21 Chicago-Themed Gifts That Your Friends & Family Will Actually Like
By Rachel Cromidas in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 30, 2016 9:27PM
We think it's a great idea to donate money to organizations in need in lieu of gifts this holiday season. But if you also need some beautiful, well-designed and useful tangible gifts to give your loved ones this holiday season as well, we've rounded up some of our favorite, Chicag-themed holiday gift ideas. Each gift ranges in price-point from under $20 to well over $100, and it's something uniquely Chicago in nature (whether it was made here or made in homage to the city). Happy Holidays!
$20 and Under
Great Lakes T-Shirt
Dress your loved ones in this classic graphic T and help them show off their Midwestern pride—no matter which Great Lake they come from around. The T-shirt image depicts a Bathymetric Great Lakes map, showing the depth of each lake. It retails for $20 from Transit Tees—a local shop for those who want to wear their love for Chicago landmarks and transportation on their sleeves.
Searching For John Hughes
Memoir meets biography meets critical analysis in this thoughtful, deeply personal consideration of John Hughes, the late, great auteur of teen angst who made Chicago shine in modern classics like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Don't you forget about it.
How To Speak Midwestern
This engrossing book by by Edward McClelland reveals the origins of some of the Midwest's most perplexing and beloved phrases—city chicken, squeaky cheese—and pronunciations. Learn about the distinct dialects that make up the Midwest and why Chicagoans are more likely to say "Chi-cah-go" than "Chi-caw-go"
dese these days.
No Delusions: A Chicago Hardcore Documentary DVD+zine
The history of Chicago punk rock got its first real closeup in 2007's You Weren't There. This year, we got the historical document of punk's younger, angrier even-more-misfit brother, hardcore, No Delusions, which looks back on influential standard-bearers like Los Crudos and Charles Bronson, along with a slew of lesser-known faves.
The Old-Time Saloon
This book is a re-release of Chicago writer George Ade's infamous, heartfelt paean to tavern culture of the 1800s, written during the twilight if Prohibition, with a new introduction by his modern-day drinker-wit Bill Savage. A great call for the historical-minded tippler on your list.
Chicago Flag Necklace
Help someone show off their Chicago pride beautifully and simply with this tiny Chicago flag necklace. $18 in silver, gold, or rose gold. Local gift shop Four-Sided warns that the necklaces are one of their most popular items—so act fast if this makes it onto your holiday wishlist.
Co-Op Hot Sauce 3-Pack
Co-Op Sauce started out as a side-hustle for a Chicago youth entrepreneurship organization that turned into a popular business. Co-Op Sauce now sells its locally-sourced hot sauces out of a Rogers Park shop and farmers markets around the city. The 3-pack contains one 5 oz. bottle each of Rhubarb Reaper, Unicorn Tears, and Jack O’ Lantern. $20.
These Are My Friends On Politics These Are My Friends On Politics was published before this year's election, but this adult tale in the form of a children's book speaks timeless truths. Chicago writer and cartoonist Billy O'Keefe perfectly nails the current political climate, and the arguments and situations it can drive even the closest knit group of compatriots into undertaking. Described as "a children's book for adults (who occasionally behave like kids)," the book may be a quick read but it's points—and its humor—will linger on long after you've finished. And don't worry about offending one political group of friends or another if you choose this as a gift this holiday season; These Are My Friends On Politics is a non-partisan look at the insanity of what passes for political discourse amongst people nowadays. $8.49. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
$50 And Under
Vosges Chocolate Bar Library
This deck of Vosges chocolate bars has been my go-to gift for officemates, friends and family members for years because it's just so adorable—you can sample the Chicago-based, artisanal chocolate shop's most popular chocolate bars (think: bacon dark chocolate) in a compact set designed to resemble a stack of books. $25.
River Valley Kitchens Pasta Kit
This pasta kit comes from one of our favorite local farms, River Valley Kitchens, which helps keep the Chicago stocked in fresh, delicious mushrooms. For $44.98, the pasta kit offers a set of Local Epicurean pasta (you choose two pastas out of three flavors: Portabella Parmesan, Basil Garlic, or Three Cheese) and River Valley pasta sauces. We recommend the Garlic Lovers Pasta Sauce and the Portabella Pasta Sauce in particular.
