5 Tips for Apartment Hunting in Chicago

Here I am. I’m alive! I know I’ve been totally MIA this month, but it’s been a crazy past few weeks. I’m not sure how some of the daily bloggers do it, especially mom bloggers! So my hats off to you, hopefully one of these days sometime next century I’ll be able to pull it off, but life just gets in my way! Ok so here’s an update, over the weekend, Max and I signed a lease on a new apartment in the West Loop. We’re both really excited to start the next part of our adventure together in a new neighborhood. The place we found couldn’t be more perfect, granted it took a bit of rockiness to really lock it in, but everything fell into place, despite my assumptions that it would. So pat on the back for that one, got it done!

The only major downfall about the place, which honestly isn’t even a downfall, is that we don’t move in until Oct 1 and our current leases end the 31st of this month. Which, you guessed it, creates a whole “homeless” situation for both of us. Silver lining here is we get a month off of paying rent which is nice, non-silver lining, staying at the parents and training it to work for a month. Woooof. We’ll make it work though, at least it’s September and won’t be crummy weather yet?

But the reason for the blog silence was basically every day this month, I’d get home and just post up on all the rental sites on the interwebs to make sure I was on top of anything that was posted that day. Renting in Chicago is a bitch. And you gotta be real savvy in order to beat the system. So today I want to share a few of my tips with you since this will be my 4th rental since moving down here in 2007.

5 Tips for Chicago Apartment Hunting

 

1. Keep a close eye on ALL the rental sites.  This includes DOMU, Lovely, PadMapper, HotPads, Zillow and everyone’s favorite, Craigslist. The first one is Chicago-based only, the rest I imagine work as equally efficiently in other cities. I think the first five allow you to set up alerts for your specific criteria and neighborhoods and get emails or mobile alerts (if you download the apps) right when a new listing is added. This is key! They’re all pretty good and work a bit differently in terms of search criteria, so be sure to check all of them out.

2. Pictures aren’t everything. For awhile I always set my search to include pictures because I assumed if there weren’t pictures, it was trash. This, as it turns out, is not the case. I let down my guard on one particular search and came across what sounded like the greatest deal ever, but had no pictures. I reached out anyway and when we ended up seeing the place, it turned out to be everything we wanted and more! Good thing we’re moving in in October! But I will say for some listings, be weary of the pictures. If they’re very blurry or grainy, or have a watermark, there’s a good chance the pictures you’re looking at are NOT of the advertised unit.

3. Speed is everything This may not be the case for everyone, but of the last three places I’ve lived, the reason that I’ve been able to secure them is because I acted fast. You’ve got to respond as fast as you can. And make sure that you make it clear that you’re interested up front. A line I like to use is “I was wondering if your unit was still available and if so,  could we could set up a showing ASAP, I know the good ones go fast!” This let’s them know you’re serious about seeing it, and they definitely take that into consideration.

4. Have your shit together This is key. Make sure you’ve got everything together for what you’ll need to give the landlords. Everyone may want something different, but always make sure you’ve got your checkbook with you when you see a place so that if you love it and the landlord loves you, you can put money down on the spot and secure it. Also, make sure you know your credit score, you can check it at CreditKarma or Quizzle.com for free. Also, when you’re talking to them, whether it be phone, email or text, make sure you continually ask if there is anything else you can do to help yourself, they like people with a serious interest.

5. Ask Questions This is probably the most important one on the list. Make sure you ask all the questions that you could possibly have a question about, because a place may LOOK great, but underneath it’s not as hot as you’d like. Ask about what utilities are included and what your utility bills will generally look like. Check the water pressure. Ask about security and if you’re not familiar with the neighborhood, ask about the overall safety. Ask about neighbors. Ask about parking. Ask about pets, even if you don’t have one, maybe there’s a noisy dog next door.  Just ask everything you can think of!

Do you have any tips for finding rental properties? Share them with me below! Hope this helps if you’re in the market for moving, luckily I wont be dealing with this craziness again for at least two more years! Hooray!

L

Green Street Smoked Meats – a BBQ review

Green Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Friends. I have news. Big news. I’ve finally found the only real rival to Smoque when it comes to BBQ spots in Chicago. And its name is Green Street Smoked Meats over in the West Loop. Last Friday for Max’s birthday, he decided to trade the typical sort of fancy sit down situation for some meat. A lot of meat. He’s a growing boy after all, ripe age of 27 and everything. So away we went. We ordered up an UberX (which are 25% cheaper now, hallelujah, only $8.50 from Lakeview to the West Loop!) and we were on our way. Note, that this place is on Green St. right off Randolph (112 N Green St), but it’s tucked away in an alley, you’ll see it because there’s an awesome mural depicting the name.

