International Night at Map Room

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Map Room really doesn’t need to do much to lure people into this beer lover’s paradise, but International Night, which takes place every Tuesday, is hard to pass up. Here’s the concept: buy two drinks, receive a stamped ticket for the meal of the night. Each Tuesday features a different cultural cuisine; this month was Israel, Soul Food, Costa Rica, Nigeria and BBQ.

Map Room boasts over 200 brands of beer, plus 30 something styles of brewing. They really mean business. If you really want to have a proper beer experience, I would probably advise coming on a less crowded night though. International night is definitely a bit of a circus. Expect to see broke hipsters along side beer nerds and suits. If you can handle the crowd and line to the food, this is a must do.

Here’s a tip: The line forms when the food attendees announce that it is feeding time. Don’t ask for anything extra, different, or modified. These guys serve up no less than 100 plates and have it down pat. It’s standard issue–everyone gets the same meal. If there are extras, the guys will alert the feeders that seconds are available. Also, try to get there before 6pm, so you can score a table. It’s no fun to stand and eat.

Inidan and Nepalese Food: Chicago Curry House

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Filed under Drink and Eat

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I’m always a little anxious trying new Indian restaurants. Because when it is good, it’s heavenly. But when it’s bad it is a night in the bathroom. I was feeling up to the challenge, so I recently set out for the Chicago Curry House.

It’s a hidden little spot in sort of a cul du sac style road (899 S. Plymouth Ct.) and I though the address was wrong at first because it looked like a residential area with the occasional dry cleaners. But then the sweet scent of curry rose up through the breeze and I knew I was headed to the right spot. The place is well appointed–it sort of reminded me of a hotel lobby. Not my favorite aspect of the experience, but who cares when you are there to eat, I suppose.

I was really excited to see they have a bar and full drink menu. I like eating at places that I know I have the option of getting wasted at too, in case that’s what I would rather do than consume whole food. Not in the mood to get ripped, I ordered a glass of wine. My dining companion had an Indian Beer, a lager.

We set forth with Veg Samosa and Aloo Chat, plus those little crisps with chutney they always give you. Yummy! The samosas were huge and really fresh tasting, cooked perfectly. And thealoo chat was crispy, spicy, and healthy tasting. Very good. Chicago Curry House also states they are a Nepalese cuisine as well, so decided to venture around a little bit for the entrees. ChickenTikka Masala, Chicken MoMo, and Lamb Vindaloo were all served with Basmati rice and arrived in the cool little copper kettles. The Chicken MoMo was from the Nepalese selections and it was awesome. I don’t know what MoMo is supposed to taste like, but I liked it. The Chicken Tikka Masala was creamy and spicy, and the chicken was all white and tender. (I don’t mind dark meat, but I hate when they sneak it in there whilst claiming it’s all white meat–they didn’t do that here.) The LambVindaloo was ordered extra hot, and it delivered. I can handle some spice. The regular naan was perfectly cooked, and we even had leftovers.

I tend to skip desserts at Indian restaurants because I’m usually so stuffed that I can’t eat another morsel, but I decided to give theRasmali a whirl out of a love for pistachio. Good choice. refreshing and savory.

I would eat here again. They have a lunch buffet that looks pretty good too. Curry up and give this place a shot.

Chicago Curry House, 899 S. Plymouth Court.

Real Pirates at the Field Museum

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Running now through October 25, 2009, Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship brings the age of pirates to Chicago and the Field Museum. More than 200 artifacts recovered from the wreck of the Whydah—the first fully authenticated pirate ship ever to be ascertained in U.S. waters.

The Whydah was on of the most technologically advanced vessels of the era, but was captured on her maiden voyage as a slave ship by legendary pirate Sam Bellamy and his team. A couple modifications and a quick hoist of the Jolly Roger, the Whydah became the crown jewel of Bellamy’s flotilla, spreading terror throughout the Caribbean the Atlantic coastlines.

Then on April 26, 1717, a perfect storm put an end to the Whydah’s pirating days, and the vessel sank with most of her crew aboard—as well as the bounty from more than 50 pirated ships. Almost 300 years later, underwater explorer Barry Clifford and his team managed to locate the wreck of theWhydah and carefully unearthed her riches from the bottom of the sea.

Organized by National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International, the exhibition details the colorful history of Caribbean trading routes during the 18th century and the link between the slave trade and piracy, as well as true stories from those on both sides of the story.

The 8,400-square-foot exhibition is fully interactive, so you can experience pirate life by hoisting the skull-and-crossbones, tying pirate knots, learning how to fire a cannon, and more. Treasure chests of gold and jewelry, as well as armories of cannons and swords, aim to show how these men lived and died in the “Golden Age of Piracy.”

