An active, fun-loving crowd, these young people enjoy meeting new people and experiencing new venues. Rhonda Mix finds 10 places where 20- and 30-somethings love to gather.
“Cheers” may be the place where everybody knows your name, but young professionals are seeking more than the familiar corner tavern or college watering hole for some after-work fun. We’ve graduated to newer, trendier hangouts, frequented by other 20-, 30- and 40-somethings – both familiar friends and fresh faces.
We’re a highly mobile group that likes to relax, have fun and explore our world. After college, it’s not always easy to find the places where other young people are spending their free time, but look hard enough, and you’ll find a growing number of possibilities right here in our region. From bars to meetup groups and relaxed hangouts, here are 10 destinations where young professionals are checking in.
302 S. Third St., Geneva
318 S. Third St., Geneva
Savor the sweeter things in life at Graham’s Chocolates or Graham’s 318 Coffeehouse, both in Geneva. Owners Robert and Beckie Untiedt maintain three Graham’s shops – two in Geneva and one in Wheaton. The Geneva locations are especially enticing to young professionals.
“Twentysomethings and 30-somethings like to hang out at our coffeehouse because we have free Wi-Fi, amazing pastries baked fresh every morning, homemade gelato, and a delicious full espresso bar, which will help to keep you caffeinated,” says Jayni Wunderlich, Graham’s premier graphic designer and coffee shop pastry chef. “There also are quiet rooms upstairs, to work on college essays and in study groups. Our motto is ‘Caffeinate Responsibly.’ We take great care in providing excellent espresso.”
Graham’s Chocolates is also a sweet destination. “We make all of the chocolates in our cases on the premises, with only the finest and freshest ingredients,” says Wunderlich. “We also make all of our homemade ice cream in-house as well. We have big picture windows that offer the customer a view into our working kitchen. You can watch as we make our own homemade caramel, English toffee, truffles and much more.”
Zanies Comedy Club
4051 E. Main St., St. Charles
Founded by Rick Uchwat in November 1978, Zanies Comedy Club has three locations throughout Illinois. St. Charles residents have been laughing the night away at this location since 1989, when it opened at Pheasant Run Resort & Spa, a 250-acre resort located just east of downtown.
Many now-famous comedians kicked off their careers at the original Zanies, still operating in Chicago’s Old Town, including Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson and Chelsea Handler. “We’re always looking for new, cutting-edge talent,” says Bert Haas, the club’s executive vice president. “We try to find people before they become big stars.”
Haas believes the St. Charles club is popular for several reasons, in particular because of its fun and homey atmosphere. It’s also the ideal cap to a night out with friends in downtown St. Charles.
“We believe stand-up comedy should be represented in an intimate environment, with a sense of personality,” Haas says. “Sometimes, we need to get away from the headlines. We all need to see the beauty of a stand-up comedy club and laugh for 90 consecutive minutes – you know, have a deep belly laugh, release some tension and say, ‘Wow, that was fun.’”
The House Pub
16 S. Riverside Ave., St. Charles
This has been dubbed by some as the “most traditional” local neighborhood pub in St. Charles.
The House Pub’s lower level is an inviting gathering place, with seating, foosball tables and Golden Tee Golf machines. This is also where you’ll find the House Pub’s diverse drinks menu, which is scrawled on a giant chalkboard wall.
“We have more than 200 beers, and we offer live music six nights a week,” says Tom Wojcik, pub owner. “In addition to our great beer selection and atmosphere, we cater to a diverse crowd. You never know who you might meet. We also have a martini lounge upstairs, which is a nice place to relax.”
The lounge is filled with couches that are ideal for gathering groups of friends. Several cozy nooks are geared toward those who want to enjoy a more romantic date. The lounge also features a unique fireplace and live music every Thursday through Saturday, with sounds that range from “mild” to “avant-garde.”
161 E. Chicago St., Elgin (630) 741-0349,
This may not be a big lounge, but it’s quickly becoming an artsy retreat for young professionals who desire a more laid-back place to unwind. Martini Room is most popular with the 30-something crowd, though it’s also frequented by people in their 20s and 40s.
“I want my place to be a playground, where creative cocktails and creative things happen,” says owner Ursula Borodzinska.
To that end, new artists’ work is displayed on the walls each month, and special events throughout the year each have their own artistic flair. A belly dancer performs on Wednesday evenings, and, one Sunday a month, an artist teaches painting classes to those who’ve signed up in advance. “We also host themed events such as ‘speakeasy nights,’” says Borodzinska.
Creativity translates into concoctions such as vodka laced with basil or cilantro. As its name suggests, Martini Room is all about those specialty cocktails, including plenty of martinis, specialty mixed drinks, homemade vodka infusions and several types of scotches and whiskeys.
“You’ll find we are unique in our cocktail menu,” says Borodzinska, who features a Wednesday night deal where patrons can sample five mini martinis for $13.
Martini Room is a conversation-friendly hangout, where the atmosphere is relaxed and the music is “turned low,” so people can talk without shouting at close distances.
“We are not at all like your typical sports bar,” Borodzinska says. And she aims to keep it that way.
N2BD Outdoor Multi-Sport Adventure Group
Bars and nightclubs aren’t the only places you can catch up with busy young professionals. Many of them are engaging in active adventure meetups.
Otherwise known as “MAG,” the Northwest Suburb’s N2BD Outdoor Multi-Sport Adventure Group consists of adventure-seeking adults in their mid-20s, 30s and 40s who enjoy outdoor activities.
