ILLINOIS Travel Guide
While its tipping envelope initiative continues to dominate the headlines, Marriott's introduction of a healthy vending machine at its Chicago O'Hare airport location has been much less controversial. Earlier this month, it jumped on the bandwagon of a Chicago start-up called Farmer's Fridge, which creates healthy options using local ingredients, puts them in a jar, and delivers them to vending machines throughout the city.
Yep, healthy food in jars, which can be recycled back into the vending machine after the meal. There's approximately 12 of them in Chicago, and Marriott plans to test out the concept for the next five months at O'Hare. It seems like a great fit for an airport hotel, with plenty of guests on the go, many arriving late at night and departing early in the morning when hotel restaurants may not be open. This, in theory, gives them an option that's healthier than a fast food restaurant or a candy bar from a typical vending machine. We've certainly been there.
We haven't swung through to try it for ourselves, but are very curious to see how travelers respond to it. We're also interested to know if the food's any good, so drop us a line if you've tried it. As for what's on the menu, here's the full list of the items inside, which range from $3 to $12 dollars in price:
Grupo Habita, Mexico-based operators of boutique design hotels, will be taking on the Windy City with a 120-room hotel in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. There is no official name yet for the hotel, which is presently scheduled to open in the summer of 2015.
This will be the 15th and largest hotel for Grupo Habita, who has made transforming historic buildings a true art form. We don’t know yet who the design team is for the new hotel; however, all you have to do is look at their other hotels - such as Downtown in Mexico City and Hotel Americano in Manhattan - to see what an extraordinary pool of design talent there is coming from Mexico.
According to DNAinfoChicago, approval was given to Convexity Properties by the Chicago City Planning Commission— no small achievement—to convert a 12-story Art Deco building, the Northwest Tower, to a 75-room hotel, along with a nearby warehouse, which will offer “shared rooms,” for a total of 120 rooms.
We made our New Years' resolution to stop peddling the self-indulgent promotional packages hotels have been trying to disguise as "deals," and that goes for all aspects of marketing in the industry. There are so many "contests" out there that we don't really know what to do with, ones that revolve around liking a page on Facebook -- which we get -- but the problem is that there is nothing more, nothing left up to the person participating. We're at the end of our editorial rope as it pertains to those empty "contests" with "randomly selected" winners. The end!
That said, when we see something creative that someone can win by putting forth a good effort, by earning it as opposed to random luck, we are happy to pass it along. You still have to go on Facebook to enter the Godfrey Hotel in Chicago's contest -- we don't have a problem with that so long as it is only part of the process -- but you control your own destiny in this one (by the way, are we making ourselves clear here?).
The hotel doesn't open until February, but they have rolled out an "element branding concept." Basically, there is a periodic table at the conceirge's desk, and each square refers to something within the hotel or city. Io 4, for example, represents the hotel's I|O Urban Roofscape that's located on the 4th floor. Other examples are Wd (wedding), Bd (bed), Am (amenities), etc.
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Keeping with our series of bending the ear of our favorite barkeeps, we recently had the opportunity to find out what NoMI Lounge Manager and bartender, Kevin Beary, at the Park Hyatt Chicago thinks about the industry's preferred poisons.
HotelChatter: So, what's your bar-tending journey?
Kevin Beary: I started my hotel bar career at the historic Bellevue in Philadelphia and moved to the iconic Clover Club.
HC: NoMI is quite the destination in Chicago, with an ideal location and great reputation, what is your thought process when designing a new cocktail menu?
KB: A new cocktail list is like the first day of school. It's a little nerve racking but exciting at the same time. It allows me to be creative yet still stay true to the NoMI experience.
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The Freehand Miami
The Freehand Chicago will open in the old Tokyo Hotel at 19 East Ohio Street and according to Chicago Real Estate Daily will have 250 beds. Key word: Beds, not rooms. The beds will be split between private rooms and dormitory-style suites with four to eight beds in a room. There will also be an onsite bar, called Broken Shaker, and a café that hopes to bring in both international travelers staying at the Freehand and locals. (The existing sushi restaurant, Ginza, will close later this month after 26 years in business.)
