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3 Things To Do Today

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Jersey Shore viewing party
9 p.m. at Uncle Fatty’s Rum Resort; free
Make sure you GTL early, so you’ll be ready for tonight’s episode. Uncle Fatty’s is serving up $1 drinks and beers for the viewing, along with Jersey Shore-related contests.

DJ Jazzy Jeff, Cool Kids
10 p.m. at Beauty Bar; free
Old school meets new as Will Smith’s one-time sidekick plays from his solo projects. Joining him is the one of the hottest acts on the local hip-hop scene, Cool Kids, playing a DJ set.

Dancin’ in the Park
6 p.m. at Willye B. White Park (1610 W. Howard St.); free
Learn the basics of steppin’ and hip-hop moves with teachers from Old Town School of Folk Music, then practice them yourself at this two-hour event.

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

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OPEN:
Pour Drinks & Eats -- Joe Parra, the general manager of this Lakeview spot, took the garden concept up a notch with moody lighting, cozy seating, flat screens and a thought-out menu of affordable fare.
FreshBerry -- Yet another frozen-yogurt chain has set up shop in Chicago, this time in Streeterville.
Donatella Mediterranean Bistro -- Donatella Majore, owner of the now-closed La Cucina di Donatella, is back for more, opening this Mediterranean-inspired spot in Evanston.
Jimmy Green's Bar & Grill -- This self-described "all-American sports bar" serves up everything from pizza to hummus in the South Loop.
City Provisions Deli -- Gourmet catering company City Provisions (headquartered just up the street) offers up gourmet sandwiches, sides and a small selection of groceries at this shop.
Ojo de Agua Taqueria -- Get tacos, burritos and quesadillas on handmade tortillas at this taqueria on the border of Bucktown and Logan Square.
Kim & Scott's Cafe Twist -- The folks behind frozen-food brand Kim and Scott's Gourmet Pretzels now have a storefront restaurant to call their own.

CLOSING:
Marche -- Got a steak frites craving? Better get there fast. The French West Loop spot plans to close its doors on June 13.

CLOSED:
Martini Park -- No more adults will be playing at this River North lounge.
Sugar Syndicate -- One third of Lincoln Square's "Sweet Collective" has come down from its sugar high.
Purple Haze – The Northwestern-themed bar didn't last long in what seems to be a cursed space in Lakeview. The new inhabitant: Beer.
Shallots Bistro -- Apparently, gourmet kosher fare wasn't for everyone.
Shrimp Walk -- The Highwood Thai spot remains open for private parties.
Viet Bistro -- The Rogers Park restaurant stayed classy 'til the end.
En*Thai*Ce -- Andersonville just lost a favorite pad see eiw purveyor.

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.

Chicago Craft Beer Week Kickoff Party
6 p.m. at Map Room; free
Prepare for a week full of crafty fun at this fully stocked beer bar, which will host several brewers for this kick-off event. There'll also be a raffle of bottles of Stone Brewing's rare Symposium Ale at 8 p.m.

Patrick Watson
8 p.m. at Schubas
It's hard to pin down this experimental, eclectic Canadian singer-songwriter -- he's played alongside everyone from James Brown to The Cinematic Orchestra (check out his lovely cabaret-pop turn on "To Build a Home"). But if you value creativity, and enjoy artists like Andrew Bird and Nick Drake, you surely won't be bored.

The Gay American
7:30 p.m. at the side project; $10
Former New Jersey governor James McGreevey's rise and fall in this farcical docudrama, which focuses on the impact his admission of a homosexual affair had on those around him -- from his wife and daughter to his ambitious aide.

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Homoticons will rock your world on Friday. (photo via MySpace)

As the Tennessee teen who was sent home from school for wearing an "I Love Lady Gay Gay" shirt can attest GLBT-friendly music is still a bit of a touchy topic in some places.

Those places don't include Chicago's Jackhammer, of course. The Rogers Park bar hosts the Flesh Hungry Dog Show again this Friday at 9 p.m., with the aim of bringing live rock and related music to the city's gay community and providing a venue for GLBT-supportive artists.

This month's installment features a three-pack of fabulousness, including the Homoticons (a "wayward triad of transgressive, transsexual trespassers"), Pieptone! (Chicago's only 'Schlager' band, which marries pop hits with the German language) and Plain Ole Delicious (an eclectic quartet offering originals and covers from ska to blues). Get tickets ($8 online, $10 at the door) and more info at fleshhungrydog.com and come ready to rock.

