you can see it is a very cool area no matter what you like. We are at Harry Ts Lighthouse and Margaritaville there and I’ll do reviews of both in coming weeks. There are a ton of places to eat and sooo many looked great. I’m ready to book my return and just hang out here!! It’s a mix of cool upscale with relaxed old fishing village. Kinda dig it.
It is built with the Emerald Grande complex, condo residence and vacation rentals. Great looking place. I did not stay there but I’m looking into it for the next trip. Their website will tell you about both the complex and the village. Very informative.
Give this place a look. It was fun and relaxing, coming from a guy who is always amped up! I’ll be looking into Emerald Grande next trip( if you are their marketing rep, let’s get together!!) And you should look at all your options there. If you’d like to be included in our reviews or need promotion, email email@example.com today. Follow @combatsportlife & @tompkinscontent on twitter
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