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Best stand-up comedy

Culture & Nightlife, Old Town No Comments »

Zanies in Old Town

I love going to Zanies Comedy Club in Old Town. It’s the place to go to see stand-up comics before they get famous. Walking into the place feels like you’re stepping back in time to old Chicago, making you want to drink whiskey and smoke a cigar. It’s a narrow and long space with seats filling every square inch and servers slinging cocktails left and right. The walls and ceiling are covered with headshots of all the famous comedians who have graced the small stage. It’s nothing fancy, but that’s what makes it so great.

1548 N. Wells, 312.337.4027,

—Kim Knoll, designer, Knoed Creative, organizer/host, CreativeMornings Chicago (Design 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best running store

Audience Choice, Goods & Services, Lincoln Square, Old Town No Comments »

Fleet Feet Chicago
While there is certainly no shortage of good running stores in Chicago, the two Fleet Feet Chicago locations (Lincoln Square and Old Town) are the easiest ones to walk into and find exactly what you want/need, with a little (or a lot of) help from the knowledgeable staff. Fleet Feet also hosts free weekly runs from both store locations and a slew of popular races (Elvis is Alive 5K, Soldier Field 10 Mile, Chicago Women’s Half). Add to that their commitment to local charities and the seminars, guest speakers, training programs and special events they offer throughout the year and the Personal Rewards Program ($15 credit for every $150 spent in the store) is just icing on the cake. Fleet Feet may be a national chain but Fleet Feet Chicago keeps it local all the way.

Fleet Feet Chicago, 1620 N. Wells, 312.587.3338; 4762 N. Lincoln, 773.271.3338,

Audience choice: Fleet Feet Chicago

Best of Chicago 2012

Best grilling rub recipe

Evanston, Food & Drink, Old Town No Comments »

Izzy Kaplan’s Rub

Four parts sweet Hungarian paprika, two parts salt and one part garlic. That’s the recipe for one of the simplest, tastiest rubs for grilling meat, Izzy Kaplan’s Rub. Isidor “Izzy” Kaplan and his wife, both Holocaust survivors, migrated eventually to the Catskill Mountains from Eastern Europe after WWII. Kaplan, who had been a butcher before the war, set up a business as a meat vendor, flavoring meat with his colorful, tasty rub while grilling it to sell to tourists. His recipe was given new legs when his daughter, Evanston resident Esther Kaplan, revived it by contributing it to the expansive collection of recipes on The Spice House website. She tweaks the recipe when she uses it today. “Of the four parts paprika my father used, I now use three parts Hungarian sweet paprika and one part spicy paprika,” Kaplan says.

The Spice House
1512 North Wells
1941 Central Street, Evanston

Best of Chicago 2011

Best reproduction of a Monopoly game square

Category, City Life, Old Town No Comments »

“Luxury Tax”
Painted on an Old Town sidewalk slab, the words “Luxury Tax” and “Pay $75.00” bracket a sparkling diamond and gold ring. It’s a spitting image of the “Luxury Tax” square from Monopoly–the one near Park Place–and it’s perfectly drawn to scale. The only difference is the extra zeros after the $75. The brilliant graffiti could be a protest against gentrification or taxing the wealthy. Whatever the purpose, it’s amusing.

Best of Chicago 2010

Best place to buy fashionable t-shirts

Audience Choice, Lakeview, Old Town, Ravenswood, Ukrainian Village No Comments »

Cityblue Apparel & Denim

If it’s an authentic, cool tee you want, there’s no better spot to shop than Cityblue Apparel & Denim in Old Town. The perfect blend of fashion, art and rock ‘n’ roll, Cityblue oozes cool from every pore of its drywall. Whether it’s a classic lightweight solid tee that you’re after or something with a little more edge, you’re sure to find it at Cityblue: The faces and logos of rock legends such as David Bowie and The Beatles emblazon their fair share of cotton here. Offering styles for both men and women, Cityblue can also set you up with, what else? Denim. Find the perfect pair of jeans to wear with your new tee or change up your look with a great denim jacket.

