The best made-in-Chicago gift ideas for the holidays 

Shop hyperlocal this season for everything from unorthodox games and Chicago-centric books to craft booze and high-design home goods.

click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Full house

Local artist Joe Mills's playing cards, printed on casino-quality linen card stock, immortalize Chicago royalty. Among the two decks he's made, Jordan, Ditka, and Daley (Richard J. in one deck, Richard M. in the other) are kings; Chaka Khan and Oprah are queens; Harold Washington and Muddy Waters are jacks; and Bill Murray, of course, is the joker. —Jack Ladd $15 at shop.joemills.com.


click to enlarge COURTESY SECRET HITLER
  • Courtesy Secret Hitler

Trump card

It's sheer coincidence that Secret Hitler is launching as president-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office. The hidden-identity card game from the makers of Cards Against Humanity wasn't originally meant as a commentary on contemporary politics but as a lighthearted exercise in bluffing—one that doubles as a sobering lesson in paranoia and manipulation to help explain Hitler's rise to power. Five to ten players are assigned roles as liberals or fascists or the Fuhrer himself; the fascists work stealthily as moles to install their strong-armed leader while the liberals try to discover which player is the Secret Hitler and assassinate him before he assumes power. If that concept itself sounds a little hard to stomach, the game comes with Secret Santa as well as Secret Trump stickers to modify the Nazi theme. —Ryan Smith $30 at Amazon and Blackbox, secrethitler.com.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Between the lines

You can mock the craze for adult coloring books all you like, but you can't deny that there's something soothing about getting out a box of crayons and repetitively filling in little boxes until you have a pretty picture. There's also something soothing about admiring the beautiful city in which we live and showing it off to visitors—especially visitors who may have gotten skewed ideas about Chicago during the election season. So here are two coloring books for stressed-out Chicagophiles. Chris Arnold's The Chicago Coloring Book has more of a flat perspective, while Towering Chicago includes three-dimensional streetscapes based on the work of photographer Katie Heupel. —Aimee Levitt Chicago Coloring Book, $15.95 in bookstores throughout Chicago or through Agate Publishing at agatepublishing.com; Towering Chicago, $13.99 at Women & Children First, 5233 N.Clark, 773-769-9299, or at toweringchicago.com after 11/28.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Onward and upward with the Arts Club

The Arts Club of Chicago helped to shape the modernist movement, and its halls have been used to present the works of a dizzying number of influential artists, writers, architects, dancers, and musicians. The institution caps off its centennial celebration with this splendid newly released coffee-table book, Arts Club of Chicago at 100: Art and Culture 1916-2016. —Isabel Ochoa Gold $45 at Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E. Ontario, or at press.uchicago.edu.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Ware wear

Pilsen's Maybe Sunday Collective was founded by two School of the Art Institute of Chicago alums, Jason Guo and McKenzie Thompson. In honor of their alma mater's 150th anniversary last year, they created a line of unisex T-shirts featuring the work of four celebrated SAIC grads: Katherine Bernhardt, Brian Calvin, Zak Prekop, and—coolest of all—Chris Ware, who inspired a tee containing panels from his 2012 graphic novel Building Stories. —Isa Giallorenzo $25 at Maybe Sunday Collective, 1320 W. 18th St, 312-625-0798, maybesunday.us.


click to enlarge COURTESY MAYBE SUNDAY
  • Courtesy Maybe Sunday

Everything is illuminated

The Maybe Sunday boutique creates custom neon signs in a variety of colors that include a simple image or a short word in a chosen font or a provided handwriting. Each piece—usually four to six inches in height—comes mounted on clear acyclic plastic and includes a transformer to light the sign. —Isa Giallorenzo Starting at $300 at Maybe Sunday Collective, 1320 W. 18th, 312-625-0798, maybesunday.us.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

