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Love Local
Image: Time Out

#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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Things are looking up in Chicago right now, as the city pushes toward a full reopening this summer. But even as capacity restrictions are eased, many businesses are still struggling after the events of last year—and everything from your neighborhood bar to your favorite art house theater could use a bit of help right now.

Our 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.

Chicago simply wouldn't be the same without a strong community of small businesses providing places for us to gather and share common interests. As the city continues to reopen, Time Out's ongoing Love Local campaign will shine a spotlight on the people, places and organizations that make our city a special place.

Love Local: how you can support local businesses in Chicago

  • Things to do
  • City Life

During the height of pandemic lockdowns, Chicago artist Faheem Majeed and his wife used to spend Friday nights driving around the city looking for new places to explore.  “We would pick a direction and just drive,” Majeed says. “I always encourage people to left, center and right and just explore the city—you know, go see something interesting, go check it out.”  That spirit resonates through Majeed’s work as a founder and co-director of the Floating Museum, an arts collective and nonprofit that stages pop-up exhibitions and public art activations across the city, which brings Majeed to dozens of Chicago neighborhoods. Currently, the museum is hosting an exhibition that brings a 30-foot inflatable statue of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable and du Sable’s Potawatomi wife to city parks; later this year, they’ll release a series of online performances from artist (and fellow co-director) avery r. young.  Majeed was born in Chicago but quickly moved to North Carolina with his family before returning to Chicago as an adult, where he settled in South Shore. Later, Majeed’s father told him a startling fact: His new South Shore home is located on the same street as the house he was brought home to as a newborn, just four blocks away.  “I moved back to the same neighborhood, so there’s something magical there,” Majeed says. “But I didn’t know at the time that I was moving back to my birthplace. And that’s [also] what Iove about Floating Museum—I’m always learning about new parts of the ci

  • Things to do

In case you haven't noticed, Halloween in Chicago is just around the corner, which is why you'll find casket races, costume galas and a socially-distanced "reverse parade" among the best things to do in Chicago this week. If you've had your fill of pumpkin patches and haunted houses, why not walk through "The Office Experience" pop-up or snag tickets to see local DJ Derrick Carter turn in an all-disco set this weekend. Plus, the Chicago International Film Festival continues with screenings galore, Meet Me on the Mile hosts a final event on Michigan Avenue this weekend and Northwest Side breweries gather for in-person tastings. Don't get frightened by the variety—there's something for everyone among the best things to do in Chicago this week. RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now

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  • Art
  • Art

One of the distinctive features of the West Loop is its vast collection of street art created by numerous artists, present amid the streets lined with restaurants and on the side of overpasses and railway embankments. Painter and muralist Jenny Vyas is one of those artists whose work has helped to shape the former industrial area, adding splashes of color and creativity to the trendy destination for nightlife and dining that it has become. A self-taught artist, Vyas first became inspired to paint while recovering from a breakup in 2013. She said that much of her work is inspired by “a lot of the darkness in life that we don’t really talk about.”. Her latest show, “Awaken,” opened last month and is on display at Pilsen Yards through October 31. The show features 15 of Vyas’ paintings, all of which center on themes of vulnerability and finding strength through exploring one’s own demons. “It’s the show I’ve been working toward for the last five years so it’s been really great to bring it all together,” Vyas said. “It’s my largest body of work, ever.” Although she’s originally from India, Vyas has lived in Chicago for more than two decades and considers the city to be her home. “I love the inclusivity and different cultures in Chicago,” Vyas said. “I’ve been to so many cities in America and the feeling of home that you get, it’s very much integral in Chicago. You can go to a bar and make friends that night.” One of the painter and muralist’s favorite neighborhoods in the city is

