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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!

Smoking, religion, parenting are all accepted, and obvious, deal breakers.

But if you are dating in the city, sometimes it's the quieter ones that hurt your budding romances first. In the spirit of finding the mildly bumpy but everlasting road to true love, keep these deal-breakers in mind for your next first date if you are hoping it will be the last.

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Erykah Badu

7:30 p.m. at Chicago Theatre; $49.50-$69
When Erykah Badu released the video for her single "Window Seat," the viral world got an eyeful of just how far she was willing to go in order to convey a message. As entertaining as it was, it was a little unfortunate to see the act overshadow the song itself, and it was even more sad to see how once-loyal Badu fans jumped ship, thinking that her naked romp though Dallas was nothing more than a gimmick. But the video, which was not entirely original as it was inspired by Matt and Kim's "Lessons Learned," is in many ways indicative of the album it's featured on ("New Amerykah Part 2 (Return Of The Ankh)"). From a creative standpoint it's important to look at her past two albums as a unified body of work as opposed to two separate projects. "New Amerykah Part 1 (4th World War)" was a darker album that gave rise to an aggressive side of Erykah, while part two softened the spectrum with its sensitive lyrics and ethereal vibes, giving credence to the idea that even Badu isn't immune to the yin and yang of raw emotion. Either way, the publicity has given Erykah a larger stage than she could have ever imagined, and she looks as comfortable as ever standing atop the peaks of hip-hop's elite. N.E.R.D. and Janelle Monae provide support for what should be one of the best shows of the summer.

DJ Premier

9 p.m. at The Shrine; $10
After the passing of legendary emcee Keith Elam (aka Guru), the hip-hop community responded appropriately by paying tribute whenever and wherever possible. The outpouring of love and condolences to the Elam family was touching, but less than a month after the fact it still seems like people are mourning over the loss. To help move forward, artists like longtime friend and collaborator DJ Premier (together, the two were known as Gang Starr) have stepped up to the plate, honoring Guru with a wealth of stories as well as a tribute mixtape. Premier's set at The Shrine will be featuring some of those classic Guru/Gang Starr cuts, and overall it'll be a night to remember as The Shrine will be in the midst of celebrating its one-year anniversary.

Reading Under the Influence
7-9 p.m. at Sheffield's; $3
Things get a little risque during this month's installment of the reading series, which offers up a "Slut"-themed show. Gina Frangello (Slut Lullabies) and Zoe Zolbrod (Currency) celebrate book releases, while local writers Josh Alletto and Charlie Vlahogiannis will read work based on the theme. There'll be trivia, too.

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Georgia Anne Muldrow
9 p.m. at The Shrine; $7-$15
For her last album, "Kings Ballad," the enigmatic singer takes a musically ambitious approach, scaling back on the far-out philosophies in order to focus on the production end of things. Overall it's a more listener-friendly effort than previous works, and it'll likely be the album that breaks her free from the niche neo-soul market that's kept her under wraps for way too long. Also performing will be her frequent collaborator/partner, Declaime (aka Dudley Perkins) -- think of him as the Andre 3000 to her Erykah Badu. The duo will also perform a free show at Reckless Records in Wicker Park.


Little Brother

8 p.m. at Double Door; $20
In a move that disappointed many but surprised no one, Little Brother (Phonte Coleman and Rapper Big Pooh) announced that its latest album, "Leftback," will be its last. The impending breakup is bound to spark conversation over what could have been, but as it stands the albums that LB did leave behind are more than enough to seal the group's legacy as one of the greatest of all time. All is not lost for the North Carolina trio (including departed producer 9th Wonder, who won't be joining this tour) as each member has seemingly moved on to forge successful solo careers.

Conan O'Brien
7:30 p.m. at Chicago Theatre
Capitalizing on a wave of public support following his unceremonious ousting at NBC, the former "Tonight Show" host has been traveling the country, performing for sold-out crowds. Each stop has yielded at least a couple special guests, so prepare for anything (assuming you have tickets).

