Best new gallery of the future

Peanut Gallery

Don’t be fooled by the funky name. Peanut is not a comedy club but an artist’s collective; think of them as a punk band formed by artist and writer Kelly Reaves and artists Charlie Megna and Brandon Howe. The type of art they promote is gutsy, crafty and hardcore—didactic conceptualism has no place here. One of our favorites in their roster is Jack Edinger, who makes dramatic photographs of amateur wrestlers in their natural habitats.

Peanut Gallery
1000 North California
(312)291-1739
peanutgallerychicago.com

Best of Chicago 2011

Best underrated park

Humboldt Park
Humboldt Park is gigantic, boasting a lagoon and a boathouse, picnic and fishing areas, tennis and basketball courts, bike paths, custom car shows in the summer, dogs, herons, big snails and the most haphazard mix of strangers in Chicago. And there’s nothing particularly scary about it, at least not anymore. In the end, dirty needles and rampant litter aren’t scary, they’re depressing, and neither is as much of a problem as it once was. If you still follow the old advice and “Never Go West Of Western,” you’re missing out. Smart muggers from the ‘Boldt commute to Liquor Park anyway.

1400 North Sacramento
(312)742-7549
chicagoparkdistrict.com

Best of Chicago 2010

Best award of Michelin stars

Bonsoiree

Chef Shin Thompson and sous chef Luke Creagan of Bonsoiree have quietly built an Asian-inspired Schwa of sorts in Humboldt Park. However, because they’re low-key and actually answer the phone when people call for reservations, their storefront restaurant has only really attracted hard-core eaters in the know. That’s seemingly all about to change with their recent star award from Michelin.

2728 West Armitage
(773)486-7511
bonsoireechicago.com

Best of Chicago 2010

Best place to buy Lechon in a trailer

La Esquina Del Sabor

In Los Angeles, gourmet food served in trailers is becoming the rage of the city, as diners text and tweet their favorite roving locations every lunch hour. Chicagoans in the Humboldt Park area have been going to a trailer located in the middle of a service drive in the park itself, La Esquina Del Sabor, for years. Although the establishment serves Puerto Rican bistec, pollo, arroz con gandules and other dishes, their mainstay is Lechon. Like Pierogies are for the Polish or roast lamb is for Greeks, Lechon is more than just a food in the Puerto Rican community, it is a cause for celebration and ethnic identity. A roasted pork whose method of cooking originated in the Philippines and was brought to Puerto Rico when both were United States colonies, Lechon is pork, pork and pure pork. It is so flavorful there is no need for smoking, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, hoisin, or any other flavoring. But new diners be warned. Lechon tastes like pig. In recent years meats such as lamb, pork and even catfish have been altered so that their true flavors are masked. Much of the pork you buy now is learner but also bland—“the new white meat”—they say. As a result, new lamb “tastes like roast beef” and catfish “tastes like chicken.” Like the old lamb and catfish, Lechon is a bit greasy, fatty and has a slightly gamey taste to it. But it is for this taste that so many line up in front of a trailer in Humboldt Park in the heat, rain and snow. Besides, a seven-dollar platter can easily fill up two human “pigs,” with some left over.

California and Luis Munoz Marin Drive

Best of Chicago 2009

Best name other than “Nothing Like the Holidays” for renaming the movie once known as “Humboldt Park”

“Actually Filmed in Humboldt Park”

Remember the Josh Hartnett-starring “Wicker Park”? No? We didn’t think so.

Audience Comments: “Nothing Like A Bland, Homogenized, Location-Neutral Title”; “I need a gentrifica-vacation”; “we just want Christmas money.”

Best of Chicago 2008