Best of Chicago Reader issue cover photo with a sign saying best of Chicago hanging from two trophies set on the ground dibs style in an empty parking space outside of a Chicago house
Credit: Nick Murway for the Chicago Reader

I am fond of scrolling through Instagram’s stories feature, where you sometimes get to see “reposts,” items created by other people that the accounts you actually follow on the app have scooched over to their stories to share with everyone. It feels like walking by people’s house windows and catching a glimpse of the art on display in their living rooms. You might not want that seven-foot oil painting of cats making love in the grass near Promontory Point, but, by God, someone else is more than welcome to hang it on their wall. And stories, retweets, reposts, and the like are these small ways that we the viewer or reader get to see your virtual living room: the things you like, the world that you’ve created around you. 

Living in a city is a ridiculous venture: it’s expensive, it’s crowded, it’s filled with people that don’t always love us. And living in Chicago comes with even more pressure and stress, especially when it feels like pundits, politicians, and people who don’t live here think we’re something that we are not. 

Credit: Nick Murway

This brings me back to Instagram. I saw a message there last night from a DJ coming to town to visit a music venue I love. I’ll call her DJ X. “What’s up, it’s your girl DJ X,” she said on the reel reposted in the music venue’s stories. “I’m super excited to come out to CHIRAQ next week, holler at me there!”

The comments were immediate and Chicagoans did not disappoint. “You better lose the Chiraq,” read one. “We’re not even the most dangerous city,” said another. And it’s true. While I’m sure DJ X meant well, I don’t have to tell you how it feels to have to sidestep the landmines of inaccurate stereotypes about our fair city, in the comments, in the streets, or wherever. 

Chicago is not a scarcity economy. What’s a scarcity economy? It’s what we’re trained to believe that we have available to us in this world. It’s easier for a few people if most people think there’s not enough to go around.

But like the concept of love, and the concept of freedom, we do not dwell in scarcities here. There is abundance. There is more than enough. The city is yours, mine, and ours, if we want it that way. When people from outside our city tell us that the only thing we have to offer is violence and corruption, we need to remember that those people need care, education, and support. Someone has convinced them that they need to “other” us. And we know that’s just not true. Chicago is love.

Thank you for voting in our poll and sharing with us your own “best of.” More than 400,000 votes were cast in 300 categories, with over 10,000 Chicago-related nominees listed. While predictably, y’all like food (most popular category by vote: Best Pizza), you also cheered on the small businesses, service providers, neighborhood parks, and nightclubs that make it a pleasure to be from here. 

It should go without saying that everyone on our masthead worked over the last six months to get this in your hands, and I give all the giardiniera to our entire team, from our business department to our delivery drivers to our mighty editorial staff. All the people listed below also helped to create this issue for you, to tell you our stories, and hopefully give you some inspiration to get even more engaged with Chicago. 

Whether you get to read this issue in print (oof, lift with your knees, it’s a heavy one!) or just check us out on the interwebs, you already know the score. If this is your first time on the Reader ride, welcome to the best city in the world. Not the most dangerous, not the most jaded, not the snootiest—the best. I’ve been here for my whole life and it’s my privilege to share this great city with you. Thanks for reading.

Best of 2022 credits

Writers Taryn Allen, Jake Austen, Noah Berlatsky, Ed Blair, Cristalle Bowen, Debbie-Marie Brown, Kimzyn Campbell, Micco Caporale, Kerry Cardoza, Salem Collo-Julin, Leor Galil, Isa Giallorenzo, Jack Helbig, Alejandro Hernandez, Deanna Isaacs, Ejun Kim, Steve Krakow, Helaine Krysik, Annette LePique, Jamie Ludwig, Philip Montoro, Marissa Oberlander, Yolanda Perdomo, Katie Prout, Kayla Pulley, Dilpreet Raju, Bridgette M. Redman, Kerry Reid, Kat Sachs, Mike Sula

Photographers Taryn Allen, Kimzyn Campbell, Micco Caporale, Kerry Cardoza, Leor Galil, Isa Giallorenzo, Deanna Isaacs, Jamie Ludwig, Philip Montoro, Dilpreet Raju, Kerry Reid, Kirk Williamson

Copy editing and proofreading Taryn Allen, Kerry Cardoza, Salem Collo-Julin, Sky Patterson, Kerry Reid, Jackson A. Thomas

Cover and section intro photos Nick Murway

Design and photo direction Kirk Williamson

Layout elements and graphic design Amber Huff

Web content and Ballot management Ayana Rolling, Arturo Alvarez, Amber Nettles, Jillian Mueller, Shawnee Day

Original cover concept  Enrique Limón

Best social media campaign model cat Vincenzo, courtesy of Kirk Williamson

Best of Chicago 2022 is presented by