Park Ridge Insider Talha Sajjad on developing relationships at Orange Shoe Personal Fitness, the tempting brisket at Mel’s Craft BBQ, gin martinis at Tavern on the Point and relaxing on the Robey Hotel rooftop in Chicago
Mel’s Craft BBQ brisket sandwich
What you do for a living: I’m the franchise owner and fitness professional at Orange Shoe Personal Fitness here at 833 W. Touhy in Park Ridge. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary in early September, and our clients love it. They like the feel of the space, the close-knit community and camaraderie among the members. Lots of bonds are being built. We have a very personalized approach to the individual’s needs and what kind of environment they’re looking for. We develop relationships with our clients, and it’s a judgment-free zone. It’s kind of like therapy in addition to physical training.
How long you’ve lived here: I’ve lived in Chicago for a total of almost 12 years, including an undergraduate degree at UIC, and Roscoe Village for going on three years now.
What you like best about Park Ridge: I chose Park Ridge for my business because it feels like a Chicago neighborhood with a suburban vibe. I love having the ability to walk to a diverse group of restaurants, and they’re all great.
The best part of living in the city is I can great sushi and tacos right next door to each other, and that’s also the case here. I can see myself moving here in the future and having a family, and that’s why I wanted to set my roots here. The people are super friendly and welcoming too.
Best meal you’ve had recently: The fried chicken sandwich at Pennyville Station. Easy choice. I’m a fried chicken connoisseur and have probably had a fried chicken sandwich at 50 different restaurants all across Chicagoland, and Pennyville’s would easily rank in the top five.
I like two things: meat and beer. And Mel’s Craft BBQ offers the best of both. My favorite thing is the brisket, or if I’m feeling naughty, the pulled pork nachos.
Favorite restaurant in the area: I like two things: meat and beer, and Mel’s Craft BBQ offers the best of both. My favorite thing is the brisket, or if I’m feeling naughty, the pulled pork nachos. It’s all good.
Favorite “hidden gem” restaurant: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a true hidden gem because most locals know about it, but The Sandlot is a personal favorite. It’s a quick walk over from the gym for a 2-and-2 burger. And I always get the sauce with it.
Best bar to grab a drink or to catch the game: Tavern on the Point in Edison Park. Great food, better drinks and the best service. The DJ parties and rooftop too. It’s a hopping place. They make a mean gin martini.
A great night out with friends usually includes… tacos at Cafe El Tapatio in the city. Great spot on Ashland in Lakeview in Chicago. Followed by some drinks and dancing in Roscoe Village.
The best way to spend a Saturday in the fall: I like taking my dog to Montrose Beach to get some exercise and so Toffee can play with some of her furry friends. And then head over to Horner Park and get a good workout in before heading out for the night and a last-chance patio hang before winter sets in. The Dawson has a great patio in River West, and the rooftop at The Robey Hotel in Wicker Park is great if you like to head into the city on a weekend.
What’s something you look forward to every fall? The start of football season and my five different fantasy leagues. Holt’s is a good local spot to catch the games with friends.
Hemp CBD Wellness on Northwest Highway is great for helping my soreness and general aches and pains from workouts. Olga always knows exactly what to recommend.
Favorite local store or best shopping area: Hemp CBD Wellness on Northwest Highway to help my soreness and general aches and pains from workouts. Olga always knows exactly what to recommend — with great results.
Secret spot: I like going to Cumberland Park — the little triangle of grass by the Park Ridge Farmer’s Market. Nobody ever uses it for anything, and we love going on long dog walks and relaxing with a book.
Underrated activity in the area: The various seasonal festivals in the area, throughout Park Ridge and Chicago. So much to do and so many people to see.
Weekend getaway spot: When I want to get out of here, I really get out of here. I love quick trips to Denver to see my sister and hike some 14ers with our dogs.
What have you heard great things about but have yet to try?
The ribwich sandwich at Mel’s Craft BBQ. And trivia night at Off the Wall. I didn’t even know you could sit outside and be part of it. I have to have the nachos anytime I go there.