You know when you’re in desperate need for a good brow wax but you’re not sure who you can trust because if someone messes those up, well, then you’re f*cked? Or, what about when you wake up, hungover, and you are craving a BLT and can’t go another minute until you sort out exactly where to get one that’s not just good, but really freaking good. The struggle is real, people. And, when you live in a big city like Chicago, there are options for all these wants and needs on every corner, but the truth of the matter is, some places offer much better products and services than others. It’s all about finding the perfect place for just what it is you are seeking. I am still on the hunt for certain things, but at the moment I have compiled a strong list of some of the best things I have found while living in this busy, beautiful city. When it comes to things I need in my life, I go to where I know I will get a good service or product and where the people are nice. You can serve the best food in the city but, if you’re an asshole, I’m not coming back. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Here’s my list of not only my best go-to spots in the city, but best spots with some of the best people.
Services and Stores
Best Eyebrow-Threader / Veena at Sanaya : I have been going to Veena for years and will go to no one else. She is a wizard when it comes to threading. She always makes time for me and is a true pleasure to visit as she threads away my brows and mustache. Yup. For as long as I have eyebrows, I will only let Veena touch them as she is an eyebrow goddess.
Best Nail Technician / Tuan (pronounced Twan) at West Loop Nail Salon : This guy is legit and his no-chips last. And I mean, they last long. I have been to places all over the city in search for a consistent nail technician. Good news, I am no longer on the hunt. This place is clean, they have a great selection for colors and they basically play E! all day long. Added bonus: Monday thru Thursday from 12pm to 4pm they have a bad-ass special. $55 for both a pedicure and no chip manicure. You can’t beat that.
Best Boutique For Cards, Candles and Gifts / The Figtree : This West Loop boutique is my go-to for so many gifts. I not only love the incredible selection of cards and candles, but I also love the owner, Ann. We always end up talking politics or music, two of our favorite topics. She has curated such a special store with local flare and super unique gifts that often offer a giggle or two because she has a great sense of humor. Trust me. You will find whatever it is you are looking for the moment you walk into this gem.
Best Yoga Studio / Yoga Six
Ok, perhaps I am a little biased because I do teach at this studio but, to be fair, I have taught at many studios throughout my eight-and-a-half-year career as a teacher. This is, hands-down, the best. All three Chicago locations are beautiful, clean and our staff is ridiculously friendly. No snooty yogis here. Not only are the teachers well-trained, informative and nice – together they help create a really beautiful community. And then there are the students. Equally as friendly and fun. This studio is more than just a place to practice; it’s a place to make some new friends in the city. Plus, they throw some really freaking awesome events. Like the class I’ll be teaching at Willis Tower (ahem, Sears Tower) November 11. Envision sunrise on the sky deck, yoga on the 99th floor and then mimosas. Now you see what I’m getting at?
Best Toy Store / Cat and Mouse Games : Between Anthony and I, we have ten little ones to shop for so we need fresh and unique ideas on the regular. Plus, wrapping on the spot is a huge plus. Cat and Mouse has so many games, toys, stuffed animals and educational toys you will never feel like you don’t know what to get a kid in your life. Also, the prices are not at all ridiculous. Me likey.
Best Shop For Vintage Finds / Una Mae’s , Dovetail and Very Best Vintage : I had to put all three spots because all three have equally offered many of my best vintage finds in the city. Some of my best holiday ensembles have been acquired at these shops – including a forest green, full length knit dress from the 70’s for Christmas Eve and a pastel, floral print frock from the 50’s for Easter. Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to hunting down some dresses for this year’s festivities.
Best Store For Random Finds / Urban Outfitters Surplus Store : I feel like anytime someone compliments me on one of my finds from this store, they are so shocked to hear where I got it. You guys, listen to me, head to Clark and Fullerton and check this place out. It is basically all the leftovers and overstock from all the other Urban Outfitters. It’s a bit of a hit or miss, but if you get there when they have a good inventory, you will find some cool-ass shit. Oh, and at very reasonable prices.
Best Shop for Jewelry, Worldly and Artisanal Finds / Mashallah
I accidentally found this boutique while wandering around the Pilsen neighborhood. Holy shit. First of all, the owner and jewelry maker, Mashallah, is beautiful inside and out. She makes incredibly unique pieces perfect for you, a sister-from-another-mister or your real sister. She travels the world in search of worldly treasures to bring back to Chicago and sell to people like me, who are obsessed with finds from foreign lands. One of my favorite clutches in my collection is one is made from a Moroccan rug that she brought back from across the pond. It’s one of a kind. Very much like Mashallah and her boutique.
Best Adult and Lingerie Store / G Boutique : Next time you need to get a sexy outfit or gift…go here. It’s girly, sexy and the staff knows what they’re talking about. They have everything from sex toys to absolutely beautiful lingerie to bachelorette gag gifts and erotic books–and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you need something to spice things up or to keep things spicy..this is your spot.
This one is a hard tie for me. I love Century because they play movies other theaters don’t–like lots of foreign and random films. It’s a bit nostalgic for me as I have always loved going on dates with Anthony, or just myself on solo dates, here. They have added a bar, so that’s a plus. When it comes to Music Box Theater, it is like an entire experience in and of itself. It’s old and it’s freaking cool! They too have a bar and a funky lounge area to hang out in before you go back in time and head into this old fashioned theater. Added bonus – the folks over at Music Box love to celebrate the holidays and play films accordingly. If you’re into that type of thing, you want to get there for the season.
