June 17, 2013

Chicago Restaurant Reviews: Drinks!

 Restaurant reviews continue....when I did my top Seattle restaurant reviews before I moved, I felt confident that I could give a proper overview that most other locals would agree with.  This is not the case for Chicago, despite my best efforts in going out to eat WAY too much.  This review of restaurants in Chicago is not written as one who claims to be an expert, but instead as a person who loves food and is just discovering all this wild city has to offer.  I’ve reviewed restaurants here that I go to again and again and are all part of the reason that I love living in Chicago so very much.  If you don’t see one of your favorites, then maybe I haven’t been…..or maybe I went and didn’t like it   ;)  

Up next:  my favorite places to 'grab a drink':

116 North Green St 

I found RM Champagne when they followed me on Twitter.  Me:  champagne?  I’m in.  And I’ve been going there ever since.  The cheese plates and candy selection bar are novel, but I come here for the unique atmosphere and bubbly.  It is a great place for a date or a drink while you’re waiting to get into another Randolf Street restaurant.  The servers are all looking very dapper, dressed in suspenders and other hipster-chic attire, the service is quick and professional, and the drink menu is very decent.  You’ll have to find the entrance marked by a subtly placed doorman, microphone in ear, walk down an alley and up the stairs.  I would suggest a reservation if you’re going with a big party, but not if you go early or just want to stand at the bar.  One of my favorite things about RM…they always return my Tweets!  And I always Tweet when I’m there.  @RMchampagne

1520 N Damen Ave  

The Violet Hour has “rules” which I enjoy but at times wish were stricter, like when we recently got sat next to three fellow diners who spent the entire evening on their individual phones texting.  Me: “You’re not allowed to be on your phones in here, correct?”  Server:  You can text, you just can’t talk”.  Change it Violet Hour!  The dark coziness and intimacy of conversation among friends is what makes this place so great.  Plus, the seating can be close given the big communal couches.   I’ve never eaten here; I prefer to pop next door and have tacos at Big Star, but coming in for an early beverage seems to work very well as I don’t like waiting outside in the cold for that long on display.  Unmarked door off the Damen Blue Line stop with an ever-changing mural painted on the outside, you will usually see a line of smartly-dressed young professionals lined up outside.  If you don’t see a line, it’s time to stop by.  Don’t like gin?  Don’t like tequila?  The Violet Hour may change your mind with their plethora of unique cocktails worth taking a risk on.  

Tip:  T.S. Eliot wrote a dark poem called The Waste Land in 1922 referencing the “Violet Hour”:

At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits

Like a taxi throbbing waiting,

I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,

Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see

At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,

The typist home at tea-time, clears her breakfast, lights

Her stove, and lays out food in tins.

Out of the window perilously spread

Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)

Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.

2601 N. Milwaukee Ave 
Basque is hard for me because of the meat-heavy dishes.  To be honest, I’ve never eaten at Telegraph but it is a destination for me to have a glass of wine with a friend at the bar.  There is a wine there that tastes like minerals and it is fantastically fascinating:  côtes-du-rhône brèzeme, France.  The dryness and unique flavor always has me asking for another glass; it literally tastes like you are licking a slab of limestone…in a good way.  Every time I’ve been here, the bartenders are so helpful, offering advice on the menu without being overly chatty.  They play music so good that it makes me stay longer.  Modest Mouse croons as I sip my minerally French-Basque red.  I love this place on a dark, rainy night.

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