website here

Best gift shop in West Town

Goods & Services, West Town No Comments »

RR#1 Chicago

Very high sense and not too expensive, gift shop RR#1 Chicago is the spot for me in the past ten years since I moved to Chicago. For any age range and gender, they have a wonderful selection. Plus, they wrap your gift so beautifully, so you don’t have to hustle around for wrapping supplies—it’s ready to go. The dimmed light and wooden shelves with beautiful and natural color goods make you feel like just staying there to look around longer. Inspiration…

814 N. Ashland, 312.421.9079,

—Ayako Kato, dancer/choreographer (Players)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best music school

Goods & Services No Comments »

The Old Town School of Folk Music

Founded in 1957 by a Chicago blues giant, a folk singer and a socialist baritone turned children’s TV personality, the Old Town School of Folk Music favors an ethos of participation, community and inclusion. Students range demographically from infants in Wiggleworms classes to members of the Beatles Ensemble who are old enough remember when the songs they knit their graying brows to cover first topped the charts.

4544 North Lincoln, 773.728.6000,

—Ian Morris, co-founder and editor, Fifth Star Press (Lit 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to keep up with crime and mayhem

Goods & Services No Comments »

DNAInfo Chicago

DNAInfo Chicago, an online news site covering Chicago, includes great local and neighborhood stories that harken back to the old neighborhood newspapers of yore. I especially appreciate stories about my old hood, Roseland and Pullman, which just aren’t covered by the mainstream media unless someone gets shot there. I especially like their “Crime and Mayhem” section which I read religiously every day.

—John McNaughton, filmmaker (Film 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to get orthopedic shoes

Goods & Services No Comments »

Waxberg’s Walk Shoppe

There are places in a city that change how well your life will go. For me, the indispensable location is Waxberg’s shoes. It was on Wabash for many decades, in one of those buildings with floor after floor of tiny, mysterious shops—furriers, jewelers and beauty shops whose clientele drift inside on the winds of word-of-mouth. I began to use Waxberg’s experts more than thirty-five years ago, soon after I moved to the city (word of mouth from a doctor, most likely).

The walls were hung with black-and-white photos of the first Mr. Waxberg, Isaac, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, posing with the tools of his trade—knives, grinders, slabs of a dozen kinds of leather. Waxberg’s sold and built shoes, but most importantly, did orthopedic work for those who needed shoes suited to the way they walked. Mine have been built and rebuilt hundreds of times over the years. Each pair has been more customized, until now they’re knee-high black boots with peculiar, swooping soles that look impossible even to stand up in, much less do the two-mile runs I put them through every morning. These days Waxberg’s is in Niles, bracketed in a strip mall between a Dairy Queen and a Panera. It’s been owned and run for years by Isaac’s son, Ron. In the beginning, Ron handled my shoes, but since then, I’ve worked with many others, including Ed, Jay, George, Chuck and, now, Ed #2. Each one has been kind and patient and listened to the idiosyncrasies of my gait. Without them, I don’t think I would be walking at all. Everything I do depends on how well I move around. So this is a thank you to the center of my daily world.

7013 W. Dempster, Niles, 847.965.3338,

—Riva Lehrer, artist (Art 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best female designers

Goods & Services No Comments »

Chelsey Carter and Abigail Glaum-Lathbury

Two of my top Chicago-based designers weld a multi-disciplinary approach to the fashion and the body. I love a good drape, and my newest obsession is Chelsey Carter, whose custom-made and ready-to-wear Alex Carter line offers ample fabric, asymmetrical hemlines, and avant-garde forms that are seamlessly transitioning my wardrobe from fall to winter. When it comes to handmade leather bags, pleated skirts and colorful leggings, Abigail Glaum-Lathbury’s Elmidae line is my go-to. Glaum-Lathbury’s newest foray into fashion is through The Rational Dress Society, an experiment in counter-fashion created with her collaborator Maura Brewer.,,

—Allison Glenn, director, moniquemeloche (Art 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to watch a baseball game

Goods & Services No Comments »

US Cellular Field

For me there is nothing like watching a Sox game at The Cell. While the North Side park is steeped in romance, The Cell is a great place to watch a ballgame. Its design is symmetrically fair—no “gimmicks,” like in every other new stadium. Yes, the upper deck can be distant but there is not a bad seat in the entire lower deck—I know because I have sat in many of them!  The promenade means you can circle the park, get concessions (the best food/drink in baseball) and never miss a pitch. Oh, and The Cell is the home of the last World Series Champion in Chicago.

—Roche Schulfer, executive director, Goodman Theatre (Players)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best new fashion line

Goods & Services No Comments »

Production Mode

Production Mode burst onto the scene this year with a pitch-perfect debut collection of limited-edition, impeccably tailored leather pieces for men and women. The line, which launched in January by rising star designer Jamie Hayes, is ethically produced from beginning to end. Committed to sourcing material locally (leather comes from Chicago tannery Horween), reducing environmental impact, and employing fair trade and ethical labor practices, Production Mode raises the standard of what we can expect from our clothing. Undoubtedly, this gem will stay a Chicago secret not much longer.

Megha Ralapati, residency and special projects manager, Hyde Park Art Center (Art 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to play polo on wheels

Goods & Services No Comments »

Chicago Bike Polo

Yes, Chicago has a Bike Polo team. Yes, you can participate and at times they have extra bikes and mallets available for use before you construct your own. They meet regularly at Garfield Park every Wednesday from 7pm-11pm and Sundays from 3pm-11pm. Competitive tournaments, regionals and pick-ups are on the menu. For more information check out the Facebook page; By the way, it’s also global, represented by fifty-five countries:

100 S Central Park, 312.576.0535,

—Greg Lunceford, curator of exhibitions, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (Design 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best store for nerds

Goods & Services No Comments »

American Science and Surplus

Building a prototype? Running an experiment? Assisting with a science project? If you’re a self-proclaimed nerd or an aspiring one, and need to find the associated equipment in order to execute the vision, there is one go-to place for fulfilling your needs. Go to American Science and Surplus where you can once again feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store with a wide variety of components, parts, test equipment, oddities and the like.

5316 N. Milwaukee, 773.763.0313,

—Stephen Melamed, associate director, UIC Innovation Center (Design 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to buy jeans

Goods & Services No Comments »

Alcala’s Western Wear

Forget the mall—Alcala’s has a broad selection of jeans that is deep in size, and boots that are worth a trip just to marvel. But the best part that keeps me coming back? Free alterations for your jeans while you wait—yes! And while you’re waiting, check out the hats too.

1733 W. Chicago, 312.226.0152,

—Thomas R. Leavens, Leavens, Strand & Glover, LLC (Film 50)

Best of Chicago 2015