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photo: Photo Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images (via MTV.com)

EPMD
9 p.m. at The Shrine; $7-$14
If there were ever to be an unofficial CEO (or CEOs) of hip-hop, it would have to be EPMD. Sure the duo's album names (Strictly Business, Unfinished Business, Business as Usual, etc.) factor into the decision, but their resume is the bottom line; it spans 24 years, 7 albums and numerous classics. There's no questioning Erik Sermon and Parrish Smith's impact on the culture, so whenever they make it to town it should be a top priority to pay homage.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories
10 a.m. at Merle Reskin Theatre; $8
Few novelists are more theatrical than Salman Rushdie, and this tale, adapted from his award-winning children's story, brings his words to life on stage. Kids will love following Haroun to the mythical moon of Kahani, where he meets shadow warriors, mechanical flying bulls, talking fish, and water genies in his quest to recover his father's magical storytelling powers. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Chefs' Fest
5-8 p.m. at Arlington Park Racecourse; $35
This 17th-annual foodie festival includes features 50 restaurant vendors, including L'Eiffel Bistrot & Creperie, Sweet Baby Ray's, Wildfire, Weber Grill and more, plus a performance from a barbershop quartet. Food, music and wine -- what more do you need on a Tuesday night?

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JC Brooks had a great time during his last visit to The Shrine. (photo: Roper Fuentes via MySpace)


JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound

9 p.m. at The Shrine; $5
This soul group's been getting better and better with every performance, and with a new single ("Get It Together" b/w "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart") and dedicated touring schedule, which includes Ravinia and Taste of Chicago, the future looks even brighter. If you want to catch the act now before it hits the bigger venues, this show could be your best bet. Early arrival is recommended as opener Rita J has been on a tear since releasing her debut album, "Artist Workshop."

Baskin-Robbins 31-Cent Scoop Night
5-10 p.m.
Unless you're lactose-intolerant, there's pretty much no better way to power through the middle of the week than with some ice cream. This creamery behemoth makes it easy with its fourth-annual cheap-scoop promotion. Gluttony is discouraged, sort of; there's a limit of three scoops per person. Find a location near you.

Not For Tourists Chicago Book Launch
7-10 p.m. at Sheffield's; free
We know you get pretty much all the facts you need about the city right here...but it can't hurt to be over-informed in this age of information -- especially when that knowledge comes with a free beer. The Not For Tourists Guide celebrates its 8th book launch (and its new iPhone app) with a party at Sheffield's, with all attendees getting a free copy and a Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale (while supplies last). Make sure to print this voucher before you go.

87262472.jpgDancers Anna Fur Laxis and Kittne Deville enjoy the WCBF opening party. (photo: Twitpic)

Windy City Burlesque Fest
Friday-Saturday at Greenhouse Theater Center; get tickets
It's a virtual who's-who of the burlesque scene as more than 70 performers take the stage at this inaugural event. Headliners include Kitten DeVille, Anna Fur Laxis, Foxy Tann and Kellita. There will also be classes/workshops on Saturday.

wcgISemifinals2009MichaelMcBride.jpgMichael McBride sings during the 2009 WCGI Semi-Finals. (via michaelscottmcbride.com)

Windy City Gay Idol
8 p.m. (7 p.m. signup) at The Glenwood; $10 to sing, $5 for spectators
The popular singing competition kicks off its 8th year with the first of many preliminary events around town. At each event, the top vote-getter will take home $100 cash, and the top two will advance to the semi-finals (June 5 at Sidetrack) and a chance at the grand prize of $1,000 cash, a pair of airline tickets, Ravinia tickets and more. A then-unknown Lady Gaga made the Finals in 2008, so you never know who you might come across.

Jean Grae
9 p.m. at The Shrine; $10
Lyrical practitioner Jean Grae is known primarily for two things: her turbulent career involving semi-retirement, and her ability to effortlessly shred a mic. The former was due to her being fed up with the business side of hip-hop (and her album being leaked preemptively), while the latter sustained her passion well past the initial retirement phase and into her 2008 album, "Jeanius" (produced by 9th Wonder). On that project, particularly on "My Story," Jean vented her frustrations in one motion; lyrically bobbing and weaving through 9th's beats and countering his soulful samples with her precise, multisyllabic jabs and poignant hooks. Two years later fans are still waiting for her new album, "Cake or Death," to drop. If you can't wait any longer, head over to the Shrine for a live showcase.

UPDATE: Jean Grae is apparently not happening tonight. Go see The xx at Lincoln Hall instead.

