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Thaw Your Heart

Pack away your parka and heat up with these spring-friendly date ideas.
Saturday Mar 20, 2010.     By Stacy Warden
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

If you're anything like us, you spent the bitterly cold winter cooped up indoors with plenty of booze and cheap take-out; great for staying warm, yes, but not so great for your love life. Now that the sun is finally out, we're back on the prowl, and so should you be, too. Here are a few ideas to help you get your groove back.

Tandem Along the Lakefront
This one requires a lot of love, as one person always ends up doing most of the work, but it's a good way to take in the sights of Chicago's lakeshore while burning a few hundred calories. Rentals run about $20 per hour and include hundreds of bikes to choose from. You can also choose from a number of tours including the Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park and the lakefront. Check out Bike Chicago for more information. Once you've worked up an appetite, head over to Chicago's Green City Market for some fresh seasonal fare; the indoor market is open every first and third Saturday (8 a.m.-1 p.m.) through April 24, and the outdoor market runs every Wednesday and Saturday (7 a.m.-1 p.m.) from May 12-October 30.

Architectural Cruise
Take an Architectural Tour
If a workout sounds too exhausting, try something more relaxing like an architectural cruise. You and your date won't have to lift a finger, except to snap a few pictures. And it doesn't matter how long you’ve lived in Chicago, you're bound to learn something new about your city on this informative tour. Check out Chicago's First Lady or the Architectural Foundation for more information.

Pack a Gourmet Picnic for the Park
Chicago is rampant with locally owned markets and public parks, and we've paired them up for the perfect outdoor date. Head over to Piatto Pronto in Andersonville, where you'll find made-to-order paninis, imported oils and cheeses and exotic sides like octopus salad. Or check out Lakeview's Southport Grocery and Cafe, complete with fresh-baked pastries (try the signature cupcakes), deli salads and sandwiches and a small selection of wines and brews. If you're in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area, head over to the upscale Goddess and Grocer (there are also locations in the Gold Coast and at Elston and Webster), where you can find all the fixin's for a truly fanciful outdoor feast. Pair your tasty treats with a nice bottle of wine, a kitschy checkered blanket and a little Miles Davis (on that new portable iPod speaker you bought for yourself as a mid-winter treat) and your date is sure to swoon. For a complete list of city parks, check out the Chicago Park District website.

Make Out at Maxwell Street Market
Get your mind out of the gutter; we're talking about bargains here. Save the PDA, and your dough, for something a little steamier by scavenging this outdoor market full of knock-off Coach, Chanel and Louis Vuitton handbags, shoes, designer fragrances and Sharpies (you never know what you're going to find at this place). In addition to its wallet-friendly finds, Maxwell Street Market makes room for a number of local food vendors, featuring everything from Polish dogs and pizza to tortas and tamales. We recommend the vanilla-stuffed churros, served warm for just one buck. The Maxwell Street Market is open every Sunday from 7 a.m.-3 p.m, admission is free.

<A HREF=/restaurants/mhenry.html>M. Henry</a>'s Blackberry Bliss Cakes
The Morning-After Brunch
For reasons that we need not mention, it's always good to have a fail-safe brunch spot in mind when dating. We can think of hundreds of spots on an empty stomach, but when it comes to playing favorites, we've got no qualms about narrowing it down. First there's Tweet in Uptown, where complimentary coffee cake, portions large enough to share and cheap bloody marys can make any morning seem brighter. Head a little further north to Andersonville and enter M. Henry territory. This organic-focused spot is slightly more upscale and even more indulgent with choices like blackberry bliss cakes layered with vanilla mascarpone cream and topped with a brown sugar-oat crust. For something a little more unique, head over to the Chicago Diner in Boystown and choose from a slew of meat-free dishes like buckwheat pancakes, vegan muffins and seitan sausages. Other favorites include Victory's Banner, Milk and Honey Cafe and Nookies Too.


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