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Best of Chicago 2009

Best Gay Variety Show or Open Mike

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The Reader's Choice: Homolatte

It's a simple formula: One queer writer plus one queer musical act, an all-ages venue, and a tip jar from Ikea. Oh yeah—and a magnanimous and community-minded host like Scott Free, master of ceremonies at Chicago's longest running and, to my mind, best queer variety showcase. After eight and a half years and five other venues, Homolatte seems to have settled into a comfy relationship with Michelle Fire's Tweet restaurant (and its sister bar, Big Chicks). Each of the acts—who range from the best of queer Chicago to national touring writers and musicians—gets about half an hour, allowing them to display a wider range of work than at many variety shows, and because they're prescreened, it's not as hit-or-miss as most open mikes. As a result, it's a great opportunity to discover new artists: I've been introduced to many local faves here, including folk-pop duo Carrie Lydon and Kate Rickenbacker and the Gypsy-tinged Heat Birds. In addition, the audience is often treated to a few songs by Free himself—he was, after all, the 2005 OutMusician of the Year. This is all for the (optional) price of $5, deposited in said tip jar, though patronage of the restaurant and bar are encouraged. Proceeds go to the performers; for all Free's hard work, all he gets is that warm fuzzy feeling of bringing the community together and supporting queer arts.  First and third Tuesday of the month, 7:30 PM, Tweet Let's Eat, 5024 N. Sheridan, 773-728-5511, homolatte.com. —Kathie Bergquist

&Our readers' choice: Cake Chicago

 Third Saturday of the month, 9 PM, Red Line Tap, 7006 N. Glenwood, 773-274-5463, myspace.com/cakechicago.

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