60601 Travel Guide
The Virgin Hotel Chicago announced their new executive chef last week and with that announcement we also learned a little bit more about the very mysterious Virgin we're dying to sleep with.
Chef Rick Gresh comes to Virgin after a 7-year stint as Executive Chef at David Burke's Primehouse restaurant at The James Hotel, which was deemed "Best Steakhouse" by Chicago Magazine in 2013. He's been cooking in Chicago for nearly 20 years and puts innovative concepts and local sourcing at the forefront of his approach to cooking. Here's what he said about joining Team Virgin:
“I am thrilled to join Virgin Hotels and inspired by their dedication to exceptional, locally sourced food,” says Gresh. “With six unique concepts under one property, this project will mark a landmark moment in Chicago’s F&B landscape, and I am very excited to be a part of the team.”
Yup. Read it again. He really did say SIX F&B concepts.
What will those be? We can only guess but it will include at least the hotel's main restaurant, probably the rooftop, possibly a bar menu, hypothetically a small cafe and maybe, room service? But that's only five concepts. Dammit, Virgin. You're killing us here. Guess we will have to wait until September when the hotel opens to find out.
In the meantime, here are 6 things we already know about Virgin Hotels.
[Photo: Virgin Hotels]
According to European folklore (and Metallica) a late night visit from The Sandman brings deep sleep and dreams. Which is a lot less creepy than the name implies — because frankly, “The Sandman” also sounds like some kind of serial killer summoned by chanting his name in the bathroom mirror. Just saying.
Luckily (or not, depending on your predilection for heavy metal and horror movies) it’s the former, shuteye-inducing Sandman paged by the new “Sleep Menu” available at the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago. The menu offers complimentary rentals of simple aids like ear plugs and extra blankets, plus a humidifier and a sound machine full of sleep-inducing background noise: Thunder, white noise, babbling brooks and whatnot. (Ask nicely, maybe they’ll upload Lady Gaga’s latest. ZING!) Drop a little extra dime, and you can get anything from a relaxing eye mask to chamomile tea, a Hot Toddy to a bottle of “Relax” brand wine.
And of course, you’ll be resting your head in the same Hard Rock where music stars like Cyndi Lauper and Boyz II Men have recently caught some Z’s. Guy Fieri too, but we weren’t going to mention that. We’re going for sweet dreams, not high-cholesterol nightmares.
The Radisson Blu Aqua in Chicago changed the city's skyline when it first opened four years ago, the first Radisson Blu on U.S. shores. Now the hotel has made some changes to its lobby, marrying an industrial-style with a modern twist.
Don't worry, they've kept the flashy gold disc wall. But now, the walls opposite this eye-catching feature black and white photography from local artist, Vivian Maier.
Maier, transplanted from the East Coast via Paris, lived on the North Shore of Chicago for 40 years prior to her death and captured the lively street scenes of the Second City in ghostly black and white. Radisson Blu's new lobby features the 11 best pieces from her portfolio, all of which are photos of Chicago's streets and avenues.
The framed images are a perfect addition to the brick walls in the lobby and offer up a little something to look at while enjoying a cocktail (or two) in the cool bar. If your visiting the city and want to see more of the acclaimed artist, head west a few blocks to Harold Washington Library where a full exhibition is on display until September.
Rates at the Radisson Blu start around $340 a night for a weekend in early June.
[Photos: Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago]
Now, this is a great sign for the upcoming Virgin Hotel Chicago, opening in September--the hotel just named their general manager.
Anna Anderson brings more than 25 years of hotel management experience to Virgin, having worked most recently at the Mosaic Hotel and the Maison 140 Hotel in Beverly Hills. She's also worked in the midwest before, at the motorcycle-themed Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee. So should Sir Richard Branson want to arrive in Chicago on his hog, she'll know what to do.
Virgin Hotels CEO, Raul Leal, had this to say about Anderson:
"Anna's innate ability to motivate her team to consistently deliver high levels of customer service made her the ideal candidate to lead the opening of our first property."
We love that she's wearing Virgin red in her photo too.
According to the Chicago Biz Journal, The Virgin Hotel Chicago will have 250 guest rooms, 40 one bedroom suites and 2 "rock star suites." Say what? This Virgin sure knows how to keep us hanging on.
[Photos: HotelChatter and Chicago Business Journal]
**The illustration has been removed at the request of Rockwell Group**
We're getting pretty impatient with Virgin Hotels. The first-ever Virgin Hotel in Chicago on Wabash Street is just months away from opening (sometime this summer, they say) yet we know very little about what's going to be inside. Heck we hardly know what's on the outside since much of the Virgin has been wrapped in red
sheets tarps and tape.