Green Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Once we arrived, Max immediately noticed the Donut Vault truck out front and took it upon himself to buy one and eat it before we even got in line. (I approved of this not only because it was his birthday, but because life is short, who knows what could happen between bites, eat your dessert first.) But, unfortunately, yes, there will be a line. It will likely be out the door. And then once inside, it will wrap all the way around the interior. So be prepared to wait awhile (I think we waited for about an hour and 20 minutes?), but DO NOT under any circumstances, let it scare you away from coming. It’s SO worth it. We passed the time by playing Dice with Friends on our phones and whispering profanities at eachother when the other one got a Yahtzee or a bad roll, because that’s the kind of people we are. Judge freely.

Donut Vault | champagneandchambray.com

 

Green Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

The wait also isn’t as bad because there’s a full bar right in the middle of the restaurant with signature cocktails, from what I understand a superb whiskey offering, and 16 beers on tap, a lot of which are local crafts. They also have old fashion beer sinks with Lone Star waiting for you on ice. I was drinking Lone Star when the Blackhawks won the cup last year, so whenever I see it, it makes me giddy. We did a birthday shot of  whiskey whose name is escaping me, but that the bartender claimed was one of his favorites. I’ll preface this with, I do not take whiskey shots. They make me gag and drool and borderline cry for like five full minutes after and basically just make me miserable. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy whiskey, just not in shot form. But this one honestly was not bad at all, sorry for sucking and not remembering the name, womp womp.

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

 

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Once we finally made it up to the counter, we ordered up the goods. Max opted for pork ribs, brisket and a Frito pie. Said Frito pie is literally a bag of Frito’s (um, gross, no thank you) covered in a brisket chili, jalapenos, beans, and cheese (but yes please to this). I ordered a pulled pork sandwich because, uh, bread, duh. This came with coleslaw on top so we ordered a side of potato salad and the spicy pickles as, what I’m going to refer to as, our “meat add-ons”. All of that came out to around $50, so not too bad for two people.

From there, you are able to find a spot at a communal picnic table either inside or outside. It was gorgeous out so of course there were no free spots outside under all the twinkle lights, but we managed to snag a table next to the huge open barn doors right inside. The decor in here is pretty minimal, with a kind of rustic, old warehouse feel. And string lights galore! I was really digging it because, I mean, who doesn’t love lights like that? This place is honestly an Instgrammers dream. I was in heaven. I don’t think I talked to Max for good 30 second increments the whole time we stood in line because I was busy taking pictures! I’m a terrible girlfiend, this has been noted.

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

But ok, the food. My pulled pork sandwich was so on point. The coleslaw on top was exactly how I like it, crunchy and NOT creamy. Made with vinegar instead of mayo, it was the perfect consistency for me and I gobbled it up. The pork itself was cooked almost to perfection, and when I added on one of the sauces, took it to another level. They did only have three sauces to choose from, which was a bit weak if you ask me. Having had Tennessee BBQ a few times, I’m used to more options than this, even around Chicago you tend to find a couple more recipes to try. But the meat made up for it. Max’s brisket was beyond. I’m ending the sentence because it was really just beyond everything. Soooooo incredibly tender and the rub, ohemgee. I swear I tasted some coffee in it, but Max wasn’t sure. So if you’ve had it before, let me know if you agree. The frito pie was only okay according to M, but the ribs were “fall off the bone” tender. The pickles seemed me like Ross Geller, yeah, you added to the group as a whole, but I wouldn’t miss you if you were gone. But the potato salad, just get the potato salad. Joey would get the potato salad. (If you don’t watch Friends, I’m sorry. But also, what?)

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

Greet Street Smoked Meats | champagneandchambray.com

All in all, it was a perfect birthday experience. The ambiance was good, but the food was even better. When I return I will 1000% be getting the brisket for myself. Perhaps a 1/2 lb to take home with me? Whoops, who said that? I would have obviously preferred a few more sauce options and a shorter wait, but what can you expect when the food is killer and it’s a Friday night in the West Loop?

Have you eaten at Green Street Smoked Meats yet? What’d you think? We will clearly be making this place a regular on our list of regulars (which weirdly just keeps growing) just maybe on a Tuesday or Wednesday when one of the guys slicing our meat told us it tends to be a bit less crowded. Oh, well lookie there, today happens to be Wednesday…and isn’t BBQ like as American as you can get? Good thing it’s America’s birthday on Friday!

L