Michael, Nick and Simon Floyd
Owners/Founders, Three Floyds Brewing
Since 1996, they’ve been putting out super-hopped citrus-kissed bitter bombs, some of the best beers ever made in America. Their limited-edition Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout has become such a phenomenon that people travel from around the country for a day-long Lollapalooza-like affair in Munster, Indiana for the opportunity to score a golden ticket to buy the stuff. Now that they’ve picked up Mike Sheerin, former chef de cuisine of Blackbird, who’s cooking up incredible Alsatian-inspired flatbreads and making incredible charcuterie with kitchen manager Andrew Conaway, they might also have one of the best brewpubs in America.
Jeff and Tony Dreyfuss
Owners, Metropolis Coffee
While Intelligentsia went upscale and started jacking up their coffee prices and dictating serving sizes to their customers, the Metropolis folks shadowed the stoops of every new restaurant, coffee shop and bakery in town with their comparable product. As a result, these small-batch roasters from the North Side are now winning the battle for the hearts and coffee cups of local foodies.
Mark Payne and Andy Pates
Owners, Cream Wine Company
The greatest influence on local wine menus is probably exacted by Southern Wine & Spirits and Wirtz Beverage. However, if you prefer not to drink your wine by the jug or the box, Cream is your friend. Their portfolio of small-batch and biodynamic grower/producer winemakers is one of the best in town, plus they work social media better than a gaggle of 13-year-old girls sharing the stories behind their excellent portfolio.
Owner, Heaven on Seven, Purple Pig, Dough Boys
Whether it was the Wrigleyville outpost or the original seventh-floor lunch counter on Wabash, Bannos’ Heaven on Seven restaurants have always been a favorite place to get a Cajun fix. Now that he’s unleashed the Purple Pig (maybe the best thing to happen to Michigan Avenue dining since NoMI) helmed by his son Jimmy Jr. and started slinging pizzas with Scott Harris, we’re excited about the next chapter of empire building.
Chef, Spiaggia, Spiaggia Café, Terzo Piano, Mangia Trattoria (Kenosha)
One of the so-called FCOs or Favorite Chefs of Obama, Mantuano’s continued, along with his excellent executive chef Sarah Grueneberg, to turn out some of the finest upscale Italian food in the country at Spiaggia and his Art Institute outpost Terzo Piano. He’s also upped his Q rating with appearances on “Top Chef Masters.”
Rob and Allison Levitt
Owners, Butcher & Larder
What they started at the short-lived Mado, breaking down whole animals and serving all the parts, lives on greater than ever at their new Noble Square butchery. From Paulina to Gepperth’s, there’s plenty of great old meat cutters doing God’s work. But, while the protein served up at those places is often high quality, they’re also nameless and faceless cuts, some local, some not. At B&L, you can get a chop that was definitely raised on pasture less than a hundred miles away or the same farmer’s cut served to you at Sepia or Vie the night before.
Co-Founder, LTHForum.com; BBQ Guru
Gwiv, as he’s affectionately known online, is the dude food writers call at seven o’clock on a Saturday night when they need to know the best place to score rare Eastern European foodstuffs or the best Thai-style bugs in town. If you happen to be a low-key ethnic storefront in Chicago, Wiviott’s personal seal and that of his LTHForum brethren is as good as an 8×10 glossy from ABC 7’s Hungry Hound Steve Dolinsky or a three-star nod from Michelin. While Wiviott recently lost ownership of LTHForum due to a bankruptcy skirmish, he’s still sharing his encyclopedic knowledge on the board on a regular basis. In his spare time, Wiviott who has a signature rub sold at the Spice House in Old Town also writes books including “Low & Slow BBQ” with his writing partner Colleen Rush.
Owner, Kuma’s Corner
We don’t even know if the burgers are good here anymore because we’re too lazy to wait in the massive lines. But, like at Hot Doug’s, we know there are still lines. And that’s probably all we need to know.
Nick Lessins and Lydia Esparza
Owners, Great Lake Pizza
We don’t know what it is about Andersonville that attracts control freak super-artisans, but add Lessins and Esparza to the list of incredible food craftspeople that don’t believe the customer is always right. According to Alan Richman of GQ, they serve the best pizza in America and folks will wait hours for a pie, so for now they can do whatever they want. We just hope they don’t go the way of their control-freak bakery neighbors, the recently shuttered Pasticceria Natalina.
Chef/Partner, North Pond; Chefs Collaborative and Green City Market Boards
Sherman is actually the antithesis of hot. He’s one of, if not the most deliberative and intelligent chefs we know. But, that attention to detail and nuance makes him one of Chicago’s best advocates for locally farmed high-quality food.