Pierre Thomas Homecoming Party

10 p.m. at The Fifty/50; no cover
Lansing native Thomas, fresh off a Super Bowl win as a member of the New Orleans Saints, comes to Wicker Park after tonight's White Sox game, at which he'll be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. He'll likely bring along a few of his sports pals at this party, which will feature $3 bottles of Stella Artois, $5 Ultimat vodka drinks and $4 Pama "Tossed Fruit Salad" shots.

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DAS EFX
9 p.m. Tuesday at The Shrine; $10
Known by many for the classic 1992 album "Dead Serious," this Brooklyn-born duo (Drayz and Skoob) pioneered the "-iggedy" suffix which came to be used throughout rap (The most iconic is still probably "Chiggedy check yo self before you wriggedy-wreck yo self," from the 1993 single "Check Yo Self" with Ice Cube).

Tony Kushner
7:30 p.m. at Mandel Hall (University of Chicago); $20 ($5 for students w/ valid ID)
The "Angels In America" playwright stops by U of C for an intimate chat with Charles Newell, the Artistic Director of Court Theatre, in this latest edition of Artspeaks. Kushner's latest work, a translation and adaptation of Pierre Corneille's "The Illusion," is being performed at the Court through April 11.

Dogfloydapalooza 2
9 p.m.-2 a.m. at Bottom Lounge; $20
Prep for this week's Craft Brewers Conference with this second-annual party featuring the brews of Delaware's Dogfish Head and Munster's Three Floyds. There will be 10 special beers on draft in the Bottom Lounge's second-floor Volcano Room, and music provided by Andre Williams with the Goldstars (9:30 p.m.) and Jon Langford and The Cashed Jonnies (11 p.m.). Admission price includes your first pint.

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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.


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Fred Anderson (photo: Jazz Institute of Chicago)

Fred Anderson's Birthday Benefit Festival
Friday-Sunday at Velvet Lounge; $25-$30
This four-show celebration of the tenor sax legend includes an Asian Improv Records Tribute to the man on Friday, a Blackout Festival tribute on Saturday and a birthday party on Sunday featuring a two-set jam with the man and his quartet (with Jeff Parker, Hamid Drake and Harrison Bankhead).

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For Our Town's first birthday party last year, we invited many distinguished guests, including Derrick Rose, Gordon Beckham, Ozzie Guillen, Andrew Bird, Common, Brian Dennehy, Dennis Farina and David Sedaris.

None of them showed.

So we're a little skeptical of the star-studded list of "special invited guests" at tonight's BlackOut party at The Shrine, which includes Jay-Z, Young Jeezy, Trey Songz and the assembled rosters of the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Then again, the host of tonight's bash is LeBron James, the King of the NBA, who's likely got a little more pull than we do. So the possibilities for the evening are pretty much endless.

This much we know: The doors open at 9 p.m., and Mick Boogie, Sean Mac and Steph Floss will DJ.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Gilt Bar
Indulging is way too easy at this River North gastropub.

Off the Beaten Path: Zaytune Mediterranean Grill
Middle Eastern quick service in Bridgeport.

Weekly Treat: Tonight is vodka night at Villains Bar & Grill
South Loop spot serves up all vodka drinks for just $3.

Man We're Crazy About: Second City Subs
Lincoln Park sandwich shop makes ‘em fast and fresh.

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

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At least one dude is excited about Stone coming to town.
(photo: The Beer Student)

Beer fans, the brew-mors are true: Stone Brewing Co. will begin distribution in the Chicago area beginning in April. As if the increased availability of Arrogant Bastard Ale and other aggressive beers weren't enough, there's more good news. To build up local goodwill, the San Diego-based brewer is putting together a week's worth of events (dinners, tastings, meet-and-greets) at some of Chicago's best beer spots. Our favorite? A three-hour tour of all three Small Bar locations (Logan Square, Lincoln Park and Wicker Park) followed by a shuttle ride down to Reggie's for a music showcase featuring the Muddy Udders (Friday, April 2; $5 for the music).

See the full schedule of events here.

