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Gold Coast Art Fair
Friday-Sunday in Grant Park; free
The 53rd annual art fair attracts 450 artists and nearly 350,000 visitors. This year it moves to a new location in Grant Park, just across from the Art Institute.

Love's Labour's Lost
Through Sunday at Oak Park Festival Theatre; $10-$20
Oak Park Festival Theatre had a critical hit with its season opener, a sorrowful, starlit take on "Of Mice and Men." Its second show of the season is more typical outdoor summer fare, a Shakespearean comedy that's billed, alarmingly, as a bardic version of "Sex in the City." That warning aside, this should be a deft, enjoyable picnic of a show.

North Side Summerfest
Friday-Sunday at Lincoln and Irving Park; $5
This new fest (only in its fourth year) is all about the party, and you'll need to let off some steam after a grueling festival season. The music lineup includes all the festival staples, like Sixteen Candles (Friday), Too White Crew and Wedding Banned (Saturday) and Hairbangers Ball (Sunday).

Superstars of Burlesque
10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday at Music Box; $20
America's top teasers descend on the Music Box for a weekend of glitz, debuachery and highly creative pasties. This two-night-only event, organized by Michelle L'amour (the Chicagoland area's duchess of skin) is guaranteed to be a fancy affair. Why? Every single performer holds a world title from the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

Demitria Taylor, Rob Blaine
9 p.m. Sunday at B.L.U.E.S.
One of the Eddie Taylor prodigal spawn, daughter Demetria doesn't get the limelight her brothers enjoy. But that'll be a passing phase when people start to pick up on her Memphis Minnie meets Koko Taylor sass, which she's been slinging in spades from B.L.U.E.S. to the Chicago Blues Festival without the fam. Opening guitarist Rob Blaine, 29, has seen stints with both the late, great Little Milton and The Chicago R&B Kings, heartily recruited for his ability to keep in time while traversing through blues, soul and funk, albeit armed with his most lethal weapon: a bearish growl channeled in '70s roadhouse lore.

Epic Burger -- The popular, sustainable burger spot opens a second location on the south edge of Lincoln Park (in the Best Buy shopping center).
Gaztro-Wagon -- When not out roaming the streets in their new food truck (if it ever gets fully approved, that is), these naanwich-makers will be preparing food (available for takeout) at this Edgewater storefront.
Shallots Bistro -- We recently reported this gourmet kosher spot as closed, but it was actually moving to a new, permanent location in Skokie.
The Wormhole -- This '80s-themed coffeehouse has begun its time-travel adventure in Wicker Park.

ESPN Zone -- The Disney-owned sports-bar chain is closing most locations around the country. June 16 is the last day for the Chicago branch.

Kan Pou -- The Chonburi-influenced Thai spot in North Center has closed its doors.
Hortex 2 -- Stylish Polish cafe on Irving Park seems to have served its last pierogi (the phone is disconnected, and paper is up on the windows).


Chicago Blues Festival
Friday-Sunday at Grant Park; free
Despite the absence of marquee names like Keith Richards and Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - both of whom have graced its stages in years past - and budget cuts that have slimmed the event down from four days to three, the fest is still the largest of its kind in the world. And it's still absolutely free. Centerstage's Blues Fest picks include Big George Brock & The House Rockers, Rev. K.M. Williams and Guitar Shorty.


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.


Miranda Kerr
5-7 p.m. at Victoria's Secret (734 N. Michigan)
The Victoria's Secret Angel spokesmodel -- and Orlando Bloom's girlfriend -- comes to our fair city to promote the new Miraculous collection and to take photos with customers/fans. This may be the closest you ever get to an underwear model, so plan accordingly.

Dan Bern
8 p.m. at Martyrs'; $20
It's been awhile since this sardonic singer-songwriter was compared to Bob Dylan, but he's still a prolific talent, penning tunes that are both witty and political (he never took those comparisons very seriously, anyway). Trivia of note: Bern wrote the bulk of the music for the 2007 parody film "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."

