Park Ridge Insider Jenny Soukup on Beer on the Wall trivia night, brunch at Harp & Fiddle, escaping to The Gwen, and neighborhood bike rides
What you do for a living: I am a stay-at-home mom to my four kids: William (10), Rosie (7), Summer (4), and Benjamin (2). I have teetered back and forth between working while home, but I think the best spot for me at this moment is to be 100 percent home. Prior to having children, I worked in media advertising at Starcom, and then career-changed and earned my Masters from DePaul in early childhood education and began teaching in Lincoln Park, which I loved so much.
How long you’ve lived here: My husband, Bill, and I moved here when our first born was four months old, so we’ve been here for almost 10 years. We rented a condo in Des Plaines for a couple of years while I worked in the city and Bill worked in the western suburbs. We kept coming into Park Ridge and thinking this was the spot we’d like to raise our future family. We’re so happy that we made that choice. We absolutely love it here!
We recently walked into town for brunch at Harp and Fiddle, and for a savory option, I loved their potato pancakes with smoked salmon and dill sauce. Unique, delicious and not what I typically find on a brunch menu.
What you like best about Park Ridge: There are so many things! I love how easy it is for this town to become your home. We ride our bikes all over during decent weather, and doing that really makes every street feel like an extension of our own block. I love how many fun, thoughtful community events there are — from the Concerts in the Park and trivia nights at Beer on the Wall to summer movie nights at Prospect Park and Santa’s visit the day after Thanksgiving.
But best of all are the people. We’ve been fortunate to have fantastic neighbors, gain best friends, and genuinely enjoy all the people we meet along the way. Neither of us grew up in Park Ridge, but I love how so many people grew up here and came back to raise their families. That speaks volumes about what a great town we’re all in.
Best meal you’ve had recently: Bill and I recently walked into town for brunch at Harp and Fiddle, and for a savory option, I loved their potato pancakes with smoked salmon and dill sauce. Unique, delicious and not what I typically find on a brunch menu. So it was absolutely perfect and exactly what I am always hoping for.
Favorite restaurant in the area: I am always so happy to have sushi at both BluFish and Shakou. I love the ambiance of both restaurants, the unique sushi options each of them have, plus the perfectly made classics.
I think both spots do a really great job of using high-quality ingredients and creating new rolls that are exciting to try. I’m excited to check out the new location for BluFish when it opens.
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: Leilalove Macarons! Macarons are my family’s favorite dessert delicacy, and the macarons made at Leilalove taste straight out of Paris. I would love to try a blind taste test between Leilalove and Laduree.
Leilalove has so many different flavors to offer each day, and the special options change throughout the year. I have yet to try out their customizations or cakes, but they are gorgeous.
Best bar to grab a drink or to catch the game: I enjoy heading to Beer on the Wall and checking out the latest pilsners they have on tap. We’re so fortunate to have this destination beer shop right in Uptown.
A great night out with friends usually includes… Concerts in the Park, a hot pepper paloma at Pennyville Station, a good long walk, a tennis lesson or a night in a friend’s backyard. Good company, loving each other — that is all I need!
The best way to spend a Saturday in the fall: It’s gotta be driving your kids to various practices, activities, and games, right? I think that’s all we’ll know this year when it comes to Saturdays in the fall, but it’s great. I love that there are so many great sports and activities for the kids to be involved in, and at the end of the day, I’m looking forward to sitting on our deck under the twinkling lights with a relaxing drink and space heaters to trick me into thinking it’s not as cold as it is.
What’s something you look forward to every fall?
Honestly, fall triggers me a bit because it means winter is right around the corner. With that said, the back-to-school time feels so comforting and brand new at the same time, and I love having that yearly routine back in our lives.
Our oldest children go to Washington, which we all love so much. The back-to-school night, full of silly string, face painting, dancing, running, chasing and reuniting with friends, while we get to catch up with other parents and meet some new ones, is one of our favorite nights. Our youngest two just started at Christie’s Carousel, and they are really enjoying meeting some new friends there too.
Our getaways have most frequently been heading to a hotel in the city while my parents spend the weekend with our kiddos. This July, we stayed at The Gwen, and it was gorgeous. Friends joined us at night around a firepit at the hotel’s rooftop terrace, and it was a blast.
Favorite local store or best shopping area: Uptown can’t really be beat! The storefronts there are all adorable and have so many great options for jewelry, clothing, gifts, home decor and more. I find myself most often being talked into visiting my daughter Rosie’s favorite store (Hill’s Hallmark) to choose yet another puppy stuffy to add to her unbelievably enormous collection. They’re so soft and adorable, and apparently you can never have too many, even if you have multiples of the exact same dog.
Secret Park Ridge spot: This is definitely not a secret, it’s right in the open, but our family has really enjoyed mornings of coffee, croissants and playing (tag, soccer, duck duck goose, or truck watching with our two-year-old) in the grass just north of the Park Ridge Library. We love the busyness all around juxtaposed with the private-feeling play area. We always have a good time when we end up there!
Underrated activity in the area: My absolute favorite thing to do is ride my bike around town. I love riding with a child or more (especially my littlest in his front-seat bike seat!) or by myself. I love heading to a destination, or just taking a ride and checking out new streets and homes that I haven’t seen. Park Ridge has so many amazing neighborhoods.
It seems like every spot has its own great character, and I love spending a leisurely ride checking out the various areas. Our town being such a bikeable town has been one of the best unexpected gifts. For me, it really adds to the charm of Park Ridge.
Weekend getaway spot: My husband and I have mainly stayed close when we’ve gotten away. One of our children has severe food allergies, and it has been a mental hurdle to be too far away from her. So our getaways have most frequently been heading to a hotel in the city while my parents spend the weekend with our kiddos.
This July, we stayed at The Gwen, and it was gorgeous. Friends joined us at night around a firepit at the hotel’s rooftop terrace, Upstairs, and it was a blast. We loved enjoying the city views, relaxing over breakfast, drinking coffee and reading in the peace and quiet. Savoring the simple luxuries together.
What have you heard great things about but have yet to try?
Off the Wall Cafe is my favorite spot to stop for an Americano and a pastry, or a “quiet car” breakfast sandwich (bacon, egg and guac), but I never looked far enough along their menu to notice their nachos until last week. I will definitely be stopping in to try their nacho Cubanos ASAP!