The best and (worst) of the Chi this year as told by a council of dope Chicagoans from all sides of the loop- and even a local bad boy trying to do good away. Read on, and share your favorites with us, one man’s Chicago can be very different from the next, agreeing only that Chicago is the best place to call home con lo bueno y lo malo. More than a recap, use this as a go-to-guide in 2011.
Northside Boricua/Chicago Public Health Researcher
Best meal under $10: Try under $5! The Cuban Marianao’s Cafe. Great cafe con leche, pan con mantequilla, steak sandwiches and pastelillos! Don’t let the creepy old men scare you away. Get your stuff and go!
Best spot for drinks: Salud Tequila Lounge. My friend ordered “rumchata” and if it weren’t for them I would’ve thought she was crazy. Apparently, they also make a good Michelada.
Wish we had: A Crumbs cupcake shop! (but they are coming soon!)
Best spot to: load up on snacks before you grab bad coffee at a hipster cafe for the wifi is Artemio’s Bakery! They’ve been around pre-hipster Wicker Park and they know $4.00 for a stale muffin is absurd. (Ahem, neighboring coffee shops).
Best kept secret: You can actually get a .25 cent transfer on a bus if you load your CTA card at a station.
Local discovery of the year: I just discovered Andy’s Jazz Club and I WILL be back! Beautiful Latin jazz on Tuesday nights!
Song of the year: Definitely “Chi Don’t Dance No Mo'” by Bin Laden Blowin’ Up or BBU. I moved back to Chicago a few months ago and this song made me nostalgic long before my return. Definitely brings the energy level way up wherever it’s played!
Party of the year: The end of the summer BOMBA Party at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn-complete with a Chicago DJ! The ENTIRE crowd was dancing! PLEASE bring BOMBA parties to Chicago!
Best Coffee shop: Ipsento-Great staff. I once forgot about my coffee, it got cold and they just made me another one! The “clever coffee” is delicious. And the Nutella Mocha!
Best after hours spot: La Pasadita Tacos and horchata with 3 locations in a 3 block perimeter. Take that Starbucks.
Best street food: Coquito carts in Humboldt Park. Coconut, please.
Best on the ones and twos: DJ Stefan Ponce. When I found out how old/young he is-I couldn’t believe it! Great young Chicago talent.
Hardest working Red Eye man? The one at the Sheffield brown line station. He never hesitates to say hi and lets me know if I’m looking less than stellar. Good looking out!
Phony Latino shit of the year? This has been around longer than a year-but “fish tacos” are NOT tacos.
Breakthrough (visual) artist? Michael Morgan. I discovered him through a friend on Twitter and I love following his photo blog. His images capture a rare serenity.
Best Chicago Activism moment of the year? The passionate fight for a library led by a courageous group of mothers at Whittier Elementary school in Pilsen.
Best summer event of year? Taste of Pilsen! My friends and I loved the weather, the variety of food and the spirit!
What are you going to miss about Daley? Nothing. I haven’t liked him since I interviewed him when I was 9. I blame my pre-pubescent judgment and his bad responses to my questions.
Relocated Chicaguino in NYC, Still With 606-Swag
Best meal under $10:
For the best cheap eats I get my global on at Cafe Trinidad on 75th and Ba Le Bakery on Broadway. Cafe Trinidad on the Southside does West Indian right with almost everything under $10 and with the best jerk chicken since the legendary Maxine’s closed down. It’s BYOB so you can grab the change from under your car seat to hook yourself up with a forty. In the summer, change directions and head north for a Southeast Asian alternative to Subway.
Best spot for drinks:
The Nightwood and Skylark. Oscar Wilde said: working is the curse of the drinking class and it can be, given the prices of drinks in some places. But F it, we only live in need of remedial beverages once, so throw down the $10 or more for a drink at Nightwood like the best handmade, old-fashioned sidecars in the city. When you remember the rent and your bills, walk on over to Skylark for $4 Ketel One and tonics. Stumble home happy: You’ll have enough for a $2 pork chop sandwich at Jim’s Original.
