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Best Screen Performance by a Chicago Actor 

Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

takeshelterbymichaelshannon-still-magnum.jpg

"Jesus Christ, is that Michael Shannon?" I blurted out recently while watching Groundhog Day (1993)—specifically the scene in which Bill Murray delights a young husband and wife by giving them tickets to Wrestlemania. The bit part marked Shannon's big-screen debut, and since then he's appeared in more than 40 films, emerging as one of the most impressive young movie actors to come out of Chicago theater. Shannon scored an Oscar nomination playing John Givings, the mercilessly sarcastic mental patient in Revolutionary Road (2008), and ran away with The Runaways (2010) playing silky-smooth rock Svengali Kim Fowley. Last year he proved he could carry a film all by himself as the molar-grinding family man convinced the end of the world is nigh in Take Shelter (2011). Even the protagonist can't be sure whether he's a mystic or a madman, but in Shannon's wrenching performance he seems almost physically torn apart by a future only he can perceive.

Critics' Picks

Best Bowler for Hitting the Pins Hard

1060 W. Addison St. 312-645-9511
If you want to witness the Babe Ruth of local bowling—as in, the hardest-hitting bowler in town—show up at Timber Lanes on a Monday… continue

Best Chicago Pro Athlete Whose Number Isn't Retired

A basketball player is usually judged by his numbers—points, rebounds, assists. But stats don't tell the full story. In the 1970s, long before Michael… continue

Best Flying Mascot

Most sports mascots are lame, especially in Chicago. Southpaw of the White Sox, Tommy Hawk of the Blackhawks, Staley of the Bears: all plushy… continue

Best Local Collegian at Throwing Some Weight Around

9501 S. King Dr. 773-995-2000
Emerson just capped her sophomore year with a sterling performance for the Cougars in the Great West Outdoor Championships in Humble, Texas: she finished… continue

Best Baseball Hall-of-Famer Who Was Raised in a South-Side Housing Project

There may have not been a more defining moment in my career as a baseball fan than watching Kirby Puckett jog around the bases… continue

Best Match of a New Organ with an Old Organist

When the Blackhawks moved from the Chicago Stadium to the United Center in 1994, they found the cost of breaking down and reinstalling the… continue

Best Roller Derby Nickname

Pinning down an appropriate roller derby alter ego—one that embodies the sport's rough-and-tumble spirit—can be a challenge. Whether it's a homophone (Dawn Ting), a… continue

Best Handball Courts for Those Who Actually Still Play Handball

3111 E. 77th St. 312-745-1479
Handball is a lot like racquetball, with one significant difference: there aren't any rackets. Since the ball is also a bit smaller and harder,… continue

Best Bike Cut-Through

One of my favorite things about biking in Chicago is never getting stuck in traffic—there's a certain pleasure in cruising past a lane of… continue

Best Swimming Hole for Kamikaze Cannonballers

5200 N. Lake Shore Dr.
To many Chicagoans, the beaches are fine for toe dipping but no place to go for a real swim on a steamy summer afternoon.… continue

Best Local Writer who Excels at Social Media

The best indication of what to expect from 25-year-old writer Britt Julious can be found in her Twitter handle, which is also the title… continue

Best Example of Old Media Hanging in There

The Chicago Reporter is 40 years old and still covering racial issues as well as anyone anywhere—which makes it more necessary than it's ever been,… continue

Best Activist Hipster Magazine

960 W 31st Street 773-837-0145
Editor and publisher Ed Marszewski has built a small empire for the artistic left, from spearheading alternative arts festivals such as Version and the… continue

Best Alderman to Turn up at a Rock Show

1035 N. Western Ave. 773-276-3600
When Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno isn't dealing with his constituents in the First Ward, he’s often hitting one of its music venues. On record… continue

Best Aldermanic Flip-Flop

Man, what a difference a year makes! Last year Pawar was the golden boy of reform, coming from nowhere without any major endorsements to… continue

Best Politician We'd Like to Resurrect

Chicago once appeared to be on the cusp of a new era. Back then, the monarchy had run its course and candidates for office… continue

