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Canadian Tuxedo party
7 p.m. at Faith & Whiskey; free
Celebrate Canadian Independence Day (July 1) by dressing up in the classiest of Canadian attire (i.e. denim from head to toe). Drink specials include $1 Labatt Blue cans and $3 Canadian Club whiskey shots/drinks and a $100 cash prize will be awarded for the best “Canadian Tuxedo” costume. Sounds like a party, eh?

OakFest fireworks
159th and Central, Oak Forest; free
Since the city canceled the big annual July 3 show, you’ll have to get a little creative to get your fireworks fix this year. Kick off the weekend right by road tripping out to Oak Forest for this annual festival, which has an aerial display tonight and on July 4. As an added bonus, you can watch some PCW wrasslin’ tonight too.

Cindy Lauper
8:30 p.m. at House of Blues; $37.99–$43
Let me just get it out there that I may have watched a little too much of Celebrity Apprentice – even after Blago got kicked off. Whew, so happy to get that off my chest. Also, I kinda wanted the wrestling chick to win. Also, True Colors has been in my head all day. OK, I’ve said too much already …

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).

Chuck D will discuss blues, rap and race during the second Blues and the Spirit event.

Blues and the Spirit II
Wednesday-Thursday at Parmer Hall, Dominican University; $75
For its biannual symposium commemorating African-Americans' place in Chicago music, Dominican University hosts Public Enemy's Chuck D., as well as Dr. Karen M. Wilson and family members and friends of the late Howlin' Wolf. The event will be spread out over two nights, and include speakers, performances, awards and more.

Family Fun Festival
10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Millennium Park; free
The kid-centric event series kicks off another season today at Millennium Park, with performers Little Miss Ann and Ameba (1 p.m.). Also of note: the popular Wiggleworms sing-along (10 a.m.) and the Activity Zone featuring hands-on crafts.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead
7:30 p.m. at Court Theatre; $10-$40
Athol Fugard's collaboratively written story of a man who pretends to be dead in order to live explores identity and the political power of storytelling. This production, which closes on Sunday, features new, intimate staging by Court Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson.

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

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.

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

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.


Fuerza Bruta: Look Up
Friday-Sunday at Auditorium Theatre; $65-$80; get tickets here
This collision of music, emotion and kinetic aerial imagery resembles nothing less than a fantastic mash-up between aerial theater and a late-night dance party. Be warned: There is no seating, so you'll be on your feet right on stage for the entire hour-plus show.

Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts every Tuesday and Thursday.

If Chicago is known for anything it’s comedy (well, that and exorbitant parking meter fees). This weekend local comedian Shakir Standley aims to reinforce the city’s reputation by hosting a comedy bash at Lido’s in Oak Park.

I know. You’re thinking the last time you braved the suburbs was that ill-fated trip to IKEA when you nearly got crushed to death by a stampede of blondes in sweatpants and stilettos fighting for the last plate of meatballs. But that happened in Schaumburg and anyway it was five years ago, plus your therapist wants you to explore new things, so why not give the suburbs another try?

comedian Shakir  Standley.jpg

Shakir, a former Second City student, says his show “mixes improv with stand-up comedy (to) keep things interesting. It can get stale to have just one person on stage.” Instead, the showcase will feature The Concordia Improv Group as well as comedians like David Drake and Cameron Esposito.

“Smart, charming and seasoned,” Esposito, according to Standley, “is someone who knows her way around a microphone.” Churning out new material since the recent release of her first comedy album, Esposito has equally positive words for her fellow performers. “You can count on strong sets from Mo Welch and Dara Katz,” she says, “two comics who really broke out in the Chicago scene this past year.”

Also on hand, freelance writer and comedy novice Alicia Eler, a surprising edition to the comedy circuit. “For most of my life,” she says, “I have been a very serious person. But when I was unexpectedly laid off, I found myself laughing at my misfortune. I finally got up the courage to go to Cole's open mic, hosted by Cameron Esposito, (and) pretty much bombed my first set.” Still, she says, Esposito and other local comedians encouraged her. “Both the stand-up and improv comedy scenes in Chicago foster strong community and are very welcoming and encouraging to newcomers.”

Standley and Eler particularly boast a unique bond. “Alicia and I met after I had just finished doing stand-up shirtless in front of an audience at Cole's, so I was on a shirtless high,” Standley says. “She was up on stage trying to rap about hummus.”

“I panicked in the middle of the rap,” says Eler.

Standley: “I was like oh Lord, this chick is dying! So I thought, what the hell, and jumped up on-stage to beatbox for her.”

Eler: “He saved my ass.”

The two have since formed Shakalicia. “It's a delicious combination of our two names,” says Eler. “We rap about food we like.”

The showcase is free and starts at 9 p.m. on Saturday. Just nobody mention meatballs.

