I have a recurring dream of romancing Justin Timberlake. You’re right, you’re right; who doesn’t.
Well, in my version of “The Dream,” (yep, I’m gonna go ahead and capitalize that) JT is beautifully dressed, as he always is, in a three-piece suit. We’re in a plush, cozy booth together in the dark corner of an exclusive, trendy lounge, and it’s as though we’re the only two people in the room. In the soft candlelight, Justin leans toward me until his fedora barely grazes my cheek, and begins to nibble my ear. And so on, and so forth.
It’s difficult to describe The Violet Hour. It’s a bar, yes. But, once you experience The Experience of The Violet Hour, you realize it is much more. Last night as I sat in a corner of VH, looking around me at the candles and the deepening shadows, trying to put my finger on the weird mystique of the place, it suddenly came to me: Violet Hour is the setting of my Justin Timberlake Seduction Scene! When you visit, I think you’ll see that Violet Hour is completely out of dream.
Here’s the breakdown:
In one word: Cocktails
Location: 1520 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, IL
Food: Lots of inventive little nibbles make up VH’s “Sustenance” menu. My group only wanted a small snack, so we ordered their Spiced Nuts with House Chili Powder and Honey. Warning: these are addictive! I’d definitely try these if you just want a little something. If you’re looking for something more substantial, go for one of their sandwich options, including a Smoked BBQ Brisket Sandwich that looked delicious.
Drink: The cocktail menu is organized by the type of alcohol in the cocktail—Gin, Tequila, Whiskey, Rum, Wine/Sparkling drinks, and more. It is large and can overwhelm. My advice is to start in a section you feel comfortable with, then branch out, and definitely ask your server for his or her recommendations. We found ours to be quite helpful. Know this: all the drinks we sampled were strong. So, even if you like the sound of all the bells and whistles in one of the drinks, I’d say don’t order it if you don’t like the base alcohol because it will have a very prominent presence in the cocktail.
When it comes to the Gin selection, the Juliet and Romeo gets my full endorsement. With Beefeater, Mint, Cucumber, Rose Water it’s refreshing but has a lot of character–lots of delicious, delicate flavors make it anything but one note. If you’re celebrating something and are looking for a Sparkling cocktail, The Etiquette is one of my favorites. It’s some kind of magic made up of sparkling wine, Tabernero Pisco Acholado, Raspberry Syrup, and Aperol. It’s sweet, but has substance. Surprisingly not a girly drink at all.
Service: Our wait in the claustrophobic front closet was more than a drag, but once we got inside we received excellent service. Our waitress was attentive, and she provided helpful information about the menu and offered great recommendations for cocktails.
Scene: Violet Hour works hard to make you feel like you’re in an off-the-grid, extremely exclusive speakeasy. From the street VH is a nondescript, washed-out, wood-paneled wall with no sign or even an obvious entrance. Once you find the door you’ll wait in a small entry room with 10-15 people behind a lavish, cornflower-blue velvet curtain. Every five minutes or so a sharply dressed bouncer pulls back the curtain and allows a group to gain entry. I waited 35-40 when I visited. Violet Hour, you should know that Chicago is not New York, and these shenanigans are acceptable only because your cocktails are outstanding.
On the inside, VH is made up of a series of dimly lit rooms with mahogany parquetry, high ceilings, and cornflower-blue walls with white crown molding. More floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains separate each room, which contain groups of slim, insanely high-backed, cornflower-blue leather chairs. Each group is arranged around a single white wooden table with a candle on it. Though the rooms contain several crystal chandeliers, most of the lighting comes from these candles. The chairs combined with the curtains create an odd ballroom-meets-boardroom feeling. Because the chairs have such a high-back they create a sense of privacy when they’re arranged in a group, which gives VH its intimate atmosphere.
Because this is a classy joint, don’t bring the frat brothers. You’ll be sitting and talking, so bring a close friend you want to talk to.
Dress: Dress to impress. You will see and be seen.
Cost: It’s on the expensive side for Chicago ($12 a drink), but worth it.
If you like, try: I have to say, the atmosphere is unmatched in Chicago. In New York, try PDT (Please Don’t Tell) in the East Village.