photo: courtesy of Bridget Montgomery; pictured Weegee's
Silence! John Cage spent a lifetime in pursuit of it, and everyone claims to want a piece of it. As the seasonal din winds down with one last droning noisemaker, soothe your weary psyche and contemplate this year's resolutions at a destination where it's possible to drink and hear yourself think. We're foregoing dead-air dives-and your living room-for this little list of bars that boast naturally sound acoustics, euphonious environs or just plain nice digs for chatting. If silence is golden, these pitch-perfect spots are loaded with aural ambiance, thanks to some careful planning and seasoned hosts.
Butterfly Social Club
Located a mere skip and a jump from the Blue Line, Butterfly has all sorts of new-fangled devices to make it an eco-friendly and hip place to imbibe. It also gives new meaning to the phrase "natural acoustics" with its earthen interior, which is curved to meet the Windmiller Sound specifications (placing it with the likes of Sound Bar); the result is a rich auditory and visual experience. Even the speakers are designed to look like trees using recycled wood. When the place really flies, however, is when the music is off-and the fountain flows and gurgles from the front window. Relax with one of the club's "chemical free, high vitality cocktails" and let the enchantment begin: This spot is one of the warmest in town.
DJs have long heralded Danny's because of its well-maintained, well-placed and quality equipment, but there are other factors at work here. Local electronic artist and Danny's regular Garo Tokat says, "Go right when they are opening up, and there isn't any music playing. Walk from the front door to the back and listen to your footsteps. Or, sit at the front bar while the bartender puts ashtrays and candles on all the tables in the back rooms-crystal clear, rich, with a slight reverb." The bar's mix of tile and wood helps, too, as do the segmented seating coves. As with many bars of its genre, the name of the game here is the earlier the better.
Ten Cat Tavern
It's quite appropriate that the well-mannered and quietly charming feline family inspires this pet-friendly and stylish former vintage shop. A glossy bohemian find, the bar almost guarantees you'll find a quiet table; the minor amount of hustlin' and bustlin' from the (free before 8 p.m.) billiards table up front is barely audible once you've passed the vintage PacMan and pinball machines and settled into the back room. Once there, don't be surprised to find a reading group in session, often times couched between couples and small meet-ups with more informal topics of discussion. A surprisingly varied selection of microbrews here keeps dialogue loose, while the older-skew in patron age seems to keep the peaceful vibe in tact.
Hesitant to wade through the jittery cell phone-laden stew that is the Wicker Park nightlife scene? Violet Hour's dimmed lights and eerily rich silence can provide the perfect remedy; high-backed chairs keep conversations contained, while scattered votives set an almost meditative mood that's perfect for intimate conversations between close friends. Yes, the Violet Hour has some coastal social scene-leanings (you've heard a friend or two decry its LA-inspired social hierarchy antics and NYC speakeasy stylings); but, the attitude present depends on the night of the week and, well, the hour that you stop in. Regardless, it's tough to beat the anti-cell phone policy, steep-but-strong cocktails and blissfully balanced vibe here.
An exercise in early birding, this newly established, charming hideaway spot is quietly couched in the midst of some other hush-hush activity (chances are good you'll spot a workin' woman slink down the street in the course of a gin and tonic). Still in its freshman year, the spot is a go-to for quiet drinkers, culling the likes of artsy renegades and even the local photography club-which makes sense, as the namesake here is a pseudonym for American photographer Arthur Fellig. Peppered with black-and-white photographs and flooded with rich, golden-hued lighting, Weegee's '40s vibe and old-school jazz soundtrack is kinda like hanging out in a relative's living room-but the selection of wines, imports and tried-and-true cocktails, along with the photo booth in the back corner, keep it up to speed.