  • Comedy
  • LOL

Are you constantly reciting bits of Chicago trivia? Do you have the city's flag tattooed on your upper arm? Have you been bingeing Chicago Party Aunt with gusto? If you answered yes to any of these questions—or if you're otherwise a fan of all things Chicago—a new Chicago-inspired drinking game wants to put your knowledge to the test. Designed by the local gift shop company Transit Tees, the Chicago Handshake Drinking Card Game schools players on all sorts of Chicago factoids, from architecture and history to food and drinking culture. To start, anywhere from two to 12 players grab a glass of their favorite liquor and flip through 104 cards marked with tasks and trivia-based drinking commands, like the Drag It Through The Garden card ("Choose another player to name all nine ingredients that comprise a Chicago Style Hot Dog. If they mess up, they must take 1 token and 1 shot") and Call Today! ("Everyone must sing the jingle to Chicago's favorite carpet company company"). Across the game's roughly hour-long duration, players might also be asked to put on their best Chicago accent, recall the meaning behind the stars on the Chicago flag and name local breweries—all while growing tipsier with each subsequent card. Here's the real kicker: In addition to each person's drink, players must leave a Chicago Handshake—the classic combo of Jeppson's Malört and an Old Style tallboy—sitting at the center of the table. At the end of the game, whoever's assembled the most tokens has to down

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

A new initiative dedicated to Latin cuisines is bringing a delicious spread of deals to Chicago for two weeks this October, giving Chicagoans the opportunity to gorge on everything from quesabirria and ramen to Guatemalan-style hot dogs. Latin Restaurant Weeks was created in 2019 to highlight Latinx-owned culinary businesses—including restaurants, bars, food trucks and caterers—with social media shout outs and other marketing tools, says Karinn Chavarria, who founded the initiative alongside Warren Luckett (if that name sounds familiar, it might be because Luckett also co-founded Black Restaurant Week). In turn, the restaurants create special deals and meals available for two weeks, which customers can browse on the Latin Restaurant Weeks' website. The project launched in Houston before expanding to Miami, and Chicago will be the third city on the docket, chosen based on market research and the city's diverse selection of Latin cuisines.  "Chicago has such a rich culture and history of Latinos in the city," Chavarria says. "So all those combined just make it a perfect recipe to make a restaurant week." The lineup in Chicago this year currently includes 13 different restaurants and culinary businesses, including beloved spots like Tacotlan, Birrieria Ocotlan, Taqueria Chingon, Osito's Tap and more. Several of the chefs are still working on menu deals, but you can expect some pretty tasty options, like a ramen bowl, quesabirria, guacamole, chips and large drink for $20 at Tacot

  • Things to do

September 2021: We technically have a few weeks of summer left to enjoy, but this month we're looking ahead to fall in Chicago (and all the apple picking, pumpkin patches and spooky fun that goes along with it). Kick the season off with a visit to a pumpkin-themed pop-up in Goose Island, or use this handy fall foliage tracker to plot out where you can spot the first yellow leaves of late September. And if you're just trying to savor the last few balmy days of summer, we've got you covered—spend some time outdoors at one of the many music festivals happening this September, or sneak in a reservation at a rooftop bar in Chicago for drinks in the sunshine. Need even more inspiration? Check out all the other best things to do in Chicago right now. 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. 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

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Located on the edge of Pilsen and Chinatown, 88 Marketplace (2105 S Jefferson St) is a gigantic Chinese grocery store stocked with all kind of imported food and beverages that officially opened last August, in the midst of the pandemic. But the second-floor market isn't just a place to shop for ingredients—it also hosts an expansive food court, where you'll find sushi, Hong Kong-style barbecue, Vietnamese pho and Chinese baked goods. While it doesn't boast the sheer variety of dishes that you'll find while walking through Chinatown, it's an extremely convenient spot to sample various cuisines under one roof. Not sure where to start? During a recent trip to 88 Marketplace, we tasted our way through the majority of stands in its food court—everything except Victory Cafe, a Hong Kong-style diner concept that serves coffee alongside sandwiches, egg tarts and chicken wings on rice. On the first floor of the building, you'll also find a couple of dine-in concepts that cater to folks looking for a more conventional restaurant experience: Chinese chain Qiao Lin Hotpot (where you can cook meat and veggies at your table in bowls of fragrant broth) and Holu Asian Prime Steakhouse. Before you dig in, take a peek at this rundown of 88 Marketplace eateries and some menu highlights. Photograph: Zach Long 312 Fish Cafe Unlike most of the vendors on the market’s upper floor—which share a common seating section—this stylish sushi joint boasts its own bar seating area, complete with flat scre