Best Politician Guided by a What-the-Fuck-Do-I-Have-to-Lose Attitude

For his first five or so years in the City Council, Fioretti, the Second Ward alderman, was a little wobbly on reform issues, talking… continue

Best Baby Step Forward on Pot Policy

Best of Chicago 2012: Chicago moves toward sort of almost decriminalizing possession continue

Best Place for an Awkward Pat Down and Discussion of Your Breath Mints

2650 S. California Ave.
I would advise you to avoid the criminal courthouse at 26th and California. If you can't, I'd at least suggest you avoid being one… continue

Best Reminder of How Chicago Got So Segregated

6140 S. Rhodes
In the early 1900s white and black Chicagoans often lived side by side. But as blacks began flowing into the city in larger numbers… continue

Best Public School Parents

In the past year the members of KOCO valiantly fought against Mayor Rahm Emanuel's efforts to close Dyett High School. The parents in Raise… continue

Best Theo Epstein Alter Ego at City Hall

Golden boy Theo Epstein—general manager of the Boston Red Sox when they ended an 86-year World Series drought—was hired last year to bring the… continue

Best Local Myth

430 N. Michigan Ave. 312-222-1525
Cross superstition with a heap of empirical evidence and you get—well, either a religious movement or the Curse of the Billy Goat, the legend… continue

Best Moment of Unity on the Red Line

Not many civic experiences are worse than when you're a CTA regular pitched into a train full of Wrigley-bound Cubs fans: you're minding your… continue

Best Bus Route for Glimpsing a Palimpsest of the City

Some might pick the #63 east from Midway, with its route through eastern European, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and African-American enclaves. Others might consider the… continue

Best Train Station Steel-Pan Drummer

I'm all for hearing an acoustic rendition of Bill Withers's "Ain't No Sunshine" echo through the CTA underworld, but how often do you get… continue

Best Stoplight for a Catnap

6300 S. Lake Shore Dr. 312-742-5369
Leaving 63rd Street Beach can take awhile: during the afternoon rush, the westbound light at Hayes and LSD can be the longest red of… continue

Best Venerable Program for Pregnant and Parenting Teens

212 S. Francisco Ave. 773-722-7440
For 32 years Marillac, a west-side social service center, has been working to strengthen the bond between teen parents and their children. Home visitors… continue

Best House of Worship to Turn to When You Hit Bottom

1351 W. Evergreen St. 773-278-2470
The Kennedy Expressway bends east to spare the imposing St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. St. Stanislaus returns the favor. Four years ago its pastor, Father… continue

Best Reason to Appreciate the Serene Architecture That Lines Much of Lower Lincoln Park

2314 N. Lincoln Park West
Sometimes we don't value a skyline until it's ruined. Ugly and completely out of scale, the Conservatory is as crass a building as was… continue

Best Place to Get Attacked by a Red-Winged Blackbird

1440 N. Sacramento Ave. 312-742-7549
I was walking along a path in the park last summer when I was hit in the back of the head by a small… continue

Best New Bookstore

2630 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Logan Square was in need of a general-interest bookstore. (There's Bucket o' Blood Books and Records, but that's pretty genre-specific.) So Uncharted Books, started… continue

Best Personal Styling Service for the Terminally Lazy

4 E. Ohio St.
What with the crowds and the parking and the ill-lit dressing rooms, it's amazing that there are women who like to shop. For those… continue

Best Formalwear Rental

1422 W. Wilson Ave. 773-561-0573
So you're invited to a wedding and the invitation says "black-tie only" and you don't own a tuxedo: What do you do? Well, in… continue

Best Last Stop Before You Go Underground

1511 W. Howard St. 773-764-7400
Should you be looking for something to get me for my birthday—you've got about another week of shopping left, BTW—I might suggest a porcelain… continue

Best Reappropriator of Hip-Hop on Etsy

Don't buy into the granola-crunching, knit-and-purling, homely hipster rep of indie e-bazaar Etsy; for every necklace made from driftwood there's something bangin', like Meaghan… continue

