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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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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.

After collecting nominations from readers, this month we’re asking you to vote for your favorite venues in our Love Local Awards. You've picked some great local restaurants, bars, attractions, music venues and coffee shops—now it's time to crown some winners.

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

Vote for your favorite businesses

  • Things to do

Time Out recently asked our readers to nominate all of your favorite spots in Chicago. Predictably, you guys outdid yourselves. We were flooded with hundreds of nominations. Everything from stunning restaurants and local shops to beloved bars and exciting music venues.

It’s now time to vote in the Love Local Awards 2021. Don't be shy. See a few of your favorites places in there? Of course you do. Give them your backing. Vote now! Vote often!

Love Local: how you can support local businesses in Chicago

  • 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

  • Things to do

Despite a predictably slow start to the year (it's January, after all), things are starting to pick up again this week in Chicago beginning on Monday, when several Chicago museums and cultural institutions are hosting celebrations in honor of MLK Day. Later in the week, catch shows at tons of Chicago music venues as part of Tomorrow Never Knows—the annual winter festival spotlighting both local and nationally-acclaimed indie musicians and comedians—which kicks off on Wednesday, or nab tickets to Kacey Musgrave's "star-crossed: unveiled" tour stop at the United Center on Thursday. Plus, check out all sorts of delightful puppetry during the return of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, or a make a trip to the Art Institute to see the final days of "Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You." Ready to get planning? Here are some of the other best things to do in Chicago this week.  RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now

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  • Things to do

January 2022: Welcome to the new year! It's too cold to do most things outside, but you can still get a dose of fresh air at the city's best sledding hills and ice skating rinks when conditions allow (if you're feeling spendy, take a spin on the ice bumper cars at the rink inside Wrigleyville's Gallagher Way). For those of use who'd rather hide away from the frigid temps indoors, consider planning an afternoon at the museum—many of the city's most famous institutions are offering free museum admission days in an effort to lure visitors during an otherwise sleepy time of year. Plus, check out a pop-up version of The Plastic Bag Store, an eye-catching public art installation made entirely of plastic that's coming to the Wrigley Building later this month as part of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.  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? S

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The Shedd Aquarium will get some major upgrades over the next eight years, including a 40-foot glass tunnel that will allow visitors to be surrounded by aquatic life swimming through water. Today, the local institution unveiled its Centennial Commitment, a $500 million project and strategic vision that will see expansion of the Shedd's educational and research programs as well as improvements to its building and facilities. More than half of the $500 million investment will be used to advance partnerships within Chicago, develop programming that can travel outside of the aquarium and fund research that addresses the biggest threats to aquatic life in a rapidly-changing (and warming) world. To make sure that folks who can't visit the Shedd have access to the institution's collection and learnings, virtual experiences and informal learning engagements that can take place outside of the aquarium will be a major focus. The remaining funding will be used to modernize the Shedd Aquarium's facilities, building on previous investments in the Abbott Oceanarium as well as the "Wild Reef" and "Amazon Rising" exhibitions. That includes the aforementioned 40-foot aquarium tunnel—according to a report from Crain's, the tunnel will connect the main Shedd building to the Abbott Oceanarium. Other additions to the institution include the restoration of skyline views (by removing obstructions to original windows) and a new Learning Commons area, creating a dedicated space for visitors and schoo

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  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Whether you're sober, observing Dry January or simply trying to cut back on your alcohol consumption, there's no need to give up cocktails—not the spirit-free variety, at least. Bars and restaurants throughout Chicago have been adding booze-free mixed drinks to their offerings for years, and now there seems to be more zero-proof options available throughout the city than ever before. From mocktails that emulate a hot toddy or a gin and tonic to original creations that make use of interesting ingredients (fermented mushrooms, mustard seed or a spirit-free Fernet), you don't have to sacrifice flavor if you're looking for something non-alcoholic to drink. Whether you're headed to a Chicago cocktail bar or one of the best restaurants in Chicago, here are some delicious non-alcoholic cocktail recommendations. Three Dots and a Dash One of Chicago's premiere tiki bars has added the non-alcoholic Con Artist cocktail to its menu, using a tea made with Costa Rican cocoa nibs and Chinese five-spice to create a drink that balances sweetness with bitterness. Rose Mary Chef Joe Flamm calls the cusine at his West Loop restaurant “Adriatic drinking food," but you don't necessarily have to imbibe. Rose Mary is offering two cocktails made with Seedlip Garden non-alcoholic spirits: the fruit- and rosemary-focused Thorn Free, and the a honey, grapefruit and ginger beer concoction called Zenzero (both $12). Photograph: Courtesy Lettuce Entertain You Ema This River North Mediterranean serves a

