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  • The Violet Hour

    Post #1 - September 25th, 2008, 11:35 am
    Post #1 - September 25th, 2008, 11:35 am Post #1 - September 25th, 2008, 11:35 am
    Image

    While I no longer live in Chicago, there are a handful of places I regularly visit when I'm there. Most of the restaurants already are LTH GNRs. I think The Violet Hour ought to be as well.

    I try to put in time at a number of watering holes on my visits, and it's something of a struggle to choose one for this nomination, but while I find myself at the Skylark or the Matchbox just as often or more, The Violet Hour is the place I always try to carve out time for. There's no question that The Violet Hour has raised the cocktail bar in Chicago.

    The meticulous attention to detail--in the design of the restaurant, the construction of the drinks, the mechanics of the shake, the temperature of the ice--the utterly obsessive attention to quality make The Violet Hour a one-of-a-kind destination. These really are the hallmarks of a Great Neighborhood Restaurant.

    On a recent visit, I observed a conversation between one of the bartenders and Toby Maloney, the proprietor, about some particular aspect of mixology...I believe it was shaking a drink with egg white to achieve the perfect head. The student approached the master earnestly, seeking whatever small insights might improve his technique. Maloney tasted the drink, and made a comment to the effect, "You're technique is good, very good, you may be in the top 2% in the world...but yeah, I think you can do a little better." He offered advice, encouragement, striving for perfection. And with such earnestness and no pretension, the teacher's graciousness, the student's humility and respect. I don't know that I've ever seen anything quite like it.

    And while the place stands on its own as a stellar example of a GNR, the way it interacts with this community is special indeed. It's never hard to find LTHers willing to pop in for a cocktail (space allowing). And Toby, the Alchemist, has embraced this community fully as well, giving sangria advice, drinking Malort, hell, even pointing out other neighborhood bars, and of course, sharing VH cocktail recipes....I don't think I could put it any better than our techie germuska: "So awesome. Open Source Cocktails."

    There are really only two threads dedicated to The Violet Hour:

    One thread details experience at the bar itself.

    The other involves recreating those drinks at home.

    I can't think of any other establishment in town with so much type dedicated to recreating their concoctions in your own kitchen. It's that good.

    The Violet Hour
    1520 North Damen Avenue
    Chicago, IL
    773-770-0184
    http://www.theviolethour.com/
    Sun-Fri 6pm to 2am
    Sat 6pm to 3 am
  • Post #2 - September 25th, 2008, 11:45 am
    Post #2 - September 25th, 2008, 11:45 am Post #2 - September 25th, 2008, 11:45 am
    Heartily second. TVH is a one-of-a-kind place, and Chicago is richer for it. And I'm an almost-never cocktail drinker.
  • Post #3 - September 25th, 2008, 12:07 pm
    Post #3 - September 25th, 2008, 12:07 pm Post #3 - September 25th, 2008, 12:07 pm
    Paradoxically, the Violet Hour is a place I have almost no desire to ever go to, yet I heartily support its nomination. I hope no one asks me to explain, because I'm not sure I could.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #4 - September 25th, 2008, 12:15 pm
    Post #4 - September 25th, 2008, 12:15 pm Post #4 - September 25th, 2008, 12:15 pm
    Kennyz wrote:Paradoxically, the Violet Hour is a place I have almost no desire to ever go to, yet I heartily support its nomination. I hope no one asks me to explain, because I'm not sure I could.


    I get why you can support a place you don't like, and I kind of get why you might think you might not like it...but still, and sorry, why do you have so little desire to go?
  • Post #5 - September 25th, 2008, 12:19 pm
    Post #5 - September 25th, 2008, 12:19 pm Post #5 - September 25th, 2008, 12:19 pm
    Allow me to help out. I can't speak at all for Kenny, but I'm personally excited about the Violet Hour - though I doubt I'll go because alcohol makes me suceptible to migraines. Nonetheless, FWIW, it seems like a fantastic place, and I read the threads on it every time they pop up.
  • Post #6 - September 25th, 2008, 12:20 pm
    Post #6 - September 25th, 2008, 12:20 pm Post #6 - September 25th, 2008, 12:20 pm
    A wonderful nomination, which I enthusiastically endorse!