Best Jewelry Artist

Jewelry inspired by fungi, lungs, and tentacles sounds like it could be a hot seller in a goth store, but designer Peggy Skemp isn't trying… continue

Best Place to Get Rare Vinyl and a High Score on BurgerTime

2532 W. Fullerton 773-235-5030
In late 2009 Jim Zespy took over the American headquarters of London-based Southern Records at Fullerton and Western and launched his own Chicago Independent… continue

Best Once-a-Month Market for Vintage Wares, Small Plates, and Boozy Snow Cones

435 E. Illinois St.
You probably won't find a bargain at Dose, but that's not to say you won't find something precious. The year-old monthly market, which celebrates… continue

Best Place to Buy a Stuffed Wallaby

1513 W. Foster Ave. 773-989-3294
Woolly Mammoth is the place to go for that elusive gift for the proverbial someone who has everything. Your someone already has a stuffed… continue

Best Salvaged-Wood Frames

2151 W. Division St. 773-235-3600
Raun Meyn's small, high-ceilinged storefront on West Division has a number of handsomely well-worn knickknacks, including old maps, books, and photos. But as the… continue

Best Neighborhood Branding

We're all pretty patriotic when it comes to our neighborhoods—their distinct character, shared history, and occasional natural enemies. It must have occurred to designer… continue

Best-smelling Candles That Are Locally Made and Not Insanely Expensive

220 E. Chicago Ave. 312-280-2660
Is there any other home accessory that is more of a guilty pleasure than the expensive scented candle? But once you get addicted to… continue

Best Ice Machine

3600 W. 59th Street (773) 735-5000
The 24-hour ice-dispensing machines on the south wall of this West Lawn ice plant are perfect for those early AM occasions when you need a… continue

Best Place to Grow Your Own

3501 N. Kilbourn Ave. 773-685-3351
This volunteer-run organic greenhouse and community garden holds workshops on everything from crop rotation to seed starting, and in the fall it holds a… continue

Best Place to Supply Your Ark Before the Flood

5400 S. Harlem Ave. 708-458-1327
"If it walks, crawls, flies, runs, or swims" they can feed it at this 64-year-old purveyor of Japanese millet, deer blocks, monkey chow, animal… continue

Best People Who Come Over and Remove Cat Pee From Your Furniture so You can Pretend Like Your Cat Never Pees on Anything

2448 N. Campbell Ave. 773-761-1013
So I have, um, a friend whose cat occasionally forgoes the litter box for more luxurious places to take care of business—like that gorgeous… continue

Best Miracle Workers to Bring Your Boots Back From the Dead

4753 N. Damen Ave. 773-989-0440
I recently suffered a seemingly irreparable rift with a new pair of knee-high Coach riding boots. The right one literally split on me—at O'Hare.… continue

Best Vintage Motorcycle Repair

1042 W. Jackson Blvd. 312-432-0955
Owning a vintage motorcycle can be a test of one's patience and bank account. No matter how sharp and collectible it may look, once… continue

Best Hand Car Wash

2036 W. Grand Ave. 312-850-2474
Quiroga's on Grand is not only the best place to get an interior/exterior car wash for ten bucks, it's also the best place to… continue

Best Place to Buy Your Significant Other a Gift Certificate

600 W. Chicago Ave. 312-755-1313
"Who doesn't like a massage," says my wife, which is why Allyu has often been my go-to when stress darkens her world and she… continue

Best Rolfer

401 S. Michigan 312-342-3547
There's a hot rumor going around that having your fascia manipulated is excruciatingly painful, but a session with certified Rolfer Jill Coyne quickly dispels… continue

Best Fine-Dining Restaurant to Reinvent Fine Dining

2419 W. 14th St. 312-226-8144
What's the best restaurant? Most aggravating question I'm ever asked. There is no best restaurant, and anyone who thinks they can name one doesn't… continue

Best Culinary Historian

5347 N. Clark St. 773-275-5725
Between putting in face time at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium and plumbing the depths of his historic cookbook collection, the southern Indiana native's… continue

