The Reader's Choice: Chicago Music Exchange
A strange sort of masochism seems to drive broke-ass musicians to take two buses and a train across town just to stew in unrequited gear lust at Chicago Music Exchange, where most of the hundreds of gorgeous vintage guitars lining the walls are so far out of the price range of the average player that they might as well be behind credit-card-proof force fields. If you're a fan of any of the major guitar manufacturers of the electric era, you can usually find dozens of your preferred model, ranging in condition from good to pristine and in age from new to holy relic—as of this writing their Web site lists a Fender Stratocaster from 1954, the year the model was introduced. I still catch myself thinking from time to time about a flawless green metallic SG-style Gibson Melody Maker I saw there once. The only thing you won't be able to find is an overlooked bargain—unfortunately these guys know in great detail what everything they have is worth. 3316 N. Lincoln, 773-525-7773, chicagomusicexchange.com. —Miles Raymer
&Our readers' choiceThe Guitar Works Ltd
709 Main, Evanston, 847-475-0855, guitarworksltd.com.