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Best of Chicago 2014: The Polls Are Open

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Best art exhibit in the last year or so

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife No Comments »

Amalia Pica, Museum of Contemporary Art
This past spring and summer, MCA visitors were introduced to an artist they’ve probably never heard of, with a large career survey of the Argentinian-born, London-based Amalia Pica. It was a treat to see so many of her artworks in one exhibition; they made sense as a body of work by an artist with a vision. Pica’s work is a friendly type of conceptualism. She abstracted the way we communicate, from secrets to media outlets, and asked viewers to piece them back together, in our minds. Maybe we never reassembled her puzzles perfectly, but that may have been the point.

AUDIENCE CHOICE: “Picasso and Chicago,” Art Institute of Chicago

Best of Chicago 2013

Best bet as to which team gets to the World Series first

Audience Choice, Sports & Recreation No Comments »

White Sox
It’s not that the Kenny Williams replacement, Rick Hahn, showed flashes of brilliance during his first year run at rebuilding the Sox by tearing them down first, but Theo Epstein’s plan over on the North Side seems so screwed up that the answer to this question is like picking who’s going to win the race of the slowest turtles.

AUDIENCE CHOICE: White Sox

Best of Chicago 2013

Best garden store

Andersonville, Audience Choice, Goods & Services No Comments »

Gethsemane Garden Center
Even if you’re not embarking on a new gardening project, you’ll want to stroll Gethsemane’s grounds in Andersonville, just to take it all in. The rows and rows of green, leafy plants, bright flowers, fountains and trellises might just convince you that you’ve temporarily left the city. If you want to dig a koi pond in your backyard, start an indoor herb garden, or purchase an heirloom tomato plant at the end of September, Gethsemane’s your go-to.
5739 North Clark, (773)878-5915, gethsemanegardens.com

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Gethsemane Garden Center

Best of Chicago 2013

Best chicken

Audience Choice, Food & Drink No Comments »

Whole roasted chicken for two at The Lobby
Chicken breast is often a boring choice on menus, an oft-dry and tasteless option for less adventurous eaters. Not at The Peninsula. Louche quantities of butter and herbed brioche stuffed beneath a crisp golden brown skin ensures the meat beneath stays succulent. This winter, the bird comes accompanied by prunes, brussels sprouts and sweet potato. But before you can dig in, there’s more. The dark meat arrives, a confit in cream and chicken jus nestled in a small crock. Now, you may begin.
In the Peninsula, 108 East Superior, (312)337-2888, peninsula.com/Chicago/en/Dining/The_Lobby

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Honey Butter Fried Chicken, 3361 North Elston, (773)478-4000, honeybutter.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best theater production in the last year or so

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife No Comments »

“Simpatico,” A Red Orchid Theatre
A Red Orchid Theatre ensemble member Michael Shannon has a few more film credits and a bit more name recognition than most Chicago actors, but he still holds his connection to A Red Orchid near to his heart. In this summer’s “Simpatico”—a rough, sometimes darkly comedic Sam Shepard play directed by Dado—Shannon once again became an ensemble member, effortlessly joining Guy Van Swearingen, Mierka Girten, Doug Vickers and Jennifer Engstrom in bringing this story of horse-racing and double-crossing to gritty, captivating life in the theater’s tiny space on Wells Street. Luckily, “Boardwalk Empire,” the popular HBO show on which Shannon is a regular, never called him off for filming during the “Simpatico” run (always a possibility), allowing for an extension to this excellent sold-out production.
A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 North Wells, (312)943-8722, aredorchidtheatre.org

AUDIENCE CHOICE: “Book of Mormon,” Broadway In Chicago

Best of Chicago 2013

Best Kanye West lyric he’ll likely never write

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife No Comments »

“I am a God/ Your Lord on tour in Margiela/ My whole team’s got dollar signs/ And we all fashion killas/ Yeah we put on what killed us/ Confederate Grim Reapers/ Now they wearin’ my fangs/ Hangin’ from their shoulders like creepers”

AUDIENCE CHOICE: You know what the Midwest is? Kanye Westless.
Audience Comments:  “I Lack maturity/Ooze insecurity/Feign the pensive/Defensively offensive/What ‘cha mean you never heard of me?”; “My whole life all I wanted was a girl like Kim/Now I got her and the ransom of this king feels slim/I wish there was a pill to absolve every impurity/I act out to compensate for all my insecurities.”; “I’m a shy guy from the chi/I give all blessing to the one up high/And if you ask what gets me high/It’s being a humble simple guy!”; “The Martin Margiela hurts my face/but I’m the only one and true God in this space.”

Best of Chicago 2013

Best place for kitchen gadgets

Audience Choice, Goods & Services No Comments »

Williams-Sonoma
The store associates are so friendly and won’t make you feel like a dunce for not knowing how to work the pasta-machine attachment. Cute potato mashers and seafood scissors will make your holiday meal prep so much easier without breaking the bank. And the smart thermometer is kind of magical. We can keep track of what’s cooking from our phones as we’re putting on our makeup? Whoa. Bonus: The new Lincoln Park location has the only Williams-Sonoma cooking school in the country, so you can actually learn how to use those spiffy new gadgets you picked up.
1550 North Fremont, (312)255-0643, williams-sonoma.com

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Sur La Table, 755 West North, (312)787-5111; 900 North Michigan, (312)204-6008, surlatable.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best place for dessert

Audience Choice, Food & Drink No Comments »

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
If there’s one dessert destination to scream for, it’s Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. The first Chicago location of the Columbus, Ohio-based ice creamery already draws a ravenous fan base to its Lakeview storefront, and for good reason. Pristine ingredients (farm-fresh goat cheese; fair-trade African vanilla bean) and unique flavors (brambleberry crisp; biscuits and peach jam) set this adorable scoop shop apart from the pint pack, making it the perfect spot to linger over a sundae, a macaroon ice cream sandwich, or just a scoop stuffed inside a freshly made waffle cone.
3404 North Southport, (773)348-7139, jenis.com

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Black Dog Gelato, 859 North Damen, (773)235-3116, blackdogchicago.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best Chicago theater company

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Steppenwolf Theatre
With a deep ensemble that includes actors like Academy Award-nominated Joan Allen and Golden Globe-nominee John Mahoney (both of whom appeared on a Steppenwolf stage in productions this year), Steppenwolf has long been recognized as a Chicago treasure. Whether they’re remounting a surreal Harold Pinter show (“The Birthday Party”) or premiering an epic adaptation of Biblical proportions (ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Head of Passes”), this feisty company hasn’t let their size or stature keep them from taking the type of risks that propelled them to the point they’re at today. And, lest we forget, not only did the Broadway transplanted remount of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (complete with Chicago cast) earn a heap of critical accolades, it earned ensemble member Tracy Letts a Tony for Best Actor this year.
1650 North Halsted, (312)335-1650, steppenwolf.org

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Steppenwolf Theatre

Best of Chicago 2013