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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

Culture & Nightlife, Hyde Park No Comments »

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

Best pancakes

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, Gold Coast, Hyde Park, Lincoln Park, Little Italy, River North, River West, Roscoe Village, South Loop, Wicker Park No Comments »

Stax Café

We’ve probably had as many pancakes as Wilt Chamberlain had ladies and to pick amongst them is a disservice of sorts. For the Walker Bros. Pancake House in Wheeling’s Dutch Baby is just as solid as the Butterfinger-larded Bongo Room flapjack. It’s really just a matter of mood. No matter our temperament though, the light ricotta pancakes slathered with tart-sweet rhubarb strawberry compote at Stax Café always seem to fit the bill.

1401 West Taylor

Audience choice:

Bongo Room, Orange, Original Pancake House (TIE)

Bongo Room
1470 North Milwaukee

1152 South Wabash

738 North Clark

730 West Grand

2011 West Roscoe

2413 North Clark

Original Pancake House
2020 North Lincoln Park West

22 East Bellevue

1517 East Hyde Park

Best of Chicago 2010

Best place to get books on street art and graffiti

Goods & Services, Hyde Park 1 Comment »

Powell’s Bookstore

If you’ve spent any time perusing the art sections of bookstores, chain or independent, you’ve noticed the explosive growth in recent years of books on street, graffiti and stencil art and artists from around the world. This includes new editions of classic 1980s stalwarts like “Subway Art.” Fans and practitioners having trouble keeping up with the dizzying whirlwind of full-color NYC graffiti books and their far-flung ilk—a post-Banksy publishing cottage industry, from reputable art houses to DIY vanity jobs—might want to visit Powell’s Bookstore Hyde Park, which always has more than a couple dozen new, used and remaindered titles in stock. While you can’t underestimate publishers’ preoccupation with outlaw mystique to help fuel profits—”exit through the gift shop” indeed—most books can be found here at discount prices. Along with recent standards like Nicholas Ganz’s huge, protean “Graffiti World series, they include “Concrete Messages: Street Art on the Israeli-Palestinian Separation Barrier,” “Icepick: Icelandic Street Art,” “Stay High 149: Voice of the Ghetto” and “Street Art and the War on Terror.” Excepting local Josh MacPhee’s pioneering “Stencil Pirates” (if you can find it), Chicago’s barely represented on the shelves. Get working, Elisa Harkins!

Hyde Park, 1501 East 57th
2850 North Lincoln

Best of Chicago 2010