This is the thirtieth and final time we plan to publish our iconic Best of Chicago edition. Many factors weighed into our decision to end it here, but the most important one is the ongoing evolution of Newcity into a very different publication than we were in 1993.
For this issue, we allowed ourselves to wallow in a bit of nostalgia that we hope you’ll enjoy; for example, you’ll see reproductions of all twenty-nine previous covers, dating back to the first one, by Chris Ware. This final cover was created by Jorge Colombo who, like Chris, does most of his magazine work for the New Yorker these days. Jorge has done three Best of Chicago covers for Newcity, more than any other artist.
Jorge was Newcity’s art director in 1993, so he designed the first Best of Chicago. Others who contributed to that first issue and returned for this one include Ted C. Fishman, Ray Pride and David Witter. A perusal of the ads in that issue are a time capsule of a cultural moment long gone, along with most of the businesses. Though a few, Metro/Smartbar and the Dance Center of Columbia College (then located in Edgewater) were there in 1993 and are still going strong, with ads in that and this issue. Newcity would not be here without our contributors and advertisers, and our appreciation is boundless.
Thinking about this final word on the Best of Chicago, we decided to concentrate on icons, those enduring people, places and things that have been present with us for most, if not all of our journey, and that will live on for a long time to come, at least in the consciousness of the city. In addition to 183 items composed by some of the city’s finest writers, we asked five living cultural icons—a small sample of the many we might have chosen—to reflect on their own Chicago journey in some way.
You’ll want to keep this issue, as you won’t see the likes of it again.
This issue also marks Newcity’s thirty-seventh anniversary and it’s onward and upward from here. We’re incredibly excited to announce Folio, an extraordinary collaboration with Pickleman to create limited-edition collectible inserts that will be available only to paid subscribers to the print magazine. Starting with our April edition, we plan to periodically bundle eighteen-by-twenty-four-inch prints created by leading Chicago artists, including Michelle Grabner, Theaster Gates, Laura Letinsky, Luftwerk and Edra Soto, with more to come.
If you’re not yet a print subscriber, please visit NewcityShop.com and join us for this exciting new chapter.
Look for Newcity’s February 2023 print edition at over 300 Chicago-area locations this week or subscribe to the print edition at Newcityshop.com.
IN THIS ISSUE
Best of Chicago
A meander through an iconic city (see index below)
including essays by
Wild About Harry and Donna’s by Joe Bryl
My Chicago Journey by Cheryl Lynn Bruce
The Neighborhood Eye by Gordon Quinn
The Fine Arts of SubCity by Candida Alvarez
Dancing in Chicago by Bette Cerf Hill
Best of Chicago 2023 was written by Ted C. Fishman, David Hammond, Sharon Hoyer, Scoop Jackson, Ray Pride, Vasia Rigou, Mary Wisniewski and David Witter
With additional contributions by Alison Cuddy, Dave Hoekstra, Dennis Polkow, Robert Rodi, Frank Sennett and Sara Stern
“When Your Girls Make It”
A new poem from Rocio Franco
And so much more…
About the Best of Chicago contributors
Candida Alvarez is an American artist and professor, known for her paintings and drawings. Her work has been collected by the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Whitney Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, Pérez Art Museum, Miami, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Addison Gallery of American Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, among others. Alvarez was recently granted the Arts and Letters Award in Art by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a 2022 recipient of a Latinx Artist Fellowship. Alvarez is an alum of the Yale School of Art, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and is currently the F.H. Sellers Professor in Painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she has taught since 1998. Alvarez is represented by Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago and Gavlak LA|Palm Beach.
Cheryl Lynn Bruce has performed on numerous regional stages as well as in Europe and Mexico. She originated the role of Elizabeth Sandry for Steppenwolf’s Tony Award-winner “The Grapes of Wrath” directed by Frank Galati (Cort Theatre, National Theatre (UK), La Jolla Playhouse.) Film credits include: “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Daughters of the Dust,” “The Fugitive.” A Teatro Vista company member, Ms. Bruce directed Sandra Delgado’s “La Havana Madrid” premiere. Ms. Bruce won two prestigious Helen Hayes Awards (Best Supporting Actress, 2019) and (Outstanding Lead Actress,1991); Rauschenberg residency through a 3Arts fellowship (2015), received a Yale University Art Gallery residency (2011); and both the Jane Addams Hull House Association’s Woman of Valor Award (2010) and 3Arts Award (2010) for her work as theater artist and educator.