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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You'll be floored by this fiddler. (photo via MySpace)

Sara Watkins
8 p.m. at SPACE; $15-$25
Best known as the fiddler for CMT starlets, Nickel Creek, Watkins hit the solo ground running with the enlistment of John Paul Jones as producer and a barnhouse full of collaborators - from Gillian Welch to Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench. Though she stacks the deck with accessible covers of Jimmie Rodgers, Jon Brion and Tom Waits tunes, Watkins follows up with genuine arrangements that make old-time country feel new again.

Chicago International Movies & Music Festival
7:30 p.m. at St. Paul's Cultural Center, 2215 W. North; $20
The four-day fest kicks off tonight with an opening party featuring Chicago premiere screenings of "Universalove" and "William S. Burroughs: A Man Within" plus musical performances by Thee Majesty and Penny Arcade.

Forgotten Chicago Silent Auction & Giveaway
8 p.m. at Cunneen's; free
Join Forgotten Chicago -- an organization aimed at finding and celebrating the city's lesser known architecture and infrastructure -- in celebrating Chicago's 173rd birthday tonight with an auction of "books, photography and ephemera." RSVP on Facebook.

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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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.

Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

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OPEN:
Lockdown Bar & Grill - Rockin' burgers in a prison-themed space - what more do you need?
Filter - The popular Wicker Park coffeehouse gets a new lease on life, just down the street.
Karyn's on Green - Karyn Calabrese's meatless empire gains another outpost.
Life on Mars - Vegan takeout, just what Logan Square needs.
Prairie Fire - The folks behind Northbrook's Prairie Grass Cafe expand into the West Loop.
The Southern - Comfort food from a Georgia native in the former Chaise Lounge space in Bucktown.
Revolution Brewing - The owner of Handlebar Bar and Grill just opened this Logan Square brewpub.
Longman & Eagle - It's a place to drink craft beer, nosh on gourmet food and, soon, sleep.
Small Bar (Lincoln Park) - Fullerton folks, hope you're ready for soccer and good beer.
The Exchange - You won't miss Lava Lounge when you get a taste of the cocktails at this re-imagined spot.


OPENING SOON:
Leo's Coney Island - Come Monday, true Detroit Coneys will finally be available in Chicago. (We investigated the current options and came away unimpressed).
Forty Carrots - Bloomingdale's shoppers, your light lunch spot arrives this month.


CLOSED:
Costa's - A fire has destroyed this Greektown favorite...for now.
Chaise Lounge - There was only room for one restaurant in this Bucktown space.
Asmara Cafe - Rogers Park Eritrean spot is now a place to get your taxes done.
Accent Cafe - Mt. Prospect residents will have to find another place for Eastern European fare.

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.

3 Things To Do Today

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Spandex
7:30 p.m. at Studio Theater (Chicago Cultural Center); $5
We built this city on storefront theater. The administration knows it, too. In order to nurture everything that makes Chicago great, the Department of Cultural Affairs runs INCUBATOR, a program that gives fledgling companies free space and resources with which to develop new work. This month, the babies of Wishbone (founded in 2009!) present an ensemble piece about "the complexities of heroism." Gosh, we hope that means men in tights.

You, Me, Them, Everybody Live Podcast Recording
8 p.m. at Hungry Brain; free
Brandon Wetherbee and Esmeralda Leon host this live installment of the local music and culture podcast, with comedian Adam Burke, journalist Jacqui Ryan, music from Al Scorch, giveaways and more.

C.R.O.P. (Chicago Rarities Orchard Project) Benefit Party
6-8 p.m. at Uncommon Ground on Devon; $20
Uncommon Ground unveils its latest "eco-cocktail" at this benefit for the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project, which plants fruit orchards in the city. Your donation gets you a complimentary cocktail, hors d'oeuvres, a raffle and music from DJ Chris Hefner. 21+.

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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: Bakin’ & Eggs
Get your breakfast with a twist (bacon flights!) at this upscale-ish Lakeview cafe.

Off the Beaten Path: Hana Restaurant
Casual Japanese cuisine in Rogers Park.

Weekly Treat: Shaken, not pricy at Scot’s
Get two bucks off your favorite martini on Tuesday nights.

Man We're Crazy About: Fame da Lupo
Pizza and pasta in an Uptown BYOB.

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

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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.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Life Line Tropical Island Cuisine
Take your island vacation...in Rogers Park.

Weekly Treat: "Keep the cup" at Division Ale House
Five bucks gets you a Captain Morgan cocktail and a souvenir on Saturdays.

