The Manual Awards: The Best of Chicago


This is the first year The Manual is giving awards to our favorite spots in eight cities across America that we think are doing great things for their neighbors, town and overall community.  Winners were chosen both by writer’s opinions as well as readers who could vote on The Manual’s Facebook page. Winners will receive a decal to mount in their establishment as well as exposure on the site and on social media. We are excited to take this trip across America with our friends at the leather and lifestyle brand, Moore & Giles. Enjoy!

Chicago style is all about updated interpretations of the classics. From cobblers to tailors and chefs and brew masters, it’s impossible to escape the influences of classic Americana. But the new school of Chicago creative aren’t just recreating the past; they’re giving a well-measured contemporary twist on things. What you might refer to as an upgrade. The best of Chicago’s offerings? See below.

Best Restaurant:

The Radler


Chicago was built in large part by German immigrants, and while it’s a lot more international these days, the city still shines when it comes to German cuisine. Mainly: Meat and beer. Should you still try a classic hot dog (preferably at Gene & Judes)? You bet, but if you want a more refined twist on Chicago’s German food, The Radler is your spot. The Grilled Knockwrst comes with pickled shitake mushrooms and a shishito pepper, the pork loin schnitzel is served with blueberry mustard, and you’ll get barley malt butter for dipping your soft pretzel. And then there’s the beer—there’s no less than 20 German brews on tap to wash it all down.

Best Bar:

Hop Leaf


If you’re into Belgian beer or are just looking to get a taste of some local brews, you won’t find a much better selection on tap anywhere else in Chicago. But what makes this joint—a spacious brick and wood hall with lots of seating a quick walk from Wrigley Field—stand out is the knowledgeable staff. They don’t do flights, but their staff can talk about any one of the 50 or so suds on tap and will make sure you get to taste before you settle. If you get the munchies, you’re in good hands with eastern European-inspired food menu. Think: organic grass-fed brisket and duck Reubens.

Best Shop:

Alton Lane


Men’s style in Chicago has always ruled in one arena: a perfectly tailored suit. There are plenty of heritage brands in town, but contemporary Alton Lane nabs a win here for their vast selection of fabrics and patterns (from classics to stuff with more flair) and the incredible 3-D technology the use to craft shirts, pants and jackets that fit exactingly. Besides, they completely get you: before talking anything suit related, they’re pouring you a scotch.

Best Coffee Shop:



Yes people, it’s come to this: Craft coffee. Go on, roll your eyes, it’s okay. But know that craft coffee—which is loosely defined as high-quality java that is made in small batches by hand and roasted on site—tastes really, really good without the aid of sugar, mocha, or milk products. And craft coffee from all over the world is what’s on the menu at Ipsento, a small counter-serve spot in Bucktown. And their baristas are well trained in talking shop about this new coffee craze without being condescending. For the serious mud lover, they offer evening classes in coffee history, selection and brewing.

Best Barber:

The Belmont


Simply put, this is the best spot in town to go for a modern-classic, parted men’s cut. The team knows and loves what they do and it shows. Prices are reasonable ($23 for a cut) and include can of beer and access to a pool table while you’re waiting. We have just one complaint: They’re still cash only, but it’s an inconvenience we’re willing to put up with for the quality of the chop.

Best Local Brand:

Oakstreet Bootmakers


Founded in 2009 by George Vlagos, the son of a cobbler, Oakstreet makes some of the solid handcrafted boots in the U.S. Designs are simple and classic and made from Horween Chomexcel leather, which yields a soft but durable cowhide shoe. Each comes with replaceable outsoles, meaning you can wear them into the ground over and over and over again without ever sending them to their grave.

Best Beer:

3 Floyds


It’s impossible to talk about American Beer without mention of 3 Floyds, which is based in Munster Indiana a few miles outside of Chicago. It began in 1996 with just a few hundred dollars investment and has since become one of the must buzzed about breweries in the world (RateBeer called them the 4th best in the world). Why? They’ve got good taste and aren’t afraid to experiment. It’s easy to get side tracked by the names (Their Russian Imperial Stout is called Dark Lord), but it’s the flavor inside that truly shines. Brews to try: Their American Pale Ales are the most popular: Alpha King and Zombie Dust, but you should also down the Dreadnought their IPA, and of course, Dark Lord Imperial Stout (which is brewed with coffee and Mexican vanilla).