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#LoveLocal: Time Out Chicago celebrates local shops, food and culture

As the city reopens, we're celebrating Chicago's best independent businesses.

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long
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Hey there Chicago, 

Time Out editors have been seeking out the best of city life since 1968. We know that our cities are nothing without their restaurants, shops, cafés, bars, theatres, music venues, cinemas, art galleries—and all the other local, independently run places where people come together to eat, drink, laugh, think, create, cut loose and fall in love.

We recognize that the past year-and-a-half has been tough for everyone, local businesses included. That's why we've been running our Love Local campaign to support local food, drink, culture and entertainment in Chicago. We've highlighted a new miniature golf course in a local park, checked in with two beloved bars that are reopening and asked artists to share their favorite spots in neighborhoods across the city.

As Chicago continues to recover, Time Out's ongoing Love Local campaign will shine a spotlight on the people, places and organizations that make our city a special place. We hope you'll find some new spots to support.

Zach Long
Editor
Time Out Chicago

Check out our winners

  • Things to do

It should come as no surprise that Chicagoans love their city. This year's Love Local Awards brought in thousands of votes for your favorite restaurants, bars, attractions and more places that make the city what it is. After the tallying up the votes, we're ready to reveal the spots that Time Out Chicago readers heartily recommend. Congrats to winners—we can really feel the love!

Love Local: how you can support local businesses in Chicago

  • Things to do

Looking for the best things to do in Chicago this week? Don't worry—we've got you covered! Whether you're angling to sip drinks and tap your feet to live music at a summer festival, see fascinating new exhibitions at Chicago museums, attend live theater shows or save a few bucks at free events in Chicago, you'll find plenty of ideas for getting out and about throughout the city. So what are you waiting for? Scroll through our roundup of the best things to do in Chicago this week and start planning. RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now

  • Things to do

June 2022: Congratulations—we've officially made it to summer in Chicago! This month, celebrate Pride in Chicago at queer-friendly summer music festivals and the rollicking Chicago Pride Parade, which is headed back to the streets of Uptown and Lakeview for the first time in two years. Plus, dance to live music at local street festivals, see free concerts during the Millennium Park Summer Series and watch fireworks sparkle overhead as fireworks shows return to Navy Pier all summer long.   No matter where your interests lie, you can always find something to get excited about in this no-nonsense Midwestern metropolis. The best things to do in Chicago run the gamut—from seriously fun to awesomely educational. Looking for culture? Spend a day exploring Chicago museums. Hungry? You've come to the right place, because Chicago is famous for its delicious cuisine. There are tons of amazing restaurants in Chicago that highlight the city's rich and diverse culinary landscape. (And plenty of uniquely Chicago bars that do the trick, too.) We've searched all across the city to assemble this list of the best things to do in Chicago. Follow it and never get bored here again. Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.

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  • City Life
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UPDATE: The hanami event has been rescheduled for May 1.  Chicago's cherry blossoms are set to begin their beautiful, fleeting bloom this weekend—and to mark the occasion, the Japanese Arts Foundation, Japanese Culture Center, Chicago Park District and other community partners are hosting an inaugural Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing festival, near Jackson Park's famous cherry blossom trees.  On Sunday, April 24, visitors can enjoy robust cultural programming at Jackson Park's Garden of the Phoenix from noon to 3pm, with festivities ranging from dance performances to haiku and origami instructions. Saira Chambers, executive director of the Japanese Arts Foundation and director of the Japanese Culture Center, says the blossoming is a very celebrated and beloved time in Japan, during which people will camp out the night before with picnic blankets and enjoy the fleeting beauty. It's a reminder that life is brief and precious, and highlights the importance of being present for every minute of it.  "In Japan, seasons are so important because they are so short-lived," Chambers says. "It's about coming together to witness this really fleeting beauty, and what makes it special is that it's not going to last." At Sunday's event, performances include taiko drumming by Tsukasa Taiko and cultural dance and education group Shubukai, who will be performing a traditional dance for the Hanami festival. Guests can explore other traditional Japanese arts like origami and haiku at booths, and

