The Violet Hour

Bar / Lounge
The Violet Hour Camouflaged behind a colorful plank façade adorned with an ever-changing display of graffiti art, The Violet Hour offers an unexpected touch of upscale luxury to a neighborhood better known for dive bars and hipster hangouts. Chicago United States 41.909048 -87.677593
4.1 12
The Violet Hour - Bar | Lounge in Chicago.
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Ratings:
Lucas
Adriana
Jonah
Emma

Party Earth Review Camouflaged behind a colorful plank façade adorned with an ever-changing display of graffiti art, The Violet Hour offers an unexpected touch of upscale luxury to a neighborhood better known for dive bars and hipster hangouts... ... read full review

  • Hours:

    M–F, Su 6pm–2am, Sa 6pm–3am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth The Violet Hour Review

The Scene

Camouflaged behind a colorful plank façade adorned with an ever-changing display of graffiti art, The Violet Hour offers an unexpected touch of upscale luxury to a neighborhood better known for dive bars and hipster hangouts.

Camouflaged behind a colorful plank façade adorned with an ever-changing display of graffiti art, The Violet Hour offers an unexpected touch of upscale luxury to a neighborhood better known for dive bars and hipster hangouts.

A series of dark blue floor-to-ceiling curtains part to reveal the various rooms of the venue, the first being a lounge filled with candlelit islands surrounded by unusual blue leather chairs with massive five-foot backs, creating an air of privacy for the groups of young professionals and swanky couples chatting over drinks.

A marble and mirror bar offers space for the fashionable clientele to enjoy intricate cocktails like the Juliet and Romeo – a frost-colored cocktail of Beefeater, mint, and cucumber with a touch of rose water – while those looking for a full meal can make their way through the curtains to the dining area, which features high-backed booths and a nearly identical bar.

Patrons in the mood to mingle can continue on through the next set of curtains into the venue’s final room, a warm and welcoming hideaway where strangers come together around the fireplace to drink, chat, and eat.

Fostering a community atmosphere with a stylishly unpretentious vibe, the venue ensures a relaxing and cozy retreat for high-end drink enthusiasts to while The Violet Hour(s) away.

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Tip from Adriana:

You probably don’t want to hang in the small waiting area for very long, so either arrive early (between 6 and 7pm) or give your cell phone number to the host. She’ll text you when a spot opens up – but she won’t hold it very long, so don’t go too far!

  • Crowd

    Trendy young professionals, business people, and upscale couples, late 20s to mid-40s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Ambient chill, down-tempo music including contemporary trip-hop and a bit of jazz.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Assortment of small bites and seasonal dishes including spiced beer nuts, artisan cheese plates, fruits, and a variety of fish and meat specialties.

  • Prices

    Spiced beer nuts $4, seasonal dishes $6–$24. Beer $5–$12, wine $6–$8/glass or $40–$75/bottle, cocktails $12, brandy $12–$30, rye whiskey $7–$25, seasonal punches $30.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Nice casual to dressy: women in blouses, skirts, and heels or cocktail dresses, men in button-downs and slacks or business suits.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Thursdays through Saturdays for a younger and more casual crowd, or Sundays through Wednesdays for a more business and industry-oriented scene.

  • Close By

    Across the intersection is Rodan (1530 North Milwaukee Avenue), a restaurant with more filling dishes and the same contemporary lounge atmosphere.

