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Virginia's Blue Laws 

Sitting along Virginia's bar late in the evening, it's hard not to keep from peering over your shoulder, half expecting the authorities to come in and shut the joint down. It has nothing to do with any illegal activity, but the scenery produces the effect of an idealized speakeasy -- deep woods and decadent drapes, an antique bar with jewel-toned stained glass, low lighting and dark recesses.

Handmade chandeliers formed from dozens of blue wine bottles hang over velvet banquettes, completing the image, while outside the patio and its koi pond contrast starkly with the surrounding lofts. The restaurant/bar strikes an attractive pose in its corner of the Stoveworks, bringing in an equally attractive set to wine and dine in the evenings.

"In"mates: Despite its hip, urban setting between Cabbagetown and Little 5 Points, Virginia's has somehow managed to avoid attracting a sea of banal hipsters clad in torn jeans and ironic T-shirts. Instead, a refreshingly eclectic mix of gays, straights, singles and couples sidle up to the bar to take part in conversation that doesn't necessarily include the hot new band from New York.

It's fairly obvious, however, that this motley group tends to be of a regular sort, armed with a full knowledge of the bar's customs. A recent expedition to Virginia's proved baffling to us neophytes: We felt pushy walking up to the bar to order drinks, and then needy upon returning to our table to wait for them and order a second round.

Excess consumption: Though you'd expect a fancy place like Virginia's to offer lots of signature martinis and drinks, they instead stick to the basics. A simple Jack and Coke, however, took our breath away as it came in the form of a tumbler filled high with ice and whiskey, barely leaving enough room to pour the Coca-Cola delivered in its signature green glass bottle. Cosmopolitans are served pink and frosty with the sweetness of fresh squeezed citrus juice. Dirty gin martinis are masterfully blended and include a liberal helping of salty olives.

Book 'em: The environment is perfect for sexy sips of a deep red wine, but be prepared for some serious reading when you're ordering. The wine "list" rivals some high school texts in its thickness and comes complete with photos of the various labels stocked by the bar. Delivered in a leather and velvet binder, you could find yourself browsing long enough to forget your original intent.

In contrast, the beer list sitting atop each table forgoes tedious inventories, opting instead for a colorful grouping of the bottles available -- making it easier to simply point when a few too many rounds has made it more difficult to pronounce the European varieties.

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