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

West Lakeview will be a little less sweet on April 30, when the neighborhood will say goodbye to Dinkel's Bakery after a century of service. Owner Norm Dinkel announced the bakery's closure at the end of the month on April 5, eliciting a collective, phantom cry of "Nooooooo!" across the North Side. In the years since Joseph and Antonie Dinkel opened their family bakery in 1922, Dinkel's has become a beloved institution, from early commuters becoming office heroes by surprising colleagues with boxes of delicious doughnuts to lines snaking out the door for boxes of paczki, a Chicago Fat Tuesday favorite. West Lakeview and Roscoe Village neighbors have celebrated holidays, triumphs and tragedies with Dinkel's sweets, from lamb cakes and Thanksgiving pies to wedding and baby shower cakes to baked goods for grieving families for funerals.  "There's a time and there's a place for everything, and Dinkel's had a place," Dinkel says. "I had no idea we were this important to so many people. When we announced the closing, there were people coming in with tears in their eyes, sharing their memories, the whole works. It's been an honor, and it's been a bittersweet experience for me. I did not know my little bakery on Lincoln Avenue was so important for so many lives." Dinkel, 78, says now was the right time to hang up the proverbial apron, so after a difficult few years—and without another generation of Dinkels to take the reins—he made the decision to close. "It's time for me, while I ha

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  • City Life

One of Chicago's best civic history classes happens regularly—and for free—on TikTok. And nearly 86,000 people are tuning in to the app for brief, informative lessons from local historian, electrical worker, dad and rising social media star Shermann "Dilla" Thomas, aka 6figga_dilla.   What began as a TikTok account where the Auburn Gresham native would share local history with his daughter has become an ever-growing, engaging library of videos on the histories of Chicago's neighborhoods, sports teams, influential figures and more, all with his (very correct) philosophy, "Everything dope about America comes from Chicago." Now, he's sharing his knowledge through in-person neighborhood bus tours under the name Chicago Mahogany Tours.   "It dawned on me that people are really interested in Chicago history," Thomas says. "They're walking past history every day."  The tours, which highlight the historic and cultural contributions of neighborhoods on the South and West Sides, provide not just valuable information for out-of-towners, but also a space for residents of those neighborhoods to learn about and take pride in their communities. “Even if you come in from O'Hare or Midway and look at the tour brochures, there's nothing on the South Side or West Side to visit,” Thomas says. “If you're from the West Side or the South Side, you're going to feel the same way about that place.” Thomas says his tours aren't "reinventing the wheel," but he wants to highlight what's already there

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Ambiance has always an important part of the experience of dining at a restaurant, but it's no longer enough to simply hang some art on the walls and light a few candles in the evening. Thanks to the rise of social media and experiential pop-ups, decor and theming has become just as important as what's coming out of the kitchen—just look at the dazzling curtains and greenery at Alla Vita or the cozy Euro-style café character of GoodFunk. The recently-opened 2d Restaurant in Lakeview is centered around a unique, comic book-inspired aesthetic, lined with black and white drawings as well as chairs and tables that have been covered in white paint and outlined with bold black accents. Former Kizuki Ramen operator Kevin Yu and his wife Vanessa Yu (an interior designer) were inspired by cafés decorated with intricate drawings that originated in Malaysia a few years ago, eventually spreading to places like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Dubai. In the midst of the pandemic, the pair began thinking about the kinds of experiences that could entice people to sit down in a restaurant.  “I was looking at the future of the hospitality world and realized it’s got to be different," Kevin Yu said. “We wanted to create a space where people can forget about all the hardship that’s out there.” Photograph: Zach Long Painstakingly designed by Vanessa, the drawings on the walls of 2d Restaurant are the product of four months of work, hand-drawn by local artist Mia Larson. According to Vanessa, the inspirati

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  • Art
  • Art

Before he launched his Off White streetwear brand, became Kanye West's creative director and an artistic director at high-end fashion house Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh was just another creative person trying to launch his career in Chicago. Abloh passed away at the age of 41 in November after fighting a private battle with cancer, but he left behind a towering legacy in the city where he received a degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology. From the Bucktown retail store RSVP Gallery (which he founded in 2009 with fellow designer Don C.) to the East Garfield Park basketball court that he teamed up with Nike to renovate in 2020, Abloh will forever be a part of Chicago. Finding a way to commemorate an artist, fashion designer and DJ as accomplished as Abloh is no simple task, but B_Line Projects chief curator and director Levar Hoard was up to the task. Hoard has overseen the Hubbard Street Mural Gallery in Fulton Market since 2017, breathing new life into a public art project that began in 1971. Hoard began curating murals inside of Time Out Market Chicago when the food hall reopened to the public in June 2021, helping artists DOT and World Wide Zeb fill a couple of blank stairwell walls with vibrant art—and his next project will pay tribute to Abloh, who he describes as a "role model" who "brought elements of street art and graffiti with him each step of the way." Hoard has tapped local street artist Rahmaan Statik to create a mural dedicated to Abloh at Time Out Marke