G.O.A.T. candles

If there was something supernatural at play during the Cubs' historic World Series comeback, my money's on Lucky Mojo Cubs Winning Candles, sold by Bridgeport's own apothecary, the Reverend Carolyn Hennes. During the off-season, this pair of Santeria candles keeps that victory energy afloat for your own spiritual needs. Find a clear space in your mind. Light the red candle and unleash its power, then feel its growing manifestation. Light the blue candle and feel the calm passage through any negative energy or curse; a gentle "shattering of a glass ceiling, if you will," Hennes says. —Isabel Ochoa Gold $12 at Augustine's Spiritual Boutique, 3327 S. Halsted, 773-843-1933.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Foul-weather fan

Is it possible to be nostalgic for something that isn't even a distant memory? Since the existential crisis of Trump's presidency descended upon Chicagoans, I can't blame anyone who wants to rekindle the white-hot emotion of the previous week's unthinkable event—the Cubs' World Series win. Bae Cutler, aka the group of sports-loving artists headed by FeelTrip cofounder Dave Beltran, paid tribute to the Cubs' historic run with a sweatshirt featuring an updated illustration of the classic cub holding pennants from the team's World Series victories of yore. This throwback gear is a nice reminder of a moment when the joy that united a large portion of the city felt like it could crystallize—let's hope that feeling can return soon. —Leor Galil $35-$40 at baecutler.bigcartel.com.


click to enlarge COURTESY GRAMOVOX
  • Courtesy Gramovox

Straight-up now

From River North-based Gramovox, the Floating Record Vertical Turntable turns the experience of listening to records on its ear. Designed to play vinyl at an 90-degree angle, the contraption—which has speakers built into the wood-veneer base—makes throwing on music a topic of party conversation. —Jack Ladd $499 at gramovox.com.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Numero uno

There's something inauthentic about the typical gift certificate. Sure, it signifies some sort of treasure to come, but the card stock or plastic itself is impersonal. The Numero Group offers a more soulful option: a gift card in the form of a 45, redeemable for records and other merch from the Little Village-based archival label's vast catalog. —Isabel Ochoa Gold $25-$500 at Numero Factory Outlet, 2533 S. Troy, or at numerogroup.com/gift.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Soul cycle

Electronic producer and Still Music honcho Jerome Derradji rebooted his Past Due archival imprint to release Star Time, a box set compiling the recordings of obscure Chicago funk and soul musician Larry Dixon—plus all the odd bits he released through his vanity label, LAD Productions. Star Time is a bit shambolic in parts, but the roughness is part of its allure. When everything lines up right, such as with the nimble, sweet soul of the 1971 single "Next Time," which Dixon recorded with the Soulful Spades, it's easy to understand why collectors go mad for his music. —Leor Galil $19.99 for the double-CD set, $59.99 for the four-LP box set or ten seven-inch collection, itstillmusic.com/products/larry-dixon-star-time.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

The flowering of technology

Maybe you have memories of hunting through the flower selections at the farmers' market with your father, before triumphantly deciding upon a bunch of fragrant lilacs to bring home to your slumbering mother. Well, the new West Town-based start-up Flowers for Dreams, which donates a quarter of its profits to a local charity, offers subscriptions to regularly deliver bouquets to your slumbering mother, your slumbering beau, or perhaps your slumbering house cat. —Isabel Ochoa Gold $45 monthly, $90 biweekly, $180 weekly subscription; 1812 W. Hubbard, flowersfordreams.com.


click to enlarge COURTESY MODERN SPROUT
  • Courtesy Modern Sprout

Grow legal herb

When the nights get long, when even the squirrels are too cold to boisterously chirp at your window, it can be nice to have some sort of companion, even if that companion is a hydroponic herb in a jar. Modern Sprout's Herb Essentials Garden Jar Set includes basil, parsley, mint—and the warmth of unconditional companionship. —Isabel Ochoa Gold $55 at Sprout Home Chicago, 745 N. Damen, 312-226-5950, or at modsprout.com.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Wild and woolly

Fan of Alexander Camelton, Lincoln Park Zoo's Bactrian camel? What about Siku, the nine-foot-tall, 1,000-pound polar bear now inhabiting the just-opened Arctic Tundra habitat? Through the zoo's adoption program, you can help support the care and feeding of these and other creatures, from lions, tigers, and meerkats to the (also new) African penguins and the Sichuan takin. Packages run $35, $45, and $55, the last of which comes with a plush toy in addition to the adoption certificate and photo included at all levels. A $115 option combines the deluxe adoption with a year's membership to the zoo, which—pricelessly—remains free. —Kate Schmidt lpzoo.org/adopt-animal.