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #7 - September 25th, 2008, 12:30 pm
    Post #7 - September 25th, 2008, 12:30 pm Post #7 - September 25th, 2008, 12:30 pm
    Some comments on the food itself: very tasty. Koren and others at Avec were consulted in the design, and for the most part the plates are salty, savory delights. Particular favorites are the duck meatballs, fried pickles, and assortment of buttery toasted sandwiches.

    I am particularly impressed by their house-made bitters, tinctures, and anything they serve that has ginger (total sucker for fresh ginger). My only complaints are group service, though I understand their policies, and the lack of more savory drinks. Make me a Bloody Mary (seasonally, sure), and it'll have my totally unqualified GNR endorsement.

    I currently offer a qualified but positive agreement with the nomination.
  • Post #8 - September 25th, 2008, 12:33 pm
    Post #8 - September 25th, 2008, 12:33 pm Post #8 - September 25th, 2008, 12:33 pm
    Aaron Deacon wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:Paradoxically, the Violet Hour is a place I have almost no desire to ever go to, yet I heartily support its nomination. I hope no one asks me to explain, because I'm not sure I could.


    I get why you can support a place you don't like, and I kind of get why you might think you might not like it...but still, and sorry, why do you have so little desire to go?


    I now realize my initial post implies that I have not been to VH: I have, twice. I feel the same about VH as I do about opera and most of the world's great art museums. I can tell that there is great talent and passion behind the work, which I truly admire. Violet Hour makes the best Dark & Stormy I've ever had, but I don't care that much about Dark & Stormy's. I don't share others' passion about the trade, so I feel rather out of place at the Met and at the Violet Hour. I'm glad we have great museums, operas, and cocktail bars, and fully endorse all deserving awards that go their way.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #9 - September 25th, 2008, 12:51 pm
    Post #9 - September 25th, 2008, 12:51 pm Post #9 - September 25th, 2008, 12:51 pm
    I'll raise a toast to this nomination :wink: Great idea Aaron.
  • Post #10 - September 25th, 2008, 12:53 pm
    Post #10 - September 25th, 2008, 12:53 pm Post #10 - September 25th, 2008, 12:53 pm
    I support this nomination. I took advantage of this excuse to reread the entire Violet Hour thread (all 6 pages) and was both amused and edified. I liked the visitor who concluded that opinions here on TVH were mixed ("no dear, that is just the contentious way we like to discuss things.") and Toby's fall menu posting made me plan to go back soon.

    The other thing I was trying to figure out was whether this nomination covered the food. I have read flattering reviews of the food at TVH elsewhere though I have not sampled any food, quite intentionally, as I feared it would interfere with my appreciation of the finer points of the cocktails. But I wondered if I might be missing something.

    Aaron, is it safe to say that this nomination is all about the cocktails and theater, or do you think the food is also worthy of a GNR? Just curious.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #11 - September 25th, 2008, 12:58 pm
    Post #11 - September 25th, 2008, 12:58 pm Post #11 - September 25th, 2008, 12:58 pm
    I understand Kenny's position. I am a dyed in the wool beer guy who does not drink much hard liquor at all. VH was a major crack in that facade for me. I could absolutely see myself there again on a regualr basis if I lived closer. As it stands, it's on my VERY short list for "nice" places to go. A big part of that is that while it's very elegant, I for one did not get any sot of pretentious vibe to the place. I would not go there in camo shorts and a Threadless tshirt but I like the idea of being a little more groomed to go out, it helps you experience the atmosphere better.

    That's a long winded way of saying I heartily recommend this nomination.

    Upon reflection, I must confess that part of what made my visit there so memorable was my astoundingly good company:) To steal a phrase from Gypsy Boy you should be so lucky to have as Lovely a Dining Companion as I did;)
    Last edited by Octarine on September 25th, 2008, 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    I used to think the brain was the most important part of the body. Then I realized who was telling me that.
  • Post #12 - September 25th, 2008, 1:01 pm
    Post #12 - September 25th, 2008, 1:01 pm Post #12 - September 25th, 2008, 1:01 pm
    dicksond wrote:Aaron, is it safe to say that this nomination is all about the cocktails and theater, or do you think the food is also worthy of a GNR? Just curious.


    It's funny that I forgot about the food. I like the fried pickles. I once shared a sandwich I rather liked, too, but honestly, I don't have much to go on as far as the food. I know they approach it with care and consideration, which has come through in the bites I've had, but I don't envision ever stopping by just for a bite to eat.

