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Single City is a twice-weekly blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho. Got a question? Email her!

Once upon a time, a novel called The Notebook was made into a sappy yet sexy movie that left people romanticizing Alzheimer's disease and fantasizing about rowboat dates through nature. Here's how to make those dreams come true (minus the debilitating disease):

RICH MAN: Once a month, Chicago River Paddle offers a "dinner cruise" called the Moonlight Dinner Paddle. For $45 a person, you get to choose a boat and head out with your sweetheart in the early evening from the Chicago River on the Northwest Side, stopping for a riverside picnic dinner of Persian chicken skewers and grilled veggies from Noon-o-Kabab vegetarian options available, before paddling back by moonlight. The trip is around three hours long, departing at 6 p.m. Call (773) 704-2663 soon -- this month's trip is on Saturday! -- for reservations.

POOR MAN: In the perpetual search for free (or nearly free) things to do in Chicago that might remotely be romantic, I am constantly defaulting to Chicago Park District offerings. This week is no different, because beach season officially opened on May 28. While the Rich Man enjoys turtle sightings and the antique Addison Bridge, you and your cheap date can hit Kathy Osterman Beach (aka Hollywood Beach), a native dune habit and bird and butterfly sanctuary. No life preserver needed.

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photo: chibbqking.blogspot.com

Bon Appetit - A Multicultural Taste of Albany Park
6-9 p.m. at Body Worxs Fitness, 4650 N. Kedzie; $35
Get to know this diverse neighborhood through its international food. You'll sample small plates at several spots (there are 18 participating restaurants in all, including Marie's Pizza & Liquors, Mayan Sol Latin Grill, Nazareth Sweets and more.

Sam Lay
noon at Chicago Cultural Center; free
As part of a month of lunchtime teasers leading up to the Chicago Blues Festival, the Randolph Café at the Chicago Cultural Center is showcasing pillars of showmanship from Honeyboy Edwards to Barrelhouse Chuck in a series dubbed "Jazz, Blues & Beyond Tuesdays," with this week's hour dedicated to the session stickman behind some of the greatest records of all time (from Howlin' Wolf to Dylan), Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Sam Lay.

The Moth StorySLAM
8 p.m. at Martyrs'
True stories, live on stage, told (possibly) by you. The Moth's can't-miss formula gives those brave enough to put their names in the hat (and lucky enough to be chosen) an appreciative audience of several hundred. Shyer people just get a night of killer, low-key entertainment. This month, prepare your tales of that which can be exchanged for goods, services and all evil: money.

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

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OPEN:
Gilt Bar - The Aigre Doux space is busy once again with this gastropub from an all-star lineup.
Second City Subs - This quick-serve sandwich spot near DePaul already feels like it's been around for years.
Ameer Kabob - Call 'em up and order inexpensive Arabian favorites for less than Sultan's Market.
Klopa Grill & Cafe - Serbian BBQ cafe serves up "good food," according to its name.
No Man's Land Pizza & Grill - Wilmette pizzeria offers New York-style slices and grilled sandwiches.

OPENING SOON:
Francesca's on Chestnut - The Italian empire expands with this Gold Coast location (in the Seneca Hotel), open any day now.

CLOSING:
Your Kitchen - You've only got a few more days to get prepared comfort food from this Albany Park spot, which closes March 1.

CLOSED:
Angelo's Taverna (we think) - Papered-over windows, disconnected phone don't bode well, but we're not totally giving up hope for this Old Town Greek eatery.
Marco Polo - Sorry, Skokie, looks like you'll have to get your fried-rice fix elsewhere.

Check back here every week for more openings and closings, and be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's lists of new restaurants and bars.

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

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OPEN:
Prairie Fire - This new West Loop restaurant comes from the owners of Northbrook's Prairie Grass Cafe.
Leo's Coney Island - The lines out the door should tell you something about how much a true Coney emporium has been needed in these parts.
The Money Shot - Try to overlook the, um, descriptive name of the place and focus on the sleek look of this Rogers Park restaurant/lounge.
Rice N Roll - Get your favorite Thai, Chinese and sushi dishes at this Albany Park restaurant. As part of its grand opening, the place is offering an entree with soup and an appetizer for $5.95.
Eggsperience Cafe - This 24-hour cafe offers a full range of egg dishes, whenever you want 'em, in River North.
Rockin' Taco - Try the "Friday Night Fight": 10 tacos drowning in hot sauce, which come free if you eat the whole plate with just one drink and one napkin ($16.66 if you don't).
Rehab - The old martini lounge connected to Circuit in Boystown re-opens with a fresh new look and cocktail-heavy menu.

OPENING SOON:
Gilt Bar - Brendan Sodikoff's simple, fun restaurant in the old Aigre Doux space in River North will open later this month.

CLOSED:
Fuego Mexican Grill (Arlington Heights) - If you want your fix of margaritas and tableside guacamole, you may have to go to its Logan Square location.


Check back here every week for more openings and closings, and be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's list of new restaurants and bars.

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Did you know that today is Korean American Day? As it happens, January 13 was the day in 1903 that 102 Korean immigrants arrived in Hawaii (there are now almost two million Korean Americans, according to Korea Report).

If you missed the performances at Daley Plaza earlier this afternoon, here are a few ways you can commemorate the occasion:

Got more ideas? Shout 'em out!

