Reader’s Choice–Your Favorites of 2019

This time of year, there's a lot of looking back --for better or worse. We see what worked and what didn't, what we want more of and what we want to avoid, and head into the blank slate of the new year with hopes that we can make the best of it. We've already talked a lot about our favorite things in 2019, so we thought we'd flip the script and bring you a list of what you liked most here on Third Coast Review this year. Take a look at the top three from every section, and if you feel like we missed a really special article, let us know in the comments or on our Facebook or Twitter Page. Happy New Year and thank you for reading!


Our Today section, edited by Aaron Cynic, features a look at what's happening lately and locally, aiming to bring you some of the big headlines you don't want to miss, including footage from important political events and protests that's gathered on scene. Here's a look at some of the top stories in Today from 2019.  

ICE Protests

In July 2019, tensions were high as ICE raids were rumored to be set for that Sunday in late July. So, on Friday and Saturday, Chicagoans took to the streets by the thousands to protest the raids, and the conditions and existence of border camps and Trump's immigration policies. We provided a look at what was happening both in Chicago and with White House staff and on the borders simultaneously.  

Trump Visits Chicago

In Late October, Trump was set to visit Chicago, with a speaking engagement to the International Association of Chiefs of Police on his agenda as well as a fundraising luncheon. Chicago hasn't taken kindly to Trump visits and this trend continued, with widespread protests being organized for during his visit, and we had the down low ahead of his touchdown.    

An Unlikely Anthem

It was late November and impeachment was looming for Trump when Twitter chimed in with an anthem for the ages out of the thick scribbled Sharpie notes of a President with his feet to the fire. "I Want Nothing" had the vibe of Dashboard Confessional including all the appropriate drama, highlighted the ridiculous nature of the notes and the defense itself. It's insanely catchy, too.  


Our Stages Editor, Nancy Bishop, who is also our Editor in Chief, has a lot to keep track of, with Stages covering everything from circus, burlesque, ballet and opera to comedy, musicals and storefront theater.  Luckily she's up to the task and our year was full of great things on stage.  

Second City Grinning from Fear to Fear

The Second City is a Chicago treasure for a reason, and their annual revues are the culmination of a great deal of hard work and a grueling rehearsal schedule. Luckily for everyone, it paid off in spades with Grinning from Fear to Fear, which didn't lean on the crutch of political comedy or remain on any one thing too long--instead running the gamut with heart, skill and tons of hilarity.  

The Fly Honey Show

The burlesque scene in Chicago is diverse, uniquely talented, and full of sex and body positivity. And, in the case of the Fly Honey Show at Den Theatre, a real safe space to express yourself--whoever that self is. It was incredibly entertaining and impressive to Katie Priest, and, to many of you.  

Fiddler on the Roof

While we always look to what's new in town, sometimes we also take a look at the classics, and Fiddler is certainly one of those. There were some hiccups along the way in this year's show at the Cadillac Palace Theatre it didn't mean it wasn't worth the trip.  


Screens editor Lisa Trifone shares her love of the silver screen with chief film critic Steve Prokopy, and this year's top stories in Screens reflect their shared love for great film and some from the smaller screen as well.  

The Highwaymen

One of the things we strive to do here at Third Coast Review is be a reliable source of honest information. Part of that is giving things a fair shake. Not every film is an Oscar contender, but that doesn't mean it doesn't make an enjoyable evening at home with some popcorn and someone whose company you enjoy, and we want to bring you that perspective too. As it turns out, you're open to it, so we'll keep bringing you our candid opinions in 2020.  

Game of Thrones

You remember a little show called Game of Thrones, don't you? Well, we do too, and it was all anyone could talk about as it came to its close this past year. We brought you a look at some of the early episodes and just like you, couldn't imagine what those final episodes would bring. Were you in the satisfied or unsatisfied camp? Either way, you were there with us for the ride.  

Star Wars

Well, you likely knew this would end up here, didn't you? We did, too. It's hard to imagine it wouldn't make the list, being that it wraps up the iconic Star Wars saga after an epic run and recent resurgence. Whether you liked the movie or loathed it, you were there in the seats to see off Star Wars, and so were we.

Games & Tech

Games & Tech editor Antal Bokor does a great job bringing the immensely diverse world of video games to us here at Third Coast, from local games to indies and events around the city, as well as making sure to stay on top of the games everyone's talking about (and wondering if they should buy). Here's what topped the charts in Games & Tech.  

