We look forward every year to seeing who our readers choose as the Best Of the Suburbs and City, and we’ve learned their judgment is always on point. But we couldn’t let this moment pass without sharing a few of our other personal favorites, too. From coffee and shopping to theater and museums, check out a sampling of the Better magazine staff’s top picks.
Susan B. Noyes, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer
My daughter Emma and I discovered Backlot Coffee in Spring 2020 – during the scariest pandemic times. Many institutions were closed, or were being run by stressed employees. But Backlot offered outstanding coffee and pastries in a hopeful, “we will get through this together” setting. John, the owner, always greeted customers with good cheer, smiling eyes and kind words. When he learned that Emma was an aspiring writer, he cheered her on too. Two years later, he brought his sons to her first book signing at The Book Stall.
More Picks: Zier’s Prime Meats and Poultry and Torino Ramen
Jennifer Woolford, Media Consultant and Strategic Events
My choices for Best of Better 2022 are gems in this great city!
BIÂN is a sanctuary for me. A place of healing energy, amazing food, friends and staff (one in the same) of generous, kind spirit! Trainers and supportive coaches Courtney and Jacob make me feel strong and confident. I adore them!
The Capitanini Team! Realtors that made the sale of our home seamless and stayed with us every step of the way. Supportive beyond measure and so much fun. We are so grateful.
The Community House in Winnetka‘s Holiday Production of “A Christmas Carol” directed by Toby Nicolson is another favorite. Their bi-annual musical features a lively cast, many actors that have grown up in theaters throughout the North Shore. Save the dates for December 3 & 4, 2022 and buy tickets on their website.
Brooke Geiger McDonald, National Digital Content Director
Shedd Aquarium — My kids and I have a shared passion for marine life and we are so lucky to have the Shedd, one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums, on our doorstep. Our family loves Shedd because not only does the museum get us up close and personal with the animals we love, they are also helping lead the charge in the fight to combat climate change and support ocean conservation.
Clarity Physical Therapy & Wellness Center — I’m a passionate runner and typically run four half-marathons a year between November and April. When the miles start to add up during my training season, my body isn’t always thrilled with all that pavement pounding. Fortunately, my amazing physical therapist, Craig Mawdsley, co-owner of Clarity Physical Therapy in Western Springs alongside his wife Ellen Welter, is always quick to identify the issues and help me finish each race stronger and more painlessly than the last!
Macaire Douglas, Editor in Chief
I absolutely adore Alice and Wonder’s Sweet Home Chicago collection! It’s a go-to gift for new baby arrivals (those onesies!) and friends that are moving. Their new Southport location is my favorite place to stop and shop.
Julie Chernoff, Dining Editor
I’m a carb connoisseur, and not all bread is created equal. Hewn Bread in Evanston is the sine qua non of sourdough, the acme of all things carb and delicious, from baguettes to breakfast sandwiches, morning glory muffins to focaccia. Not to be missed.
And while I’m on the subject of food I love, let me put in a plug for NaKorn, an amazing and singular Thai restaurant in Evanston that is woman-owned and ALWAYS on point. Very special.
Margaret Smith, Staff Writer
Upon entering Kibbitznest Books, Brews & Blarney you are met with two things: the smell of fresh coffee or a tasty cocktail and the quiet murmur of Chicagoans enjoying one of the city’s most peaceful cafes. This quaint spot is wifi-free and encourages patrons to spend time with each other, or with a good book, or with one of the many games they have on hand. Anyone who can appreciate the solace of an easy-going, local spot — and lovers of specialty beverages — will be more than satiated at this niche, near-Lincoln Park favorite. What’s more, Kibbitznest doubles as a nonprofit dedicated to giving back to the city, each other and celebrating literature.
Lucy Shapiro, Editorial Intern
I have lived in Evanston my whole life and Union Squared is by far the best Detroit-style pan pizzas you’ll get. Now aside from the delicious pizza and salads, their hidden beer garden spot in Evanston makes for the best place to grab a drink and catch up with friends.