The 39 Steps
7:30 p.m. at Bank of America Theatre; $20-$72
A four-man version of a classic Hitchcock flick, "The 39 Steps" wowed Broadway with its blitzkrieg pace and fringe ingenuity. The tight noir plot keeps it moving, but it's the theatrical transformations that dazzled audiences, and sent this light-footed show on a national tour. The shadow falls at the Bank of America Theatre for just two weekends, so think fast.

Here are some recent Chicago restaurant (and bar) openings and closings.

Dodo -- The popular breakfast spot is back, taking over the Dino's Morgan Inn space on weekends.
The Piggery -- The former Cordis Brothers Supper Club turns into a BBQ sports bar in Lakeview.
Fountainhead -- Expect better-than-bar food options from the menu of this gastropub on the border of Lincoln Square and North Center, and a quality beer list headed by Phil Kuhl, of Sheffield's "Beer School" fame.
Pizzeria Serio -- Get NY-style thin-crust at this 150-seat Roscoe Village spot.
Be Le Cafe -- This sister spot to Ba Le Sandwiches & Deli (just a storefront north) offers the same Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi) in a more modern space.
Floriole Cafe & Bakery -- The Green City Market fixture opens up a new, two-floor spot in Lincoln Park. Don't miss the macarons.
Crepes A Latte -- This North Center cafe guessed it, crepes and lattes.
Wrigleyville Wild Wings -- The former Fly Me To the Moon has morphed into this wings-and-beer bar in the heart of Cubs territory.
Taco Fuego -- Want a foot-long burrito? This Lakeview/Roscoe Village spot is where to get it.

Joe's Cafe -- You'll have to go elsewhere for jibaritos in Berwyn.
Los Tamales -- Small Mexican shop in Cicero is no more.

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.

Jonsi Birgisson will make the Vic seem like a different world tonight. (photo:

7:30 p.m. at Vic Theatre; $34
The swelling maestro of Iceland's Sigur Ros – that band that will make your girlfriend cry with joy – Jonsi Birgisson eschews his native tongue on his first solo foray, Go, singing most songs in English. Though the songs are epically sprawled and ethereal like those of his band, some new freedoms emerge in this new setting. The flute and organic electronic builds by co-arranger, Nico Muhly, paired with Birgisson's angelic hum, will likely make your plants grow. Also playing tomorrow.

Talib Kweli, DJ Hi-Tek
9 p.m. at House of Blues; $28
After a string of subpar performances, MC Talib Kweli looks to rebound by reuniting with superproducer Hi-Tek (together they're known as Reflection Eternal). Expect lots of throwback tracks from the duo's 2000 album, "Train of Thought" (including the classic "The Blast") as well as from their upcoming follow-up, "Revolutions Per Minute."

AXE Twisted Humor Tour
8 p.m. at Park West; $10 ($5 for students)
Need a laugh tonight, but can't get into the always-packed Moth StorySLAM at Martyrs'? Try this comedy showcase presented by humor site Funny or Die. Performers include Nick Kroll (of F/X's "The League"), Whitney Cummings ("Chelsea Lately"), Donald Glover ("Community") and Chelsea Peretti (TruTV's "The Smoking Gun Presents").

3 Things To Do Today

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thumb_12faghag.jpg1, 2, 3...Fag! performs at IO Theater tonight.

Chicago Improv Festival
You've got several funny options to choose from tonight. The sentimentalist in us recommends "1 World on 1 Stage" (8 p.m. at ComedySportz Theatre; $12); though there's a good chance some of the international acts scheduled for this special event won't actually make it to the stage due to travel delays caused by that pesky Icelandic volcano, the ones that do deserve to perform to a packed house. If you prefer to support local acts, 1, 2, 3...Fag! brings together strong character work and a wacky, campy sense of humor at IO Theater (8 p.m.; $12). Visit Centerstage for the top picks of the week.