New Food: Tapas Valencia

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Named for Valencia, Spain; this Spanish-style tapas spot is new to the South Loop/new Southside neighborhood (although a couple other restaurants have existed in the location) and is another addition to the growing dining scene in the are. The space is modern and on the edge of trendy: big, open loft-like accommodations with some industrial touches. It’s bright orange and yellow touches of color on the walls and chair and there was some cool looking Mosaic tiles on the walls, but other than that, the place is pretty minimal on decor. The converted warehouse feel is left in tact with huge cement pillars in the dining room.

The menu is a little more sparse than other tapas places in the city (Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, Emilio’s) but filled with many of the classics, such as Serrano ham and cheese (great!) and paella. I tried a rock shrimp dish that was very good, as well skirt steak with blue cheese that was only so-so. The chorizo and black bean soup needed more chorizo to complete it, but my ‘Spanish garlic potato salad’ was incredible, not shy with the garlic. My biggest disappointment came in the squid in ink sauce. Where’s the flavor!? This dish was painfully bland and tasted unfinished. However, Tapas Valencia redeemed themselves with the bacon wrapped dates. These delicious little morsels were both sweet and salty, despite initially appearing a little iffy. I had glass of sparkling rose that was very nice…not at all sweet, surprisingly and a nice glass of sauvignon blanc. I felt the prices were fair and on par with other tapas places in the city. The portions seemed a little small however.

One of the best things about Tapas Valencia was the service. We were greeted by several staff upon walking in and out server never skipped a beat. She was helpful, knowledgeable ans very sincerely asked that we fill out a comment card if we felt anything could be improved. (I chimed in my two cents on the squid.) She knew a lot about the wine list, and seemed excited to describe the food. Service can really make or break a place for me, and in this case I think it gives Tapas Valencia that extra push it needed.

Printers Row Lit Fest

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The newly renamed Printers Row Book Fair is back June 6 and June 7, 10-6pm. It’s the largest literary event in the Midwest and it feels like it. A variety of books are for sale, featuring new, used, specialty, and collectible items. There are also author signings, storytelling, discussions and more. Booksellers, publishers, literacy and cultural organizations sell and promote books and book-related merchandise and distribute related information. Many of the independent booksellers participating in the Fest represent the diverse ethnic and cultural communities of the Chicagoland area and sell books of different languages and genres.

The Printers Row Lit Fest was founded in 1985 by the Near South Planning Board to draw tourists to the Printers Row neighborhood (once the city’s bookmaking hub). By 2002, it had grown to five city blocks (on Dearborn, from Congress to Polk), attracting more than 200 booksellers from across the country displaying new, used and antiquarian books, and featuring seven stages with more than 100 free literary programs.

As part of its ongoing commitment to the written word and its support of literacy and literary endeavor, the Chicago Tribune purchased the Printers Row Book Fair in 2002 from the Near South Planning Board. Recently renamed to be the Printer’s Row Lit Fest, it is considered the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest-drawing more than 125,000 book lovers to the two-day showcase.

It’s a great event to people watch and to rub elbows with literary types as well. The Chicago Public Library is also hosting events, one of which is author Neil Gaiman being presented with the Chicago Tribune Young Adult Book Prize.

Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays

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Filed under Music

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Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays is a new series bringing new indie/pop artists and groundbreaking rock veterans to the world renowned Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Each concert will be emceed by a performer from the innovative organization Young Chicago Authors. Concerts will take place on select Mondays, June 6—August 24. All events will take place at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millenium Park.

Admission is free and organizers are hoping to attract a variety of music-listeners (and I’m sure they will) as the lineup for the summer event from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs is pretty diverse. Props to the CDCA on this one. It seems like all the good bands for summer concerts are part of corporate sponsorship nightmares like Lollapalooza; so it’s nice to see a killer show at an awesome city venue.

Monday, June 8
Special Headliner and Allá

Monday, June 22
The Sea and Cake and Dirty Projectors

Monday, June 29
The Feelies and Icy Demons

Monday, August 10
Rokia Traoré and Shearwater

Monday, August 17
Otto and NOMO

Monday, August 24
Red Red Meat and Rural Alberta Advantage

All shows start at 6:30 pm

Ribfest Chicago

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Filed under Drink and Eat, Events

bbq-ribs

Ribs! The annual event upped the ante and is up to three days now. Averaging 65,000 pounds of ribs and featuring 25 bands in 25 hours, more than 50,000 people are expected to kick­off summer at the three­-day long Ribfest Chicago. Proceeds of the festival are utilized to fund community activities, area greening efforts and local outreach programs such as the innovative School Grant Program.

You can sample ribs and BBQ and listen to the sounds of Harlem Shakes and Margot and Nuclear So and So’s. The festival will feature a crowd-voted award presentation for Northcenter’s Best Ribs (you can vote by text). Kids Square, which offers rides, live entertainment and hands-on activities, will run from noon-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Sony Playstation is sponsoring a Gaming Rig where you can play your favorite video games.

But does any of that really matter when there 65,000 pounds of ribs? Participating restaurants include Chicago faves Smoke Daddy and Robinson’s #1 Ribs and many more. Remember to bring extra wet napkins.

$5 suggested donation. June 12-14.

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