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Chicago Black Restaurant Week is back beginning this Sunday with two weeks of dining deals from dozens of Black-owned restaurants across the city and suburbs.  The annual event, now in its seventh year, switched to a two-week format in 2021 to help restaurants recover from the effects of pandemic, founder Lauran Smith told Time Out Chicago last year. Smith created the food-centric event to spotlight Chicago’s broad array of Black-owned restaurants, timing it to take place during the second week of February, which was once known as “Negro History Week” (and served as the basis for Black History Month, now observed throughout the entire month of February).  To participate in Chicago Black Restaurant Week, eateries have to offer specials in order to draw diners in, meaning you’ll get to try dishes that oftentimes aren’t available on their regular menus. This year, you can check out deals and specials from more than 30 restaurants across the Chicagoland area, including beloved favorites like Luella’s Southern Kitchen, Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, Can't Believe It's Not Meat and Haire’s Gulf Shrimp, plus popular newcomers like Kitchen + Kocktails. A full list of specials will be available on Chicago Black Restaurant Week’s website before Sunday, Smith wrote in an Instagram post.  Ready to dig in? Chicago Black Restaurant Week will run from Sunday, February 6 through Sunday, February 20—scroll through a full list of participating restaurants below, and have fun planning out your me

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

The past few years have been busy for Danielle Mullen, to say the least. The bookseller and entrepreneur was supposed to take it easy after a cancer diagnosis in early 2019. Instead, stuck with a feeling that she didn’t want to sit still—and itching for a space to combine her love for art and literature—Mullen decided to open Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, a community-focused shop with a name steeped in metaphor.  “A semicolon represents where an author could choose to stop a sentence but move forward,” she explains. “Semicolon was me deciding to move forward after that diagnosis.”  From the start, Mullen knew Semicolon wouldn’t be like other bookstores—it would have a gallery space with rotating artwork and focus primarily on selling works written by people of color. The operation was small at first, but pretty soon Semicolon began to pick up media attention as one of the only Black woman-owned bookstores in Chicago. Then Covid-19 hit, and soon after, the wave of protests following the murder of George Floyd in June 2020, which brought even more new customers into the store. Flash forward to 2022: Within just two years, Semicolon has launched a literacy nonprofit, hosted in-person book signings and—owing to ballooning sales numbers—moved from River West to a larger location in Wicker Park. “It kind of took off and I still don’t know what I’m doing,” Mullen jokes. “We’re just having a good time.” Photograph: Courtesy Semicolon Bookstore Stepping inside of Semicolon’s sunny

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

A cold front arrived in Chicago this morning, with below zero windchill expect this evening, according to the National Weather Service. The chilly weather will stick around through the weekend, and a West Loop bar is planning to take advantage of the dropping temperature by serving drinks from behind an outdoor bar made entirely of ice. Pizza, Beer & Jukebox (a.k.a. PB&J) is using 40,000 pounds of ice to construct a bar on Peoria Street, accompanied by a pair of ice thrones (one for adults and one for kids), an ice drink luge and a beer stein made of ice. It's a bigger and better version of the "PB&J Frozen" experience that co-owners (and brothers) Matthew and Josh McCahill created last winter, using 30,000 pounds of ice to construct a bar and an igloo in front of the West Loop restaurant. "PB&J on Ice" is set to open on Thursday, January 20, and will serve drinks from 5–10pm every night until the ice bar melts away. Because it's an "open air experience," guests won't be asked to provide proof of vaccination to order a drink, though you'll need to present a vax card and an ID if you want to sit down inside of PB&J and order food. According to a release, the opening night of "PB&J on Ice" will feature a live DJ and $13 drink specials, including the bar's Hottie Toddy and Skrewball Hot Cocoa. How long will the frozen bar last? Well, the latest Accuweather forecast for Chicago lists temperatures below (or just a few degrees above) 32 degrees through the end of January, which mea

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