9 p.m. at Wild Hare; $25-$65
On his 1995 solo debut, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx," the rapper continued a strong series of Wu-Tang Clan-related projects that essentially flipped hip-hop inside-out with blunted street philosophies, obscure martial arts references and bugged-out narratives. After a few less than impressive follow-ups, last year's long-awaited sequel was just what Raekwon needed. He'll be celebrating 420, a major contributor to his career -- and you can celebrate with him backstage while noshing on some chicken wings if you pay the $65 VIP price.

Whisky Throwdown
7 p.m. at Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro; $10
If you didn't know, this week is Whisky Week in Chicago, culminating in Friday's Whiskyfest at the Hyatt Regency. Can't wait 'til then? Head to this North Center bar for this party filled with events like "Name That Dram" and "Whisky Bingo." Prizes include tickets to Whiskyfest and more.


Here are some recent Chicago restaurant openings and closings.

Blue Star Wine Bar - Enjoy wine, microbrews, cheese and a full menu of Mediterranean cuisine (kabobs, paninis, flatbreads) at this wine bar in the former Ark Cafe space in Noble Square.
Delhi 6 Cafe - Indian and fusion dishes rule the menu at this coffeehouse in North Center, which has an outdoor patio and hosts Bollywood movie nights.
Just Turkey - This South Side spot opens its second location, serving up BBQ classics made with turkey instead of pork and beef.
Benny's Prime Chop House - The oft-delayed River North upscale steakhouse is finally ready to wow you.
Dolce Casa - The former Ventrella's Caffe has been renovated to create this Lincoln Square spot.

Va Pensiero - Evanstonites are already mourning the departure of this fine Italian establishment.
Fearon's Pub - The Lakeview Irish bar has closed to make way for...another Lakeview Irish bar. The Temple Bar opens on April 9.
Elliott's Dairy - The Harwood Heights spot has already inspired a Facebook page calling for its return.
Old Town Brasserie - The French restaurant has new owners as of Sunday, and they're making some changes.

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.

The Moth StorySlam: Busted
8 p.m. at Martyrs'; $7
Ever been caught with your pants down, your hand in the cookie jar, or both at once? Why not relive the humiliating experience in front of an audience of hundreds? This monthly series features true tales told live by anyone brave enough to take the stage. March's theme is "Busted," so get your story straight, put your name in the hat, and pull up your damn pants.

Blackhawks Road Watch
7 p.m. at Lottie's Pub; free
If you can't travel to St. Louis to watch Patrick Kane and co. take on the Blues, this Bucktown party is the next best thing. Hawks announcer Gene Honda and the Ice Girls (good band name?) will be on hand, offering prizes like jerseys, 100-level tickets and signed memorabilia. You can also score $3.50 domestic pints all night.

Italian Passover Seder
5:30 and 8:30 p.m. seatings at Piccolo Sogno; $75/person
We're not sure how an Italian Passover feast will work when you can't have pasta, but you can find out at this unique dinner in River West tonight. Expect a traditional service to start, and kosher wine to flow throughout the evening.

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.

3 Things To Do Today

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Great Small Works shows big things can come in small packages. (photo: Jenny Romaine/Great Small Works via Forward)

Thaw: A Night of Hot Winter Ballyhoo
6:30 p.m.-midnight at The Red Canary; $30
This benefit for Links Hall takes you back to the 1930s for an evening of circus whimsy and Recession Era glamor. Guests will enjoy an open bar with Prohibition-era cocktails and complimentary hors d'oeuvres. There will be performances from Great Small Works, the acclaimed New York-based puppet company, Chantal Calato, Meredith Miller, fire-spinners, blacklight hula-hoopers, DJs and more. $75 gets you two tickets plus two passes to "The World Is Flat", a toy theater performance at Links Hall February 25-28.

Basia Bulat
9 p.m. at Schubas; $10
Before her lofty autoharp pop landscapes got usurped by car commercials, Canada's Basia Bulat was quieting barrooms with a grainy Shakira vibrato so mobile and ruthless, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to bottle it. The effect's not lost on her sophomore release, "Heart of My Own," which finds Bulat traversing the Yukon Territory that inspired her, with hints of folk and charging Americana beats, compliments of her brother. Fellow classically trained Canadian Katie Stelmanis opens with a bit of digi aggression.

