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Best new gallery of the future

Culture & Nightlife, Humboldt Park 2 Comments »

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

Best of Chicago 2011

Best underrated park

Category, Humboldt Park, Sports & Recreation No Comments »

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

Best of Chicago 2010

Best award of Michelin stars

Food & Drink, Humboldt Park No Comments »


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

Best of Chicago 2010

Best place to buy Lechon in a trailer

Food & Drink, Humboldt Park No Comments »

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”

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife, Humboldt Park No Comments »

“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

Best 4am bar worth a cab ride

Culture & Nightlife, Humboldt Park No Comments »

The Continental

Being a 4am bar (or 5am on Saturdays), The Continental is not exempt from late-night overcrowding. To be honest, after 2am, it’s really, really crowded and often, especially during warmer months, there’s a pretty long wait to get in, as the place reaches capacity by 1:30am. But what makes the overcrowding bearable is the crowd of mostly locals—or people who should be locals and paid the cab to trek across town to come. And it’s not all frat-house, as a lot of bars tend to be that late.

2801 West Chicago

Best of Chicago 2007

Best new name for Humboldt Park

Audience Choice, City Life, Humboldt Park No Comments »

Boricua Town

A neighborhood named for a German scientist who never even visited Chicago would do better to embrace its Puerto Rican heritage before it’s too late. The battering rams of gentrification are at the gate and cannot be turned back, but like other ethnic neighborhoods—Greektown, Chinatown, Little Italy—that retain their heritage and identity to varying degrees in the face of rapidly changing demographics, so too should Humboldt Park. And so, boricua, a commonly used word to identify Puerto Ricans, might just help the city acknowledge its growing Latino heritage.

Audience Choice
Humboldt Park; West Wicker Park (tie)
Best audience comments: “Cosmos: A neighborhood with a club name derived from the major work of the old neighborhood’s namesake. It should attract more dumpy white people and, hey, it’s cute!”; “Ho-Hum-then Bolt Park”; “Humble Pork”; “Scumboldt Park.”

Best of Chicago 2007

Best cheap haircut

Goods & Services, Humboldt Park No Comments »

Twisted Scissors

There’s no shortage of fancy-schmancy salons in this city, but sometimes it’s nice to get a haircut without dipping into your rent money, and Supercuts is always a risk. Good thing three former Big Hair stylists teamed up to open Twisted Scissors, a salon that offers cheap cuts that start at $25. The salon’s objective of not overcharging for its service has caught on, as it’s not uncommon to have to wait a couple weeks for an appointment. But it’s worth the wait—you won’t be offered PBR at Hair Cuttery.

2001 North Point

Best of Chicago 2007

Best approximation of South Beach Miami

Culture & Nightlife, Humboldt Park, Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park No Comments »

Division Street at dusk between Wood and Damen

The soundscape starts mildly at Phyllis’ Musical Inn and bumps up a notch at Smokedaddy, where the forest of sidewalk tables begins; move further west and Moonshine thumps into the cool autumn nights. A few doorways of quiet, past the closed-by-night Milk & Honey, and then you are in the throng: Via Carducci, The Boundary, Jerry’s, Coco Rouge, Vintage, Easy. The block west of Damen is eatery-chocked, too, but the loud music chiming and clashing and crowds noshing and gnashing and flashing and splashing are a solid wall of attitude, if not style, the closest approximation in this new yupscale nightlife zone to the most impossible, impassable stretches of Miami’s South Beach. Cross the street! Quickly!

Best of Chicago 2007

Best new restaurant (opened in the last year or so)

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, Humboldt Park, Lincoln Square, Ukrainian Village No Comments »

In spring 2002 Chef/owner Jennifer Newbury’s Fortunato opened quietly, but forcefully, in the increasingly popular Division Street stretch of Ukrainian Village, bringing with it a much-needed breath of fresh culinary air. Newbury (a veteran of Sole Mio and Club Lucky) now turns out her own no-nonsense Italian fare in a new space that’s spare, sleek and infinitely comfortable. But the friendly confines are simply a nice bonus—the marquee feature is Newbury’s impressive artistry, which turns your basic fritto misto (usually a stingy mix of fried foods) into a bona fide experience, frying up zucchini, green beans, artichokes and even smelts in a light, yet satisfyingly crunchy, tempura-like batter. The homemade pastas tend toward wonderful, and come in half orders so you can munch a tasty tagliatelle with fresh ‘shrooms while enjoying a rolled pork loin interspersed with bread crumbs, proscuitto and spinach and the accompanying rosemary-seasoned spuds. And don’t leave without tasting the addictive house cocktail, a mix of prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) and a simple syrup that is infused with black pepper, clove and purple basil. Classic, unpretentious fine dining in an up-and-coming area: What more could you want?

2005 West Division
Fortunato is closed

Audience choice: Flying Saucer and Tournesol (tie)
Flying Saucer, 1123 North California, (773)342-9076
Tournesol, 4343 North Lincoln
Tournesol is closed

Best of Chicago 2002