Al’s Deli | 914 Noyes St.;
Some locals eat here almost daily, likely because they can’t find a better soup or a sandwich assembled with more care. Al Pottinger opened the business in 1949 and passed it along to his sons, Bob and John, two self-professed Francophiles who constantly tweak their menu and note updates on a chalkboard.
Comix Revolution | 606 Davis St.; 847-866-8659
Aficionados rave over the comics, graphic novels, and related toys and figurines. But Comix Revolution, we’d argue, is a truly superior bookstore as well. “Anyone who wants a solid education in the liberal arts—especially fiction and political science—could get one by reading the fiction and nonfiction stocks,” says Bill Savage, a Northwestern University English professor who orders his course books from the shop.
Merle’s Barbeque | 1727 Benson Ave.; 847-475-7766
Welcome to the tangy, belt-busting, gluttonous feat of gastronomy otherwise known as “The Barnyard Platter”: one slab of baby back ribs, one slab of St. Louis ribs, one whole barbecued chicken, one slab of beef ribs, a Texas brisket, pulled pork, and two sides—all for $19.99 a person. Don’t plan on walking home.
George Ritzlin Maps and Prints | 1937 Central St.;
In this elegant space tucked away in sleepy west Evanston, nearly every antique book, map, and print is a guaranteed original, with items dating as far back as the 1400s and some costing as much as $40,000. But, whether you’re buying or browsing, Ritzlin’s is an unparalleled trip through history.
Bill’s Blues Bar | 1029 Davis St.; 847-424-9800
Sandwiched between a row of retail shops and a Chinese restaurant, Bill’s three-year-old live-music venue still manages to feel like an authentic throwback, a classic blues joint with a pockmarked front door, extra-long bar, exposed ceilings, and a small stage. No cover Monday through Thursday; acts range from icons like Eddy Clearwater to emerging folk and roots musicians.
Best Hidden Gem
Bookman’s Alley | 1712 Sherman Ave. (alley);
Owner Roger Carlson couldn’t have foreseen, when he opened this used book store in 1980, that its strange location in a garage in an alley would become a huge part of its appeal. Today, about 40,000 used books are packed into the labyrinthine space with dusty antiques, yellowing magazines, forgotten records, and hundreds of knickknacks. A spelunker’s paradise.
The Golden Olympic | 1608 Chicago Ave.; 847-328-1617
If you want to wait in line for overrated skillet eggs, head to Le Peep. If you know better, go to “the Olympic” for the township’s best breakfast with a side of hung-over Northwestern students. Especially good are the eggs Benedict, and anything served next to the tender, crispy, thin-sliced hash browns.
Best Culinary Adventure
Jamaica Gates | 618 1/2 Church St.; 847-869-1629
In spite of the questionable décor and chairs that look borrowed from a community center rec room, this one-year-old restaurant serves inviting Jamaican fare that’s a welcome break from the ordinary. Go for the sweet-hot jerk chicken ($8.65 for the special) and the hearty curry goat ($9).
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