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Best twenty-four-hour performing-arts event

Culture & Nightlife, Wicker Park No Comments »

The Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins Theatre Festival
Here’s another where there isn’t generally that much competition in the field, but this year’s twenty-fifth-anniversary edition of “The Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins Theatre Festival” at Wicker Park’s The Den Theater hit it out of the park. Organized by the Mary-Arrchie theatre company to commemorate the death of activist Abbie Hoffman, for a $10 in-and-out day pass, visitors were treated to a full twenty-four-hour schedule of performances worthy of the festival’s namesake, from bizarre puppet shows to outlandish improv. Plus the common areas are vast, cozy spaces with plenty of couch seating and live practices going throughout, inspiring a lively, social atmosphere. Consistently packed over the festival’s three-day run, it’s a Chicago original and an annual must-see.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best attempt to connect communities

Goods & Services, Lakeview, Logan Square, Wicker Park No Comments »

Learnapalooza
Created by Maggie Schutz and Sarah Press as a constructive way of getting fellow neighbors together, Learnapalooza is just past its fourth year and now counts two more neighborhoods besides the original Wicker Park locations—classes also take place in multiple venues throughout Lakeview and Logan Square. “Palooza” makes sense, since this is an extremely dynamic one-day-a-year learning marathon, offering courses as diverse as “Night Photography,” “Find Your True Self” and “How Excel Can Make Your Life Easier,” among many others. Classes are taught by volunteers and open to the public. Donations are welcome, as well as expertise.
learnapaloozachi.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best electronic-cigarette shopping

Goods & Services, Wicker Park No Comments »

Modern Vapor
So, it’s time to quit and make the leap to e-cigs? Maybe finally get a date and make a few friends? Well, it’s not going to help kick your addiction to nicotine, but close enough. And with the rising popularity of the “Vapor” craze, commercials flooding the airwaves from companies like Blu, it was only a matter of time before smokeless smoke shops like Wicker Park’s Modern Vapor  began popping up. Starter kits and refill cartridges are comparable to most other brands on the market, but here you get a real live person and place to go back to if there’s a problem with the gear.
1400 North Milwaukee, (877)312-3244, modernvapor.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best prix fixé menu-quality dish not served in a prix fixé

Food & Drink, Wicker Park No Comments »

Sepia noodles at Trenchermen
Tender skeins of cuttlefish (sepia) mimicking pasta noodles are tossed with tangy lime-pickled compressed watermelon and crispy garlic chips. This dish is elegant, haunting, complex, refreshing and satisfying. It’s also one of the more original dishes served anywhere.

Trenchermen, 2039 West North, (773)661-1540, trenchermen.com

Best of Chicago 2012

Best non-traditional horchata

Food & Drink, Wicker Park No Comments »

Antique Taco
Pixy Stix aficionados will love the paper straw served in this Mexican cinnamon-spiced rice-infused milkshake. Horchata aficionados may just swear off the watery version altogether.

Antique Taco, 1360 North Milwaukee, (773)687-8697, antiquetaco.com

Best of Chicago 2012

Best bar to get a martini and manicure

Culture & Nightlife, Wicker Park No Comments »

Beauty Bar
Beauty Bar Chicago, part saloon, part salon, established its Chicago home in 2010 as part of a nationally franchised chain. Its décor is out of a 1960s hairdressing manual. One wall is lined with old-fashioned seated hair dryers. Another wall has how-to diagrams for hairdos. There’s a large dance floor, great for the many scheduled events like readings, karaoke and musical performances (even once host to an indoor skateboard competition). And since their special is a $10 manicure and martini, women need not waste time doing their nails before heading out.

Beauty Bar, 1444 West Chicago, (312)226-8828, thebeautybar.com/chicago

Best of Chicago 2012

Best funky theater venue

Culture & Nightlife, Wicker Park No Comments »

Collaboraction
Ever since Collaboraction relocated there in 2010, the third floor of the Flat Iron Arts Building in Wicker Park has seen a ton of hipster traffic. It’s sort of like an adult corn maze. Okay, so an adult corn maze is just a regular corn maze with booze, but bear with us. Go up three flights of stairs, pray you’ve entered the correct elliptical hallway, wander down the winding path, and voila! Comfy couches, PBR, art-gallery flooring, and two sweet performance venues. One, Room 300, is ultra malleable—for Collaboraction’s annual Sketchbook festival, they put up colorful childlike blocks in asymmetrical towers for seating. And another, the Pentagon, is just that: a pentagonal black box. The cool gallery setting is perfection for the media-centric company’s fantastical integration of design. Oh, and those couches are pretty kickass during intermission.

Collaboraction, 1579 North Milwaukee, (312)226-9633, collaboraction.org

Best of Chicago 2012

Best place for craft cocktails

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, Near North, Wicker Park No Comments »

Sable Kitchen & Bar
It’s tempting to go with Aviary, the liquid outpost from the Alinea team, but with the changing of guard to Charles Joly from Craig Schoettler, it’s still too early to tell what change will bring. At Sable though, head bartender Mike Ryan (Violet Hour, Otom vet) has been steadfast. He trained as a chef and handcrafts bitters, tinctures and infusions with balance and nuance. While he can improvise anything behind the stick, the long and well-curated cocktail list ensures you’ll never be stumped or left wanting when you’re thirsty.

505 North State, (312)755-9704, sablechicago.com

Audience choice: Violet Hour, 1520 North Damen, (773)252-1500, theviolethour.com

Best of Chicago 2012

Best falafel

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, Lakeview, Wicker Park No Comments »

Falafill
Classic, curry and seasonal fried chickpea balls here rate among the best, but it’s the rotating chef selection of falafel like the ones from Jason Hammel of Lula—Sun Gold tomato relish, pickled pistachio, crispy fried kale and honey topped version—or Paul Virant of Vie’s black bean falafel smothered in spicy mayo, pickled peppers, pea shoots, cilantro and lemon garlic vinaigrette that sets this burgeoning franchise apart. The self-service condiment bar here is so good, those skeevy pepper bar-pimping Quizno’s hamsters would love it.

Falafill, 3202 North Broadway, (773)525-0052, eatfalafill.com

Audience choice: Sultan’s Market, 2057 West North, (773)235-3072, 2521 North Clark, (312)638-9151, chicagofalafel.com

Best of Chicago 2012

Best theatrical cameo

Culture & Nightlife, Wicker Park No Comments »

Tracy Letts as Irek Obsidian in “The Iron Stag King: Part One” at the House Theatre
Looking at the program for the House Theatre’s first entry in the “Iron Stag King” trilogy, some may have wondered how Tracy Letts could possibly be in this Chicago show while also starring in the highly acclaimed “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” remount on Broadway. As it turns out, Letts’ character, Irek Obsidian, is a gigantic animatronic dragon. And when his booming voice fills the theatre with pre-recorded dialogue, this fantasy stage show becomes truly epic.

House Theatre, thehousetheatre.com

Best of Chicago 2012