Ah, the good old days.

Aspiring Playboy Bunnies (and the oglers who love them), make sure to clear your schedule for the next couple of weeks.

On June 10, The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana will host the 50th Anniversary celebration of the original Playboy Clubs. Among the festivities will be the selection of a single girl to feature on (and have her photos submitted to Hef for consideration for Playboy magazine). Where will those girls be found? All over Chicago, of course. Here's the schedule for upcoming Bunny search events over the next two weeks (find full details here):

Friday, May 28, 9:30 p.m.: Red Ivy (call 773-472-9000 to register)
Saturday, May 29, midnight: Heat Nightclub (register at or email
Sunday, May 30, 10 p.m.: Bull & Bear (register at
Wednesday, June 2, 8 p.m.: Meyer's Castle (1370 Joliet, Dyer, IN)
Thursday, June 3, 9 p.m.: Martini Park (register at
Friday, June 4, 8 p.m.: Tilted Kilt, Elgin
Saturday, June 5, 10 p.m.: VLive
Saturday, June 5: Stage 151@Harrah's, 151 N. Joliet, Joliet

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

Cumin -- Finally, Wicker Park gets an Indian restaurant!
Phoenix Inn -- The Evanston favorite has risen from the ashes to serve Chinese fare once again.
Seasons 52 -- Expect fresh grill fare and plenty of wine at the first area location of this nationwide chain.
El Llano -- The Colombian restaurant gets a second location in Irving Park/Avondale.
I Dream of Falafel -- Now you can get your falafel fix on Monroe.

Cookie Bar -- You can expect to get 18 varieties of cookies at this Lincoln Park bakery...starting tomorrow.

Tizi Melloul - We may have seen the last of the $3 martini.
Cuatro -- After faking us out a few months ago, the upscale Latin spot is now closing for good.
Baja Fresh -- Sorry, fish-taco lovers...the national chain is closing all its Illinois franchises.

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.

photo: Photo Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images (via

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?

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.

This could be you on Saturday. (photo: Hop Cast)

Dark Lord Day
10 a.m. Saturday at Three Floyds Brewing; free
Even if you didn't snag one of the coveted "golden tickets," which give you the right to purchase bottles of the rare Dark Lord Imperial Stout, it's worth heading down to Munster, Ind., for this all-day party including tons of other awesome beers, live music and more.

Attention, picnicking music lovers! Tickets to all Ravinia shows -- including the Swell Season, Vince Gill and Nelly Furtado -- are now on sale at

Can't decide? Check out some top pop acts and review Centerstage's picks for the best festival debuts.


Did you love "Kick-Ass"? The superhero film (and the comics that inspired it) might not even exist if not for pulp fiction. No, not the Quentin Tarantino film -- the unique form of American literature characterized by hardboiled writing and lurid cover art.

If you're unfamiliar with this style, you owe it to yourself to check out this weekend's 10th annual Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center. The huge event includes over 100 vendor tables, art displays, pulp inspired-films and more (including a tribute to venerable magazine Adventure). Check it out Friday (noon-midnight; $25), Saturday (9 a.m.-midnight; $25) and Sunday (9 a.m.-4 p.m.; $15), $35 for all three days.

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

Accanto - Logan Square gets another upscale Italian spot, in the space adjacent to Lucky Vito's.

Al Primo Canto - The Brazilian all-you-can-eat palace opens a second Chicago location in River North.

Ciao Napoli Pizzeria - Expect fine Italian dining in the former Abril spot in Logan Square.

Clarke's Diner (Wicker Park) - Another location of the popular diner opens on Damen.

Vintage 338 - This quaint Lincoln Park cafe offers a variety of southern European street food, including items from Green City Market. But the real star is the wine list, which focuses on Spanish, Italian and French offerings.

Sports Corner - The previously torn-down Sports Corner gets new life on Addison and Sheffield, just steps from Wrigley Field. The three-story homage to all things baseball (and Cubs) will clear out after the games are over for a huge dance party.

The Temple Bar - Sip a pint and wallow in the Irish-ness of this Lakeview spot (the former Fearon's), which got its name from an area in Dublin.

Dos Gringos Trailer Park - The party scene in Wrigleyville gets a Mexican flavor at this colorful new bar in the old Houndstooth Saloon spot. Expect the shots of tequila to flow before and after Cubs games, as the motto here is "Where Wrigleyville meets Cancun."

Got Spaghetti? - A husband-and-wife duo asks the age-old pasta question in Gladstone Park.

Aripos - This Oak Park restaurant specializing in arepas (homemade bread split open and filled with meats and veggies - is set to open this week.

Green Dolphin Street/Orvieto - The venerable on-the-river club/restaurant abruptly closed its doors this week, just months after reconcepting. -- We were half-right on this one. The restaurant and jazz club is closed, but the club life lives on, including the popular Boom Boom Room Mondays.