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We have to give you credit, CTA. After all the ways you’ve screwed us over in 2009 (full buses passing us by, trains running express when we least expect it, the persistent odor of bodily fluids), you think you can make us forget all of it by offering penny rides on New Year’s Eve. And you know what? It just might work. Because instead of writing up a list of grievances, we’ve been busy brainstorming how to spend those cents between 8 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday. Here’s what we’ve come up with (not including all the New Year’s Eve events on the slate):

  • Hop on the Red Line and spend some time at the Jackson stop, where you’ll surely find a music performance in progress, whether it’s classical violin or jazz on electric guitar. Increase your enjoyment by stopping by Ceres Café for a drink with the traders first.
  • Take a ride over to the Chicago Blue Line stop to view the new installation from local artist Peter N. Gray. While you’re there, head above ground for a cocktail at the Matchbox and maybe a heart attack (the Three Little Piggies Sandwich) at the nearby Silver Palm.
  • Plan a Pink Line journey to 18th St, where the decorated station will have you in awe. Not only that, but perennial favorite Nuevo Leon is just a short walk away (and if you’re taking a ride on the tail end of the deal, Panaderia Nuevo Leon opens at 5:30 a.m.)
  • Pre-party with the Wildcat faithful at Tommy Nevin’s Pub in Evanston, off the Purple Line’s Dempster stop – the diehards have plenty to prepare for, as Northwestern plays its biggest football game in several years on New Year’s Day, against Auburn in the Outback Bowl at 11 a.m. (if you can’t bear to leave the city, try Lion Head Pub – by the Fullerton stop – or the brand-new Purple Haze, steps away from Belmont).
  • Ride the Brown Line out to Francisco, just so you can confirm it exists (seriously, it’s gotta be the least referenced stop on the North Side). The welcoming Montrose Saloon is a short jaunt south.
  • Go for a late, late dinner (or an early breakfast) at the 24-hour Huck Finn Donuts near the Pulaski stop on the Orange Line. We recommend the Donut Delight (topped with whipped cream and ice cream).
  • Brave the cold and take a walk to Promontory Point, near the Garfield Green Line stop in Hyde Park. It’s the perfect place to toast to 2010 (with non-alcoholic beverages, of course).


Got better ideas for how to take advantage of cheap public transit on New Year’s Eve? Let everyone know in the comments. And remember to check out Centerstage’s Virtual L to find the best spots near train stops year-round.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Nella Pizzeria Napoletana
Sporty-chic Lincoln Park pizzeria with a sweet side.

Off the Beaten Path: Peking Mandarin
Chinese-Korean combo restaurant in Albany Park.

Weekly Treat: $1.50 domestic pints tonight at McKellin’s
Rogers Park bar also offers $2 mixed drinks on Tuesdays.

Man We're Crazy About: Conoce Mi Panama
Get to know Panamanian cuisine at this Logan Square spot.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

Good news, pizza and pasta lovers.The always amiable Marie's Liquors & Pizza, whose notable features include old-fashioned cracker crust, super-friendly staff and an attached liquor store that will send retail-price bottles right to your table with only a small corkage fee attached, is celebrating its annual Customer Appreciation Days this week. Today, all in-house diners get half-price pizza; tomorrow, it's half-price spaghetti and ravioli.

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

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Hot Woks Cool Sushi

OPEN:
Hot Woks Cool Sushi – The Pulaski location of this popular sushi spot has been jumping since it opened last year, so here comes a Loop incarnation. Hey, when something works, you might as well double up. Too much of a good thing? We’ll see.

90 Miles Cuban – Ditto here; just sub “Cuban” for “sushi” and “Logan Square” for “Loop.”

Bucktown Soup Café – As much as we like soup (dig the bread bowls at Soupbox) and as good as some of these sound (chipotle chicken tortilla, pot roast & vegetables, spicy jumping bean & vegetables) we just cannot get on board with soup being an entire meal. It just seems so … not right.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just opened: Zebda
Mediterranean take-out eats in Albany Park.

Off the Beaten Path: Buona
Famed Italian beef stand reopens its original spot in Berwyn.

Weekly Treat: Make a Cheap Date at Rumba
Get 2-for-1 dinners and half-priced bottles of wine on Tuesday nights.

Man We're Crazy About: Chicago’s Dog House
Grab a gourmet dog in Lincoln Park.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just opened: Birchwood Kitchen
Sandwich shop adds a touch of class and a lot of taste to Wicker Park.

Off the Beaten Path: Wok Cuisine
Quality Chinese fare in Albany Park.

Weekly Treat: Pass the Buck at Atmosphere
Well drinks and Bud Light drafts are only $1 on Tuesdays at this Andersonville spot.

Man We're Crazy About: Simone’s Bar
Northside and Danny’s owners combine powers in Pilsen.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just opened: Taste of Brasil
Exotic snack food rules this Oak Park cafe.

Off the Beaten Path: Zahrat al Madaa'en
Low-key Albany Park spot for Middle Eastern grub and bellydance jams.

Weekly Treat: Stay Classy at Black Beetle
Dewars drinks are just $3 on Tuesday nights.

Man We're Crazy About: Jive Turkey
South Side BBQ joint keeps it healthy – and that’s no jive.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

3 Things We Love About ... Albany Park

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1. Eating foods from around the world (the 60625 zip code is the third most ethnically diverse in the nation), whether at Restaurant Sarajevo (Bosnian), Cho Sun Ok (Korean), Tre Kronor (Scandinavian), Pupuseria Restaurant Cuscatleco (Salvadoran), or Jaafer Sweets (Middle Eastern). It's like Epcot, only authentic!

2. Drinking Gatorade and pretending that pool counts as cardio at Marie's Golden Cue.

3. Knowing that experimental music venue Brown Rice takes its name from the 1975 album by trumpeter Don Cherry and feeling oh-so cool for it.


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