As anyone can tell you, desserts can be so, so satisfying.
So it made sense that I checked out two spots that specialize in sweets: JoJo's Shake Bar, which is offering an enjoyable "Pumpkin Patch Experience"; and JARS by Fabio Viviani, which basically offers culinary heaven in containers.
For $11 per person, JoJo's family-friendly "Pumpkin Patch" experience offers quite a bit. (I have to warn you: If you're not a fan of country music, this might not be the best time. However, the genre makes plenty of sense, given the surroundings.)
In Chicago's River North neighborhood, JoJo's 5,000-square-foot patio has been transformed into a fall country-party scene, complete with hay bales, decorations (including somewhat incongruousbut welcomingdisco balls), cornhole sets and plenty of gourds (as each attendee gets one to adorn as that person wishes) as well as the aforementioned music. BTW, if the sign that reads "Save a horse, ride a cowboy" isn't welcoming, I don't know what is.
And, of course, there's the menuwhich is chock full of things that aren't good for us but are wonderfully tasty. (Food and drinks are extra, btw.)
My friend and I started with shareable appetizers consisting of the mile-high tower of onion rings and the spinach/artichoke/brie dip. (We skipped the apple-pie shot.) Mains include items such as honey-fried chicken, Pop's Pot Pie, the Like It Elote Salad, the loaded grilled cheese with tomato bisque (which my friend greatly enjoyed), and what I chose: the walking taco. I'd never had the concoction, which combines sweet-heat veggie chili, cheddar cheese, lettuce, scallions, tomatoes, sour cream, Fritos and (in my case) fried chicken. It's one of the most addictive items I've had recently.
Of course, there are the shakesand, of course, with JoJo's, these aren't normal shakes, as they come with toppings that are basically a meal. We both opted for the Cowboy Shakea chocolate rocky-road shake topped with a hat (a chocolate-covered potato chip topped with a chocolate-covered marshmallow), a chocolate haystack and a huge chocolate-chip cookie. Is that enough chocolate for you? (BTW, the Pumpkin Patch shake didn't look too shabby, either.)
And the adults might want to try the Pumpkin Patch's assorted cocktails. I went for the Boo-Cards Rum Punch, which I greatly liked. Other options include Caramel Apple Mule, Iced Pumpkin Spiked Latte and Ranch Water (with tequila, Topo Chico, strawberry, lime and tajin).
If you want some rural fun in this big city (or out in JoJo's other main location in Naperville), I invite you to check out this experience. Everyone I saw when I went was smiling. What better recommendation is there?
As for JARS, the website says that Viviani, a famed chef/restaurateur,, "has reimagined hundreds of the most beloved desserts into multi-dimensional, single-serve celebrations." That's basically the sum of it.
JARS is located in the increasingly bustling Fulton Market area, at 216 N. Peoria St.and, interestingly, it's the only site in the country (current or upcoming) that's not in Texas or California.
I'm going to tell you right now: If you're the indecisive type, JARS might be torturous. Classic flavors include Oreo Cookies & Cream, Banana Cream Pie, Strawberry Shortcake and Tres Leches Cake, while limited-chicken choices offer everything from Peanut Butter Cup to Root Beer Float to Sweet Peaches and Cream. Anawho works at JARS and is one of the nicest people you'll probably meetinformed me that the spot actually has about 150 limited-edition varieties and rotates them monthly. (Somehow, I also got a couple cool Chinatown restaurant recommendations from her, and discovered that she can speak Mandarin and is learning Spanish.)
When I asked Ana what draws people to JARS, I discovered it was more than the taste of the desserts; it was about money. With items costing $4.95-$7.95 each, the prospect of not breaking the bank is attractive to many. "Even in this neighborhood, people are looking for a bargain," she said. I can certainly relate.
And as for the titular items (and I tried a few, for research purposes), they were all absolutely wonderful. One of my favorites had to be the Red Velvet Cheesecakepartly because it wasn't too sweet, which I had feared it would be.
By the way, JARS doesn't just sell desserts in jars. There's also soft-serve ice cream, including the delightful Fruity Pebbles, which comes topped with the cereal. Again, if you're not the decisive type, you might be in trouble. At least you can't make a wrong choice.
JoJo's Shake Bar's "Pumpkin Patch Experience" is in Naperville as well as Chicago, in the River North neighborhood, through Friday, Nov. 3; visit bucketlisters.com/experience/pumpkin-painting-at-jojo-s-pumpkin-patch. More info about JARS by Fabio Viviani is at www.jarsbyfabioviviani.com .
Note: These visits were arranged.
More reviews and restaurant news are at SAVOR with Andrew, at future3733.substack.com .