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Best of Chicago 04


Sinatra Impersonator
John Vincent

chicago sinatra impersonator john vincent

When you hear John Vincent for the first time, you may not believe your ears. “Hey, if they wanted a lip-syncher,” says the 300-pound, six-foot-five former lineman, “they’d have a pretty boy up here.” The Garfield Ridge native first heard Sinatra’s music during his days at Elmhurst College. He played a year of professional football in Germany and worked for four more as a corporate recruiter in Chicago before turning to singing full-time in 2001. Vincent, 34, now performs Tuesday through Saturday evenings in the Cigar Bar at Mike Ditka’s Restaurant (100 E. Chestnut St.; 312-587-8989). He’s also working on his first mass-produced album, a compilation of Sinatra classics plus one Vincent original, due in stores this November. The label? None other than Ditka Records.

New Shoe Store
Heels | 7423 W. Madison St.,
Forest Park; 708-488-8601

When you’re done window-shopping on Oak Street, head to Heels, a cheery new boutique in Forest Park, for shoes you’ll actually buy. A destination for exclusives and brands you won’t see everywhere, Heels caters to smartly hip women who refuse to sacrifice comfort for style. Look for jewel-studded flip-flops from Girls Two Doors Down, favorites of Jessica Alba, Eva Longoria, and Jennifer Aniston. This is the only place in the Midwest where you’ll find them, and the store is one of just a few in Chicago to carry Hispanitas from Spain; Gabor, a German line of athletic/street shoes; and Klub Nico’s strappy sandals.

Blommer Chocolate Company
600 W. Kinzie St.; 312-226-7700

Who would guess that chocolaty fragrance wafting through the West Loop leads not just to a candy factory but also to a terrific mulch for your garden? So lightweight that even the daintiest gardener can heave around bags of it with ease, the mulch is made from cocoa bean hulls, a byproduct of the chocolate-making process. Spread them in just a one-inch layer—much thinner than wood chips—and you have a weed barrier and moisture retainer that eventually will break down to enrich your soil. Best unexpected perk? The chocolate aroma from the hulls takes a couple of weeks to dissipate. A two-cubic-foot bag costs $3.99 and covers about 24 square feet.

Cheap CDs
Dusty Groove America
1120 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-342-5800,

Until three years ago, Dusty Groove America, the Wicker Park record shop and Web site specializing in rare Brazilian, soul, and jazz recordings, mounted an annual in-store liquidation sale at which it peddled its huge stock of promo CDs. But when crowds became too big, owner Rick Wojcik stopped the sale and started the bargain bin. Lucky us. Now, a few racks of super-low-priced CDs are available daily. Wojcik says the bargain bin CDs are “mostly promos that just don’t fit with [the store’s] tight mix.” Although you’ll sometimes take home a clunker, you can also walk off with an armload of true gems (a recent trip yielded discs by Brazilian singer Karine Alexandrino and one from a groovy German all-girl band called Die Moulinettes) at just $2.99 to $6.99 a pop.

New Pizza
Spacca Napoli | 1769 W. Sunnyside Ave.; 773-878-2420


Since December 1943, when Pizzeria Uno shoved its first three-inch-deep pan into the oven, Chicago has staked its reputation for pizza on deep-dish—until five months ago, that is. Enter Jonathan Goldsmith, a native Chicagoan who imported from Italy a woodburning oven to a Ravenswood storefront with the mission to make authentic Neapolitan pizza. His perfectly thin, tender, and chewy crust pizza won us over—and everyone else, too, judging by the long lines and the breathless word of mouth. Elsewhere on the menu, he’s got a handful of antipasti (go for the sautéed eggplant) and a few sweets (tiramisù by a mile), but regulars just beam over the pizza Margherita.

Robert Wayner

bench by woodworker robert wayner

“My style is naturalistically modern, showcasing the individual grain of the wood,” says Robert Wayner, a furniture maker whose rustic-yet-sleek pieces for the living room (coffee tables, end tables, storage cabinets) are exemplars of the back-to-nature movement among many young designers. The laid-back 35-year-old former musician began his career at Salvage One as a furniture restorer. About five years ago, he started selling his own line, which uses wood that is recycled or cut from trees that fell naturally. You can find Wayner, and his work, at Black Walnut Gallery (2135 W. Division St.; 773-772-8870), the store he opened last November.

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

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