The Watcher is a blog by Greg Birman and Nika Levando, detailing their whereabouts, outtakes, and intakes in Chicago and beyond.

Working Lunch with Jimmy John’s

Unlike most sane people I work with, I tend to skip the conventional lunch break and scarf something down without even noticing it. One can say lunch consumes me more than I consume my lunch in order to get some extra work done. This post, however, is about a more memorable lunch I enjoyed to preview the new 9-grain wheat sub from Jimmy John’s. 


It occurs to me that you might not know what I do for work. No, I am not a full time instagrammer or blogger, although there was a stressful period when freelancing sustained. Currently, I’m a Creative Director at a digital marketing agency called Mabbly, where I run the content department and help with UI/UX direction. And, as you can tell, I still collaborate with brands because it’s 2018 and a side hustle is mandatory.   

The point is, my brain needs food ALL DAY. This sandwich from JJ’s is rocket fuel and I’m pretty sure it’s in the grains: Rye, Flaxseed, Quinoa, Millet, Oats, Barley, Amarath, Wheat and Spelt plus: molasses, honey, sunflower seeds, and corn meal. Now I remember why I ate this stuff in college - brain food for the hustle! 


*This is a sponsored post for Jimmy John’s.

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Dinner on Shelter Island

Occasions, like birthdays, are ubiquitous and reoccurring, but something about this dinner was an absolute rare alignment of stars, shining down on the courtyard table at Vine Street Cafe, to celebrate my brother’s 30th. The window of sunshine after a mostly rainy day, the gathering of close friends from far away places, the exceptional dishes and plentiful quantity of wine, and then the fireworks to end the evening, albeit not pictured here, culminated in a joyous celebration. What is pictured here, however, is the almost accurate vibe I was able to capture between bites. 

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NYC: Slow(er)

New York is always a good idea. We'd never considered traveling for Independence Day, mostly because Chicago hot dogs and muggy summer days are second nature now, but this year, with good reason (happy birthday George!) and a vip invite to one of the best spots for viewing the Macy's fireworks on the Hudson (thanks Billy!), we ventured east for the 4th. 

Empty, relaxed, slow(er). Three words you'll never see in a post about the Big Apple. Intrigued? NYC on 4th of July weekend is like the mass exodus from Egypt. Where'd everyone go? The Hamptons, Sag Harbor, Montauk, etc.. Meanwhile, the city is more at peace and a little less noisy. We (the Chicago imposters that we are) spent a couple of days absorbing the moment before hopping on the train and heading to the coast ourselves. In those moments, where the opportunity to pause and observe were more than abundant, the layers of this multi-faceted, multi-character, multi-generational, multi-cultural, mecca slowly unpeeled. And yet, despite the feeling of a city that is much less crowded during the holiday than you're used to, the essence of this town became ever more present: great style, a good time, and a fantastic slice of 'za

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All You Can Drink

For the third year in a row, the South Loop Beer and Cider Fest came to my neighborhood for a three hour, all-you-can-drink PARTY. Admittedly, this was my first time attending, but I felt obligated since it took place right in my new back yard. Let me tell you, when brewers like Begyle, Haymarket, Hopewell, Lo-Rez, and Motor Row are generously filling your glass, you can't help but turn up with the alderman and the neighbors. 

My lens was a little more focused than my vision after a while, so the photos speak for themselves. 

If you're into craft beer and good vibes, check out this weekend's Wisconsin Craft Beer Cruise on Lake Michigan from the same organizers (Brewfest Partners). Hit this link to apply my discount code and see the list of participating brewers. 

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Track Suits and Bagels

Don't be fooled. This was not intended to be my typical insta-worthy adventure and, ultimately, nothing was done for the gram aside from my post about the Mural Fest. Originally a trip meant to celebrate one of my oldest friends getting married later this summer, Montreal proved to be a bachelor's paradise. Besides the abundance of international food options, activities, and nightlife, we arrived at the right time, when the World Cup was just kicking off, the Mural Fest was bumping, and the French Music Festival occupied the Quartier des Spectacles. Nevertheless, I walked away with a few street shots, and as you'll notice, a reoccurring track suit theme. Why? Because our very own party costume served as inspiration. 

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