3423 N. Southport Ave. (3450N, 1400W) Chicago, IL 60657 R.I.P. 2002

Editor’s Note: Violet closed its doors sometime during late 2002 and has become the South American restaurant, Coobah.

Violet is the closest thing to a wine bar in the area, which can be a pleasant departure from nearby crowded sports bars and Irish pubs. Strangely, it is the only “wine bar” that I know of that has neon Cubs signs in the window, a Golden Tee machine, a television, and $2 Bud Light specials. However, Violet is a bit swanky and a nice place to chill out with a date or to hear some live jazz.

Located within spitting distance of the Southport Brown Line El stop, Violet can be somewhat difficult to find. The place is rather small, is wedged between the Red Tomato and Brandt-Beach Real Estate, and the name isn’t even on the awning because it tore off somehow and hasn’t been replaced. Just remember the address if you’re trying to find it, and look for the potted evergreens in the doorway. Step inside this exposed brick retreat and you will see a nice wooden bar to your left and tables with high-backed chairs to your right. The small white candles, red velvet drapes, local artwork along the walls, and little white lights around the window create an intimate atmosphere. Two large murals on the back wall depict what looks like a fictional coffeehouse on Southport – perhaps the coffeehouse that Violet replaced. The mural on the left depicts a woman who is looking at you, while the two men in the picture are looking at her, and the woman with one of the men is looking at him look at her. Follow? This bizarre love quadrangle could be the result of too much wine consumed at Violet, especially as the only beer served comes in bottles. Violet also serves upscale bar nosh, occasionally hosts jazz combos and has pleasant sidewalk seating in the summertime.

On a recent visit during the week following a Cubs game, most of the crowd consisted of the owners and friends, and no one was seated at the tables. These same owners own a lawn and garden store with Violet being a side business for them. The bartender felt the owners hadn’t really put much time into the bar as a result, which is a shame because Violet has a lot of potential. With just a little more care and attention, Violet could be a truly superb addition to this crowded Southport restaurant and bar corridor. In the meantime, it’s definitely still worth a visit.