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe to Switch

The Switch has been the high point of the last 20 some years for Nintendo, and aside from the Wii there's hardly been a time that Nintendo's consoles have been so ubiquitous. Take two good things and combine them and you get a great game from the less celebrated Wii U system coming to a very popular Switch and the January 2019 release is off the charts.  

Metro: Exodus

Sometimes things fall just short of greatness. Such was the case for Metro Exodus-- a post apocalyptic near miss. It was beautiful but ultimately not quite what was expected, with a lack of compelling characters. Luckily, our review left players knowing what they'd be in for so they could decide whether or not near enough would still be fun.  

Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries

This game was highly anticipated, especially by section editor Antal Bokor. Game reviews can be tough, especially because unlike a film or play, a game may require about 30 to 40 hours to finish. That can be a curse or a really good deal, depending on if the game delivers. Third Coast Review aims to bring you passion for the subject matter, and oru Games & Tech team has that. Sure, we slog through some games, but some, like this one, we thoroughly enjoy, and hope to bring that love to you in our reviews.

Art & Museums

Marielle Bokor, our Art & Museums editor, is constantly impressed with just how lucky we are to be in Chicago. There is so much to see, and it's not all packed onto Museum Campus--it's everywhere--from pop-ups and parks to storefront museums and galleries. Here's a look at what caught your eye the most in Art

Hamilton: The Exhibition

It's hard to believe that Hamilton's come and gone from Chicago--it's been the hot ticket for so long, and the national sensation has been a proud part of our arts and culture scene for so long. As much of a star as the musical itself was, the exhibition followed suit, and Hamilton: The Exhibition was Hamilton: The Experience. In fact, it was as if a special features section had exploded on the scene, and fans and potential fans alike couldn't get enough.   Buggin' Out at the Field It didn't carry the weight of a big name or trendy topic the way that some of the Field Museum's recent exhibits did, but if you missed Fantastic Bug Encounters you missed something unique, inventive, artistic and interesting. Weta Workshops and New Zealand's Te Papa brought the world of insects to life in a magical way where everything was beautiful, eerie and enlightening.  

Manet and Modern Beauty

In another big moment at the Art Institute of Chicago, it'd been more than 50 years since Manets work was on exhibition in Chicago, but this year broke the dry spell, with the artist's later works being part of an amazing exhibition that provided better understanding into the artist in his later years.


Editor Julian Ramirez is a hard worker who knows the ins and outs of the Chicago music scene across genres and scenes, and he's a fantastic photographer and writer who brings concerts to life with his words and photos and helps others do the same.

Riot Fest

Chicago's festival season starts early, ends late and is insanely popular, so it's not a surprise that Riot Fest would take top slot here. Riot Fest will always be a big deal, and we'll always be there with the previews and announcements as well as on the ground giving you the best of every day with great concert shots and great recaps of what we saw on every stage.  

Bryan Ferry and Avalon at the Chicago Theatre

Art rock legends neither grow on trees nor come around town every day, so when 73 year old art rock legend Bryan Ferry hit the stage. The show was a great tribute to Roxy Music that everyone really seemed to enjoy, and the article brought us there, and added some great detail that brought it to life for readers who may have missed the show.  


Music is so diverse and everyone comes with their own unique sound. Such is the case for Japanese idol group BABYMETAL who combines the kawaii aesthetic with the thing you'd least think to combine it with--metal. This kawaii metal is unlike anything you've seen or heard and it packed the Aragon. Fans and the curious both flocked to the show, and we were there with plenty of info on the band, video and reports from the show.


Dan Kelly brings a great wit and humor to book reviews, as well as an even greater roster of guest authors, and fantastic interviews to our literature section. He's an avid reader and writer and brings his passion for the written word forward into our Lit section for you to enjoy.

Mueller, She Wrote

There's plenty to say about politics on the daily, and more than plenty of people around to say it. But if it's said well, then people listen, and if those people are a group of fantastic female comedians, then people laugh. Falling under audio in our lit section are these witty podcasters that hail from the Daily Bean and whobrought their Mueller, She Wrote section on the stage to Lincoln Hall for a brilliant show.  

Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson

Blues legends make good reads, and it's the case with the story of Robert Johnson, who died young but made a hell of a name of himself before he met an all too early demise. Up Jumped the Devil takes on the myths and delivers the real narrative, and is definitely worth picking up to read on the train.  