The Violet Hour User Reviews

Average rating:
So cool
Maria S. Apr 28, 2013
I love the idea of going back in time. The house rules, ever changing facade, and classy backed chairs really add to the charm and mystique of this speakeasy spot. While the drinks are on the pricer side, keep in mind that they are a bit strong. The mixes are truly delicious though! Wait in line and be rewarded with a unique experience.
Chicago's Finest Hidden Gem
Emily M. Apr 24, 2013
You never know what you'll find behind closed doors. Or behind enormous, magically painted buildings in the Wicker Park area of Chicago. Just off the Damen blue-line stop, across the street from the beloved restaurant Big Star, lies a time warp. Cleverly named from T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," The Violet Hour is a mixture of beautifully crafted architecture, mellow and yet in-your-face atmosphere, but most importantly, the drinks. The Violet Hour is not your average bar. The outside of the building looks abandoned; covered in graffiti. But, the line outside the windowless front says otherwise. Once you are lucky enough to get in, you are greeted by a sea of heavy blue curtains that serve to either lock out noise or bring you back to your childhood assembly days. Although the wait can be long, it is more than worth it. The rooms are dim, the wait staff carry candles on their drink trays to lead you to your gorgeous, long-backed seats which create a sense of privacy in a room crowded with patrons. If you have not already eaten across the street, they have an array of finger foods to choose from, but nothing gut-busting. Their cocktail list is assorted by alcohol with dashing names from Juliet & Romeo to Breakfast of Thompson. The recipes can be discouraging for customers with a lack of cocktail knowledge, so you may have to do your homework before ordering a drink that you can barely sip out of (especially with the $15 price tag). Music gently plays around the room, usually Nick Drake or Radiohead, and is the only slap to reality that you have not been sent to the 1960's. The most respectful aspect of The Violet Hour is their list of house rules. Yes, those still exist. They range from proper attire (inlcuding no baseball hats), to the fact they do not serve any drinks that end in "bomb." My personal favorite is the last on the website's list, indicating, "And finally, please do not bring anyone to The Violet Hour that you wouldn't bring to your mother's house for Sunday dinner." Now that is class. Luckily for you, The Violet Hour is open seven days a week from 6PM until 2AM, excluding Saturdays when it is open until 3AM. So, dust off your old suit and skinny tie or bust out that pencil-skirt you bought eight months ago but have not worn yet. Refer to yourselves as "The Draper's" for the night and bask in the glory that is your coolness, just remember to bring the checkbook.
An Hour Worth the Wait
Lindsey R. Feb 23, 2013
Dim lights, plush velvet, soft talk, servers in lapels - Chicago's speakeasy scene is on full display at the Violet Hour. Nestled in the brook of Wicker Park, this bar, modeled after the Prohibition-era bootlegging hubs, brings a sense of old class to northwest Chicago. Young people flock there like flies to lamplight, and for good reason. In an area known for loud art and street tacos, it's a welcome break to slink back to a time when drinks were an appreciated privilege, not something to be guzzled and forgotten. The unsuspecting, muraled facade is the Violet Hour's cheekiest gimmick, but the long lines come dusk are an easy giveaway. And don't let the flock of bodies worry you: The interior is modeled in a way to detract distraction. High-backed booths and curtains keep conversations between you and your party. And like a Kubrickian dreamscape, everything's swaddled in shadows and candlelight, and hued in gray and black, evoking elegant mystery. The drinks are equally arcane, with names like Smoke & Mirrors, First Snow and Forged Alley. The Dark & Stormy is particularly delicious, with a Brugal Anejo base and hints of lime and ginger. Those looking for something light may enjoy the Juliet and Romeo, composed of Beefeater, mint, cucumber and rosewater. When hunger strikes, the small but impressive menu will suffice. The artisanal cheese plate is especially good. For all of its fancy allure, the Violet Hour is still accessible and down-to-earth. The staff is kind and eager to make suggestions, and the prices aren't egregious (around $12 to $15 for a cocktail). While not a typical weekend romp, it's perfect for special occasions, or as a means to impress out-of-towners.
The Violet Hour is quite literally a world of its own.
Adelia G. Feb 14, 2013