click to enlarge COURTESY MAKOKOMO
  • Courtesy Makokomo

Sitting pretty

The beautiful thing about the first product from the new Ravenswood-based design collective Makokomo, the Ursli stool, is its simplicity. Made in Illinois and Indiana from American hardwoods and powder--coated steel, the piece is available in ash, charcoal, and oak finishes, with the option of a 24-inch or 30-inch height. Even those used to Ikea assembly can put together this stool with nothing more than a Phillips-head screwdriver. —Jack Ladd $374-$429 at makokomodesign.com.


click to enlarge COURTESY DEFY
  • Courtesy DEFY

Hell-bent for leather

A versatile bag that looks as natural in the boardroom as it does at the barroom afterward, Defy's Defender Workcase has space enough for a 15-inch laptop and plenty of paperwork. Made of calf leather from Horween in Bucktown, with heavy-duty quick-release buckles and a durable detachable strap, this is a bag that only gets better with age. —Jack Ladd $635 at Defy, 4527 N. Ravenswood, suite 105, 773-696-1138, defybags.com.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Fine-tooth combs

The alchemists at Chicago Comb Co. have transformed a dull, utilitarian object into a sleek little luxury item worthy of heirloom status—instead of cufflinks or a watch, give one of its combs to a grandson someday. Made from midwestern metal—stainless steel from Kentucky and titanium from Ohio—laser cut in the Austin neighborhood, and machine finished in a workshop just west of the Garfield Park Conservatory, these combs prove that buying local doesn't mean sacrificing aesthetics. Also available: protective sheaths from Horween Leather Co., another Chicago manufacturing icon. —Robin Amer Combs $35 to $65, leather sheaths $25 to $79, custom engraving $15 at chicagocomb.com.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

'Tis the seasonings

Epic Spices has something like 15 Michelin stars—if you count all the restaurants it distributes to. With hundreds of spices and spice blends, many of which are processed in-house, there's something for every cook at the little West Town storefront. This year encourage experimentation with a gift set packed with themed flavors: Roasting Flavors (garlic pepper, adobo marinade, roast chicken seasoning, beef roast seasoning), Flavors for Fish and Seafood (citrus pepper, seafood boil, Chesapeake Bay-style seasoning, garlic pepper), Winter Warmer (masala chai, decadent hot cocoa, Aztec spicy hot cocoa, mulling spice), and Grill and BBQ (spicy barbecue rub, smoky steak seasoning, Jamaican jerk marinade, steak and burger seasoning). —Sue Kwong $20-$35 at 1725 W. Chicago, 312-733-6445, epicspices.com.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

A neat concept

Whiskey and beer are both big right now, and Chicago Distilling Company aims to offer the best of both worlds. Earlier this year the Logan Square distillery launched a line of single-malt whiskeys made from the mash bills of various beers: dunkelweizen, stout, rauchbier, Belgian dark strong ale, and brown ale. They're sold individually in 375-milliliter bottles, but for the holidays the distillery has also released a gift pack of three 200-milliliter bottles (dunkel, stout, and rauchbier). —Julia Thiel $49.99 for the gift pack, $36.99 for individual bottles, at Chicago Distilling Company, 2359 N. Milwaukee, 872-206-2774, chicagodistilling.com.


click to enlarge DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs

Beery good

The beer-of-the-month club from local craft beer mecca the Beer Temple features eight to 12 bottles per month of varying sizes, often selected according to a theme. Past boxes have included verticals (bottles of the same beer from different years), single-hopped beers (each featuring a single hop so people can taste the differences in flavor from one type of hop to the next), and winners at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup. —Julia Thiel $55 per month with shipping, $35 per month for in-store pickup, three-month minimum, the Beer Temple, 3185 N. Elston, 773-754-0907, craftbeertemple.com.   v

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