But we did stumble across this design concept from a Rockwell Group illustrator which was posted last April (Update: It's since been taken down.) While we doubt it's the actual design concept for the hotel (Virgin has put any and all design concepts on lockdown) it has us thinking....Hmmmmm.
There are a few illustrations to peek at, all for the public spaces of the hotel. None of the 250 guest rooms. But if this concept is something to go on, it's clear the Virgin will be all about socializing. We love the headphones that hang from the ceiling of one lounge and the swinging chairs in another. The restaurant and bar will have lots of communal seating along with banquet seating. There are also what appears to be personal workstations and crazy cool lighting.
Again, we highly doubt this is what the Virgin Hotel will actually look like when it opens. But if it did, we wouldn't mind.
[Photo Via Behance.net]
TheWit is the first hotel in the Midwest to partner up with SPE Certified, a restaurant certification program that was founded in 2011. Quick crash course: SPE is an acronym for the Latin phrase Sanitas Per Escam, which means “health through food.” The program pairs chefs with nutritionists to create create meals that are low in salt, saturated fats, and processed ingredients. What’s left? Lots of tasty stuff— and much of it comes from local farms.
SPE dishes can be found through room service as well as at the hotel's first-floor restaurant State and Lake. Chef Evan Percoco’s menu now has 12 SPE-certified dishes (we’ve tasted some and they’re delish.) Options include a butter-and-cream free soup made with squash from a Michigan farm and deviled eggs with duck bacon from a Wisconsin poultry farm. There's seared salmon with chive yogurt, and Amish chicken with a mustard-maple glaze. For dessert, pastry chef Toni Roberts whips up inventive treats such as avocado brownies.
Or, you can skip dessert and head to the massage table instead.
The Virgin Chicago gets photobombed by Trump Chicago
We'd be lying if we said we're not excited about any news that comes out of the Virgin Hotel camp and since our last stroll by the Chicago property, we're even more excited about seeing some hard-core construction going on.
There's already a lot of action going on in this particular Chicago 'hood with a few handfuls of hotels, a city college, and plenty of office space surrounding the Loop building. But with concrete barricades and construction workers cleaning up the Virgin building's vintage detail, this is the action we're most excited about.
We also spied Virgin-red tape securing every window as wells as a red fence and a giant red tarp at the top of the building. Alas, the scaffolding is a boring beige color.
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.
Family-Friendly Hotels / Hard Rock Hotels / Chicago Hotels / Nursing Amenities / Hotels for Breastfeeding / → All Tags
If Kim Kardashian wants to take her daughter, North West, (LOL) back to Kanye's home turf, the only hotel she should consider right now is the Hard Rock Chicago. That's because the hotel has just unveiled its brand-new Nursing Mothers Amenity Program in partnership with Medela, a well-known brand to new moms and moms-to-be alike.
Nursing moms staying at the hotel can have hospital grade Symphony breastpumps and Medela accessory starter kits available in the guest rooms which include the Quick Clean™ Micro Steam™ Bags, Quick Clean Wipes, Pump and Save™ Bags and Disposable Bra Pads. The guestrooms will also be specially prepped for mama and baby with microwaves, mini-refrigerators, ice packs for transportation and mini-cooler bags. (Just remember, never heat the breastmilk in the microwave!)
All these super helpful amenities are available for just an extra $30, with proceeds directly benefiting local families with children in Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago through The Jackson Chance Foundation.
Room rates at the Hard Rock start at around $229 a night.
[Photo: Hard Rock Chicago]
We will soon be drinking way up there.
When we first heard there would be a Virgin Hotel opening in Chicago, we speculated about it having a rooftop pool. Well, that won't be happening but what will be happening is a rooftop bar and lounge.
We found this exciting bit of info on the website for Lionstone Development, the developers behind the hotel. We also got a look at a rendering for the entrance, although you should know that renderings don't always look like the finished product. Still we're digging those Virgin logos next to the front doors, not to mention what looks like an outside dining spot. (Update: Virgin Hotels said the rendering is not accurate and it will be removed from the Lionstone website.)
But most intriguing are the plans for a Virgin Clubhouse.
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.
Among Chicago’s — and possibly the world's — most eagerly anticipated hotel openings is Richard Branson’s first ever Virgin Hotel, originally slated for Chicago. But rumors are swirling that it’s not going to happen. We cringe and die a little inside whenever we hear it, but more than anything, we're just anxious to get to the bottom of things.
In 2011, Branson first announced plans to open the hotel in a 27-story Art Deco gem, the Old Dearborn Bank building located in Chicago’s Loop. Construction was set to begin in May 2012 with a tentative opening date of fall 2013.
Well, that got pushed to a more ambiguous late 2013/early 2014 opening. And then, just yesterday, Virgin CEO Raul Leal confirmed an early 2014 opening with Hotel News Now. So what exactly is the deal with this place?