Most innovative cultural program:
Proyecto Latina. Now I thought Teatro Luna would give me my fill on Latinas and their problems for audiences, especially with Coya Paz no longer in the company who was responsible for some of their most successful and socially relevant work: Sex-Oh and Machos. But good thing she teamed with local powerhouses Diana Pando and Irasema Gonzalez to bring Proyecto Latina which done changed-ed my mind. Providing a space for academians, ‘professionals,’ and ol’ girls from down the block alike to share their compelling writing and be featured performers ranging from Linda Rodriguez to Ruth Guerra, Proyecto Latina really should be the subject of a sociology paper some day. Or also, of course, a Lifetime original movie with subtitles (just kidding).
Best kept secret: The Tarot Woman at Efebinas
You can find her amongst my facebook friends or at Efebina’s Cafe on Blue Island. She is the friendly face with a lone cup of coffee, shards of amethyst and quartz, and a small wooden box housing a deck of tarot cards. A skeptic for a long time, heartbreak and relocation depression drove me to her. After a monthly reading, additional cautionary predictions, and some healing and grounding guidance–all with sniper precision–I became a convert and now she can’t get rid of me. So get your pre-modern spiritual on to wipe some of that hot mess away and find out if they’re gonna leave you, how to make that paper, and what you have coming your way.
Best Coffee shop: (Not in Pilsen)
Everybody and their mother has done played out Cafe Jumping Bean, Efebinas, and Kristoffer’s. But who could blame them with the vibe and pasta salad, licuados, and tres leches cake of those places respectively. However, my favorite spot is Bleeding Heart Bakery and Cafe. Relocated away from the gentrification of Ukrainian Village to Belmont and Damen, Michelle Garcia has the only 100% organic spot in the city. You get good coffee and pastries with butter-cream covered cupcakes free of DNA altering chemicals. Also, three words: Goat. Cheese. Macaroni.
Best on the ones and twos:
Sadie Woods. There has long been that roster of deejays and our own I-pod playlists that can rock the old school ish: 80s alternative, 90 hip-hop and timeless house and juke joints. Then, there are are the currents of electronic music to get skinny jeans and ironic hi-tops moving. And I too appreciate this recent wave of our brown brethren doing native music with a twist, corriente with new urban cool. However, Sadie Woods is doing something different. Playing in high-rise hotels and on Halsted, for Oprah and in pop-up galleries, she can get a party as high as her Black-tino afro with everything from Top 40 to Mad Men inspired mixes to unearthed Yoko Ono tracks.
Hardest working (local) arts educators?
Orlando Camacho and Monica Cruz have been working quietly and without fuss for four years now in Pilsen at Benito Juarez High School and at the Union League Boys and Girls Club. Bookmaking, digital photography, drawing and installation have become new languages besides English and Spanish for Southside Mexican American teens to spit. Without the umbrella of any monumental organization or the budgets of other programs, they’ve inspired a generation of artists and young people who can do more with a camera than just perpetuate puckered-lip, peace sign throwin’, in the bathroom mirror profile pic mania. Besides being extremely talented artists in their own right, they have good-looks and swag for days just like the teachers you paid most attention to during your adolescent student career.
Breakthrough (visual) artist?
Hands down: Thelma Uranga and the whole El Stitch and Bitch crew. When keepin’ it real goes to art, you get Uranga. Accessible, conceptual, aesthetically sophisticated, technically impressive, her and her cadre of needlists are producing some of the most interesting work I’ve seen in Chicago or in the past year here in New York without pretension but with the nostalgia of your abuela’s house sans the plethora of bloody crucifixes and weird porcelain cats. It’s no wonder she seems to have been busy teaching youth in the hood, with crew at bars and cafes, and having perhaps one of the most startling ofrendas at the National Museum of Mexican Art’s Day of the Dead exhibit. This homegrown talent also looks good in a red dress.
