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chicagochinatown.jpgGateway to Chinatown (photo: Albert Yau)

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!

By Thursday, you all will have filed your income taxes (hopefully), so I've written this week's dating ideas for the very, very poor man -- two dates for under $30!

Most of us probably know there's a lot of good eatin' down in Chinatown (OK, so I might be a little biased), but what you may not know about is, well, everything else offered in Chinatown.

Not to worry. Last season's Bachelor Jake was fairly ignorant, too, as evidenced by his lame tour of San Francisco's Chinatown with runner-up Tenley last season, when he uttered what I'd call the least sophisticated sentence ever said by a commercial pilot: "We're exploring San Francisco, Chinatown. It's amazing. You feel like you're in a foreign country."

The Poor Man: For $30, get a private one-hour walking tour of the 'hood, courtesy of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. You learn a bit of history about Chinatown and Chicago, and it's smart, cultured and a spectacle for the eyes -- everything you hope your date will be.They can even arrange a meal for you afterwards if you aren't familiar with the area's cuisine.

The Really Poor Man: So you're really, really, really poor? Yeah, me too. Try having a night in and, for about $5 bucks, bake a batch of fortune cookies together instead! It's cheesy but also laid-back and cute -- everything I hope my dates will be.

Here's a recipe I like.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Club Blujazz
Wicker Park live music lounge specializes in … blues and jazz.

Off the Beaten Path: Mr. Daniels
Find all your Polish favorites in this Portage Park café.

Weekly Treat: Buck-a-beer tomorrow at Cuna
Lakeview lounge offers domestic bottles for just $1 on Wednesdays.

Man We're Crazy About: Tao Ran Ju Restaurant
One-of-a-kind dishes in Chinatown.

For more Chicago bar and restaurant news, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

3 Things To Do Today

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
7:30 p.m. at Auditorium Theatre; $30-$85
The world's most respected African-American dance company kicks off a short five-day run at Auditorium Theatre tonight. The performance will include "Uptown," a new ballet set in the Harlem Renaissance era to the music of Fats Waller and Nat "King" Cole; "Dancing Spirit," a tribute to Judith Jamison set to the music of Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis and War; and the classic "Revelations."

Air
8 p.m. at Riviera Theatre; $31
With its downtempo beats and whimsical melodies, Air (Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin) has entranced fans all across the globe — from backpack hip-hoppers to in-the-know hipsters. Its newest album, "Love 2" (released by Astralwerks), carries on the traditions of previous works with its heavy usage of spaced-out synths and dreamy vibes, but is in no way repetitive thanks to some well placed, romantically inclined vocals. This show is one in a handful of stateside performances for the Parisian duo.

Chinatown Dining Tour
5:30-9 p.m. beginning at Triple Crown Seafood Chinese Restaurant; $20-$25
Curious about authentic Chinese food, but don't know which restaurant to choose? With this second annual tour, you don't have to. The event includes stops at 13 different Chinatown restaurants and bakeries, including Lao Sze Chuan, Chiu Quon Bakery, Lee Wing Wah and Hing Kee.


It's a big day in Our Town, because today marks the first installment of Single City, a mostly daily blog about the Chicago dating scene by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho. Take it away, Sally:

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Originally from Los Angeles –- to which I give credit for my tough attitude and street smarts -- I was a gross tomboy (unfortunately) nicknamed “Buff Girl” in middle school, before evolving into your average single twentysomething woman trying to make sense of dating in Chicago.

When I’m not covering breaking news for the Sun-Times Media Wire, I’ll be here at Single City to ask questions, get answers, discuss dating trends and date ideas, and shower you with stories of composite dating experiences that are ironic, hilarious, sweet and strange. Got a too-good-to-be-true tale that fits the description? Questions about your situation? Need a guinea pig to try out a dating adventure? Just want to chat about shady men or annoying women? Email me!



The Bachelor and the Poor Man: I'm On a Boat

If there was ever a competition for the most unrealistic vision of courtship, ABC's "The Bachelor" would definitely get a rose.

But even those who aren’t fans of the show can appreciate the unattainably lavish dates featured in each episode – even if they can’t imagine paying for them. In an effort to bring TV romance a little closer to reality, Single City is proud to present “The Bachelor and The Poor-Man,” a weekly series featuring date ideas inspired by the show, with alternatives that the average Chicagoan can afford.

The inspiration: It might still be a painful memory for Team Tenley, but the cuddling session between last season's runner-up and her (shirtless) object of affection, Jake, on a boat in St. Lucia certainly put some wind in viewers' sails.

The Bachelor: Charter a sailboat for a romantic cruise on Lake Michigan. Lakeshore Sail Charters and Go Sailing Chicago offers sailing charters for up to six people per ride. Lakeshore goes for as cheap as $125 per hour on weekdays ($155 Friday, Saturday and Sunday) with a two-hour minimum; Go Sailing offers rides as cheap as $150 per weekday hour ($170 weekends) with a three-hour minimum.

So pack a picnic dinner and bring some booze, and then just stay busy by fawning over each other at sunset. If you plan it right, you can also catch a viewing of the free Navy Pier fireworks on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Go Sailing also suggests swimming, which offers a perfect opportunity to make out nearly naked -- just like in those racy hot tub scenes.

The Poor Man: If spending that much on a date makes you a little seasick, don’t worry. You can still get the romance flowing by going to dinner at one of several Riverwalk cafes via (drum roll...) WATER TAXI! It’s no gondola ride, but it’s still much more original, romantic and scenic than the L. And while the River may lack the awe-inspiring qualities of Lake Michigan, it’s still majestic in its own right.

Take a Shoreline Water Taxi from River North (at Erie and Larrabee) down to the Michigan Avenue Bridge for as little as $2 and have a French feast at Cyrano’s Cafe & Wine Bar, grab sushi at Diosa on the River, spice things up at Lagniappe Creole Cajun Joynt or just keep it simple at O’Brien’s Riverwalk Café.

Feel like Chinese? Take the Chicago Water Taxi from Michigan Avenue down to Chinatown for your pick of authentic and fusion foods for just $4 each way.

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

OPEN:
Tao Ran Ju Restaurant - Get yer goose intestines and duck gizzards at this Chinatown restaurant.
Harry Caray's Tavern (Navy Pier) - It's a meeting of the minds for two of the biggest tourist attractions in the city.
Francesca's on Chestnut - The Italian empire-building continues with this Gold Coast outpost at the Seneca Hotel.

OPENING:
Houndstooth Saloon - After a brief closing, the beloved Lakeview bar is back on Thursday in a new, bigger space a block south of its old location. Watch for Dos Gringos Trailer Park in the old space in the next week or so.

CLOSING:
A Mano - After a few years of serving up rustic Italian cuisine in the heart of downtown, John Caputo's restaurant will close its doors on Saturday, March 6.

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.

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Les Amis Creole perform multiple times during the U of C Folk Fest.
(photo via MySpace)

University of Chicago Folk Festival
Friday-Sunday at Mandel Hall; $20-$25
It's a big year for this celebration of traditional music, as the fest celebrates 50 years of folk. The event includes a range of performers, from Irish folk to Virginia bluegrass to Chicago blues, including Kim Wilson, The New Mules, Aaron Moore, Les Amis Creole and more. There will also be instrument workshops, dances and vendors (some free) throughout the weekend.

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