What to do when the urban grind leaves grime under your nails and your Paul Frank bag next to empty? Make like a savvy politician and avoid the extremes--posh spas, storefronts that slack on sanitation--and head for the middle ground: a manicure that's light on the wallet, heavy on the hip factor. These local spots will buff, nip and polish your fingers and toes for less, without sacrificing style.
Tiny Studio Nail sits in the shadow of the Briar Street Theatre, but when it comes to nail care, this bright yellow shop shines. Basic manicures cost only $12; the more extensive spa pedicure (which includes sitting in the massage chair) hovers just below the local average at $25, or you can have both for $35. Pick up the shop's business card/coupon when you arrive and automatically receive 10 percent off. Walk-ins accepted, often with no wait.
Tres Bien shares its stretch of Armitage Avenue with high-end spots such as Charlie Trotter's, but when it comes to bargains, this nail shop has more in common with its neighbor, discount mecca Lori's Designer Shoes. Nearby Carissima of Italy Salon sends its nail clients here, where on Wednesday nights you can get a manicure and pedicure for $35 (prices are normally $15 and $35 respectively). Appointments recommended.
Roller Salon and New Trend Nails share a space on Chicago Avenue in the East Village. New Trend manicures run $14, pedicures $30, or $40 for both. Walk-ins welcome.
Stylish nail-only spot Paint has been polishing up Chicago's beauty quotient since its September 2002 opening. Regular manicures are a competitive $15, pedicures $28, and prices climb up to $56 for a combo spa manicure and spa pedicure. But the real deals here are the a la carte items: A simple hand polish change is $8, a moisturizing dip in paraffin wax is $10 for hands and $15 for feet, and a simple repair is only $5. Appointments recommended.
What's even better than "reasonably priced"? Free. Local ladies' night event specialist Sheque.com is offering a series of female-friendly events at Buzz nightclub that feature free martinis, makeup samples and manicures by Paint. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP for the next event, taking place Aug. 22.
One tip: Illinois law requires that nail technicians discard wood sticks and files after each use, and that all non-disposable implements are cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant. Our picks are all safe bets, but if you find another discount spot, remember: Wherever you doll up your digits, make sure your nail tech doesn't skimp on safety.
Jennifer Wehunt is a metromix special contributor.