2016 Cubs Calendar
2016 was the year the Cubs won the World Series, after all, and we can think of few ways to commemorate the victory more elegantly than with this beautifully-designed poster. It functions as a calendar showing when the Cubs won and lost games in 2016, leading to the surprise, final three-game wining streak that cost the Cleveland Indians the World Series. $40 for an 18x24 print, framed.
A La Card
Chicago foodies, take note: This is one of those gifts that really keeps on giving. $30 will get you a deck of 52 coupon cards, each representing a different owner-operated restaurant around Chicago. Each coupon gets you $10 off a $25+ meal at each restaurant throughout the year; they expire Dec. 31, 2017. We've tried it for two years now and we promise, there's no catch—if your gift recipient plans on dining out at any four of the restaurants on the list next year, then they'll have already made the $30 upfront cost worth it. New restaurants participating this year include Steadfast and Animale.
Photo via Hothbricks
Chicago LEGO Skyline
LEGO and Chicago architecture buffs young and old will delight in this new Chicago Skyline LEGO set. It won't be for sale online until the new year, but Chicagoans can get it this holiday season in select Chicago-area stores. $39.99.
Chicago Neighborhood Spice Blend
This gift is for the person who loves to cook almost as much as they love geeking out about Chicago's rich neighborhood history. The Spice House in Old Town has a collection of neighborhood-themed spice blends for sale, and their gift box for $26.82 makes an excellent starter set. The 4-jar set includes the Bridgeport Seasoning, the Back of the Yards garlic-pepper butcher's rub, the Ukrainian Village Seasoning, and the Pilsen Latino Seasoning.
A Fat Rice brunch spread (photo via Facebook
The Adventures of Fat Rice: Recipes From the Chicago Restaurant Inspired By Macau
Macau fusion spot Fat Rice went from cult favorite to Bib Gourmand hotspot in a snap of the finger. This recipe book offers a great, visually lush approximation for the home cook.
No One Told Me Not to Do This: Selected Screenprints, 2009-2015
Chicago's reputation as a focal point for screen-printing culture is second to none. Longtime majordomo Jay Ryan's latest collection is required reading/ogling for anyone interested in either Chicago visual arts or—considering the band-poster overlap—the finicky music nerd.
Maybe keep grandma away when this one gets unwrapped. The playfully vulgar, politically astute anti-Trump tee, designed in collaboration with Chicago artist Tom Feltenberger, is one of the best clothing designs we saw this year.
$100 and Under
Photo of the Steppenwolf Theatre's sign via Flickr
Steppenwolf Red Card
Is your loved one in their twenties? If so, they're eligible to see some world-class theater for cheap. The Steppenwolf RED card costs $100 and offers the holder the ability to apply six tickets towards any Steppenwolf Theatre show, the same as a regular subscriber might. The card holder can also bring friends or family members with them. When the six slots run out, Red Card holders can pay another $100 to load up another six.
Hand-carved Wood Spoons By C. V. Robe
This Lawndale-based wood crafter's hand-carved spoons, created from regionally-sourced wood, make one-of-a-kind gifts. Spoons available in their online shop range from $55 to $90, but you can also find an assortment of their wood goods at local craft fairs. They also build elegant and unique custom furniture pieces, if you're looking for something bigger.
$101 And Up!
Damian Abraham, singer of Fucked Up, shouts along with the crowd at the Rock Stage on Saturday. Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Chicagoist
Summer Fests Winter has yet to hit us square between the eyes, but we know it's coming. And that already has us looking forward to summer festival season filled with bills of our favorite bands and hot, hot days accented by bad, bad fashion choices. Two of Chicago's biggest local music fests are warding off the winter blahs with holiday pre-sales for tickets. Pitchfork is getting into the pre-sale game with a variety of 1-day and 3-day options. Next year's Pitchfork Festival will run from July 14 to 16. And Riot Fest is offering tickets, starting at $149.99 for 3-day passes. Riot Fest will run from Sept. 15 - 17, 2017. Of course neither fest has revealed even a single band playing either festival, but you know you're going to end up going anyway, so you may as well get tickets at a slight discount for you and your friends. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
SRAM Red eTap Road Shift Kit
So, yeah, at $1,660 this is no bargain. But if you go in with somebody or maybe grab a gift certificate to put toward it, this wireless bike shift kit might just literally make the techie cyclist (not an oxymoron, it turns out) fall over in appreciation. The no-string-attached shift set is one of the coolest new toys we've seen from the local bike-component developers—and that's saying something.