Best In-House Pasta

833 W. Randolph St. 312-432-0500
Jared Van Camp's ambitious grain-to-table program, which has the kitchen milling its own flour for bread, pasta, and pizza, achieves its highest pinnacle in the… continue

Best Appetizer on Which Reasonable Critics Can Disagree

2956 N. Sheffield Ave. 773-687-8177
Critics can be thin-skinned motherfuckers, so I hope that resident Reader food guy Mike Sula doesn't take umbrage when I say that he is woefully… continue

Best Secret Menu Item

3201 W. Armitage Ave. 773-252-9700
Scofflaw chef Mickey Neely was inspired to create this delectable behemoth in tribute to the stacked "supertortas" served at Pilsen's Doña Torta Chilanga. Depending… continue

Best Barbecued Brisket

1354 W. Wabansia Ave. 773-227-4433
Local "pop-up" barbecue operation Brimstone BBQ, run by Arman Mabry and Mike Tsoulos of the band Rabid Rabbit and their friend Stacey Egan, has been… continue

Best Fluorescent Dining Experience

5449 N. Clark St. 773-334-6214
There are situations in which candlelight is appropriate, such as seances, or an episode of The Red Shoe Diaries. The sensual aspects of a… continue

Best Place to Eat Fried Green Tomatoes in a Once-Booming Industrial Area That's Fallen on Hard Times

3504 W. Lake 773-801-0110
Most diners wouldn't think to drive west down Lake Street in search of good grub. Not so far beyond the Loop the street enters what… continue

Best Antiquity

2152 N. Damen Ave. 773-862-5555
Garum was an ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine condiment made from fermented fish guts. Sounds gross, but it was the culinary equivalent of turning… continue

Best Free Cheese

960 Skokie Ave. 847-498-3900
Every day at 4 PM this independent outpost of the once-mighty pizza chain puts out a deep, complimentary bowl of pimiento cheese. Owner Frank… continue

Best Eastern European Afternoon Snack

77 E. Adams St. 312-360-0000
The potato dumplings—vareniky—are almost as good as the ones my grandmother made, and the vodka's more interesting than what my grandfather drank. The vareniky… continue

Best Corner for Rowdy Latino Seafood

1035 N. Ashland Ave. 773-486-6850
I begin with a disclaimer: I do not know where to find the best mariscos in the city. I only know that there's one… continue

Best Vegan Korean Buffet

3188 N. Elston Ave. 773-267-1970
Though it's been scaled back from a weekly to a monthly event, Dragonlady Lounge's vegan Korean buffet is a holy shrine for the sometimes… continue

Best Place for a Vegetarian to Take a Visitor Craving Pork Blood

4953-4955 N. Broadway St. 773-878-2253
I could stare at Tank Noodle's menu for an hour, but that might annoy my dinner companions. With numbered dishes stretching into the hundreds—spring rolls,… continue

Best Eight-Tentacled Creature Served on a Stick

3056 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-697-4725
Baby octopus isn't even close to the most challenging item on Chizakaya's eight-item kushiyaki (skewers) menu, which also features duck hearts and chicken gizzards.… continue

Best Hunter Beef Sandwich

2331 W. Devon Ave. 773-338-9804
Hunter beef is the Pakistani version of corned beef, a brisket cured in a masala that—depending on the recipe—may include salt, saltpeter, sodium nitrite,… continue

Best Lentil Soup

1509 W. Foster Ave. 773-334-1600
It is an inexorable fact that Andersonville will become, over time, one long uninterrupted strip of vintage-furniture shops. The moment I take to the… continue

Best Deli With Soup That Changes Daily

914 Noyes St. 847-475-9400
Open since 1949, this Evanston shop charms in its attempt to replicate a French deli, with vintage posters and photos of France hanging on… continue

Best Coffee Shop That Is Nothing Like a Coffee Shop

1750 W. Division St. 773-278-2739
Tired of huge rooms full of grubby layabouts sitting on color-clashing vintage furniture gazing into MacBook Matrix portals? Not to mention establishments that serve… continue

