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Best boozy dessert

Food & Drink, South Loop No Comments »

French apple at Acadia
Calvados roasted Granny Smith apple still has a subtle crunch, nestled in a cool and creamy cinnamon custard, with a quenelle of canelé ice cream. The dish is topped with arcs of caramelized puff pastry reminiscent of flaky croissant crumbs. The booze factor steps up with a side shot of apple cider and Armagnac in pastry chef Thomas Raquel’s version of a hot toddy. All the familiar fall flavors are here, yet this dessert is unique, more alluring than any apple pie, crisp or apfelstrudel you’ve tasted.
1639 South Wabash, (312)360-9500,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best gin & tonic

Food & Drink, South Loop No Comments »

Gins/tonics/limes at Acadia
Chicago might not be at Spain’s level of gin & tonic sophistication, but many bartenders are starting to make their own tonics with quinine, usually in the form of powdered cinchona bark. Our favorite is Ar?nas Bružas’ lemongrass tonic with notes of lavender and pink peppercorn at Acadia, which he serves with Botanist gin. This nuanced summer cocktail slowly changes flavors as the kaffir lime and cucumber ice cubes melt, lending the drink a rejuvenating spa water quality.
1639 South Wabash, (312)360-9500,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best African music night

Culture & Nightlife, South Loop No Comments »

Sonic Diaspora
If you are in the mood for an “Afrodisiac” experience, check out the African music night at Coup d’etat at The Shrine. A popular destination for continental African musical currencies, it’s a favorite drop-in spot for the likes of Questlove on the turntables and Slick Rick, rolling out his rap-storytelling mastery. The Sonic Diaspora ( night every second Friday of the month hosts a roundhouse spectrum of “Kuduro, Kwaito, Soukous, Afrobeat, AfroLatin House, Nu Dancehall and Global Bass.” You’ll need to pay an admission, but it’s lower than what you’d expect of most club outings.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best merger of sports and art

Culture & Nightlife, South Loop No Comments »

“Spectator Sports” at the Museum of Contemporary Photography
The Museum of Contemporary Photography made a case for what sports and art share: an obsessive, frenzied fan-base. Contemporary artworks about what it means to be in an audience solidified why sports and art fans should care about each other.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best way to see new movies cheap, even on a Saturday night

Culture & Nightlife, South Loop 1 Comment »

Showplace ICON Extras
The newish movie theater complex just off Roosevelt Road boasts some of the priciest movies in town, with a VIP seating section that offers big plush seats and upscale food and bar privileges during the screening. But it also offers one of the best deals in town in the form of an affinity card that offers, among other things, a weekly slate of first-run films for six dollars a ticket. Though opening and second weekend films are excluded, most of the movies you want to see are included after a short spell in the theater. As long as you use the card, you can bring in multiple guests for that six-dollar price and there are no blackout dates, so it’s good even at peak times. There are some other perks too, but none compare to a nearly half-price discount at prime time. But make sure you keep an eye on the email newsletter for there is no mention anywhere in the theater as to which films are “on sale.”

Showplace ICON at Roosevelt Collection, 150 West Roosevelt at 1011 South Delano Court, (312)386-7440,

Best of Chicago 2012

Best new restaurant opened in the last year or so

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, Logan Square, South Loop No Comments »

It’s L20, Alinea or Tru quality at affordable a la carte prices. There’s pre-fixe too if you’re so inclined. Whichever way you go, chef Ryan McCaskey (formerly suburban Courtright’s) is a star and so is his faux risotto (where creamy bits of Yukon gold ape the usual Carnaroli or Arborio rice) and his foie gras custard.

Acadia, 1639 South Wabash, (312)360-9500,

Audience choice: Telegraph, 2601 North Milwaukee, (773)292-9463,

Best of Chicago 2012

Best Bears bar

South Loop, Sports & Recreation No Comments »

The Scout
If you haven’t scored tickets on the fifty-yard-line and are willing to forgo the comfort of your La-Z-Boy and your sixty-inch plasma on Sundays, then you want a level of excitement that compensates for the loss of comfort if you venture out to watch a game. The Scout which, to our chagrin frankly, replaced the dynamic designs of Jerry Kleiner’s Opera restaurant with, yawn, another sports bar, knows how to go big. It’s a colossal space with colossal TVs everywhere. On game day, show up without a Bears jersey on and you’ll be counted on a single hand in what seems like a roaring crowd of a thousand. This is not a place for gentle souls, but for F-A-N-S looking to shout along with a congregation of true believers like Tiffany, a friendly sort we encountered one Sunday whose custom made Bears bustier barely contained her own pair of, um, footballs. And if this doesn’t sound feverish enough, it’s just a few blocks from Soldier Field, affording easy passage to and from Tailgate Nation, as well as a surge of patrons making their way from the stands after the game ends.

The Scout, 1301 South Wabash, (312)705-0595,

Best of Chicago 2012

Best independent bookstore often overlooked

Goods & Services, South Loop No Comments »

Sandmeyer’s is the one small book spot in the city that you forget to go to but once you walk back in, you immediately ask yourself: Why did I stop coming here in the first place? From being one of the first stores to showcase Marcus Samuelsson’s “Yes, Chef” to having the comprehensive collection of Chicago photo-driven coffee table reads, Sandmeyer’s, celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year, has not lost any of its relevance.

Sandmeyer’s, 714 South Dearborn, (312)922-2104,

Best of Chicago 2012

Best place to go when Lollapalooza rains out

Culture & Nightlife, South Loop No Comments »

Epic Burger
What to do when hazardous weather forces Lollapalooza to give you the boot into the Loop? Don’t head to Barnes & Noble, which went on lockdown and refused to let anybody new inside like they were zombies from “The Walking Dead” hungry for flesh. Skip the Harold Washington Library, too. There’s no worse time to be in a library than when drunk attendees hyped for some EDM decide to crash. Epic Burger, on the other hand, was proximate, open and hardly packed. Order a burger, snag a shake and hit up the bar seating to rub shoulders and commiserate with fellow festival-goers. Who knows, you might even make a friend.

Epic Burger, 517 South State and additional locations, (312)913-1373,

Best of Chicago 2012

Best museum award that probably won’t make the corporate stationery

City Life, South Loop No Comments »

The Field Museum

The Field Museum has relics from the catacombs of Egypt, one of the largest dinosaur re-creations ever and, apparently, the best bathrooms in the country. This according to Cintas Corp. who honored the museum with the accolade in this year’s tenth annual “America’s Best Restroom Contest,” as voted on by online readers. The eco-friendly, first-floor facilities were chosen for their art-filled break rooms, automated water faucets and hourly cleanings. We can only imagine the celebratory souvenirs coming to the Field’s gift shop.

The Field Museum
1400 South Lake Shore

Best of Chicago 2011