515 N Halsted St., River West
DL Mullen, the female founder behind Semicolon, one of Chicago’s newest independently owned bookstores, has created a space where the library of titles is immense and the comfort is instant. An afternoon spent browsing books is a lesson in sensory pleasure, with rotating art on the walls, plenty of seating, and gorgeous decorative touches, like bright rugs and literary quotes. It’s the kind of spot where settling in with a stack is encouraged and questions are welcome. Mullen and her team provide thousands of donated books to Chicago public school students, and Mullen (who has a PhD in literary theory) is a seasoned pro at helping reluctant-to-read kids and young adults find books they won’t be able to put down. Images courtesy of Zach Caddy.
224 N. Ada St., River West
Elaina Vazquez spent her early years honing her fine-dining skills (her résumé bullet points include the Culinary Institute of America as well as the kitchen of Joel Robuchon). But a strong entrepreneurial streak and a familial pull to Chicago took over: Boutique Bites was founded in 2008. In the last ten years, Vazquez has built one of the most in-demand catering companies in Chicago. There are few chefs who could pull off a six-course tasting menu (with wine pairings) for a large wedding like Vazquez. The BB team also handles the rentals, setup, staffing, and execution. And for those clients stuck for space, Boutique Bites has recently opened its own event venue—a beautifully restored warehouse in the West Loop neighborhood called Brique.