Best Ethiopian Breakfast

6764 N. Sheridan Rd. 773-761-8100
Judging by the name, decor, and website, the owners of Royal Coffee are proudest of their coffee. They're not wrong to be: it's fabulous—smooth… continue

Best 500-Calorie "Sack Lunch"

120 E. Delaware Pl. 312-799-4900
In the bag—well, actually on china—are three courses: an asparagus-leek terrine, grilled wild salmon with beet quinoa and English pea relish, and a scoop… continue

Best Bakery With a Cute Patio

1408 W. Diversey Pkwy. 773-857-2989
The bar patio may be the go-to summer destination for all right-drinking people, but you'll find a runner-up in the bakery patio, where it's… continue

Best Lutheran Dessert

6216 S. Archer Ave. 773-581-8500
I first encountered this extraordinary dessert at New Pioneer Coop in Iowa City, Iowa, where it was shipped in from Omaha's Lithuanian Bakery. Named… continue

Best Nonalcoholic Cocktail

3124 N. Broadway St. 773-661-9166
When Dale Levitski's new Lakeview bistro, Frog N Snail, opened without a liquor license this spring, he and his GM/beverage director, Briar Brackney (who… continue

Best Bar for Rare Spirits

937 N. Rush St. 312-266-2694
"This makes Malort taste like strawberry Kool-Aid," Charles Joly says, pouring me the last few drops from a bottle of Amaro dell'Erborista, an unfiltered… continue

Best $40 Pour of Whiskey

2853 N. Kedzie Ave. 773-904-8558
Barkeep Alex Bachman keeps a fascinating collection of spirits, in particular a bunch of fine, uncommon Japanese whiskeys. Among them, this marvelous blend of… continue

Best Bitters-Based Cocktail Menu

1633 N. Halsted St. 312-867-3888
"People say that a bottle of Angostura lasts longer than most marriages, but not here," Balena mixologist Debbi Peek says. She's based her cocktail… continue

Best Cocktail List Rooted in Midwestern Pride

601 N. State St. 312-266-7677
It's hard to imagine anything local and organic growing under Pops for Champagne, yet underneath the glitzy bar there has sprouted out of fertile… continue

Best Wine List Lyricism

2601 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-292-9463
Let's play a game. I'll recite descriptions from sommelier Jeremy Quinn's swoon-worthy wine list. You tell me which rhapsodic passage sounds most like your… continue

Best New Bottled Beer

I've been banging the drum for Pipeworks, the nanobrewery founded by Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis, for more than two years now—ever since I… continue

Best Beer That Tastes Like the Desert

I'll admit that I have no idea what the desert tastes like. But I do have an imagination, and 5 Grass, the latest release… continue

Best String of Theatrical Stunners

1655 W. Cortland St. 773-384-0494
Trap Door Theatre is almost literally a hole in the wall: you reach it through a deep, narrow crevice between two buildings. And the… continue

Best Actress to Call When You Don't Have Much of a Script

1624 N. Halsted St. 312-335-1650
Steppenwolf Theatre Company's Next Up gives directors and designers from the Northwestern University MFA program a chance to show what they can do. This… continue

Best Impresario You Probably Never Heard of

A retired Chicago public school theater teacher, Mary Bonnett has spent the last several years writing, staging, and producing plays with her company, Her… continue

Best Sense of When the Writing Is on the Wall

You could see there was something out of whack right from the start. For his debut production as artistic director of Remy Bumppo Theatre,… continue

Best Economics Lesson Not Written by Brecht

Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, Baird Hall Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave. 773-281-8463
Regular people weren't supposed to understand what happened at Enron. The complicated financial maneuvers that brought the Texas-based energy company down were beyond abstract—they… continue

Best Argument Against the Auteur Approach

170 N. Dearborn St. 312-443-3800
Catalonian director Calixto Bieito made his name as a provocateur in opera, where audiences are grateful for provocation because it helps them stay awake.… continue

Best Opera Company at a Turning Point

205 E. Randolph St. 312-334-7777
Next fall's production of The Magic Flute will mark the end of an era at Chicago Opera Theater. It'll be the last COT show… continue

