Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Enjoying a Haven in Oak Park

It’s been way too long since I’ve had a quiet getaway, the type where you shut off the IPhone, don’t turn on the computer and actually engage in conversation with someone you don't get to talk to often enough. It was time for me and despite the schedule of two workaholics, I made it happen this week.

Harvey House Bed & Breakfast is easy to miss when you drive along the quiet Oak Park street it’s located on, but it’s in the middle of a different world that's just 15-20 minutes outside of Chicago. It’s a town Ernest Hemmingway once lived in and I could certainly see the inspiration.

It was also rather nostalgic for me when I spotted the bunny in front of the door. Harvey isn’t just the last name of owner Beth Harvey, it’s the name of a play (and then a movie) starring the iconic actor, Jimmy Stewart. The story has Stewart’s character with an imaginary rabbit. I had the pleasure of seeing the play – with Stewart – in London when I was a teenager on a family vacation. It was an incredible experience I will never forget. That memory immediately made me comfortable at Harvey House, not that you need help feeling relaxed here.

Our room was the Garden Suite (there are a total of five rooms)  was soft and comfortable, with an oversized Jacuzzi and a three sided fireplace. We would enjoy that quite later (with a bottle of Perrier Jouet Champagne), but first we checked out downtown Oak Park, which is a combination of quaint and modern, offering a nice selection of restaurants.

A recommendation from Beth Harvey led us to Maya del Sol. This contemporary Latin restaurant has a nice patio, but the evening was a little chilly and we decided to stay indoors. We enjoyed the salsa, not too spicy, but with a bit of zing. The main courses we chose were Chicken Enchiladas and an Acorn squash stuffed with Rice, Wild mushrooms, Yuca and asparagus, and covered with a sweet corn-butter sauce. I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more options that were safely cooked for my seafood allergy, but the squash turned out to be delicious, though not quite as spectacular as breakfast.

Beth Harvey really takes the breakfast in B&B serious. You won’t find any egg casseroles here. Instead, she makes individual breakfasts for each guest, using farm fresh vegetables, fruits and cheeses. We enjoyed ours on the patio and it was quite a feast --- oven baked pancakes (light and fluffy like popovers) with fresh fruit and a banana caramel sauce; scrambled eggs with shredded parmesan; and freshly cooked bacon.

It’s the little touches to detail, as well as the feeling of being in a home away from home, that makes Harvey House a popular place for everything from romantic getaways to business trips. Beth explained how business travelers love having a well-appointed room with the comforts of home, fresh coffee and wine always available in an inviting living room; a kitchen open to them for self-serve at all hours, while breakfast is prepared to their individual taste each day; and the necessary amenities of Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions that can be hooked to your computer, are there when work needs to be done. There are also two train lines that run right into this Oak Park neighborhood to get you in the middle of Chicago within minutes.

Find Great Deals at! I have to admit that I was tempted to leave my cell phone and computer off and hibernate at Harvey House for a few more days, but it had to wait as I had an appointment in downtown before I headed home. It was time to trade the suburban quiet for the hustle and bustle of Chicago, as I had to get back to "work" to check out a new burger and wine bar, 25 Degrees.

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