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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Toast to Harry Caray
7:40 p.m. at Harry Caray's Tavern (Navy Pier); free
What better place to toast to the late Cubs announcer (he would've been 96 today) than at the latest addition to his bar/restaurant empire? Join his widow, Dutchie, plus Chicago celebrities like Ernie Banks, Bobby Hull, Ron Kittle, Rick Nielson, Bill Kurtis, Richard Roeper, Joe Piscopo and more for a special toast to a special man. It's just one of many events happening at the new location today, which celebrates its grand opening with a full schedule including a Mascot Toast, the unveiling of the Chicago Sports Museum and raffles and giveaways every half hour. WGN Radio will broadcast live from 4-9 p.m.

Common Threads World Festival
6-9 p.m. at Soldier Field; $250
Celebrate Art Smith's 50th birthday with the celebrity chef and dozens of his culinary superfriends at this annual charity event. Expect a wide array of food samples from the likes of Graham Elliot Bowles (Graham Elliot), Jimmy Bannos Sr. (Heaven on Seven, The Purple Pig), David Burke and Rick Gresh (David Burke's Primehouse), Christophe David (NoMI), Gale Gand (TRU), Stephanie Izard (The Girl & The Goat), Koren Grieveson (Avec) and more. The event benefits Smith's Common Threads foundation, which introduces low-income children to the world of cooking. A $500 VIP ticket gets you access to exclusive pre- and post-parties.


Jimmy Burns

9:30 p.m. at Buddy Guy's Legends; $10
The longtime host of The Jam is dealing with some sadness, as his wife, Dorothy, just passed away. That's just one more reason to go and support the Delmark stalwart who took a two-decade hiatus from his career to raise his family. He mounted a comeback in the late '90s with Leaving Here Walking, which won accolades for its explosive John Lee Hooker tightness and the Sunday-mass soul retained from his choirboy youth.

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Ever gotten to a concert, only to realize that you've left your ticket at home? That experience could soon be a thing of the past, assuming you're able to remember your smartphone. Twicketer, a new mobile application that allows you to purchase and activate event tickets directly from your phone, has just arrived in Chicago, with South Side venue Reggie's Rock Club the first to partner with the company.

The next available show on Twicketer looks to be the Metal as Art Tour tomorrow night. See all upcoming Reggie's events here.


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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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Fernando-Jones.jpgPhoto: courtesy of Bob Fila

Blues Kids of America
3:30 p.m. at Columbia College Theatre/Music Center
The leader of the nation's first collegiate blues ensemble at Columbia College, Fernando Jones leads this instructional course in bridging public school achievement gaps with the blues. Targeting everyone from parents to school council members, Jones shows how literacy, attendance, discipline and overall academic success can increase ten-fold via harmonica workshops and musical-theory courses. In other words – keep cool in school with the blues, kids.

Pre-Valentine's Day Cooking Class
6:30-8 p.m. at Sabor Saveur; $25
The Mexican-born, French-trained chef behind this Wicker Park spot will show you how to create two of Sabor Saveur's signature dishes: lobster enchiladas with hazelnuts and tropical chutney, and figs-and-coconut ante with lemon, blueberry cream and glace sauce. You'll then get to sample the items, along with two champagne cocktails each. If you like the preview, stick around for dinner; class participants get 25 percent off their dinner bill. Sabor Saveur is BYOB, so make sure to grab a bottle at D&D Liquors across the street (2006 W. Division). Wondering what to bring? Check out Centerstage's guide to pairing wines with ethnic foods.


Flirting for Disaster

6-9 p.m. at Close Up 2; $20 in advance, $25 at the door
The latest installment in the networking series offers the chance to find a potential date while also doing some good. Proceeds from the Valentine's Day-themed event, which includes hors d'oeuvres, $5 Effen martinis, tarot-card readings, raffles and more, benefits the American Red Cross.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Lockdown Bar & Grill
One-of-a-kind heavy-metal burger bar in Ukrainian Village.

Off the Beaten Path: The Glenwood
Rogers Park bar is open to any and all.

Weekly Treat: Two-dollar Tuesdays at Leg Room
Domestic beers, well drinks and bombs are all just $2 tonight.

Man We're Crazy About: Karyn’s on Green
More meatless fun from the vegan health food empire.

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

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What's changed in the last 20 years? Find out at Friday's Fresh Fest.

Fresh Fest
8 p.m. Friday at Arie Crown Theater; $40-$72.50
If you came of age in the '90s, this is pretty much a dream concert bill. Salt 'n' Pepa, Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh and Whodini will bring it back to the glory days of rap in a marathon show.

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