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Best bookstore-and-bar one-two punch

Culture & Nightlife, Hyde Park No Comments »

Seminary Co-Op and Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap

Hyde Park dry precinct foolishness—or U of Chicago squeamishness?—prevents the great Plein Air Café, attached to the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore on South Woodlawn, from serving booze. But a spending spree at the Co-Op can drive one to drink. So load up on the books you just must have (yeah, yeah, you can take ‘em or leave ‘em alone, sure) and then head three blocks up the street to Jimmy’s. There the pane-glass windows make the whole room the sort of clean and well-lit place that Ernest Hemingway would’ve said “nada” about. You can give your newest erudite tomes a nice once-over while having a cheeseburger that rivals the Billy Goat’s, some fries (no chips) and a nice beer. Rest content in the knowledge that the bartenders probably have cut off and thrown out smarter and better-read people than you.

Seminary Co-Op, 5751 S. Woodlawn, 773.752.4381,; Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap, 1172 E. 55th, 773.643.5516,

Best of Chicago 2015

Best neighborhood for urban foraging

Food & Drink, Hyde Park No Comments »

Hyde Park

Chicago has a famously great public parks system thanks to long-dead local celebrity planner Daniel Burnham. While parklands hiding tasty edibles can be found throughout the city, nowhere are they found in greater concentration than Hyde Park. With both Washington and Jackson parks and a generous swath of lakefront greenery, this neighborhood becomes a veritable freegan grocery from spring through late fall. Berries of all types, chestnuts, cherries, pears, apples, wild leeks and more can be found if one knows what to look for, and the vast expanses of parkland mean your stash is likely to be just yours for as long as you want it.

Best of Chicago 2015

Best new bar or club (opened in the last year or so)

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

The Promontory

Hyde Park has been a music desert since 1950s urban renewal decimated the center of jazz in the Midwest. The team from Empty Bottle, Space, Longman & Eagle and Thalia Hall/Dusek’s are bringing the neighborhood back to its roots and relevance. A pristine-sounding music room also has stunning visuals of dark wood and chandeliers. Bookings have been eclectic—jazz (Pharoah Sanders!/Ramsey Lewis), rhythm and blues (NRBQ) and occasionally rock ‘n’ roll or dance party. The warm and friendly downstairs gastrobar/restaurant merits its own trip.

5311 S. Lake Park, 312.801.2100,

Audience Choice: Logan Hardware Arcade, 2410 W. Fullerton, 872.206.2859,

Best of Chicago 2014

Best new venue for experimental arts

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The Gray Center Lab
The former studio of powerhouse Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft has been converted into the Gray Center Lab on the campus of the University of Chicago. The venue is a think tank for artists and scholars to produce small exhibitions or performances. It is like a studio for collaborations. So far, many of the programs have focused on Chicago-specific topics, making the Gray Center Lab a much-needed incubator of the local creative culture.
929 East 60th, (773)834-1936,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best college campus art gallery or museum

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

University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business
The Harper Center houses the U of C’s Booth business schools and a trove of international contemporary art. The building is open to the public, and the collection, on all six floors, grows constantly in the hands of a committee of curators, art collectors and an economics professor. The Booth School is like a secret art museum.
5807 South Woodlawn, (773)702-7743

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago, 600 South Michigan, (312)663-5554,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best place for a quiet bike ride

Hyde Park, Sports & Recreation No Comments »

Behind the Museum of Science and Industry near Jackson Park
The lakeshore path can be an uneasy split between serious, spandexed cyclists and sauntering families. For a leisurely bike ride that feels almost like one in a suburban forest preserve, hop off the path and head behind the Museum of Science and Industry. The route in’s tricky, the pavement cracked in spots, but that means there’s less people pedaling past gnarled fallen trees, a sedate golf course, and a slice of native prairie. Lock the bike and stroll through the immaculately kept Osaka Japanese Garden, or regard the back end of the Museum, a gorgeous secret view pregnant with Chicago’s past.

5800 South Lake Shore

Best of Chicago 2013

Best water fountain

Culture & Nightlife, Hyde Park No Comments »

“Uppers and Downers” by Chris Vorhees and Simparch
For the entire year of 2012 an indoor rainbow fountain dripped in the lobby of the Smart Museum. It was made of kitchen cabinets with doors flung open wide against gravity in an arcing rainbow of shelves, over a counter whose sink—the fountain—flooded a floor. What a clever dream.

Smart Museum of Art, 5550 South Greenwood, (773)702-0200,

Best of Chicago 2012

Best dinner party with fascists, anarchists and feminists

Culture & Nightlife, Hyde Park No Comments »

Feast at the Smart Museum
The exhibition opened with “The Futurist Cookbook,” made by Italian futurist F.T. Marinetti in 1932 and wound through contributions by Gordon Matta-Clark and Suzanne Lacy, among many others, which served as fascinating and powerful precedents for current trends in socially engaged art that involve food.

Best of Chicago 2012

Best art exhibit in the last year or so

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

William J. O’Brien at The Renaissance Society

The multi-level table-display created to showcase William J. O’Brien’s ceramic and assemblage heads looked, at turns, like an alien ethnographic museum and a buffet of nightmares. O’Brien is one of Chicago’s best emerging artists, and The Renaissance Society gave him the space to prove it.

5811 South Ellis

Audience choice:
Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad at the Art Institute
111 South Michigan

Best of Chicago 2011

Best Thai restaurant

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, Hyde Park No Comments »

The Snail Thai Cuisine

The beautiful thing about Thai cuisine is that, unlike other food from that region of the world, most chefs know it doesn’t have to be fancy or arranged in a superficial way for the experience to be amazing. The Snail does just that. Keeps it simple, but keeps it authentically and amazingly delicious.

The Snail Thai Cuisine
1649 East 55th

Audience choice:
Opart Thai House
4658 North Western

Best of Chicago 2011