Ray Noland

We didn’t actually go into our third annual Best of Chicago issue with a theme in mind, but as themes are wont to do, one emerged: street smarts. Our cover artist, Ray Noland, is perhaps best known for his “independent political propaganda campaign” for Obama, GoTellMama!, and his instantly recognizable depictions of former governor Rod Blagojevich, which have become a street-art phenomenon. And the “bests” our staff and contributors came up with—from the best neighborhood garage sale to the best use of a pernicious weed as food to the best place to corner an alderman who’s been ducking your calls—exhibit an unsurpassed street-level savvy about how to live well (often for less) in Chicago.

As for your smarts, dear readers: we decided this year to publish not just the winners of our readers’ poll but the top three vote getters in most categories. We especially enjoyed your responses to the sole question on our Civics poll—best person to run against Mayor Daley in 2011—so much so that we’ve published almost all of them. Thanks for participating.

Browse by section (Goods & Services, Food & Drink, Arts & Entertainment, Sports & Recreation, or Civics), or browse all readers’ poll results or all Reader‘s picks.