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Distraction-Free Drinking

Spark some stimulating conversation at one of these TV-less spots.
Wednesday Nov 04, 2009.     By Stacy Warden
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

<A HREF=/bars/violethour.html>Violet Hour</a>
photo: courtesy of the Violet Hour

I used to wait tables at a local Italian restaurant. The place is no longer open and I can't help thinking its closing had a little something to do with the two always-on flat-screens slung above the bar. The number-one complaint I received during my table-waiting days was always in regard to those pesky TVs, which cranked out an endless stream of outdated music videos. Inspired by those patrons who preferred to focus on their meals rather than Sheryl Crow's mug, I set out to find a few Chicago spots without screens.

Violet Hour
Distractions are a thing of the past at this new-age speakeasy. Violet Hour takes its lack of televisions to the extreme by tacking on a no-standing, no-cell phone policy. And then there are sleek, teal, high-backed chairs that dull the sounds of surrounding chatter. Focusing on your company and cocktails here is easy, unless you're parked at the bar—as you should be, if it's your first time. Watching Violet Hour's mixologists in action is a must. These guys are the real deal with their to-the-count shakes, stoic expressions, the ability to make everything you've never heard of and the genius to put new spins on your favorites. Oh, and did I mention that they do it all on the fly, in strapping suspenders?

California Clipper
There's plenty of fun to be had at this classic cocktail lounge, none of which involves the playoffs or bad B-sides. Fridays and Saturdays reel in local music junkies with live entertainment from bands like The Hoyle Brothers, Fulton County Line and The Blue Line Riders. Mondays are especially interactive (and competitive) with Clipper Bingo, beginning at 9:30 p.m. If you're lucky, you might even win a trinket-stuffed "Bag of Crap", straight from Uncle Fun, whose fine goods are purportedly "designed to restore the whimsical nature with which you arrived on this planet."

Duke of Perth
Should Duke of Perth ever decide to install a telly, its loyal patrons likely wouldn't notice. They'd be far too busy downing whiskey and noshing on European fare. The pub's extensive malt list alone makes for solid reading material and its trio of Glens is more than enough to keep you entertained all night. The chill crowd of regulars and authentic Scottish vibe has made the Duke a Lakeview staple for more than fifteen years. Though it seems the real draw here isn't in the whiskey, beer or atmosphere so much as it is the fish and chips. And you can have all you want of the pub's favorite dish on Wednesdays and Fridays during the all-you-can-eat special.

Hopleaf couldn't place a television in its intricately crafted bar if it tried, because there'd be no room for it. The restaurant's walls are already stacked and lined with bottles upon bottles of Belgium brews, and that's about all it takes to keep the crowd here pleased. It doesn't hurt that the food is just as good as the beer. Start with the popular mussels and then move on to something extremely unhealthy with the CB n' J (that's cashew butter) or sink your chomps into the restaurant's steak and frites.

Long Room
If Long Room isn't already on your list of favorite Chicago bars, you've clearly never been. But that's OK, there's no finger-pointing here; it's not the easiest to find. Here's a quick tip for next time, though: look for Popeye's on the corner of Irving Park and Ashland. You might even want to stop in and grab a small tub of death, as Long Room doesn't have a kitchen. It does, however, have frequent visits from Chicago's beloved tamale guys. It's also got a stellar rotating selection of beers on tap and local, imported and domestic brews by the bottle. The crowd here is a mix of young professionals and seasoned cats. A photo booth in the bar's backroom is the closest thing to a TV you'll find.


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