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Best sculpture by a painter

Culture & Nightlife, West Loop No Comments »

Andrew Holmquist’s “Armature” at Carrie Secrist Gallery
There’s something about powder-coated steel that seems to say, yes, you can touch me even though I’m a sculpture. Andrew Holmquist’s yellow powder-coated geometric object looked like it walked out of his paintings in his second solo show at the gallery. It confronted viewers, and made them aware of being a body inhabiting a space.
835 West Washington, (312)491-0917, secristgallery.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best place to go after a gallery opening that’s not Perez

Food & Drink, West Loop No Comments »

Grange Hall Burger Bar
You can get a burger and a beer at Grange Hall for less than $20, and that’s saying a lot in the West Loop. The food is delicious and the decor is super cute. Sure beats the typical after-gallery spot, the usually crowded and medium-par Perez. The rainbow chips are particularly recommended.
844 West Randolph, (312)491-0844, grangehallburgerbar.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best cured meat

Food & Drink, West Loop No Comments »

West Loop Salumi
Many chefs have started making their own charcuterie, but Greg Laketek has the only USDA-certified salumeria in Illinois, so he’s able to butcher his meat, dry-age it at room temperature and sell it to restaurants and grocery stores around town. Laketek’s commitment to using the best ingredients possible (Berkshire pork, Alba truffles he hand-picked in Italy, fennel pollen, top-rated Barolo wines) pays off with soft, pungent salumi that packs a powerful punch.
1111 West Randolph, (312)255-7004, westloopsalumi.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best gourmet Asian

Food & Drink, West Loop No Comments »

Embeya
Chef Thai Dang has a starry past, having cooked at Michelin three-star L20 and two-star RIA, and his new spot might just get some more. Instead of serving up a hodgepodge of Asian ingredients or fried sugary treats as most pan-Asian spots do, Dang is serving up refined but fairly authentic Thai and Vietnamese salads and roast meats. His squid stuffed with bone marrow is a triumph of precision with both proteins cooked to perfection.

Embeya, 564 West Randolph, (312)612-5640, embeya.com

Best of Chicago 2012

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

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife, Logan Square, West Loop No Comments »

L210
Only open for a few months and not open to the public, Nike’s invite-only, ultra-exclusive hang suite in the West Loop was a non-ground level, exposed brick sanctuary that was the city’s best-kept secret that kept the sporting events, videogames competitions, global music and drinks going non-stop. Well, while it was open.

Audience Choice: Scofflaw, 3201 West Armitage, (773)252-9700, scofflawchicago.com

Best of Chicago 2012

Best pizza served in a non-delivery/not strictly Italian restaurant

Food & Drink, West Loop No Comments »

Nellcote
The restaurant makes a lot of noise about how they grind double-zero flour in house, sleep with their dough and only allow it to be hand-kneaded by vestal virgins (ok, we made those last two up), but whatever they’re doing, there’s a chew, a puff of yeast, a crackling at the edges that few pizzas anywhere have. Get it with the housemade fennel sausage.

Nellcote, 833 West Randolph, (312)432.0500, nellcoterestaurant.com

Best of Chicago 2012

Best reason to employ a personal cardiologist

Food & Drink, West Loop No Comments »

Duck heart gravy hash browns at Au Cheval
There is no more comfortable and soul-satisfying restaurant in Chicago right now than Au Cheval, and there is no more comforting dish than its lacy crisp hash browns which somehow keep their integrity even when soaked with a viscous rich offal gravy and a fried egg.

Au Cheval, 800 West Randolph, (312)929-4580, aucheval.tumblr.com

Best of Chicago 2012

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, publicanqualitymeats.com

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

Best of Chicago 2012

Best gourmet doughnut shop

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

Glazed & Infused
With doughnut shops springing up like Republican debate obfuscations, there’s an embarrassment of riches found at Doughnut Vault, Do-Rite, and old-school spots like Old Fashioned Donuts and Dat Donut, but with red-velvet-cake doughnuts dripping in cream cheese and maple-glazed long johns covered in thick sticks of bacon, Glazed & Infused gets the nod.

Glazed & Infused, 813 West Fulton Market, (312)226-5556, goglazed.com

Audience choice: Glazed & Infused, 813 West Fulton Market, (312)226-5556, goglazed.com

Best of Chicago 2012

Best brunch

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

The Publican
There are lots of honorable mentions here. If you want to get your noodles on, you might stop in at Takashi. If you need a Southern Fix, there’s Big Jones. But, none of them have the pork rinds or the beef and pork-fat-fried frites dripping in runny fried farm egg of the Publican.

The Publican, 837 West Fulton Market, (312)722-9555, thepublicanrestaurant.com

Audience choice: Lula, 2537 North Kedzie, (773)489-9554, lulacafe.com

Best of Chicago 2012