Best of Chicago 05

 

Philosopher Barber
Ronald Edwards

chicago barber Ronald Edwards

The lively art of informed conversation is encouraged at the Medinah Barber Shop (3 E. Huron St.; 312-944-1549), an old-fashioned garden-level spot with bright apple-green walls, racks of magazines (Skeptical Inquirer; Playboy), and shelves of books (Plutarch’s Lives; God and Nature). It was in the seventies—men’s hair was long and business was slow—when Ronald Edwards, a third-generation owner of the business, began spending his downtime with books, progressing from mysteries and science fiction to Plato, Aristotle, and Hume. With his electric clippers buzzing (a haircut is $21, a beard trim $8), Edwards will even talk about nothing—the concept, that is. Captivated clients include the author Studs Terkel, the architect Ben Weese, and the Chicago Reader’s president, Robert A. Roth.

Cracker
Nicole’s Divine Crackers

cracker

“Don’t call it a flatbread,” says Nicole Bergère, rather sternly. “Or lavash.” It’s a cracker, by God, and what a cracker it is. Created 12 or 13 years ago (Bergère is fuzzy on the exact date), the cracker started life as a humble breadbasket item for the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Chicago. Guests began asking for them and Bergère, a contract baker, obliged, packing them up in white to-go bags. Today, the 81-year-old Bergère, who runs the company with her business partner, Grace Colucci, puts out some 18 varieties from her facility just south of Lincoln Park (1505 N. Kingsbury St.; 312-640-8883). Sold at retail in boxes ($3.49; also available online at nicolescrackers.com), the crackers—with kooky, overlong names like Perfectly Peppery People Cracker and Oh! For the Love of Herb—are nicely thick, a bit on the hard side, and compulsively edible.

Bakery
Bleeding Heart Bakery
2018 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-278-3638

cake illustration

In a city where there’s no shortage of expertly decorated bakeries with folksy names, Bleeding Heart Bakery in Ukrainian Village might not have caught our eye even with its blood-red exterior. But our taste buds never miss a trick. The shop’s moist mini cakes ($4) are piled high with buttercream frosting that’s rich but not sickeningly so. The restrained sticky buns ($3 each) are breakfast pastries, not gooey desserts. The fact that chef and owner Michelle Garcia uses mostly organic ingredients from local farmers to make her treats (some of them vegan to boot) is, as they say, icing on the cake.

Last-stand Bar
Boomer’s | 5035 N. Lincoln Ave.;773-334-2182

As any true nightcrawler knows, there’s no faster way to stomp down a buzz than grabbing an end-of-the-mayhem nosh at a fluorescent-lighted takeout joint, then having nowhere to go before the final stagger home. Boomer’s, nestled in a neighborhood so strange it’s almost cool, keeps the vibe rolling. The sports bar morphs into a dim nightclub sometime around midnight and serves a tasty gyros sandwich—along with other reliable fast-food staples—until last call at 4 a.m. The playlist here is strictly Top 40, so we don’t recommend making it an evening at Boomer’s. But, as last stands go, this one is a munchie cure and hangover prevention in one.

Discounted Flowers
A New Leaf | 312 S. Dearborn St.; 312-427-9097

A New Leaf, the Lincoln Park florist with an outpost in the Monadnock Building, makes some of the most elegant vase arrangements in town. But on certain Fridays wise bargain hunters are rewarded at the Monadnock location because it sometimes sells off remaining roses that are no longer tightly closed for a dollar a stem, as well as other flowers that are overstocked.

Public Sculpture
The UIC Skyspace

public sculpture

The sky as a work of art. It’s the kind of thing only James Turrell, the MacArthur genius-grant winner who’s spending his life turning a crater in New Mexico into an observatory, would think to plunk down on the frantically noisy intersection of Halsted and Roosevelt. Step beneath the sculpture—which resembles nothing so much as a giant terra cotta hat on stilts—and the commotion suddenly vanishes. As you sit on one of the concrete benches, water pours down all around and your gaze turns up toward an opening 26 feet above the sidewalk. There, O’Hare-bound jets shoot noiselessly across the panel of blue at the center. It’s the sky, reframed by Turrell’s grand gesture as a magically reflective substance.

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