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Spend Earth Hour at these eco-minded venues around town



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    Everybody looks better by candlelight.

    Earth Hour -- when an estimated 1 billion people in more than 80 countries will flick the light switch in the fight against global warming -- takes place from 8:30-9:30PM this Saturday, March 28. Sounds like an intriguing way to spend a weekend evening in a bar or restaurant to us. Luckily, some of Chicago's hottest venues are also eco-minded.

    Watch the skyline go dark from a prime perch at Cityscape Bar in the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza across from the Merchandise Mart in River North. While drinking in the unique, one-night-a-year view, you can also indulge in organic beer, wine and cocktails, such as All Tru Organic Vodka cocktails for $5, Peak Organic Amber Ale for $4 and Clos du Bois Organic Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines for $5.

    Chef Radhika Desai of Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge in Wicker Park will prepare an energy-free dish for the eco-friendly occasion. Her rice paper-wrapped spring roll will consist of tofu, chopped peanuts, bamboo shoots and cilantro and will be served cold. The intimate restaurant will also switch over entirely to candlelight in support of Mother Earth from 8:30-9:30PM.

    The sexy setting of Nacional 27 in River North will be even sultrier Saturday night as the Latin lounge and restaurant dims the electricity but turns up the heat. Candlelight will fill the bar area and dining room as trumpet player Victor Garcia plays live accompanied by Latin house beats. The music will be heard over a single amp as opposed to Nacional's usual surround sound system, and even the glasses will be washed the old fashioned way -- in the sink as opposed to the restaurant's commercial dishwashers.

    Playing off of its romantic Valentine's Day "Com Ed Dream" dinner, Flat Top Grill will present its second annual Earth Hour soiree at all seven Chicagoland locations, which include three in the city and in Evanston, Oak Park, Lombard and Naperville. The environmentally aware company will set the mood with candlelit tables, flashlights illuminating the stir-fry lines and other green touches like recycled cotton T-shirts for the servers, placemats printed with eco-friendly tips on sustainable eucalyptus and flaxseed paper and e-mailed event invitations.

    Asian dining destination Ben Pao in River North will celebrate Earth Hour by turning off the restaurant's outdoor lights from 8:30-9:30PM, as well as by serving up one-night-only earth-friendly dinner specials. Choose from such dishes as lamb-and-leek potstickers made with locally raised meat and organic veggies ($6.95); soy-glazed salmon featuring all-natural, eco-friendly fish ($19.95); and "drunken" chicken prepared with all-natural chicken breasts ($14.95). You can order these dishes a la carte or as a prix-fixe menu, including the potstickers and your choice or salmon or chicken, along with a glass of organic Frog's Leap Sauvignon Blanc or a lemon-ginger Eco-tini made with organic 360 Vodka and all-natural ginger-infused syrup, for $30.