When it comes to the concept-driven spots popping up across Chicago's nightlife landscape, it's all about the lounges. From Jet's vodka-only shtick to Motel's time-warp vibe, we love a place where we can just chill. Take the new Victor Hotel from nightlife power-player Jerry Kleiner: an 8,000 square-foot space in a converted turn-of-the-century freezer building. Cool still rules.
Outside: You might have trouble finding this corner spot, tucked behind one-way streets and dead ends in the Warehouse District, but look for the neon Victor Hotel sign. (There really was a Hotel Victor.) Salvaged from an old Chicago SRO, the sign used to hang in Kleiner's now-shuttered '90s club, Shelter.
Inside: Victor is mod to the max. Kleiner's signature, neo-baroque metalwork--a hallmark of spots like Marche and Red Light--becomes a mere accent piece to this lounge's neo-retro minimalism. Look for all the classics of the mid-century era: fiberglass Charles and Ray Eames furniture, Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs and Isamu Noguchi coffee tables. You'll also find oil paintings and hundreds of black-and-white photographs (some from Shelter's glory days). The effect is a vibe that is pure s-e-x, and perfect for a post-restaurant row nightcap.
Food: On second thought, maybe you can skip nearby--and pricey!--restaurant row completely. This place offers plenty of sophisticated choices, like chilled beef carpaccio ($15), sashimi tuna tartar ($10) and charcuterie ($16), complemented by a selection of Italian-style sandwiches like prosciutto with fontina cheese ($8).
Drinks: The list of nine martinis (each $11) is interesting without trying too hard, and features familiar flavors mixed with a hint of class; we liked the Grapefruit (Bacardi Limon, grapefruit juice and a splash of bubbly). You'll also find six varieties of champagne ($12-$18 a glass; $60-$360 a bottle), and a limited wine list ($7-$11 a glass; $35-$60 a bottle) and bottled beer selection ($5-$6). And, of course, the one thing every lounge must have today: bottle service (starting at $150).
Crowd: When we spoke to Kleiner a few weeks before the opening, he told us, "I build these places because I want a place to hang out." He must have an eclectic personality because at a preview party, we spotted everyone from hard-hats to stylin' sophisticates mixing it up. So what should you wear? We'd still suggest you aim for that classy Euro lounge look, and leave the backward baseball caps at home, please. If you're a trendoid scene-seeker, our advice: Stay away. Youngsters who can't hold their drinks while lounging on expensive furniture probably won't appreciate the low-key vibe and attention to art, design and fashion.
Music: The DJ booth, perched above the crowd, delivers everything from Motown and disco sounds to dance beats.
Bottom Line: Sexy and sophisticated, Victor Hotel offers an adult vibe without being a bore. Plus, a rotating art selection gives you incentive for repeat visits. Check in and check it out!
Karen Budell is the metromix nightlife firstname.lastname@example.orgOriginally published July 19, 2005.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times