The Moth StorySlam: Love Hurts
8 p.m. at Martyrs'; $7
The New York-based storytelling behemoth returns for an evening of true tales about heartbreak, presumably inspired by the Hallmark holiday just past. There are few topics more entertaining (and humiliating) than relationship woes, so expect a chock-full show (tip: get there by 6:45 for a chance to get in). For a description of what it's like, check out Centerstage's recap of the first Chicago event.

The "Ditka" may soon be easier to get. (photo: Serious Eats)

There are few things more frustrating than having your dinner plans foiled by the complete absence of parking within a mile radius of the intended restaurant. Especially when that restaurant is Bricks, one of the city's finest thin-crust purveyors and a resident of permit-happy Lincoln Park.

Come December, such fruitless quests may be just a bitter memory, as the restaurant recently announced plans to open up a second location, dubbed Big Bricks, at 3830 N. Lincoln (the old Grizzly's Lodge space in Lakeview/North Center). Crain's reports that the new space, which will be three times the size of the original subterranean eatery, will offer chicken, fish and barbecue dishes in addition to classic pies like the "Berzerkley" and the "Painful." There are apparently plans for outdoor seating and homemade ice cream. Happy spot-hunting.

Ginger Twin_web.jpg

Being a redhead ain't always easy, what with the freckles, paleness and everyone assuming you're Irish (not that that's a bad thing).

But at the Half Acre Beer Emporium (4257 N. Lincoln), it's actually an advantage -- if you like hoppy beers. According to the local brewery's blog, anyone with "God-given red hair" will get an 8 percent discount on the new Ginger Twin India-Style Red Ale, available in growler form beginning this Friday (and in 22-ounce bottles next week). And if you bring along your identical twin, you'll get a whopping 25 percent off.

Even if you're a dark-haired female with no facial hair to speak of, we suggest stopping by for a taste.


Eat Paczki.
It ain't called Fat Tuesday for nothin'. These fried, jelly-filled pastries are traditionally made by Polish people to get rid of the forbidden sugar, large, eggs and fruit in their homes before Lent. Whether or not you're Polish (or religious), you should pick up a few of these decadent treats at one of many bakeries or grocery stores around the city. Centerstage offers a great list of paczki purveyors.

Drink Hurricanes.
There's no better excuse (ok, maybe St. Patrick's Day) to get a little tipsy than the all-out celebration that is Mardi Gras. Not surprisingly, Chicago bars and restaurants are taking full advantage of the day, with bead- and mask-filled bashes galore. Find a Mardi Gras party in your 'hood.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!
It's not a true N'awlins celebration without some good music, and Chicago offers plenty of that today, with special performances including Houseman & the Housewreckers (Martyrs'), Paul Cebar and the Modern Sounds (FitzGerald's) and the king of all parties, Snoop Dogg (Metro). Leave your inhibitions at home.

There's probably never been a better time to be a beer aficionado in Chicago. In addition to all the local breweries opening up (Logan Square's Revolution Brewing being the latest), there are two big sampling events coming your way on successive weekends.

This Saturday, head to Delilah's for the Vintage Strong Beer Fest, which features more than 100 high-alcohol brews, including some aged for over a decade. $20.

Next weekend, there's round two of AlphaBeer at Globe Pub, which offers samples of brews from every letter of the alphabet (from Allagash to Zatec). The creative tasting (February 20, 6-9 p.m.; $40) benefits Open Books.

3 Things To Do Today

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Chicago's Hope for Haiti
7 p.m. at House of Hope
A host of stars will be on hand at this South Side arena for Chicago's hope for Haiti benefit concert. Expect performances from Common, Donald Lawrence & Co., Lalah Hathaway, Shirley Caesar, Marvin Sapp, Regina Belle and others, plus appearances by Mayor Daley and Governor Quinn. The concert will double as a telethon, which will be broadcast live on WJYS TV, with proceeds going to Yele Haiti, Samaritan's Purse and International Childcare.