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

We’re only a few weeks into 2022, but Chicago is already losing another cherished institution in the new year: Lost Lake, the Logan Square tropical bar renowned for its rum-based drinks and funky decor, will shutter for good after January 15.  Lost Lake management announced the news in an Instagram post Friday afternoon, citing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent surge in cases which dampened the bar’s business during a normally bustling holiday season. The bar will celebrate its seventh anniversary on January 13 with one final weekend of in-person service before closing permanently after its final service on January 15.  “We’ve been trying to ward off this moment since #flattenthecurve, but as it turns out, a super-spreader surge that wiped-out what would usually be our busiest time of year was the last little straw this camel could handle,” Lost Lake's owners wrote in the post.  Over the past seven years, Lost Lake’s became one of Chicago’s most lauded bars for its sophisticated roster of tropical drinks and rare rums, picking up national accolades like a coveted spot on the World's 50 Best Bars list in 2018. As the pandemic ravaged Chicago’s bar industry, co-owners Shelby Allison and Paul McGee pivoted to a robust takeout format, offering to cocktail kits, to-go cocktails and the subscription program Lost Lake at Home before reopening for in-person service in September 2021 with an outdoor patio and new food menu. Lost Lake—which was originally billed as a

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Chicago may be known as the Second City, but to the people who live here it’s second to none. While some locals love to complain about the weather, traffic and corrupt politicians, the pride of residents runs so deep that many want to show it off wherever they go, wearing the city’s four-starred flag on shirts, hats and even inked into their skin. The city welcomes transplants from around the world, so long as you’re willing to learn the unofficial rules of living in Chicago, pick up a little Chicago slang and prepare to have you hot dog condiments scrutinized. If you’re considering a new place to call home, here are 11 reasons to move to Chicago. 1. The dining scene It’s impossible for a tourist with a few days in the city to fully explore the best restaurants in Chicago, which range from world-renowned chef-driven fine dining establishments to 80-year-old ice cream stands. Chicago helped establish the farm-to-table and tasting menu trends, but it also boasts plenty of casual establishments where you can save some money while enjoying everything from empanadas to Chicago-style hot dogs. You'll quickly learn how to eat like a local. 2. Midwestern warmth See someone on the street waving to you? Don’t panic and think it’s someone whose name you’ve forgotten—it’s probably just a stranger being friendly. While New Yorkers are known for bring brusk and Los Angelinos just want to peruse your IMDB profile, Chicagoans are typically a welcoming bunch that are usually happy to give you

  • Things to do
  • City Life

It's nearly the end of 2021 and we've spent plenty of time looking back on the highlights of another strange 12 months—just take a look at the winners of the Best of the City Awards. Now, we're ready to look ahead, because there are plenty of reasons for Chicagoans to get excited about the coming year. With conditions constantly changing throughout the city (and the world), there's no guarantee that the best-laid plans for 2022 will go off without a hitch. Like most people, we've become accustomed to last-minute cancelations and perpetual delays. But we're trying to remain optimistic, in spite of it all. Here are the events, opening and other happenings in Chicago that you can (hopefully) look forward to in 2022. Photograph: Jordan Avery The return of the Chicago Pride Parade After being called off twice 2020, the organizers of the Chicago Pride Parade attempted to reschedule the annual procession for October 2021—but it was canceled as the Delta variant began to spread. Organizers are hoping that the parade's third rescheduled date is the charm, with the 2022 edition of the event slated to take place on its traditional date on the last Sunday of June (June 26). The Chicago Pride Parade typically attracts more than one million people, who line the route on the city's North Side. If everything goes as planned, we expect that the long-awaited return of the Pride Parade will be a particularly celebratory occasion.—Zach Long The debut of two new local music venues  Chicago is

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Need a designated driver this New Year’s Eve? Allow the Chicago Transit Authority to be of service.  The transit agency announced it will once again offer free rides aboard CTA trains and buses this New Year’s Eve, a year-end tradition sponsored by Miller Lite that the agency skipped last year amid COVID-19 restrictions. From 10pm on Friday, December 31 until 4am on Saturday, January 1, riders can take advantage of free rides on all CTA trains and buses—no need to tap cards at train station turnstiles or while boarding buses (though a press release notes that riders will not be refunded if they accidentally tap their fare card).  Trains and buses will operate on a Sunday schedule on Friday, December 31 in observance of the holiday, so plan ahead if you’re relying on transit to get to your destination on New Year’s. Normal Saturday service resumes on January 1. Of course, we can’t promise that riding the CTA in the wee hours of the morning will be an entirely pleasant experience, but hey, it’s a free ride! Go forth and celebrate at the best New Year’s Eve parties in Chicago. And please, if you’re going out, don’t be like the Lollapalooza crowds—wear your mask!

  • Restaurants

It's never a bad idea to treat yourself to dinner in honor of the new year, whether you're planning a low-key meal and early bedtime or gearing up to dance all night at one of the many New Year's Eve parties happening later in the evening. Luckily, some of Chicago's best restaurants have devised special menus with options for every kind of NYE celebration, including decadent tasting menus from Michelin-starred restaurants, casual family-style meals and dinners that end with complimentary champagne toasts at midnight. We've come a long way since New Year's Eve 2020—back when this list was takeout only—so celebrate the end of a tumultuous year and welcome a new one with our list of restaurants serving New Year's Eve dinner in 2021. RECOMMENDED: More ways to celebrate New Year's Eve in Chicago

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