Best Place for Stand-Up by Everybody and Their Grandmother, Free of Charge

2338 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-276-5802
If you want to see 50-odd (and 50 odd) aspiring comics in one night without paying a cent of admission or fighting your way… continue

Best Hot, Loud, Crowded Dance

740 E. 56th Pl. 773-947-0600
Baby, it was cold outside when Muntu Dance Theatre put on its 39th annual winter concert. But the atmosphere indoors was steamy, thanks to the… continue

Best Subversive Dance

3035 N. Hoyne 312-742-7785
What better time to foment revolution than now? And what better place than on government property? Last September, at the Chicago Park District's Hamlin… continue

Best Audience Heckling

Ladies, here's a way to test that new beau: take him to see Off Off Broadzway's next show. If he can stand the broadz'… continue

Best Monthly Variety Show That Proves Puppets Are Cool

There's no better blend of old-timey tradition and cool innovation than Odds N Friends, a cartoony, playful, brilliantly strange variety show staged at the… continue

Best Sculpture You Need a Pulley System to View

112 S. Michigan Ave.
A. Laurie Palmer's sculpture, Hole, is seven feet tall and shaped like a funnel cloud, its wide mouth tapering to an almost dainty circular… continue

Best Artist-Created and -Maintained Bar

John Preus likes to find value in the discarded. Last fall he and artist-carpenter Kevin Reiswig created an eight-by-twelve-foot pub inside a formerly empty… continue

Best Art/Snack Combo

5020 S. Cornell Ave. 773-324-5520
How best to digest a good show? Try a scoop of fresh, creamy gelato and a walk by the lake after a visit to… continue

Best Recurring Artistic Theme

In 2011 a private collector of exotic animals went mad and turned his charges loose on a little town in Ohio. He was then… continue

Best Supercreepy Exhibit

78 E. Washington St. 312-744-6630
This "paean to death" looks formidable on paper, with its big names (Rembrandt, Goya) and extensive inventory of objects (nearly 1,000, all from the… continue

Best-Named Arts Grant

Latham Zearfoss started Chances Dances in 2005 to produce monthly LGBTQ dance parties, but over the years its scope has expanded. In 2008 the… continue

Best Architecturally Significant Hospital Threatened With Destruction That Looks a Lot Like a Certain New Architecturally Significant Chicago Hospital

320 E. Huron St.
The cloverleaf design Bertrand Goldberg used for Prentice Women's Hospital was groundbreaking back in 1975, when the distinctive concrete structure went up on Northwestern… continue

Best Daily Dose of Chicago Architecture on the Web

We're all living in a museum here. A world-class repository of great architecture forms the mostly ignored backdrop for our daily routines. We all… continue

Best Civic Treasure Just Abandoned by Its Board

78 E. Washington St. 312-744-6630
Built with a direct tax on citizens and known as the People's Palace, the Chicago Cultural Center opened in 1897 with a dual purpose:… continue

Best Black-Power Movie Ever Shot Under Richard J. Daley's Nose

Adapted from a novel by Chicagoan Sam Greenlee, The Spook Who Sat By the Door (1973) stands as one of the most unlikely movies… continue

Best Free Film Screenings

1201 Cedar Ln. 847-272-6224
As 16-millimeter prints become harder to obtain, public libraries across the country have been ditching celluloid in favor of DVD projection, despite its vastly… continue

Best Movie Matinees

3733 N. Southport Ave. 773-871-6604
Also a prime contender for best sibilant name, this monthly series joins the Silent Film Society of Chicago's long-running Silent Summer Film Festival in… continue

Best Screen Performance by a Chicago Actor

"Jesus Christ, is that Michael Shannon?" I blurted out recently while watching Groundhog Day (1993)—specifically the scene in which Bill Murray delights a young… continue

Best Film History Organization

329 W. 18th St. 312-243-1808
Film preservation is a cultural cause whose time has come, especially since there are already so many historic films whose time has gone. Launched… continue