1444 North Wells

Audience choice:

3011 North Broadway

4043 North Ravenswood

1905 West Division

Best of Chicago 2010

Best place to live out “A River Runs Through It”

Goods & Services, Old Town No Comments »

Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters

The late University of Chicago professor Norman Maclean’s masterful semi-autobiographical novella depicted a spiritual euphoria in fly fishing the waters of the West, almost enough to make you want to pick up and head out there. Except you’d have to live in Montana. But you don’t need to, thanks to Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters, a large store selling apparel, tackle, flies and all the other gear needed to hit the waters. Plus they arrange destination travel, either nearby or far off, and even offer lessons in how to tie a fly. “In my family, there was no clear division between religion and fly fishing,” Maclean wrote. And now there’s no excuse not to go to “church.”

1279 North Clybourn

Best of Chicago 2009

Best flower shop

Audience Choice, Goods & Services, Lincoln Park, Logan Square, Old Town, Ukrainian Village No Comments »

Dilly Lily
Rose petals strewn about the entranceway. The floating music of Bebel Gilberto. “When people walk in, we like to put a smile on their face, to change their outlook for the day,” says Christine Gorman, who has co-owned Lincoln Park’s Dilly Lily flower shop with her sister Melissa for the last eleven years. Arrangements are girlish and whimsical with unexpected accents: a curlicue of fiddlehead fern, a palm-sized burst of escheveria, woodcut gift cards, jewelry crafted by neighborhood artists. Upon leaving this dreamy little shop, customers are sent off with a jovial, “Have a Dilly Lily day!”

742 W. Fullerton

Audience choice: (Tie)
3149 W. Logan

A New Leaf
1645 N Wells

850 N. Ashland

Best of Chicago 2008

Best menswear boutique

Audience Choice, Goods & Services, Old Town No Comments »


One look at owner Adam Beltzman and you’ll see why Haberdash has quickly become one of the premier men’s boutiques in Chicago. Sophisticated but not overstated, confident but not pretentious and perfectly accessorized at all times, Beltzman quit his day job as a lawyer a few years ago and has never looked back. Haberdash is a store with a Midwestern practicality for regular guys who just want cool clothes that fit well. Is it really so much to ask? The answer here is no, where collections by Donald J. Pliner, Nicholas K. and Loomstate abound…to the delight of fashionistos citywide.

1350 N. Wells
607 N. State
611 N. State

Audience choice
p+L boutique
2956 N. Clark

Best of Chicago 2008

Best store for pink girlie stuff

Goods & Services, Old Town No Comments »


From feather lamps to “Princess Parking” signs, Jumbalia has everything pink a girl could want. You’ll scream for pale pink Hello Kitty makeup bags, light pink watches, fuchsia sequined top hats and shocking pink Maddie Powers greeting cards. The boutique carries magenta cordial glasses, salmon fringed scarves and rose crystal frames. Non-pink items include dangly earrings, a Marilyn Monroe bust and a white poodle in
a red tutu.

1429 N. Wells

Best of Chicago 2008

Best unrecognized landmark to Chicago’s gay community

City Life, Old Town No Comments »

Henry Gerber House

Go to cities like New Orleans, Memphis and even Pittsburgh, and the streets of the older neighborhoods are filled with paddle-sized bronze signs declaring that a former Vice President, famous singer, Indian scout or explorer lived here. While places like Bronzeville and the Blues District have helped a little, Chicago is still lagging when it comes to promoting landmarks as tourist attractions. One such location is 1710 Crilly Court. Built in 1885, the grey stone house was home to the man who many call the “father of the gay movement.” Not just the Chicago-area gay movement either. As president of the Society for Human Rights, Gerber’s organization was the first openly gay organization which had a public charter, semi-public meetings, and whose newsletter, Friendship and Freedom, was the first documented gay civil rights publication in the United States. A veteran of the United States Army that occupied Germany after World War I, Gerber learned about gay activism in what was then an emerging gay civil rights movement in postwar Germany (think “Cabaret”). Gerber lived at the Crilly Court home from 1924-1925. He and his organization functioned without incident until he decided to move to an apartment on Oak Street. This new dwelling was raided, Gerber was arrested and the documents and literature that he had created were destroyed. Today, the Gerber/Hart Library, which specializes in gay, lesbian and transgender literature, is named in his honor. Gerber’s former home, which features arched leaded windows, a long, wide staircase and petite garden is part of the Old Town Triangle Chicago Landmark District, and was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2001. Yet it still goes unrecognized by most Chicagoans and visitors alike, rather than a regular stop for educators who are teaching diversity and a mecca of inspiration for those who are part of the gay, lesbian and transgender communities.
1710 Crilly Court

Best of Chicago 2008