Best of Chicago 02

 

Textile Artist
Danny Mansmith

textile artist Danny Mansmith

After dropping out of art school 15 years ago, Danny Mansmith began educating himself in the basics of garment design by deconstructing store-bought clothes. Since then, he has gone from experimental sewing machine junkie to textile-art auteur. Working from his fantastical studio (which also houses his gallery, called SCRAP, at 4919 North Damen Avenue; 773-474-8067), Mansmith, 34, uses exposed zigzag stitching to turn patches of interesting fabric into sculptures, life-size dolls, and wall hangings. “I live in my work,” he says. His surprisingly wearable line of clothing—which includes shoulder bags, hats, beautiful fabric necklaces, and wrist cuffs—display the same marriage of oddity and brilliance.

Veggie Burger
Bandera
535 N. Michigan Ave.;
312-644-3524

Most faux burgers try to imitate meat—and that, as anyone knows who has ever tasted a lentil, is probably a losing battle. This is why the house-made veggie burger at Bandera, the Michigan Avenue outpost of the upscale California-based mini-chain, is a revelation. Verging on a sloppy joe, the sandwich proffers a spicy mixture of beets, black beans, pickled jalapeños, and brown rice, a concoction so tasty it has earned a devoted following among many dedicated carnivores and—here’s the true test—the restaurant’s waitstaff.

 

Belgian Bistro
Hopleaf
| 5148 N. Clark St.;
773-334-9851

Although this tavern is well loved for its excellent Belgian beer selection, its delicious Flemish fare may be one of the better-kept secrets in the city. In the cozy backroom of this bustling Andersonville boîte, dig into onion rings or crispy pommes frites served in a silver tumbler with garlicky aïoli on the side. Order a cauldron of ale-steamed mussels and, with a crusty baguette, swab up the juices swimming around salty bits of shallots and bacon. And where else will you find Scotch eggs on the menu? Wash down a big bite with a sip of Leffe Blonde. Repeat. Sigh contentedly.

 

Boutique
Habit | 1951 W. Division St.; 773-342-0093,
www.habitchicago.com

dress in chicago boutique habit

Discovering independent fashion talents before they hit the big time, Habit, a new midsize boutique in Wicker Park, offers pre-Barneys designers at Banana Republic prices. “It’s a forum for designers to reach a customer and for customers to get really great one-of-a-kind pieces,” says owner Lindsey Boland, whose selections are avant-garde yet eminently wearable. More than half of the 75 designers represented here are Chicago based, including Biscuit (we loved its A-line striped seersucker skirts, $72) and Nature vs. Future (look for the structured but unstuffy suit jackets, $230).

Homage
City 2000

homage

Several years ago Gary Comer, the founder of Lands’ End, had an idea: harness a team of photographers to capture the city, every day for an entire year. The results—a half-million or so images shot in 2000—were culled down to 199 best moments and recently published in a revealing book called City 2000 (3 Book Publishing; $50). “There is a lot more depth to this than pretty pictures,” says the project editor, Teri Boyd. “There is social information about how we lived.”

Designer CDs
5inch
| www.5inch.com; 773-862-0291

compact discs

A side business for the local graphic designer Carlos Segura, 5inch sells silk-screened blank CDs (10 for $12.25) that will give your favorite iPodder a new reason to revert to disc. The uniformly sophisticated motifs owe a lot to Segura: as a creator of new type fonts, he has an impeccable eye for clean lines, graphic simplicity, and visual irony. The specially designed side-loading “trigger” case is unique, just like the disc inside.

Best of Chicago - Table of Contents

Best of Chicago - 01

Best of Chicago - 02

Best of Chicago - 03

Best of Chicago - 04

Best of Chicago - 05

Best of Chicago - 06

Best of Neighborhhoods - Albany Park

Best of Neighborhhoods - Evanston

Best of Neighborhhoods - Highwood

Best of Neighborhhoods - Hyde Park

Best of Neighborhhoods - Ukrainian VIllage and East Village

Best of Chicago - Architecture