Long Walk Home

Turns out there's a lot of Springsteen fans at Third Coast--writing, editing and reading. So when a new book came out that explained it all--including why he's The Boss, we were there for it.  In 26 essays, this book distills the man down, and his importance in pop culture. It's a legendary tale told well, and worth a read.


Food editor Cynthia Kallile is a born and bred foodie who has her pulse on what's new, and what's fresh in Chicago. She isn't just looking for a good bite--she's looking for sustainable markets, interesting new food halls, great recipes and kitchen gadgets that'll make your life better and tastier, and helping her team bring you the best of food and drinks---because as we'll see, we're into that, too.  

Aeropress Cold Brew

The Aeropress was already a coffee press with a cult following, simply because of its durable, ingenious form. Cold brew, too, has its own cult following and worlds collided, coffee wise, when the enterprising man who invented the Aeropress did some fiddling to get in on the cold brew fun with his invention. Thus was it discovered that you could in fact use the Aeropress for cold brew, and so we tested it, and it delivered--not a surprise for those of us who can't go a day without this clever plastic doodad.  

Son of Aeropress--Aeropress Go

It was a good year for coffee lovers, and for Aeropress. As it turns out cold brew wasn't the only thing brewing, and the Aeropress Go was in the works. This diminutive press packs the same awesome coffee pressing punch but fits inside its own travel mug, and can be thrown into a medium sized purse and certainly amongst your other luggage, even in a carry-on, so that you don't have to have crappy hotel room coffee anymore. It was a good add and a great gift for the upcoming holiday season, and readers thought so, too.  

A Beer Called Ella

Craft brewing has brought us all sorts of amazing beers and Chicago is certainly a mecca if you're into that scene. So it was a natural location for the first annual Beer Culture Summit, too. While there, writer June Sawyer uncovered a gem named for a gem with a beer called Ella, named for a 19th century woman who labored in the Midwest hop industry. The history and beers were both perfection and we're looking forward to this coming year (and decade) in craft beer in Chicago, too.


Marielle Bokor has a love of travel and a lifelong knowledge of the suburbs--and hey--they're worth exploring too. It's good to get beyond city limits and find the fun in forest preserves, historic villages, concert halls, gardens and more. It's great to go and explore the weird and wonderful in and out of Chicago and it's great to get a chance to see the beautiful museums, parks, galleries and institutions other cities have to offer, and she's got a desire to bring you all of what's beyond. Be yourself, live boldly, and go beyond.  

C2E2 Cosplay

Cons are really at the pulse of what Beyond is about. They're about being an uninhibited fan of something--"nerding out" about that show, that movie, that game...and feeling comfortable being that person--maybe even by cosplaying. We're lucky here, because we have a LOT of chances to express that nerdy love for Buffy, Outlander, Star Trek, Supernatural or Doctor Who. Convention season kicks off with what's now the biggest and most popular of the cons, kicking off in just under a month all over again--C2E2 brings the best of the best from all over the world right here to our doorstep where cosplay is concerned and we bring you the best of the con from competition floor to show floor every day it runs. We'll see you there soon!  

Representation in Pop Culture

We're not just concerned with nerd culture,or even arts and culture as a whole--we're concerned with what it means for the larger world. We're concerned with being good humans and championing the right things. Which is why we don't just cover the glitz and glamour of convention season, and we look at panels that are talking about the real issues, like Asian Representation in Pop Culture, a panel put on by some fantastic folks from Raks Geek, UIC and Sun Bros studios and which inspired this incredibly insightful and personal essay on the subject from Pearl Shin.  

Wizard World Preview

Just when people are savoring the last of summer and shopping for back to school, convention season kicks in again with Wizard World Chicago, an oversized affair at Rosemont's Donald E Stephens Convention Center that brings all the panels, cosplay, merch and madness back to the forefront. We're always there for you daily, bringing you the latest and we of course wouldn't let you go in unprepared either. We aim to be reliable and bring you the highlights so you can schedule your convention stops without missing anything amazing, and we'll be gearing you up for C2E2 soon, so stay tuned!   Well, that's a wrap for YOUR favorite things in 2019. As always, we wouldn't be here if you didn't read, and we appreciate the enthusiasm you share with our editors and writers for Chicago's arts and culture scene. We're heading into 2020 excited to bring you even more great arts and culture coverage than before, and we'll hope to see you there!
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Marielle Bokor