Best spot to buy: Barbacoa at La Favorita on 19th Place and May. A family corner store, owner Rosa Diaz’s brother Jaime is responsible for the best barbacoa you find it in the city. Cooking it himself it’s juicy without leaving that after-taste of fatty slime you get from other places. Try it once and you’ll be salivating just thinking about it every Sunday morning. Pimp of dead meat, Jaime also makes his own chorizo which is also, you know… pretty slamming.
Party of the year:
The party scene is becoming quite diverse in the past four years. From Bridgeport to Wicker Park to Rogers Park, there is a rush of promoters and weeklies that are all quite fun. However, I would have to say that I had most fun kicking it old school at David Lozano’s Jammin’ for Justice’s Black Wednesday Thanks-taking Party at Funky Buddha Lounge. Jammin’ for Justice’s Kitchen Sink party closed a few year reign at Buddha earlier this year. The Thanks-taking Party brought together old and new hip-hop heads alike, a four deejay throwdown, and the perfect hangover for the holiday. I don’t remember much of that night now that I think about it except that I felt really loved…. Not surprisingly I woke up in an apartment that was not mine.
Best Chicago Activism moment of the year?
The DREAM Act protest and arrest of the self-dubbed “Chicago 8.” Eight local undocumented youth and students staged a mock graduation in D.C. As Latinos, our history is steeped in resistance. We know the marches and chants, sit-ins and hunger of strikes, it was good to see we can keep up with the times with a little spectacle and performance in our protest. The DREAM Act was recently shot down again in the Senate, but let’s look at the silver lining of that rain cloud: Perhaps all the frustrated energy of that injustice will continue to propel our people toward more innovative and relentless resistance for radical change.
Best summer event of year?
The opening of Mario’s Italian Lemonade Stand on Taylor Street. My father went here and after his baseball games at Harrison Park he would take us. I remember my mother letting me pick between blue raspberry or cherry. A big boy now, I order for myself: An extra large chocolate italian lemonade with a $1.50 bag of cashews. I mix it and eat it with my boys on stoops, with dates curbside by parked bikes, and with my mom walking down Halsted. Like birthdays the opening of Mario’s every May 1st is celebratory ritual and a sobering marker of the passage of time. Who da ef knew sugar, frozen water, and artificial flavoring could get so deep?!
Best Concert of the Year: I would say it was The Black Keys
Best Meal under $10: First choice will be my Mom’s then Irazu Costa Rican Joint on Milwaukee Ave. has the best Veggie Burrito for under $10 Dollars just make sure you ask them to add the mushroom.
Best Spot for Drinks: It’s obvious we all go to places we get taken care of, but one spot I admire for a great stiff cocktail is The Whistler.
Wish we had: I fly out to the west coast a lot and one thing, I love is the different kind of Food Trucks that they have from breakfast to lunch to dinner and all reliable in cost and delicious. I wish Chicago had Street Truck Vendors because, I would own one myself. There is a movement going on to legalize truck vendors.
Best spot to buy: Best spot to buy anything to me is the old school Maxwell Street Flee Market every Saturday and Sunday. I have purchased some beautiful 7″ and 12″records for only a dollar.
Song of the year: I don’t listen to the radio stuck on the 50s-90s era of funk, jazz, blues, soul, breaks, classic, rock, downtempo, hip hop, neo soul and the list goes on.
Party of the year: When Rude1 and myself flew in Maceo of De La Soul on the rainiest night of the year and we packed it up.
Best Coffee shop: My lovely home, my roommates and I have a variety of coffee and tea’s it’s pretty amazing.
Best after hours spot: After hour spots suck in Chicago- just my opinion.
Best street food: The tamale guy or Maxwell street polish at 3am in the morning
Best on the ones and twos: Best on the 1s and 2s I must say that there is too many to name but when it comes to rocking with blends and technical skill Rude1, Intel, BoyWonder and NormRockWell – one thing about Chicago is there is a lot of talent.
Hardest working (local): Hardest working besides my Mom and Dad, I would have to say Obama he was born and raised in Chicago and still represents it in DC.
Best Chicago activism moment of the year:”El Otoño De La Jornada” by Jesse Mumm, it was a beautiful event.