    (Thanks, Kennyz, for the explanation. Makes sense.)
  • Post #13 - September 25th, 2008, 1:54 pm
    Post #13 - September 25th, 2008, 1:54 pm Post #13 - September 25th, 2008, 1:54 pm
    My VH review didn't dwell on the food too much but I will say that I for one was very pleased with the quality of the food. Top notch ingredients and well chosen for their intended purpose of accompanying your libations.
    I used to think the brain was the most important part of the body. Then I realized who was telling me that.
  • Post #14 - September 25th, 2008, 2:23 pm
    Post #14 - September 25th, 2008, 2:23 pm Post #14 - September 25th, 2008, 2:23 pm
    Great nomination. I fully support this one. The Violet Hour is a wonderful, wonderful place.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #15 - September 25th, 2008, 3:01 pm
    Post #15 - September 25th, 2008, 3:01 pm Post #15 - September 25th, 2008, 3:01 pm
    As I've often supped on nothing but whiskey in its beautiful guises at Violet Hour - I think this is an excellent choice for a GNR.

    Although, I've never tried any food here.
    :D
  • Post #16 - September 25th, 2008, 3:41 pm
    Post #16 - September 25th, 2008, 3:41 pm Post #16 - September 25th, 2008, 3:41 pm
    It's funny, Aaron... I thought long and hard about making this nomination myself, and ultimately held off for two reasons. First, because I wondered if it might be awkward for a (now) out-of-towner to make the nomination, and second, because I figured I probably shouldn't make what I figured would be my second contentious nomination in a row.

    Couldn't have been more wrong on both counts, apparently.

    Needless to say, I enthusiastically support this nomination. Despite being turned off by the decor and fake-easy facade (purely a matter of personal preference), I was spun around 180 degrees by the remarkable imagination, care and obsessive attention to detail that goes into the drinks. Most importantly, and what takes it from "excellent upscale cocktail bar" to possessing that indefineable GNR magic is the unique character and passion of the staff. The bar (ha) has indeed been raised by The Violet Hour.

    And I really hope those deviled eggs are still on the menu when next I'm in town.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #17 - September 25th, 2008, 3:44 pm
    Post #17 - September 25th, 2008, 3:44 pm Post #17 - September 25th, 2008, 3:44 pm
    I'd love to see the look on the waitperson's or bartender's face if/when one of us comes in and says "no drinks, I'm just here for a sandwich, thanks!"

    My one trip to the VH was magical, and I can't wait for a return. Truly a one-of-a-kind in the city and a definite GNR. (However, we won't make the outside with the certificate, what with the "post no bills" that's typically painted on the exterior...)
    Writing about craft beer at GuysDrinkingBeer.com
    "You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now." ~Ebert
  • Post #18 - September 25th, 2008, 6:40 pm
    Post #18 - September 25th, 2008, 6:40 pm Post #18 - September 25th, 2008, 6:40 pm
    I was thinking, just yesterday when I was reading the new fall menu, that The Violet Hour is deserving of a GNR recommendation -- I only held off for fear of taking the plunge and making the initial suggestion (however ridiculous the idea, I know). Thanks, Aaron, for doing the initial legwork for me.

    Obviously, I agree that TVH is worthy of the award. I have eaten there often enough and have never been disappointed. The friend peanut butter and bacon sandwiches are like mini-revelations into what Elvis must have been thinking to eat them so often. It's a small menu, which I applaud, since it means the chefs can focus their attention on doing a few things really well, rather than a large number of things poorly.

    I'm also always impressed that when I walk in, I feel as though I've been whisked away and into a wholly seperate place. This is one of the few establishments where I'm glad that there aren't many windows looking out so as not to break the illusion. While initially off-putting and appearing overly-precious, the decor and vibe of the place quickly warmed on me during my first visit and I came to embrace the rather Great Gatsby mood that I get from TVH. I'm not sure, too, that I've ever met a uniformly warm, enthusiastic, friendly, down-to-earth, etc etc staff in one place.

