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I love Long Grove, Il. I’m guessing I have another 10 years before I’m in the target demographic, but I love it nonetheless. It’s a lazy little community in the Northwest Chicago Suburbs that boasts cute little shops and restaurants, like The Olive Tap (an olive oil-tasting emporium), Apple Haus (a cozy little bakery with a lot of draw), and Red Oaks (a labyrinth furniture store staged in a big red farmhouse). Plus, the village runs free festivals nearly every weekend from March through November.

The festivals are hands down the reason to make the trip. Especially Chocolate Fest and Strawberry Fest, the only two weekends each year when Apple Haus sells the renowned Johnny Pop (a chocolate-covered apple cider donut-on-a-stick).

During the festivals, crowds swarm the streets of Long Grove. Parking is tough: expect to find a far-away spot, and thus walk a lot. The shops are impassable, overflowing with consumers. But if you stick to the outdoor activities– concerts, food stands, festival-themed entertainment– you can’t go wrong.

Last weekend, we headed to Long Grove’s Fine Art and Wine Festival. We brought the baby, making our visit brief (I spent most of the afternoon seeking shade and fearing sunburn); probably would’ve enjoyed it more if it had just been the two of us. 

The festival itself was nice: well-run, compact, with entertainment to suit most tastes. Artists displayed their paintings, jewelry, pottery, and photographs. Wine-lovers packed into a tent reserved for tastings. Kids sported painted faces and fair-goers lounged in front of the main stage, listening to a bluegrass band.

We bought a fun photo collage for the baby’s room, but I skipped the wine part– figured it might look trashy for me to sip wine while holding my baby. And luckily, the combination of her hat brim and our strategy of only stopping at the artists’ tents with the most shade, helped us steer clear of sunburn.  

I guess it was my fear of too much sun that convinced us to eat at one of the air-conditioned restaurants instead of an outdoor food stand.

We were disappointed with our experience here.

We tried Enzo & Lucia’s for lunch, and will never go back. The experience was awful, from start to finish. The wait staff’s negative attitude permeated the atmosphere of the entire place, and our waitress tried our patience with her sluggishness. As for the food, Jacob’s $10 entrée salad was the size of a side, and my prosciutto and mozzarella panini tasted somewhat bland.  

Here’s what upset me the most: Elena started fussing, so we asked our waitress to bring us a cup of water for a bottle. She took at least 10 minutes, and we had to remind her a few times. I would’ve thought she’d want to placate us, the family with the crying baby, to avoid disturbing her other tables. We finally received a pitcher of boiling water, but there was no way I was going to mix that with the formula. If we hadn’t already received our drinks, I would’ve just left then. I debated whether to say something to the manager, but her attitude seemed the root cause of the negligence. So I vented my frustration in the tip.

The line for a treat snaked throughout the shop.

Our experience was somewhat redeemed by a trip to Apple Haus for a half-dozen box of yummy apple cider donuts. The line wrapped all the way through the store, as usual, but the wait was justified. And the staff had their process down, ushering everyone through quickly and easily.

We only spent a few hours at the festival, including our ill-fated lunch. Back when it was just us two, we would have explored all the shops. Then, when we started bringing our dogs, we halved the time we could spend and stores we could enter. Now, with the baby, that’s diminished even more. But we’re getting a handle on knowing what we like, and spending the time doing those things. Now, after this latest visit, we can permanently cross one more place off of our Long Grove to-do list.

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