Welcome to the Best of Chicago 2019! Pull up a chair or bar stool, sit tight in your CTA seat, or bear down on that elliptical—we hope you’ll be here a while reading through our biggest issue of the year. We can’t wait to share it all with you.

Every Reader issue is a labor of love, and Best of Chicago has a special place in our hearts. It puts you, our readers, center stage and lets you do what you do best: sound off. Like, all the way off. It’s been glorious.

Tuesday is production day for us, and the energy in the office is always intense as we march toward our weekly deadline. This week, it was electric.

Until it wasn’t.

Because the lights went out.

Literally.

Our whole swath of Bronzeville lost power in the middle of the busiest day for our biggest issue. For only an hour. But a nerve-wracking hour. So we did what all newsrooms do during times of special-issue-related stress: we ordered pizza.

Best of Chicago is truly a team effort. We’ve spent weeks tabulating more than 30,000 votes in two rounds across 300+ categories, designing a photo shoot only the Reader could do, contacting businesses all over the city to advertise, and planning for the city’s don’t-miss party of the fall. In addition to readers’ top picks, Reader staff also weighed in with some of our own.

In the spirit of teamwork, we’re particularly proud of this year’s photos, and I’ll let photo director Jamie Ramsay explain why:

“The art department’s goal with the Best of category photography was to create representative vignettes of each section in a way that covered the full spectrum of Chicago from west to east and south to north. We started with the train lines, which physically cover that ground, and decided our color scheme would nod to the CTA lines.

“We tried to fit as much of Chicago as we could into each of the shots: a variety of neighborhoods, people, and businesses that make up this great city. The entire Reader staff pulled together, raided closests (that’s when you find out your coeditor in chief has a Hello Kitty guitar!), drove all over the city, and provided items, pets, and even themselves to be part of this shoot. We shot these photos smack-dab in the center of the city with Chicago photographer Lisa Predko in her South Loop studio. It took a village—actually, a whole city—to pull together all these details.”

Thank you to everyone who voted! This issue literally wouldn’t exist without you. And a hearty congratulations to all of our winners and runners-up.

We can’t wait to party with all of you on Tuesday, November 19, at Thalia Hall, from 7 to 10 PM. Visit chicagoreader.com/party for tickets. Proceeds ensure the Best of issue 2020 will be even bigger, better, and more enlightening (see what I did there?).

 

Best restaurant group

LETTUCE ENTERTAIN YOU ENTERPRISES

Runner-Up

BOKA RESTAURANT GROUP

Finalists: One Off Hospitality Group, Mia Francesca’s, Uno’s Pizzeria & Grill