    And the drinks... well, they speak for themselves... Leading the charge to move away from endless 'Grey Goose and cranberry's' (which, yes, can have a place, but why limit ourselves?), TVH is at the forefront of the city's cocktail scene and I applaud everyone's determination and hard work in this regard. Congratulations to the entire staff on what you have accomplished so far!
    best,
    dan
  • Post #19 - September 25th, 2008, 7:15 pm
    Post #19 - September 25th, 2008, 7:15 pm Post #19 - September 25th, 2008, 7:15 pm
    I also support the nomination (and also am among the "not into cocktails" crowd who have been there).
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #20 - September 26th, 2008, 5:06 pm
    Post #20 - September 26th, 2008, 5:06 pm Post #20 - September 26th, 2008, 5:06 pm
    I also support this nomination.
    is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
  • Post #21 - October 1st, 2008, 12:51 am
    Post #21 - October 1st, 2008, 12:51 am Post #21 - October 1st, 2008, 12:51 am
    Love TVH, not a restaurant.
  • Post #22 - October 1st, 2008, 1:03 pm
    Post #22 - October 1st, 2008, 1:03 pm Post #22 - October 1st, 2008, 1:03 pm
    I respectfully disagree: a restaurant. They serve (tasty) food the whole time they are open. There is a single auteur behind the speakeasy, and a year-round physical presence. Please take this as a personal opinion, just one possible definition among many.
  • Post #23 - October 9th, 2008, 2:02 pm
    Post #23 - October 9th, 2008, 2:02 pm Post #23 - October 9th, 2008, 2:02 pm
    I think this is a great nomination. It didn't even occur to me that it isn't a traditional restaurant since I've always had great food there. I'm day dreaming about the deviled eggs and peanut butter sandwich now.
  • Post #24 - October 11th, 2008, 5:25 pm
    Post #24 - October 11th, 2008, 5:25 pm Post #24 - October 11th, 2008, 5:25 pm
    REB and I very much enjoyed our first trip to TVH. Although we were too stuffed to try the food, the examples on the plates around us looked very tasty. That said, the cocktails were good enough to earn a GNR nod from me. We're already planning to head back for the deviled eggs and a few more of the fall drinks.
    I don't know what you think about dinner, but there must be a relation between the breakfast and the happiness. --Cemal Süreyya
  • Post #25 - October 14th, 2008, 2:14 pm
  • Post #26 - October 14th, 2008, 10:30 pm
    Post #26 - October 14th, 2008, 10:30 pm Post #26 - October 14th, 2008, 10:30 pm
    I'll sixty-seventh that nomination, or whatever number we're on. Regarding the food, we had the PB sandwich, green beans, waffle fries, deviled eggs, and I think one more thing I'm forgetting. Everything was delicious. I even ate a deviled egg and I NEVER eat eggs. I might even eat another one. We probably had 10 different cocktails between my group and everything was wonderful. I also really appreciate Toby's willingness to talk about his philosophy, his place and his recipes with all of us (and other forums, too).
  • Post #27 - October 14th, 2008, 11:31 pm
    Post #27 - October 14th, 2008, 11:31 pm Post #27 - October 14th, 2008, 11:31 pm
    This is an obvious GNR. I don't quibble with this being a mostly "drinks only" place. After all, food and drink go together, and TVH does a bang-up job of showcasing the drink, which is sensational. As for the food, it is elevated well above standard bar fare. I occasionally crave the tempura green beans (and not just when I'm drinking!).

    And -- Toby M. is just a gem.
  • Post #28 - March 19th, 2010, 12:33 pm
    Post #28 - March 19th, 2010, 12:33 pm Post #28 - March 19th, 2010, 12:33 pm
    Given that I'm now two and a half years removed from Chicago, I have a limited amount of weight to throw around, but what I do have I'll put behind renewal for TVH. It's one of the few places I've visited while in town (four visits, in fact), and I'm continually floored by the quality and creativity of the cocktails. I'm on record as thinking that the vibe is kind of cornball, but the booze trumps all, it's special, and the folks mixing it obviously have an incredible passion for what they do.

    Definite renewal.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #29 - March 19th, 2010, 12:54 pm
    Post #29 - March 19th, 2010, 12:54 pm Post #29 - March 19th, 2010, 12:54 pm
    Lots of competitors in the field now, but TVH is still the gold standard for cocktails in Chicago. I support the renewal.
  • Post #30 - March 19th, 2010, 1:40 pm
    Post #30 - March 19th, 2010, 1:40 pm Post #30 - March 19th, 2010, 1:40 pm
    Co-sign the previous posters' sentiments. Even though I've had a few cocktails that were just ok, TVH is the standard bearer in Chicago. Renew, please.

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