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Best winter sanctuary

City Life No Comments »

Lincoln Park Conservatory

When trees in Chicago have been barren for weeks, when slippery grey ice lines most sidewalks, you might find yourself, if lucky, inside the Victorian palm house at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Feel the non-dormant plants photosynthesize totally. This building, a time-space machine, is sensuously alerting: you have a body. Shed layers. Breathe in sunlight that doesn’t freeze. Brace yourself for contrasts: what climate next?

—Dianna Frid, artist (Art 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best female designers

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Chelsey Carter and Abigail Glaum-Lathbury

Two of my top Chicago-based designers weld a multi-disciplinary approach to the fashion and the body. I love a good drape, and my newest obsession is Chelsey Carter, whose custom-made and ready-to-wear Alex Carter line offers ample fabric, asymmetrical hemlines, and avant-garde forms that are seamlessly transitioning my wardrobe from fall to winter. When it comes to handmade leather bags, pleated skirts and colorful leggings, Abigail Glaum-Lathbury’s Elmidae line is my go-to. Glaum-Lathbury’s newest foray into fashion is through The Rational Dress Society, an experiment in counter-fashion created with her collaborator Maura Brewer.,,

—Allison Glenn, director, moniquemeloche (Art 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place for a special meal

Food & Drink No Comments »

North Pond

Usually I’m a downscale meat-centric yet organic-y type of eater (think Spacca Napoli, Edzo’s or Publican Quality Meats) but if I’m going classy upscale, then I’m going to North Pond. Ethically/locally sourced menu by James Beard Award-winning chef Bruce Sherman always surprises (best halibut I’ve ever had), the restaurant itself is old-world warm, and outside the setting is almost too good to be believed—a duck pond with the stunning skyline beyond. So romantic evening? Out-of-town guest who needs to be shown what’s awesome about our little town? Or just feel like something out of the ordinary? Trust me—North Pond.

2610 N. Cannon, 773.477.5845,

—Dave Tolchinsky, chair, Department of Radio-TV-Film, Northwestern University (Film 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best Chicago landmark

City Life No Comments »

Stephen A. Douglas Memorial

Of Chicago’s 334 landmarks, the “best” is the Stephen A. Douglas Memorial. The spot is a well-maintained park where 35th Street dead-ends. The memorial monument itself is on a scale that you would expect to see in DC, but both the memorial and the man have largely been forgotten. Douglas was an important player in Abraham Lincoln’s political career, the foil to Lincoln’s view that slavery was a moral issue. Their rivalry would foreshadow the racial tensions to come in Chicago, and Douglas’ estate became a notorious POW camp during the Civil War.

636 E. 35th

—Christopher Johnson, founder, Johnsonese Brokerage (Film 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to watch a baseball game

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US Cellular Field

For me there is nothing like watching a Sox game at The Cell. While the North Side park is steeped in romance, The Cell is a great place to watch a ballgame. Its design is symmetrically fair—no “gimmicks,” like in every other new stadium. Yes, the upper deck can be distant but there is not a bad seat in the entire lower deck—I know because I have sat in many of them!  The promenade means you can circle the park, get concessions (the best food/drink in baseball) and never miss a pitch. Oh, and The Cell is the home of the last World Series Champion in Chicago.

—Roche Schulfer, executive director, Goodman Theatre (Players)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best Jewish deli inside an Italian pharmacy

Andersonville, Food & Drink No Comments »

Gordono Pharmacy

Sixteen years ago Jeff Bendix, owner of Gordono Pharmacy in Andersonville, found himself lamenting the lack of great Jewish delis on Chicago’s North Side. So he decided to solve the problem by making room in his store for a full-service deli. Gordono’s JB’s Deli offers everything from hand-cut lox to homemade brisket, soups, knishes and, of course, prescription medications. It’s hard to beat the weird pleasure of heading to a pharmacy for bagels on a Sunday morning.

5501 N. Clark, 773.561.3671,

—Michele Morano, director, MA in Writing and Publishing, DePaul University (Lit 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to see random street performers who will blow your mind

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Polish Triangle

To some Chicagoans, the Polish Triangle is just a dirty transit stop en route to hipper destinations in Wicker Park. But it’s also the site of some world-class performance art and music. You never know what you’ll stumble upon in this otherwise utilitarian blob of brick and concrete—everything from public performances to live jazz to “outsider art” presented by Intuit art gallery. Best of all, the price of admission is always free.

Between Ashland Avenue, Division Street and Milwaukee Avenue

—Eugene Sun Park, Producer, Full Spectrum Features (Film 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best new fashion line

Goods & Services No Comments »

Production Mode

Production Mode burst onto the scene this year with a pitch-perfect debut collection of limited-edition, impeccably tailored leather pieces for men and women. The line, which launched in January by rising star designer Jamie Hayes, is ethically produced from beginning to end. Committed to sourcing material locally (leather comes from Chicago tannery Horween), reducing environmental impact, and employing fair trade and ethical labor practices, Production Mode raises the standard of what we can expect from our clothing. Undoubtedly, this gem will stay a Chicago secret not much longer.

Megha Ralapati, residency and special projects manager, Hyde Park Art Center (Art 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best recently shuttered restaurant

Food & Drink No Comments »

Sunshine Cafe

A fond farewell to one of my favorites. Vanished tastes compose a particular haunting of memory, in this case the Saba Shioyaki (broiled mackerel w/ daikon), Unagi and Zaru Soba will all be missed. I ate at this sushi-less Japanese restaurant for nearly twenty years before it closed in September. Affordable, relaxed, delicious and extremely consistent, its food reminded me of eating in Japan more than any other spot in the city.

—Joshua Abrams, composer (Film 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to get a haircut

City Life No Comments »

Public Barber

Recently a complete stranger asked a question I had never once heard in my adult life: “Where did you get your haircut?” Pride swelled as I made this person swear they would head straight to the Public Barber in Uptown. Opened just seven months ago, owner Michael Stejskal treads the perfect line between old-fashioned barber shop and contemporary hairdos. Starting at $25 you get a top-notch haircut, hot towel service, a hot lather neck shave and, yes, even a shot of whiskey. Online reservations take just a few seconds. Do it.

1319 W. Wilson, 773.754.7363,

—Christopher Jobson, founder and editor-in-chief, Colossal (Design 50)

Best of Chicago 2015