Powell’s Bookstore in University Village
Since the lamentable closing of Prairie Avenue Books, whose reading room was full but whose till was empty, there have been few contenders to its mantle. (After Prairie closed its doors for good, artist Theaster Gates preserved some 14,000 volumes.) Chicago Architecture Foundation’s shop on Michigan Avenue still stocks mostly Chicago-centric fair, like lavishly published editions of Burnham and Bennett’s Plan of Chicago. More obscure and brainy titles from around the world are carried inside the Graham Foundation. Perhaps the most accessible selection of books on all manner of design, beckoning would-be readers with glossy vistas, is at Powell’s Bookstore in University Village. There, expect to find standard texts on architecture alongside the kinds of “archiporn” tomes that very hip hotels display on coffee tables.
1218 S. Halsted, 312.243.9070, powellschicago.com
Best of Chicago 2014
Maxwell Street Market
Delicious, affordable Mexican food is easy to find in Chicago, especially along 18th Street in Pilsen and 26th Street in Little Village. But a great way to sample interesting Mexican street food with fresh ingredients is to join the crowds at this historic flea market. Stands sell items that you might not think to order in a restaurant, like quesadillas with thick, handmade tortillas and unusual fillings like flor de calabaza (squash blossom) or huitlacoche (corn fungus). Trucks offer churros and champurado (hot chocolate thickened with masa) and one stand sells nothing but steak tacos, but they’re the best in town.
Sundays 7am to 3pm
Desplaines from Roosevelt to Harrison
Best of Chicago 2011
Lafont? Got ‘em. Lindberg? Got ‘em. Prodesign Denmark? Got ‘em. Tom Ford? Got ‘em. The collection that Village Eyecare carries (and the team/staff that helps select frames for you) is what makes people who don’t need to wear glasses, wear glasses. In an era where Nerd Chic is the new “it” in fashion, VEC keeps it funky. They un-nerd the nerd.
1243 South Wabash
1116 West Taylor
Eye Spy Optical
3350 North Lincoln
Best of Chicago 2011
Laid out like an old-fashioned lunch counter, Manny’s is bustling with activity. Loud, raucous and overflowing with characters, it would be worth a visit even if you didn’t like the food. But there’s no way around a fantastic sandwich, and though the corned beef, roast beef and other hand-carved treats are wondrous, the pastrami is almost a religious experience. Available on a Kaiser, rye or an onion roll, this sandwich is piled high with amazing, hot, juicy pastrami. And it’s so big that you may just have to take half home to fit in the deliciously fried potato pancake. Visit with the crowds at lunchtime and you’ll get a one-of-a-kind experience with a staff that’s crusty yet kind, not to mention a sandwich worth the wait.
1141 South Jefferson (312)939-2855
Best of Chicago 2002