The group is open to couples and singles interested in enterprises such as rock climbing, canyoneering, hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, skydiving, hot air ballooning, camping, backpacking, sailing, snowmobiling, snow skiing, snowboarding, paragliding, hang gliding and more. The MAG’s activities range from after-work bike rides and volleyball matches to excursions in national parks. Members pay $5 annually, and help to defray the costs of event planning.
Over the past three years the group has traveled to 25 states and visited a number of national parks including the Badlands, Yosemite, Sequoia, Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Mammoth Cave; the group has also visited numerous national monuments.
Connect with the group at Meetup.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter, @N2BDOutdoor.
Geneva Wine Cellars & Tasting Room
227 S. Third St., Geneva
Owner Al Buchanan began studying and collecting wines more than 30 years ago, when he was in college. In June 2013, he walked away from a law partnership to open this wine shop and follow his passion full-time. An oenephile’s haven, Geneva Wine Cellars features an extensive menu of wines from around the world.
“Young professionals will enjoy hanging out at this tasting room, because they’re likely to meet an eclectic mix of other young professionals, and other people of all ages and from all walks of life, who share a common passion: experiencing and learning more about wine,” Buchanan says.
Located in the cellar of the historical Berry House, Geneva Wine Cellars consists of four underground catacombs, the first room featuring original limestone walls constructed in 1854. Two rooms can be reserved for private parties.
Wine tastings are offered every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all day long, with a different wine theme highlighted each weekend. Live jazz is played every weekend, as well as on certain nights during the week. Additionally, several wine tastings and seminars are hosted throughout the year.
1700 S. Randall Road, Algonquin
(847) 458-8555, thirstywhalebar.com
Located in the Algonquin Commons shopping center, this is a large bar and grill that comes alive each weekend. Manager Kayla Pulscher says it’s a versatile spot that caters to many groups.
“We have excellent bar food with a twist, and live-action sports on our 32 televisions during the day,” she says. “We have a live DJ on Fridays starting at 9 p.m., and we have some of the hottest local bands each and every Saturday night.”
Thirsty Whale also offers a vast selection of beer – craft, import and domestic – as well as a full bar offering specialty cocktails and both well and top-shelf liquor. Tuesday and Wednesday are popular nights to visit. Tuesday’s special is domestic draft beers for $1, while Wednesday’s special is craft beers for $4.
Port Edward Restaurant
20 Algonquin Road, Algonquin
(847) 658-5441, portedward.com
Long popular for weddings, anniversaries, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthdays and corporate events, Port Edward is also the spot for more casual get-togethers.
“We offer live music on weekends, with changing performers and new talent,” says Charles Kaskadden, assistant general manager and director of social media and public relations.
While Port Edward is known for its fine dining, it’s also a great place for lunch or a casual supper, offering salads, burgers and sandwiches, as well as sushi and a fresh oyster bar. “We do offer premium selections, and we always appreciate people joining us for important celebrations,” Kaskadden says. “But we’re also a great date-night restaurant, or place to bring the family for a nice evening out.”
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, dogs are welcomed to join their owners on the outdoor patio, for Doggie Dining. The restaurant also hosts informal events such as wine tastings and cooking courses.
Port Edward has it all – fine dining and a fun family atmosphere. The restaurant is noted for its unique nautical decor and themed dining spots, including one inside an actual Great Lakes sailboat, and another inside a salvaged windmill.
“Port Edward is not just a restaurant, it’s a destination,” says Kaskadden. “It’s a place memories are made, a place people feel at home, surrounded by loved ones, and they are treated like family.”
Crystal Lake Young Professionals Group
Dole Mansion, 401 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake
This group meets on the fourth Thursday of every month at 5 p.m. at the Dole Mansion. The organization welcomes people of all ages, but is geared toward people between 21 and 40. Those interested in joining can download an application at clchamber.com.
The group’s core mission is to grow, serve and connect with others, by building relationships and business networks, aiding local nonprofits and bonding through events.
“We feature local leaders and nonprofit speakers, engage in personal and professional development with activities and workshops, have a book club, volunteer group and so much more,” says Rhienna McClain Trevino, an affiliate of the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce and former president and current chair of the Crystal Lake Young Professionals Group. “Every three months we do a social meeting, as well. One of our last meetings was held at Buffalo Wild Wings.”
To connect with the group, visit facebook.com/CLYoungProfessionals.
Downtown Crystal Lake
North Williams Street & Woodstock Street
Visit historic downtown Crystal Lake on a Friday or Saturday evening, and you’ll have a choice of places to mix and mingle, from evening shows at the Raue Center for the Arts to the extensive beer menu and locally produced food at Duke’s Alehouse.
McClain Trevino appreciates the way the city maintains a strong balance of places to shop, eat, drink and meet others. “I love that there are a variety of stores and restaurants to accommodate everyone,” she says.
However, a few destinations are particularly popular with young professionals. “Williams Street Public House is a great meeting space with great food and libations,” says McClain Trevino. “They have a friendly staff and are able to accommodate small groups when we have meetings there.”
For lunchtime meetings, she recommends Georgio’s Chicago Pizzeria & Pub, which she says has one of the best pizzas in town. Le Petit Marche, a quaint neighborhood bakery and cafe, is great any time of day.
“I highly recommend going there if you haven’t,” says McClain Trevino. “They have craft wine and spectacular food and desserts. The artsy vibe makes it a great place to chill, and it’s open late most nights.”