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Best boozy dessert

Food & Drink, South Loop No Comments »

French apple at Acadia
Calvados roasted Granny Smith apple still has a subtle crunch, nestled in a cool and creamy cinnamon custard, with a quenelle of canelé ice cream. The dish is topped with arcs of caramelized puff pastry reminiscent of flaky croissant crumbs. The booze factor steps up with a side shot of apple cider and Armagnac in pastry chef Thomas Raquel’s version of a hot toddy. All the familiar fall flavors are here, yet this dessert is unique, more alluring than any apple pie, crisp or apfelstrudel you’ve tasted.
1639 South Wabash, (312)360-9500,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best thrift destination for brand-name clothes

Goods & Services, Lakeview No Comments »

Lakeview Brown Elephant
If you thrift not for the love of the hunt for that perfect “Mad Men”-era outfit, but because you like your name brand on the cheap, then the nigh-secret brand-name rack section at the Lakeview Brown Elephant is for you. Here you’ll find a spectacular array of the otherwise unaffordable and usually a few designer pearls among the usual dung. Check back often and finally score that affordable Ermenegildo Zegna jacket you’ve been seeking for years.
3651 North Halsted, (773)549-5943,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best place to get ready for a night out

Goods & Services, Lincoln Park No Comments »

Sure, we have a couple blow-dry bars in town, but nowhere that you can get your hair and makeup done by seasoned pros. The blowouts and updos are on par with any salon in town and ask for the signature Skinny Dip lipgloss for a luscious pout. The new Lincoln Park finishing salon is run by two friendly sisters who moved from LA to bring summerland glamour to Chicago. Come in your cocktail dress and step out ready to rock the red carpet.
2803 North Sheffield, (773)880-9180,

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,

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Gethsemane Garden Center

Best of Chicago 2013

Best sculpture by a painter

Culture & Nightlife, West Loop No Comments »

Andrew Holmquist’s “Armature” at Carrie Secrist Gallery
There’s something about powder-coated steel that seems to say, yes, you can touch me even though I’m a sculpture. Andrew Holmquist’s yellow powder-coated geometric object looked like it walked out of his paintings in his second solo show at the gallery. It confronted viewers, and made them aware of being a body inhabiting a space.
835 West Washington, (312)491-0917,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best cultural combination in a neighborhood grocery store

Goods & Services, Pilsen No Comments »

La Casa Del Pueblo
Pilsen is seeing the first signs of the hipster tide—a hookah bar here, a watering hole there, a smattering of vintage shops down 18th Street. Nowhere is this more apparent and humorous than in neighborhood grocery store La Casa Del Pueblo. It’s Pilsen, so there’s chorizo, cactus and pig feet in addition to peanut butter and jelly. There’s also, weirdly and wonderfully, barbecue seitan, veggie chips, Horizon organic milk, Newman’s Own mints. A whole half-aisle devoted to tea. And let’s not leave out green curry paste, Japanese plum vinegar, and rice noodles. Strolling down Casa’s aisles might just lead to the most eclectic, inspired dinner ever.
1810 South Blue Island, (312)421-4640,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best date move

Culture & Nightlife, Logan Square No Comments »

Requesting “The Good Book” at Billy Sunday
If you ask for the “good book” at Logan Square’s Billy Sunday, you might get an eyebrow raise from your date: that’s their off-the-menu leather-bound back-bar selection (not the Bible), that includes rare varieties of fine spirits like scotch from defunct distilleries all over the world. One particular offering is a 1943 Glenlivet from Gordon and MacPhail that goes for $600 a pour, one of the last bottles around today (it was illegal to distill during World War II). They’ve also got a fondness for fernet, stocking hundreds of different kinds hailing from almost every comune in Italy and representing every decade since 1930.
3143 West Logan, (773)661-2485,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best non-corporate neighborhood

City Life, Lincoln Square No Comments »

Lincoln Square
You could go almost anywhere in Chicago and not chalk up anywhere near the non-corporate island haven-like status of Lincoln Square. Truly unique in the Rahm Emanuel business-friendly landscape of in-your-face commercial madness splashed across every rentable surface in the city, this neighborhood boasts not one but three (two of which are local) coffee shops within a two-block radius, hold-out record store Laurie’s Planet of Sound (a shocker in and of itself in the age of iTunes), and the neighborhood-owned Davis theater. “Locally owned” doesn’t just do the fight happening here against the tide of cheap, corporate replacement options service. This ‘hood is sexy as hell, and knows it.
Montrose Avenue on the south, Ravenswood Avenue on the east and the Chicago River on the west

Best of Chicago 2013

Best gin & tonic

Food & Drink, South Loop No Comments »

Gins/tonics/limes at Acadia
Chicago might not be at Spain’s level of gin & tonic sophistication, but many bartenders are starting to make their own tonics with quinine, usually in the form of powdered cinchona bark. Our favorite is Ar?nas Bružas’ lemongrass tonic with notes of lavender and pink peppercorn at Acadia, which he serves with Botanist gin. This nuanced summer cocktail slowly changes flavors as the kaffir lime and cucumber ice cubes melt, lending the drink a rejuvenating spa water quality.
1639 South Wabash, (312)360-9500,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best place to go after a gallery opening that’s not Perez

Food & Drink, West Loop No Comments »

Grange Hall Burger Bar
You can get a burger and a beer at Grange Hall for less than $20, and that’s saying a lot in the West Loop. The food is delicious and the decor is super cute. Sure beats the typical after-gallery spot, the usually crowded and medium-par Perez. The rainbow chips are particularly recommended.
844 West Randolph, (312)491-0844,

Best of Chicago 2013