Best Old Movie Theater Made New

2646 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-252-0628
"That place has rats," Reader staff writer Kevin Warwick once told me when I asked him about the Logan. Once known as the north… continue

Best New Presenter

Committed to overlooked genre cinema from other countries, this local collective debuted with a bang last December by presenting the Chicago premiere of The… continue

Best Chicagoan to Introduce a Film Screening

I'll never forget the time Jim Trainor introduced a screening of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1957) at the Chopin Theatre. An accomplished animator and… continue

Best Film Retrospective

After the legendary Japanese actress Hideko Takamine died in December 2010, Doc Films programmer Edo Choi and local video artist Kyle Canterbury set to… continue

Best Under-the-Radar Programming

322 E. Illinois St. 888-262-4386
With next to no publicity, AMC's River East 21 multiplex regularly screens mainstream hits from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong—which, oddly, makes it one… continue

Best Library Sans Will Shakespeare

914 N. California Ave.
In an age where we do so much of our reading online, the Read/Write Library is a fine tribute to the book as physical… continue

Best Press Dedicated to Documenting Chicago History Through Photographs

Richard Cahan and Michael Williams's CityFiles Press has so far published two gorgeous hardcover photo collections that delve into Chicago history: Edgar Miller and… continue

Best Library Mascots

834 Lake St. 708-383-8200
Sadly, the Oak Park Public Library's first mascot gerbil, Ramona Nibbles, passed away in March after having served honorably for over two years. In… continue

Best Suspense Novelist

Having interviewed Gillian Flynn when her first book, Sharp Objects, came out in 2006, and then reviewed her second, Dark Places, when that arrived… continue

Best Drag City Promotion

Drag City Records usually rolls out some good promotional gimmicks every year, though two of its stunts pushing Bonnie "Prince" Billy's Wolf­roy Goes to… continue

Best Singer-Songwriter

On last year's Disturbing the Air (Drag City), Azita Youssefi completed her transformation from top-shelf noise rocker to poetic singer-songwriter—though she continues to insist… continue

Best Band That Could Self-Destruct at any Minute

Watching local supergroup Football onstage is like watching one of the last couple of cars in a demolition derby, where you know it's going… continue

Best Musician in Danger of Forgetting What Gig He's Playing

Singer and guitarist Jim Elkington has been an important figure in the Chicago music scene for years, but lately it seems like he's everywhere.… continue

Best Band That Sounds Like the Robot Squid From the Matrix Movies

When I wrote about the second Lord Mantis full-length, Pervertor (Candlelight), in March, I said that it "puts me in mind of a huge… continue

Best New Rock Duo

Over the past decade or so, it's become a totally acceptable thing for loud rock acts to have only two members—the problem is that… continue

Best Wedding Band

Isn't everybody's? But here's my case for Incognito. They play good. They know all the songs you want to dance to, plus the ones… continue

Best Producer With a Chance to Become the Next Kanye

Following the unexpectedly far-ranging explosion in popularity of local teenage rapper and house arrestee Chief Keef, major labels and publishing houses have descended on… continue

Best Mix-Tape Producer Drop

Every rap DJ and producer who works on mix tapes and Internet-giveaway tracks needs a "drop," a sonic signature that alerts listeners to his… continue

Best Rap DJ and Hip-Hop Illuminati Conspiracy Theorist

Hands-down my favorite thing to happen in pop culture over the past few years is the rise in popularity of an awesomely crazy conspiracy… continue

Best Outcome of a Ten-Day Suspension From High School

High school suspensions always have a "Think about what you've done" subtext, even if nobody says it out loud. Slapped with a ten-day suspension,… continue

Best Footwork Album of All Time

I considered many candidates for this award, including the comprehensive Bangs & Works compilations from 2010 and 2011, DJ Nate's disjunctive, minimalist 2010 album Da… continue

Best Album Packaging

Running have always had an aesthetic sense more sophisticated than that of a typical noise-punk band. Their J-card in their debut tape had been… continue

Best Gig Poster Artist

Honestly, if Ryan Duggan stole my girlfriend, kicked my dog, and got a job at RedEye hate-blogging about the Reader, I'd still consider him… continue

