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Best sandwich shop

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, River West, West Loop No Comments »

Publican Quality Meats
Everything Paul Kahan touches usually turns to dripping delicious fatty pork, but here, it’s the lamb meatball sandwich (since replaced with lamb and, yep, pork belly sausage) and the battleship-sized tuna muffaletta that win the day. A hearty honorable mention to JP Graziano for its Italian subs, including the truffle mustard balsamic vinaigrette-soaked Mr. G sub.

Publican Quality Meats, 825 West Fulton Market, (312)445-8977,

Audience choice: Bari, 1120 West Grand, (312)666-0730,

Best of Chicago 2012

Best bet about where Groupon’s stock price will be in 2017

Audience Choice, City Life, River West No Comments »

Whatever shifts in management may come, however the stock market may judge fairly or unfairly, Google will finally succeed in its once-quashed plans and will absorb them for a nickel on the dollar. GoogPons, anyone? And it would be convenient to merge Chicago’s nearby River North Google operations into the Montgomery Ward building (except for all the rush hour pile-in, pile-out stops at 600 West Chicago by the Chicago 66 CTA bus).

Audience choice: 0

Best of Chicago 2012

Best painting show (in the last year or so)

Culture & Nightlife, River West No Comments »

Subterranean Isle by Jay Heikes at Shane Campbell Gallery

According to the press release, Heikes’ new paintings are meant to be “sculptural representations of Paleolithic cave paintings,” which is a principle hard to grasp for those of us who have never been to Lascaux. What is undeniable is how incredibly nostalgic and mystical his new abstractions felt at Shane Campbell. Faded pastel colors bled through highly laborious rubbings, and hand imprints, on top of highly textured surfaces, seemed frozen in time. As beautiful as staring at aged walls of ancient cities.

Shane Campbell Gallery
673 North Milwaukee

Best of Chicago 2011

Best smelling bike lane

City Life, River West No Comments »

Kinzie Street protected bike lane

There’s lots to love about the city’s first protected bike lane, on Kinzie from Milwaukee to Wells, the first half-mile of one hundred miles of such lanes Rahm has promised for his first term. Since lines of parked cars and flexible posts shelter cyclists from moving vehicles, protected lanes may be just the ticket to help newbies feel comfortable riding on city streets. Best of all is the location, next to the fragrant Blommer Chocolate factory. “I like the Kinzie bike lane because it smells like chocolate,” says cyclist Lorena “Cupcake” Caiazzo in a recent clip. “And it makes me feel like Charlie Bucket.”

Kinzie Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street
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 shop to get your bike fixed at 9am

Goods & Services, River West No Comments »

Upgrade Cycle

It’s Monday morning and you’re already running late as you ride down Milwaukee Avenue when a shard of some drunken fool’s Miller Lite bottle tears open your tire. Luckily Upgrade Cycle opens its doors bright and early when all the other nine-to-fivers start their day—the earliest in the city. Besides a super-fast tire change, Upgrade offers a full-service tune-up facility and sells all the bikes, parts and accessories needed to complete your daily trek to and from work or a leisurely weekend ride through the city.

1130 West Chicago

Best of Chicago 2009

Best Buffalo wings

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, River West No Comments »

Twisted Spoke

These meaty, smoky, chili-flecked wings eat like a nice spicy roast chicken, and are so good, you’ll be happy to forgo the wet-naps in favor of some serious finger lickin’.

501 North Ogden

Audience choice:
2118 North Damen

Best of Chicago 2009

Best of the Best: Salvage One

Goods & Services, River West No Comments »

Salvage One
When these folks moved from their Near South locale not long ago, we marveled at the challenge. For Salvage One is a multi-story warehouse of architectural history filled with old reclaimed banisters, complete wooden bars, mirrors, furniture, columns, door frames and doors, windows, mantels and just about anything else that use to be part of a building, short of the cement floor. Ever wonder what happened to that great sign atop that building torn down in your neighborhood a couple of years ago? They’ve got it, and it’s for sale.

1840 West Hubbard (312)733-0098

Best of Chicago 2002

Best barbershop not in the movie “Barbershop”

Goods & Services, River West No Comments »

Timeout at Shannon’s
Maybe it’s the location. Maybe it’s the always-clean décor. Maybe it’s the fact that they don’t take walk-ins (unheard of for barbershops). Or maybe it’s the fact that the Wall Street Journal recognized this Chicago hotbed before the Sun-Times or the Tribune, but there is not a barbershop in the city (in the country for that matter) comparable to the basketball hall-of-fame called Timeout at Shannon’s. Unlike the typical in-the-‘hood, black-fade givers that have become “the black man’s country club” over several generations, Timeout at Shannon’s is what other shops need to become when they grow up. NBA-styled lockers and chairs, old classic games on heavy rotation playing behind the backdrop of the latest beats by Dr. Dre or Kanye West, provide the backdrop for conversations ranging and escalating from Shaq’s big toe to Biggie’s involvement in Tupac’s murder to the priests in the Catholic church. Several companies (including Nike and And1) have expressed interest in buying (or becoming partners in) the shop from owner Shannon Jones. But he refuses to sell. Corporations don’t create legacies, people do.
845 W. Monroe (312)491-1748

Best of Chicago 2002

Best Bloody Mary

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, River West, Roscoe Village, West Loop No Comments »

This Bloody Mary is so good that a trendy New York restaurant adopted it, and it’s now called the best in New York, as well. Like all cocktails at the Matchbox, the Bloody Mary is a testament to handcrafted excellence. The bartender mixes it to order, filling a glass of ice half full of vodka, then adding in Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, hot sauce and tomato juice. But it gets its true character from its garnish-a delicious skewer of pickled vegetables.

770 North Milwaukee (312)666-9292

Audience choice: Wishbone
1001 West Washington, (312)850-2663
3300 North Lincoln, (773)549-2663

Best of Chicago 2002