Cafe Avanti - The Lakeview cafe closes to make way for a French wine bar.

El Gato Negro - The popular transexual hangout has closed due in part to a "neverending onslaught of abuse and economic hardship," according to its website.

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.


102nd Annual Next Year Day
8 p.m. Saturday at Harry Caray's Tavern; $10-$15; get tickets
Party with the folks at satirical newspaper The Heckler as they celebrate another year of Cubs futility. There will be great prizes -- including tickets to Monday's home opener at Wrigley -- and music from JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, as well as Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander's band, Del Crustaceans. Past parties have seen appearances by Bill Murray and Ronnie Woo-Woo, among others.


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.

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!


Like candles and soft music, wine has undoubtedly earned its rep for setting the mood.

For the romance-challenged, it may be tempting to present your date with the ever-efficient whiskey -- but really, there is nothing dreamy about a bottle of Wild Turkey.

What is dreamy? A winery. Even more dreamy? A weekend bed-and-breakfast getaway at a winery. Among my most very unromantic friends is Rusty, who put it this simply: "Wine is nothing to write home about, but a winery itself is really pretty -- just like a bar except a much nicer setting."

What would the Bachelor do? Well if it's last season's Jake, it includes laying out in a beautiful California winery, drinking and playing spin the bottle with Gia the swimsuit model.

The Bachelor: Try booking a night in the French Suite of the Lynfred Winery Bed & Breakfast, where $360 (April-July; $385 August-December) buys you fresh flowers, cheese trays, two premium wine tastings, a private winery tour of the oldest and largest winery in the state, and a gourmet breakfast the next morning for you and your boo. All super romantic and just 40 minutes away in west suburban Roselle. Heck, bring the Wild Turkey if you really insist.

The Poor Man: Celebrate (cheaply) at the Chicago Wine Club's next wine and microbrew tasting on Wednesday, April 14 at Blue Star Wine Bar. For just $30 bucks, you'll get unlimited tastings of over 25 wines and 10 microbrews, light appetizers and a tasting diary.


Single City is a twice-weekly blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho.

Full disclosure: I don’t really watch "The Bachelor." I got the idea for this weekly series from my good friend who is destined to end up with a rose in a future season. So now I’m having to do “research” by reading about old seasons via “The Bachelor’s Diary” entries. It’s a charmed life, I’d say.

This week, I found that one of the most romantic moments in the history of the show came from Season 2, when Bachelor Aaron and (eventual loser) Gwen kiss in a hot air balloon ride, separate from their three-person beach date that also included surfing lessons. I haven’t seen it, but I can picture it to the tune of “Hot Air Balloon” by Owl City (“I’ll be out of my mind/And you’ll be out of ideas pretty soon/So let’s spend the afternoon in a cold hot air balloon”). Swoon!

The Bachelor: An "exclusive" ride (meant for two people and their pilot) goes for $527 with Chicago Hot Air Balloons. The adventure -- which includes watching them blow up and prep the balloon -- lasts about three hours, although you'll be up in the air for just 45 to 60 minutes, going five to seven miles around northwest suburban Crystal Lake and up 500 to 2,000 feet. You pick a date and either sunrise or sunset and the pilot calls the night before to tell you where to go. Feel like romancing yourself? Get in a shared basket with a few others for just $256 per person -- just don't jump out when the loneliness creeps in.

You can also try Sky Rides Balloons, Inc., where a two-passenger ride goes for $350 (Monday-Thursday) or $450 (Friday-Sunday). Takes off in southwest suburban Joliet.

The Poor Man: Who needs a sexy hot-air balloon taking you where the wind blows (literally) when you can just get down to Navy Pier and try out the new tethered balloon ride? For $25, you get a 10-minute ride in the AeroBalloon, which is basically a big basket thing that is anchored to the ground but floats 350 feet via helium balloon. The attraction is scheduled to be back early May through late September. Great views of the Chicago skyline are promised, as is a similarly swoon-filled romantic date.


I scream, you scream, we all scream ice cream.

That's right, today's Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's, where you can get a complimentary scoop from noon-8 p.m. today. The nearest participating area locations are at Navy Pier, The Glen in Northbrook and Oak Park (1025 W. Lake). Sorry travelers, the Midway location won't be participating.

Are you America's next great restaurateur? There's only one way to find out, at least if you want to play that role on reality TV.

Chipotle hosts an open casting call for a new NBC show called "America's Next Great Restaurant" (for now, at least) at the restaurant's Warrenville location (28251 Diehl Rd.) on Sunday, March 28 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The show's winner -- who must successfully complete all manner of challenges during the season -- will get the opportunity to open a restaurant chain in three cities across the country.

The first step to making your dream a reality is to pre-register at and complete an application.

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