Joe Bryl, previous co-owner and musical director of the famed Chicago nightclub Sonotheque, has focused on a wide-range of eclectic, underground sounds in his thirty-plus years in the club and entertainment industry. Bryl was an original partner in the creation of the renowned music venue HotHouse and was also involved in the early days of The Funky Buddha Lounge. Once named by the Chicago Tribune as Chicago’s “Most Interesting DJ,” he has exposed Chicagoans to a diverse selection of left-field dance music, ranging from Rare Groove, Latin, Funk, Brazilian, Steppers, African, Acid Jazz and Neo-Soul. Recently, he was the musical director for Dorian’s Through the Record Shop in Wicker Park, booking artists like Jeff Parker, Daniel Villarreal, Jaimie Branch, George Freeman, Frank Catalano and Isaiah Collier. He recently retired from that position and continues DJing at Giant Penny Whistle, Soif Wine Lounge, Bronzeville Winery, Estereo and Quality Time.
Jorge Colombo has worked as an illustrator, as a photographer, and as graphic designer for over 30 years. He’s best known for the digital images he has been creating since 2009 (initially finger-painting on an iPhone. Four 20×200.com print editions released in April 2009 led to his first cover for The New Yorker, the first magazine cover ever created on a smartphone. His images continue appearing in The New Yorker and other publications. He was born in 1963 in Lisbon, Portugal, and moved to the USA in 1989. After living in Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, and Brooklyn, he lives in Narrowsburg, NY with his wife, artist Amy Yoes.
Alison Cuddy is a writer in Chicago.
Ted C. Fishman is a Chicago-based writer and the international best-selling author of “China, Inc.” and “Shock of Gray.” In addition to Newcity, the many publications he’s written for include The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Fast Company, INC., GQ, National Geographic, Harper’s, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Reader and a number of defunct periodicals, the demise of which he is only partly responsible.
David Hammond, Newcity’s Dining & Drinking Editor, is a Chicago-based writer/photographer who specializes in food, drink, art and archaeology. He is co-author of “Made in Chicago: Stories Behind 30 Great Hometown Bites” (March 2023), a pocket-sized encyclopedia of foods first conceived—and still beloved—in the Midwest’s cultural capital. He’s seen the Chicago restaurant scene change a lot over the past half-century, and although the newer places can be very exciting, he finds inspiration in classic Chicago foods, like Italian beef and Rainbow Cones.
Bette Cerf Hill is a painter, poet and a community activist who was Deputy Commissioner of the state’s Bicentennial Commission, the Executive Director of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois and a board member of The Chicago Architecture Foundation. Hill founded the community organization that became the Near South Planning Board and the Printers Row Book Fair (now known as the Printers Row Lit Fest), has served as a State of Illinois Public Art Advisory committee member and served on the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women. Hill is a founding advisory board member of the Rush Neurological Behavioral Center for children with brain-based problems. Additionally, Hill is a founding board member of the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago.
Dave Hoekstra is a Chicago author and documentarian. He was an award-winning staff writer at the Chicago Sun-Times between 1985 and 2014. His new book, “Beacons in the Darkness: Hope and Transformation Among America’s Community Newspapers,” was just released by Agate Publishing.
Sharon Hoyer is a freelance writer and the Dance Editor of Newcity. She is the creator and host of “Means of Production,” an interview show on Lumpen Radio about performing arts in Chicago. Sharon is also a project manager at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network.
Scoop Jackson is president of Strong Island Media CHI, a senior features writer for ESPN, co-host of The Music Snobs podcast, and author of “The Game Is Not A Game: The Power, Protest and Politics of American Sports” (Haymarket Books).
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and Film Editor as well as a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine. His history in pictures and words of Chicago “Ghost Signs” is in the works, with previews on Twitter (twitter.com/chighostsigns) and Instagram (instagram.com/ghostsignschicago). Other pictures on Instagram: instagram.com/raypride. Twitter: twitter.com/RayPride
Gordon Quinn Senior Advisor and founder of Kartemquin Films, Quinn’s documentaries include “Home for Life,” “Taylor Chain,” “The Last Pullman Car,” “Golub,” “Hoop Dreams,” “Vietnam, Long Time Coming,” “Stevie” and “The New Americans.” Recently he directed “For The Left Hand,” “Prisoner of Her Past,” “A Good Man” and “‘63 Boycott,” shortlisted for the Oscar. He was EP on “The Interrupters,” “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” “The Homestretch,” “Life Itself” and “America To Me” and Oscar-nominated “Edith and Eddie,” “Abacus” and “Minding The Gap.” Gordon helped create the Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use and speaks on public media, fair use and documentary ethics.
