With constantly changing tastes and everyone hankering for the next big thing, the fact that a venture has stayed in business for a decade is no small feat.Which is why aspiring restauranteurs and mixologists can look to these food and cocktail gurus for inspiration.
As we close out 2017, let's take a look at three Chicago favorites, each of which celebrated a 10-year anniversary this year.
The Violet Hour
The Violet Hour (pictured above), which celebrated its 10th anniversary in June, is heralded as Chicago's first craft cocktail bar, and credited with revolutionizing the city's drinking scene — as well as with being one of the best cocktail bars in the country. In fact, it was awarded by the James Beard Foundation for an "Outstanding Bar Program" in 2012 and 2013 — the only two years the award was offered.
However, it wasn't always a case of accolades and praise. When restauranteur Terry Alexander of Nico Osteria, Danny's Tavern and Publican fame needed to reconceptualize his Del Toro space, he approached Toby Maloney (currently the bar's head mixologist) for help. Maloney had worked at New York cocktail bars Milk & Honey, Pegu and Grange Hall, and felt that Chicago was ready for something new.
Alexander admits he was initially nervous about Maloney's direction. At the time, people liked standing at bars and drinking large martinis, while here they were introducing something more sophisticated. News of The Violet Hour's low-key, speakeasy vibe soon got around, and suddenly fans started pouring in. Nevertheless, there were plenty of critics who felt the bar was exclusionary, that their house rules were silly (no phones, no baseball caps), and that having "eight kinds of ice" was just too much.
However, audiences soon came to realize that at the heart of The Violet Hour lies the concept of artistry. A "pre-Prohibition" bar, it looks to staples like sours, fizzes, Old-Fashioneds and simple three-part cocktails, a mixture of sugar, alcohol and citrus. With these simple ingredients you can create hundreds of different variations, says Maloney.
Above all else, patrons respond to The Violet Hour's expertise and service. "Violet Hour helped educate the masses," says Managing Partner Eden Laurin. "Guests are hipper to drinking these days, and bartending has become more of a conversation. Being inclusive, incorporating hospitality at all levels -- that's Violet Hour's true legacy."
The Violet Hour is located at 1520 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622. Reservations are not accepted, so arrive early!
Michelin-starred Sepia celebrated its 10th year in business last September with a commemorative tasting menu, wine pairings from the restaurant’s opening year, and 10 cocktails concocted by Sepia’s bar team over the past decade.
"It has been an incredible 10 years," says managing Partner Emmanuel Nony. "We've seen tremendous growth in the neighborhood, including our very own expansion with Proxi. It brings me so much joy to celebrate this milestone at Sepia, and it would not have been possible without our loyal guests."
The secret to Sepia's longevity likely can be attributed to its classic vibe — a trademark since day one. The restaurant, which draws its inspiration from the Art Nouveau movement, is housed in a former print shop built in 1890. Besides the interior, Sepia's management team focuses on the details that truly matter, namely impeccable service and dishes that constantly push the envelope in terms of innovation.
Sepia is located at 123 N Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60661. Make your reservations here.
Image Credit: Gage Hospitality Group
The Gage opened its doors on April 16, 2007, with the vision of becoming the "go to" location for both locals and visitors no matter the occasion. As owner Billy Lawless recounts, "[When we started} a critical goal for us was to establish a culture and sense of hospitality that is 100% focused on the guest."
Ten years on, it seems that The Gage has achieved just that. Known as one of the most booked restaurants in the city, a favorite for power lunches, first dates, wedding receptions, and everything in between, the restaurant also has been recognized by local and national publications, taking home awards like the Wine Spectator's "Award of Excellence," Bon Appetit's "The Dish," and two stars from the World of Fine Wine Magazine.
To celebrate its landmark decade in business, The Gage shared a portion of its sales with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, in honor of Earth month, which is celebrated in April. The restaurant also offered a Woodford Reserve 10-year Bourbon, a favorite of the Gage team, and a key ingredient in the Black Manhattan, one of its bestselling cocktails; a limited edition brew called Gagelicious, made by the Revolution Brewing Company; and 2007 wines sourced by The Gage beverage director, Jon McDaniel.
The Gage is located at 24 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603. Make your reservation here.
Cheers to The Violet Hour, Sepia and The Gage, and here's wishing you 10 more deliciously successful years!