If you're looking for a little blast from the past, this is the place to go for a complete removal from the norm of the club and bar scene. Candle lighting, velvet drapes, a classy bar, and high backed booths serve for a very intimate and upscale atmosphere of the once popular speakeasies of the 1920s. As if that weren't an attraction in itself, the cocktails served there are all in-house recipes of superior quality, with catchy names to add to the character of the menu, which is quite extensive, and could be overwhelming to the less experienced drinker. As far as ambiance, the jazz music and friendly wait staff are more than enough to keep the mood relaxed and highly enjoyable. Additionally, their assortments of small food platters are quite tasty, come in good variety for different palates, and are just enough for a pleasant, relaxed social evening with friends or a date. All in all, The Violet Hour has every reason to be highly recommended, and rightfully so. It makes an evening - of socialization, food, and drink - into an experience.
The only time I'm on board with Adriana
Craig B. Dec 12, 2012
Part of me hates myself for going along with Adriana, but the Violet Hour is so cool that I’m willing to let it slide just this once. Get there early and spend the night there. Even if you’re cheap, there’s spiced nuts and it’s not like the drinks are weak. I love the seasonal changes to the inconspicuous outside, I love the staff wearing suspenders, and I love the house rules (“If you have a party of four, we’ll give you four chairs. If your party is eight, we’ll arrange eight chairs for you. No ‘party add-ons’ without prior notification,” “No O-Bombs. No Jager-Bombs. No bombs of any kind,” and “Finally, please do not bring anyone to The Violet Hour that you wouldn’t bring to your mother’s house for Sunday dinner” are my three favorites). It’s partly classy, partly speakeasy, and all awesome. This place is worth the dough you’ll have to shell out if you want more than just one drink.
An experience like no other
Christina W. Dec 11, 2012
I know plenty of people who refuse to go here because they don't want to wait in line. But if you have any affinity at all for excellent craft cocktails, you must go here. The drinks are absolutely incredible. Perfectly crafted recipes, lots of home-brewed/infused/etc ingredients, and top-notch mixologists make for some of the best cocktails I have ever tasted in my entire life. (And I call myself a cocktail aficionado, so I look for this kind of thing on a regular basis. So far, nothing has lived up to this standard.) After about 8pm on any evening the lines will be insane. On weekends they are worse. I hate waiting for anything, but i will tell you now that the drinks are worth it. (And best of all, there are PLENTY of other bars and restaurants just around the corner to while away the time while you wait for your table.) My advice to any visitor, however, is this: go right at 6pm. I know it sounds absurd, and you think "hey, this should be part of my night out," but you'll get perks like no other. If you go in a group of two (so you + a friend or date), you can sit at the bar and the place will be essentially empty at 6pm (when they open). Then you can spend 2 hours drowning yourself in the best cocktails imaginable while watching the amazing bartenders at work. It's like drinks and a show all in one!
Great Speakeasy
Jackie D. Dec 4, 2012
While the whole speakeasy trend is beginning to get a bit redundant, The Violet Hour does it incredibly well. First of all, the facade never looks the same. In other words, people regularly paint a new mural on the wooden planks that cover the building so that you can't identify it by the artwork. What gives the entrance away is a bouncer that is usually in front of the building checking ID's (or the long line on weekends). It's best to come early in the evening so that you don't have to wait or feel rushed. Their drink list is gigantic, and I think it would be nicer if it were more limited and perhaps more seasonal. That being said, the list has very well balanced cocktails that range from spirit based to amaro based - YUM! Definitely a great spot to take a date if you want to impress!
Old school, amazing drinks, quite pricey.
Jayson M. Aug 16, 2012
This place is no secret, even if it is going the speakeasy route with the hidden entrance and whatnot, but I still love it. If I could afford it (and get in) I would go all the time. If you go before 8pm it’s usually possible to score a seat, but they take the notion of not letting this place get too crowded quite seriously, so once it gets busy you might as well head elsewhere. I love that, though. I’m at a point in my life where I am way past the crazy drunken bar scene. The space inside is beautiful. Lots of velvet drapes, crazy mod oversized chairs, and a beautiful marble bar serving up intricate cocktails that I have never not enjoyed (even with the sting of their $12+ price tags). Take a date here.
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