Best Costume Store / Fantasy Costumes : It’s that time of year! Whether you need some final touches for your costume or have no idea what you want to be and need some inspiration, this is where you want to go. It is massive and has every costume you can possibly imagine. The folks over there are super friendly and always eager to help. They want you leaving happy and excited for the Halloween festivities.
Best Flower Shop / Steve’s Flower Market : When Anthony gets me flowers, they are always from this florist. The price is right and the amount and quality of flowers packed into his bouquets are completely breathtaking. You tell him what you want and he will give you something that far surpasses your expectations.
Food and Drink
Best Latte / Caffe Streets
I’m drinking a soy cortado as I sit here writing this post. From their seasonal lattes to their nitro-iced coffee, this place, owned by a beautiful wife/husband duo, is off the hook. Not to mention the juice. Time Machine Juice, spearheaded by the wife, Jelena, is my favorite juice in the city of Chicago. I’ve done the cleanse before and grab a bottle every time I stop in for a coffee. I highly recommend Go Nuts Milk and Eye Spy. They’re incredible. I have a sneaking suspicion you will also find that her juices are the most flavorful juices you have ever had as well.
Best Aperol Spritz – My House : I can’t lie. I make a freaking good spritz. They are so easy to make, why not just enjoy one in the comfort of your own home? Saluté!
Best Neopalitan Pizza / Spacca Napoli
Anthony and I married here with the privacy of just our families so, perhaps, I am just a wee-bit biased. However, we married there because the pizza is that damn good and we wanted a private moment with our tribes before our Mexico bash. It’s as good as pizza you would get on the streets of Italy. If you haven’t been yet, you are truly missing out. The moment you take one bite, you will taste the closest thing to Italian pizza this city has to offer.
Best Salads / sweetgreen : If you have not hopped on the sweetgreen bandwagon yet, you want to do so at some point. When we’re in the mood for a delicious and filling salad, this is our go-to. It’s fast, efficient and consistent. I am utterly obsessed with their Kale Ceasar Salad, it is outstanding. Heads up, a new West Loop location is opening soon.
Best Scoop of Ice Cream / Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks. It is honestly one of the best scoops of ice cream I have ever had my life. To really knock your socks off, throw it into one of their homemade waffle cones. Oh, you don’t like peanut butter? Not to worry, their selection of flavors is unbelievable. Get to one of their several Chicago locations and take your time tasting as many flavors as you’d like until you find the perfect one for you.
Best Pastry / West Town Bakery : Anthony loves himself a good almond croissant. After years of indulging in them all over the city and throughout our travels, we have yet to find one that rivals West Town Bakery’s twice-baked almond croissant. It’s gigantic with a delicious outer crust, but the real treat is the homemade jam and preserves they add to it. It is exquisite.
Best Danish / OH Danish Kringles @ Trader Joe’s
If you need a treat to bring to a party or serve at your own party, Racine Danish Kringle has you covered. You will find this heavenly round dessert with the rest of the baked sweets at TJ’s. Trust me when I tell you this, your guests will freak out over it. Currently, pumpkin caramel is the danish of the moment. You can also stock up, freeze them and pull them out when the time is right.
Best Mussels / Hop Leaf Bar : If you want mussels, you go to Hop Leaf. For me, it’s as simple as that. You have two choices of broth based on the season, one wine and one beer. Might as well just order half orders of each. And then there are the frites and aioli that accompany this already delicious dish. Holy cow. Have a gander at their extensive and equally delicious beer list and just be prepared for what you are going to experience.
Best French Onion Soup / La Creperie : When it comes to French onion soup, I like it brothy, not jam packed with onions that have soaked up all the soup. Well, let me tell you, this spot has been making the same recipe since the 70’s and it far surpasses any French onion soup I have had in my entire life. While there, you might as well get their nicoise salad and a lemon crepe. God, I want all three right this moment. Tip: It’s a perfect spot for a quiet date night.
Best Toast / Bohemian House
Holy shit balls. You don’t even know. Well, you do now. I thought I worshiped avocado toast until I had their smoked trout toast. It is, to date, one of the best bites I have had all year. The bread is perfectly toasted, the trout is perfectly smoked and the toppings are out of this world. To top it off, it looks as beautiful as it tastes. Almost too pretty to eat.
Best Ramen / Hi Five Ramen : There is nothing better than slurping on some ramen on a cool fall or winter evening, especially when it’s in a dimly lit, funky little basement-type restaurant. Hi Five wins in this department. I always opt for the same two things when I go: Maitake Ramen and a coconut painkiller. (Think the most delicious vegetarian ramen with a side of a boozy slushy to help cool things off.)
Best BLT / The Aberdeen Tap : I like to joke that I am prosciutto-tarian. I basically don’t eat any meat except for some Italian cured meats and crispy bacon here and there. When I am in need of a bad-ass BLT to cure a hangover and soak up libations from the night before, I go to The Aberdeen Tap to take care of business. In my opinion, and what I like in my BLT, it’s the best one in town. Everything from the extra crisp bacon and perfectly cut French fries make this BLT award-winning in my book. PS. I add avocado to mine and make it a BLAT.
Best Tamale / La Casa del Pueblo : Our family has been getting our tamales from this Pilsen spot for as long as I can remember. They’re nothing too fancy, but the flavor and density is exactly what a good tamale-lover wants. They are tasty and perfect for parties or a day of watching football.
Best Bakery For Specialized Treats / Alliance Bakery
I once needed cupcakes that looked like boobs with their nipples pierced for a queer bachelorette party I was throwing. I knew this place could do a good job…I didn’t realize how good of a job. Not only did they look like perfect little boobies, they were delicious! If you need something special for a party, you want to go to Alliance. It is literally food art. You will not be disappointed.
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