The Silver Project
7:30 p.m. at American Theater Company
Presented in parts and as a whole, "The Silver Project" includes work from over thirty playwrights across the country writing on what it means to be an American, with each playwright choosing a year between 1985-2010 to focus on. Tonight is part one.

Trivia Night

7:30 p.m. at Finley Dunne's Tavern
The Trivia Jerk website returns to West Lakeview once again this week, with winners of the popular event getting a $50 gift card to the bar. Start formulating your team names now.
Check out Centerstage's listings of trivia nights in Chicago.

3 Things To Do Today

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Lupe Fiasco (with Howard Zinn, who passed away Wednesday) isn't afraid to combine music and politics.(photo:

Lupe Fiasco
8 p.m. at The Shrine; $30
One thing you should know by now: Don't miss a Lupe show when he's playing his hometown. This time around, he'll be teaming up with Cheryle Robinson Jackson in an effort to raise funds for her bid for the US Senate; all the proceeds of this show will go toward her campaign. He'll also likely play a lot from his anticipated new album, Lasers.

Katerina's 10th Anniversary Jazz Celebration Showcase
8 p.m. at Katerina's; $10
The eclectic music lounge (the food and drink ain't too shabby, either) celebrates a decade of sophisticated entertainment with a blowout show featuring a number of its regular jazz performers, including Petra Van Nuis, Andy Brown, Grazyna Auguscik, Rose Colella, Elaine Dame, Spider Saloff, Joanie Pallatto & Bradley Parker-Sparrow, Paul Marinaro, Juli Wood, Dean Allrick and Andreas Georgas. Classic cocktails will be on special all night.

"Lower Debt"
7:30 p.m. at Beat Kitchen; free
The Inch Worm Playreading Series hosts its latest staged reading in the upstairs room at this Roscoe Village venue, with Joshua Aaron Weinstein's tale of a white-collar worker who ends up living in a tent city. In addition to LiveWire Chicago Theatre's world-premiere performance (the play opens at the Viaduct Theatre on March 5), you'll enjoy drink specials, a raffle and silent auction and a feedback session.

3 Things To Do Today

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The Moth Storyslam: Neighborhood
8 p.m. at Martyrs'; $7
The New York-based storytelling behemoth returns for an evening of true (mostly) tales about life in your 'hood. Yes, there's some irony in the idea of an out-of-town arts corporation coming into North Center for a celebration of everything local, but the storytellers will be 100-percent Chicago. If you want to represent (Kenwood! Pilsen! Rogers Park!), show up at Martyrs' (early!) and put your name in the hat. For a description of what it's like, check out Centerstage's recap of the first Chicago event.

I WISH: Mixology
7 p.m. at Spring; $35
North Shore Distillery co-owner and blogger Sonja Kassenbaum hosts this class covering the basics of making great drinks at home. You'll explore supplies, techniques, ingredients and flavor profiles on your way to making and tasting several cocktails, including a gimlet, mojito, passionfruit bellini, Tea Rose, Blackberry Julep and Corpse Reviver No. 2.

Alex Kotlowitz
5:30 p.m. at Northwestern University (University Hall Room 201, 1897 Sheridan, Evanston); free
The acclaimed journalist and author (There Are No Children Here, Never A City So Real, The Other Side of the River) reads from his work at Northwestern, where he's a professor at the Medill School of Journalism and also the school's Writer-In-Residence for the winter quarter.

You know the area around North Center, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood Manor? Mike Fourcher and Patrick Boylan do. The two longtime Chicagoans have launched the Center Square Ledger, a digest of pretty much everything you'd want to know about these 'hoods, from a profile of Half Acre Beer Company to notes about early voting among residents.

Locals can keep tabs on the growth of the site via Twitter (@CenterSq) and Facebook.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the North Center category.

New City is the previous category.

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