The interiors will be done NY-based Roman & Williams Buildings & Interiors who did the original Freehand in Miami and who is also redesigning the Chicago Athletic Association which will turn into a hotel next year. You can read HotelChatter's article on the design duo here. Better yet, you can tour every inch of the Freehand Miami here.
A few months ago, we gave you the scoop on the $168-million renovations undergone by the Hyatt Regency Chicago, including a lobby modeled after an airport (in a good way), face-to-face as well as self-service check in, and touch-screen hotel and city directories. The makeover also included a remodeling of the guest rooms, restaurants and lobby bar.
As you'll see in the photos, the entire lobby consists of two-floors of expansive, open space. The front desk and Big Bar are located on this perch, and below one will find Stetson's Modern Steak + Sushi, American Craft Kitchen & Bar and Market Chicago.
To give you an idea of the scope of this overhaul, we've gathered some before and after photos of the hotel. The big thing to notice in the lobby area is that the huge fountain has been replaced by the American Craft restaurant, and the common space has been made much more user friendly. Big Bar has done away with the orange-colored decor in favor of a sleek, modern marble shine.
Chicago can now brag about being one of the few cities around the world to play host to three Hotel Indigos. These bragging rights can't officially start until the hotel opens after the winter thaw in 2014, though.
The Windy City will welcome the new hipster hotel that will take over the former Atlantic Bank Building along Chicago's most famous street, Michigan Avenue. The 101-year old building will be transformed into a 156-room hotel that, in true Hotel Indigo fashion, pays great attention to design while incorporating pieces of local flair. We would be surprised if being across from Millennium Park doesn't play a major role in design; the 'bean' is too cool not to.
This is no normal $30 million renovation since four additional floors will be added to the building creating a new, happening rooftop bar, and a restaurant managed by celebrity chef David Burke. With the bar on the top, the restaurant will take over the former bank vaults in the basement to provide a private dining experience. Just think of those killer views while enjoying a cocktail!
Signing over a check for $168 millions dollars to refresh their rooms, the Hyatt Regency Chicago has created a haven for the most tech-savvy travelers. The hefty cost is not just for new coats of paint and a few new pillows, it creates an oasis for those that need to stay connected from check-in to check-out.
Mimicking the check-in hall of the world's largest airports, Hyatt's lobby with offer guests plenty of ways to collect room keys and start the unpacking process. In addition to the traditional face-to-face check-in, the hotel will offer iPads to track your arrival. If you prefer to be a little less futuristic, self-service check-in kiosks will be available too. Of course, we just discussed whether customers want this kind of non-personalized service.
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Looks like the old saying still stands true: One man's trash is indeed another's treasure.
At least that appears to be the case at Hotel Lincoln in Chicago. The boutique hotel in Lincoln Park, which recently underwent some renovations, has installed what they're openly referring to as the "Wall of Bad Art,"--essentially a bunch of reject artworks placed closely together on a lobby wall.
Apparently it's so bad, it's good. (Sort of like the movie Bio-Dome).
A special for the night, the baked oysters we ordered were gone in a split second
Smack in the middle of Chicago's River North neighborhood on the corner of State and Erie, the hotel was abuzz both inside and out on one of the city's first warm nights of the season. No way did we want to miss all that action so we opted to dine outside on Argent's sidewalk patio under a lovely garden trellis.
Though indoor dining was just as tempting with the oversized, half-moon shaped booths on the first floor and a shiny upstairs Raw Bar where an old sink filled with ice keeps the oysters chilled. There we also saw walls peppered with images from the World Fair hosted in Chicago in the late 1800s, an event and era of rebirth that have served to inspire Argent's vibe.