Best summer event of year? Lollapalooza and Silver Rooms Block Party, both amazing events.
What are you going to miss about Daley? One thing I am going to miss about Daley is that he is a true blue collar Chicagoan and actually got things done.
Museum Educator at the National Museum of Mexican Art
Best concert of the year: Although I have always enjoyed Enantios Verdes, I cant say I was ever a huge fan. When a free ticket came along to their concert at the HOB in May, I went because I had nothing else planned that night. That concert was amazing, I never knew Enantios put on such high energy shows! With so much dancing and singing, it definitely made it my fav for 2010.
Best meal under $10: Gorditas from Speedy’s on the Corner of 19th and Wood. At under $3.00 a piece, these gorditas will get you hooked and coming back!
Best spot for drinks: Martin’s Corner bar and Grill, Im not one for bar-hoping or large loud places which make this corner bar in Pilsen the ideal place for me. With a good cheap selection of beer, an incredible jukebox and karaoke on Thursdays, I can never be disappointed!
Wish we had: 24 hour access to the lake
Best spot to buy Tamales: The man who stands right outside of Tortilleria el Popocatepetl, but get there early, they’re so good they’re usually gone by 8am.
Best kept secret: Carniceria Guanajuato (corner of Ashland and Beach) they have am awesome little Taqueria in the store!
Party of the year: Not give them publicity or anything but Heineken and Remezcla threw one of the best hosted events I have ever been to. With perks that included free silk screened T-shirts, a photo shoot, food and really good music, Heineken takes my spot for best party of the year.
Best Coffee shop: The Jumping Bean Cafe still holds the #1 spot in my heart with their White Satin Mocha and Pepperoni Focaccia Sandwich.
Best after hours spot: Atotonilco’s on 26th street. These tacos are the best after a long night of drinking, they are hearty and delicious, exactly what a no hangover dinner should have!
Best street food: The puestos at la garra (Maxwell street Market) on Sundays. Though most of them offer pretty much the same menu, keep an eye out for the ones who offer birria and bowls of consomé, its the perfect cure for a hangover.
Hardest working (local): There is a man who lives on my block. From 5am to 1pm he works at Midway airport loading luggage onto the planes. He then comes home, and proceeds to sell flowers off the 55 Kedzie exit. He opened up his own flower shop about a month ago and yet he works every single day at the airport and selling flowers off the express way until about 6pm. Never have I seen a man work so much for his family.
Best Chicago Activism moment of the year? The Vigil held at the Broadview Detention Center on April 27th after SB 1070 was passed in Arizona. Three hundred Chicago residents participated and blocked off the street so that deportation vehicles could not continue their route, stopping deportations for the day.
Best summer event of year? The world music festival, no matter what your taste is, you’re bound to find something your ears and soul will appreciate.
What are you going to miss about Daley? The new flower pots, trees, and gardens that would randomly appear around the city.
Best concert of the year: Lady Gaga at Lollapalooza
Best meal under $10: Abuelo’s Mexican Grill
Best spot for drinks: Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club - Martini Heaven
Wish we had: A coffee house that serves wine in Pilsen.
Best spot to buy: used books Unique Thrift (26th Street)
Most innovative cultural program: Pros Arts Studio
Best kept secret: Ricky Martin not being gay.
Local discovery of the year: Ron Huberman sucks at all his jobs.
Song of the year: Antoine Dodson – Bed Intruder
Best Coffee shop: Efebina’s Internet Cafe – roomie enough to gossip
Best after hours spot: Berlin
Best street food: Champurrado – always hits the spot during the winter.
Best on the ones and twos: PEOPLE’s DJs Collective
Hardest working social justice group? Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL)
Phony Latino shit of the year? The thrift stores on 18th Street.
Breakthrough (visual) artist? Sofia Moreno - ‘Elektro-Sexual’ installation.
Best Chicago Activism moment of the year? March 10, 2010 – National Coming Out of the Shadows Day.
Best summer event of year? Northalsted Market Days – drunk chachskis connoisseurs
What are you going to miss about Daley? Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Gay, Pro Green, Professional Gangster.