Off the Beaten Path: Miss Lee's Good Food
Down home cooking just like Grandma used to make near Washington Park.

Man We're Crazy About: Pho's Thai Cuisine
A friendly staff serves up fresh, filling fare in West Lakeview

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

What we know: This Friday, August 28, from 8-11 p.m., there will be a party going down at the Waterfront Cafe to celebrate the release of Paramanu Pentaquark #2, a journal full of plays, essays, poems, prose, cartoons and more. For $10, you'll get food (hot dog, fries and drink) and a copy of the new issue. There'll be a pre-party with optional swimming at Thorndale Beach, and a post-party at Sovereign Liquors featuring $2 PBR and $2.50 Old Style.

What we think we know:
Paramanu Pentaquark is a "Gothic funk" journal, which has something to do with postmodernism, if we understand the movement's manifesto at all. Whatever it is, we love this sentence: "Gothic Funk is a movement and a frame of mind, but it’s also a whole way of experiencing life, in which you don’t have to be hyper-aware, and hyper-confirming of your situation and the things that are happening around you." Take that, Twitter!

What we don't know:
Where to begin?

RSVP at gothicfunk.org.

We're just 10 days away from the start of the 2009 Chicago Jazz Festival, but we know that some of you can't wait even that long. For the diehards, there's the annual Jazz Club Tour, going down on September 2 at clubs all around town.

For $30 ($25 in advance), you'll gain entrance to 14 of the city's most popular venues from 6 p.m.-midnight, with the help of the Chicago Trolley Co. This year's slate includes heavy hitters like the Green Mill and the Jazz Showcase along with smaller spots like Uncommon Ground and M Lounge. The full list of clubs and performers is after the jump; if you're sold already, buy tickets on the website.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just opened: Mod Pizza
It’s all about the crust at this West Loop pizza place.

Off the Beaten Path: Four Moon Tavern
Pretty patio and German ales in Roscoe Village.

Weekly Treat: Dollar Drafts at McKellin’s
Homey Rogers Park hangout has domestic pints for just a buck on Tuesdays.

Man We're Crazy About: Bijan’s Bistro
River North neighborhood spot is always there for you.

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

'Evita,' 'Hedda Gabler' both extend their runs

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Life is good for theater lovers on the Far North Side. In addition to all those Rogers Park productions that got nominated for Jeff Awards, two acclaimed shows are getting extended by popular demand:

The Raven Theatre's revival of Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" was going to close next month but is pushing through July 25. Shows are Thursdays (through June 27), Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 at the theater, 6157 N. Clark, or (773) 338-2177. Hedy Weiss loved it.

And once again the Theo Ubique Theatre Co. has extended its highly acclaimed revival of “Evita,” with a final performance set for June 27. This vest-pocket-size production of the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical has played to sold-out shows for two months at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood in Rogers Park. A pre-show dinner of Argentine cuisine is available beginning an hour before the show for additional cost. For tickets ($30), phone (773) 347-1109.

Here's to strong, historical women!

Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just opened: The CrossRoads Bar & Grill
West Loop bar will give you the blues - in a good way.

Weekly Treat: $1 Italian beef sandwiches
Al's celebrates its victory with a cheap-lunch promotion for the masses.

Off the Beaten Path: Luzzat
Hole-in-the-wall Indian spot in Rogers Park.

Man We're Crazy About: Doc's Juice and Smoothies
Get a cool blast of fruity goodness at this organic smoothie bar.

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

3 Things We Love About ... Rogers Park

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1. How, from Juneway Terrace to Loyola Avenue, by merely walking no more than a block or two east of noisy, congested Sheridan Road, there's another world of lakefront beaches and parks, big and small.


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Bartender Rob Mozol pours a bottle of Wyder's Peach Cider into a glass at Red Line Tap, the bar attached to Heartland Cafe. (Bridget Montgomery/Centerstage)

2. Warm cornbread from the Heartland Cafe (7000 N. Glenwood). Ours never turns out this good. Paired with the cafe's delectable vegetarian chili ($8), it's a perfect meal year-round, but especially on cold or rainy days. The Heartland is also a great place to plug into what's going on politically and otherwise in Rogers Park and feels more like a community gathering space than a restaurant.

3. Lifeline Theatre (6912 N. Glenwood). The ensemble's motto is "big stories, up close," and whether it's inspiring children's theater like "Flight of the Dodo" that never talks down to its audience or engaging literary adaptations of mature work such as "Mariette in Ecstasy," Lifeline rarely disappoints.


What are your favorite three things about Rogers Park?


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