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

The past 18 months have been incredibly tough for the hospitality industry, with a long list of Chicago restaurants and bars announcing permanent closures due to the difficulties of doing business during a pandemic. From fine dining restaurants and hot dog stands to ritzy cocktail lounges and neighborhood bars, the losses were numerous—and likely haven’t stopped yet. Already a dying breed of business in Chicago, the number of neighborhood bars that shut their doors for good during the pandemic was relatively small, but the sense of loss was especially pronounced. Former patrons took to social media platforms to mourn the closures and share memories of birthdays, first dates and other special occasions spent inside these reliable watering holes. Thankfully, some Chicago hospitality industry veterans harbored the same attachment to these places, taking it upon themselves to revive a couple of local institutions and preserve them for the foreseeable future. The dim red lighting at Humboldt Park mainstay the California Clipper seemed destined to be turned off for good last May, when operator Brendan Sodikoff announced that he’d shuttered the bar after failing to come to an agreement with the building’s landlord, Gino Battaglia. Word quickly spread that the bar (which dates back to the 1930s) was in search of a new operator, prompting Kristina Magro (Lone Wolf Tavern, Prairie School) and Ben Fasman (Estereo, Danny’s Tavern) to make a pitch to become the Clipper’s latest stewards—o

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

You don't need an excuse to eat at Chicago hot dog stands in the summer, or any other time of the year. But local hot dog manufacturer Vienna Beef is giving Chicagoans a good reason to visit as many area hot dog stands as possible in the coming weeks. Today, Vienna Beef launched its Hot Dog Stand Challenge, asking hungry encased meat-loved to eat at as many participating hot dog stands as possible between today (August 19) and October 17. That gives you around 59 days to explore 369 spots that serve hot dogs, including stands throughout the city, the suburbs, Indiana and Wisconsin. What's in it for you? The person who eats at the most participating hot dog stands will be crowned Top Dog, earning ;our tickets to a "VIP entertainment experience" every month for an entire year (that could include everything from Chicago Bears box seats to a sought-after tour of the Vienna Beef factory in Chicago). The grand prize winner will also receive a Top Dog T-shirt, $1000 to spend at ViennaBeef.com and a hot dog trophy.  Second-, third- and fourth-place winners will be considered Hot Dog Royalty, earning a catered hot dog party for up to 40 friends, a miniature hot dog cart and a ribbon to commemorate their accomplishments. Vienna Beef will also recognize the mayor of each of the 15 "neighborhoods" that hot dog stands fall into—the person with the most check-ins in each area will get a T-shirt and six pounds of hot dogs to enjoy. In order to participate and begin logging visits to partici

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

A few years ago, while working long hours and traveling for her job in consulting, Lin Jiang found herself eating bowl after bowl of oatmeal—and growing increasingly sick of it.  “I thought it was convenient, and you know, relatively healthy,” she says. “But I just felt that oatmeal is really boring, and I was feeling exhausted all the time.” She thought back to her childhood in Qingdao, China, when her mother would often prepare black sesame cereal—a nutty, seed-studded porridge that’s served for dessert and breakfast—and decided to start loading her oatmeal bowls with a homemade black sesame topping. It wasn’t long before hungry coworkers were asking for samples.  That became the germ of an idea for Yishi, a Chicagoland-based oatmeal company Jiang launched in 2019 with fellow University of Chicago MBA student Ze Li. Named after the Chinese word for ritual, Yishi offers five oatmeal flavors inspired by Chinese and other Asian cuisines, all meant to hit the elusive sweet spot between a healthy and flavorful breakfast. “We think eating—personal food—should be part of our daily routine,” Jiang says. “And even more than routine, it can be a ceremonial moment. Just a peaceful moment of me enjoying some yummy, delicious, healthy food and thinking about how I want to start the day.”  Jiang started by developing the recipes in her own kitchen, and two years later, Yishi works with a food scientist to craft its gluten- and sugar-free, protein-packed, mostly organic flavors—which now,

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