Chicago is an optimist. Give us a river flowing the wrong way and we’ll reverse it. Give us a team that loses and we’ll root for it. Give us a crumbling sidewalk and we’ll dine on it. Give us a winter that chills our bones and bursts our pipes and buries our front stoops and we’ll endure it — knowing the glorious summer and the crisp beauty of fall will send us tumbling back into love all over again.

Maybe it’s the sunrises. Our breathtaking daily reminders that we get another chance — that the past is past, the present is here, and the future is unwritten. Every morning, we get an invitation to head to our east and watch the sky light up and the clouds change hue and the lake reflect it all back to us as if to say, “Chin up. You get another go at this.”

We are a work in progress.

Chicago, for all its allure, remains far too segregated, far too unequal, far too violent, and far too removed from its promise. We need to be better and do better. But first and always, we need to stay invested, heart and soul, in the fight for better days. To help you turn the other cheek when our city lets you down, or when out-of-towners pass judgment, we’re treating these pages like a love letter to Chicago. A love letter for locals, filled with the things, places, and spirited actions that keep us (and you) calling this beautifully imperfect place home. — Heidi Stevens

On any given day, you can find a spot that will stun you with its beauty, connect you to the past, and remind you that you’re part of something larger and more complicated than any individual. Read more
There’s still a verdant patch of real, old-time Chicago at 1800 West Division Street: Phyllis’ Musical Inn. Read more
To be a Chicagoan is to step outside on a frigid winter day and see a man in shorts. Read more
Is Bouchon the city’s most perfect neighborhood boîte? Read more
As a first-time mom, I was wowed by the lake and skyline vistas from my suite at Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital. Read more
The snack has been filling local bellies since 1978. Read more
Barry Butler’s arresting visual love poems capture a shimmering metropolis flexing its muscles in its best light. Read more
Tell an outlander you’re from Chicago and you’re likely to hear some version of “But, man, the weather.” Read more
In tap dance circles, Chicago sets the bar. Read more
It’s the city’s best hot dog stand, and it’s also the perfect spot for a low-key date night. Read more
A good way to explore many of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods in one fell swoop is to venture along Western Avenue. Read more
You can smell the savory scent lingering in the air from at least three blocks away. Read more
Chicago is already famous for its skyline, but its latest architectural wonders come with an added benefit: You can live in them. Read more
The Chicago Sky rose from a No. 6 seed to win its first-ever WNBA title. Read more
We Chicagoans don’t just love our music clubs; we feel ownership of them. Read more
It’s enough to make even the Grinchiest commuter forgive the L for its imperfections. Read more
What are those big round buildings out there in the water? Read more
The Plant is a collaborative community of small eco-minded food businesses. Read more
I love our protests because they reveal an important truth about us: We are willing to show up and shout out. Read more