Vasia Rigou, originally from Athens, Greece, has been writing about visual art, culture, architecture and design for the better part of a decade. She serves as Design Editor at Newcity, as writer and copy editor at the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) headquarters, and regularly contributes to international architecture and design magazines OnOffice and ICON.
Robert Rodi is an author, spoken-word performer and musician who has served as Newcity’s Music Editor since 2014. He’s written more than a dozen books, including the travel memoir “Seven Seasons In Siena,” and his literary and music criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Salon, The Huffington Post and many other national and regional publications.
Frank Sennett is a proud Newcity alum whose new thriller, “Shadow State,” will be published February 21 by Crooked Lane Books and distributed by Penguin Random House.
Sara Stern When Stern isn’t exploring Chicago’s best, she lends her mezzo voice to stage and concert performances around town. An executive by day, Sara is an arts consumer, runner, and dark roast and chocolate lover.
Mary Wisniewski is a Chicago writer, reporter and teacher. Her biography of Nelson Algren, “Algren: A Life,” won the Society of Midland Authors prize for best biography and the Chicago Writers Association award for best non-fiction.
David Witter is a Chicago-based author and freelance writer. His books include “Oldest Chicago I and II,” “Chicago Magic, A History of Stagecraft and Spectacle” and “Distilled in Chicago, A History.” His works have been published in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Living Blues, The Chicago Blues Annual, and have appeared in Newcity since 1987.
BEST OF CHICAGO 2023 INDEX
(Items scheduled to go live between February 6 and February 23)
Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
Art Institute of Chicago
Bahá’í House of Worship
Billy Goat Tavern Under Michigan Avenue
Binny’s Beverage Depot
Bloomingdale Trail/The 606
Bobolink Meadow and The Osaka Garden
Buddy Guy’s Legends
Chi White Sox
Chicago A Cappella
Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise
Chicago Artists Coalition
Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Hot Dog
Chicago Sky Games
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Dance Center of Columbia College
Deep Dish Pizza
Edith Farnsworth House
Enclosed Wooden Porches
Erick and Eric Williams
Eternal Construction Projects
Field Museum of Natural History
Former Alderman Ed Burke
Garfield Park Conservatory
Gene & Georgetti
Gene & Jude’s
Gene Siskel Film Center
Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company
Grant Park Music Festival
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
Henry Gerber House
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Hyde Park Art Center
Illinois Institute of Technology Campus
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Italian Fiesta Pizzeria
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Lincoln Park Zoo
Lions of Michigan Avenue
Lutz Cafe and Pastry Shop
Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen
Mario’s Italian Lemonade
Marshall Field’s State Street Store (Macy’s)
Maxwell Street Polish
Middle Eastern Bakery and Grocery
Mies van der Rohe
Movies in the Parks
Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Science and Industry (MSI)
Music Box Theatre
National Museum of Mexican Art
Navy Pier Ferris Wheel
North, Damen and Milwaukee Intersection
Old Post Office
Old Town School of Folk Music
“One Chicago,” the Dick Wolf Mega-Series
“One Chicago” The Book
Original Ferrara, Inc.
Original Rainbow Cone
Printers Row Lit Fest
Public League High School Basketball
Publican Quality Bread
Remains of Central Station
Renegade Craft Fair
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
Richland Center Food Court
Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
Row of Architectural Gems on the South Side of the Midway on the University of Chicago Campus, Hyde Park
Seminary Co-op/ 57th Street Books
Seven Treasures Cantonese Restaurant
Siskel and Ebert
Skyline (and flying into Chicago at night)
South Shore Cultural Center
Sports Talk Radio
Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Stony Island Arts Bank
Taste of Chicago Water
Textile Discount Outlet
Title of the Black Music Capital of America
Transformation of South Shore (via The Obama Library, The Tiger Woods Golf Course and the Reconstruction and Renaming of LSD)
2008 Chicago Parking Meter Deal
Uniting Voices, Chicago
View of Downtown from Rainbow Beach
Zhou B Art Center