Best Music Scene Documentarian

As much as there is to like about technologies like smartphones and cheap prosumer digital cameras, they've attracted some criticism for enabling the swarms… continue

Best Website to Keep Tabs on the Underground

Running a DIY venue is a rough business—not only do you always have to try to always avoid the cops (always), but the people… continue

Best New Booker With an Ear for the Weird

3425 W. Fullerton Ave. 773-384-3243
A couple years ago Matt Kimmel and Daniel Smith launched a wildly ambitious experimental-music festival called Neon Marshmallow, cramming more than 90 acts onto two… continue

Best Experimental Album

Chicago sound artist Olivia Block tends to make intricately detailed music that collides field recordings with live instrumentation in unexpected ways, but she outdid… continue

Best Experimental Label

In a pattern common among artists who run labels, Chicago electronic musician Brian Labycz launched Peira to release one of his own recordings when… continue

Best Jazz Reissue Label

Hyde Park resident Jonathan Horwich has only released three titles via International Phonograph since reviving the long-dormant label last year, but in each case… continue

Best New Local Strains of Psych

The local rock scene has enjoyed something of a psychedelic renaissance over the past few years, with groups such as Disappears and Cave combining… continue

Best Prop at a Festival Set

It's not easy being an opening act, never mind the first act of a daylong festival bill. That's the challenge that Chrissy Murderbot, aka… continue

Best Black-Metal Festival

3184 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-736-3033
The Cathedral of the Black Goat took over Cafe Lura (3184 N. Milwaukee) one night in March with an eight-band underground extreme-metal bill featuring… continue

Best Tortoise Side Project

Given that all five members of Tortoise are known for their expansive listening habits and tendency to exhaustively explore whatever genre currently has their… continue

Best New Place to Buy Gear

345 N. Loomis
Open since October 2011 in the Music Garage and run by industry veteran Victor Salazar, former general manager of the Drum Pad in Palatine,… continue

Best Place to Have a Conversation About how Fucked in the Head Orson Scott Card Is

3182 N. Elston 312-890-3860
Marc Ruvolo, proprietor of Logan Square's Bucket O'Blood Books and Records, seemed surprised when I found on his shelves a review copy of Hamlet's… continue

Best Rendition of the Best Chicago Song

The song closed the show. And did you know about the second verse? The man who danced with his wife turns out to be… continue

Best Night for Young People to Get Freaky to Their Grandparents' Pop Music

235 N. Ashland Ave. 312-226-6300
There is something conceptually weird about a bunch of tattooed young scenesters with hairstyles that probably don't make sense to anyone over age 40… continue

Best Night to Feel Like an 80s Art School Student

1951 W. Dickens 773-489-6457
During the 80s and 90s, when the Wax Trax label was at the peak of its influence, Chicago was the primary American home for… continue

Best Weekly Event That Combines Breakfast, Dinner, and Hip-hop

1950 W. North Ave. 773-235-5700
For several years Terrell Jones and Joseph "Fresh Goods" Robinson have been throwing parties and one-offs in conjunction with their streetwear brand, Vita Morte.… continue

Best Pinball Machine Lineup at a Music Venue

1375 W. Lake St. 312-666-6775
It's nice to at least have the option of escape when attending a show with less-than-desirable opening bands (or headliners, for that matter). The… continue

Best Nonagenarian Bartender

1750 E. 55th St. 773-684-1013
On Monday and Wednesday nights at Hyde Park's Cove Lounge, you can order an Old Style from a bartender with a very old style.… continue

Best Escape From the Mag Mile Hordes

157 E. Ohio St. 312-923-9536
Second Story's reputation preceded it. I'd heard for years about a North Michigan Avenue bar, perhaps mythic, that was proximate to but untouched by… continue

Best Jukebox to Play Ride the Lightning in Its Entirety Just Because

3224 W. Fullerton Ave. 773-276-6809
Best of Chicago 2012: Best Jukebox to Play Ride the Lightning in Its Entirety Just Because continue