Three Chicago nail salons offer funky nail art.
The experience I never would have known that this standard nail shop smack in the center of Wicker Park offered nail art if not for a loud-mouthed Yelp reviewer. One point for Yelp. Owner/manicurist Jackie Van tells me that the local rapper chicks make up her small stable of nail-art regulars, but occasionally she hooks a newbie in with her display of designs—sky’s the limit—up front. I’m thinking a neon cheetah print, but she informs me that design’s passé. Instead, I give her free rein. I expect to be there for at least an hour, but 30 minutes later, she shows off her impeccable craftsmanship: an artfully mismatched combination of Burberry-esque argyle and zebra patterns with a no-chip finish, which means I’ll be throwing out jazz hands for at least two weeks. 1743 W North Ave (773-384-0717). $30 for a no-chip manicure plus $10 for nail art.—Jessica Herman
The experience Even though it’s my first time here, I feel like I’ve been going to this Humboldt Park nail salon for years. By the end of my appointment, I’ve been fed snacks from a passing fruit cart and know all the local gossip, plus tales of how my manicurist Alexis McBride’s mom taught her offspring the art of nail design. After flipping through albums featuring examples of her handiwork, including free-style patterns spruced up with sequins and fabric, I let the expert decide. Twenty-five minutes and one delicious-smelling hand scrub later, I’m looking down at a neon-and-glitter cacophony of Jackson Pollock–meets–’80s-style geometric design. My only regret a few days later: not requesting a no-chip finish under the gel top coat to keep my tips intact. 3240 W Armitage Ave (773-252-6242). $15 for a manicure plus $5 for nail art.—Joanna Batt
The experience Between the tagged brick walls of this Pilsen salon and the stash of bright polishes laid out on the table, there is no doubt my nails are about to get extremely awesome. Tacarra Sutton (a.k.a. Spifster), 22, is a nail-design rock star, patiently painting outrageous, hipster-approved patterns; glittery, Lady Gaga–ish textures; and her signature grammatical symbols (exclamation points, semicolons) on my nails for the better part of an hour. When it’s over, my nails look M.I.A.–level rad…or—if you must—spiffy. 2201 S Halsted St (book via firstname.lastname@example.org or styleseat.com/spifstersutton). $15–$25 for a manicure plus $15 and up for nail art.—Julia Kramer