60611 Travel Guide
UPDATE Nov. 5, 2013: The hotel is now opening next Summer, not Spring as initially planned/hoped by everyone eager to sleep with this Virgin.
A while back we were stoked to find out that the Virgin Chicago, due to open next
spring summer, would have not just a rooftop bar but also a Virgin Clubhouse. Granted, we weren't exactly sure what would be in the Clubhouse, but if it was anything similar to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses found at airports around the world, we knew it had to be something cool.
But now the clubhouse may not even happen.
The hotel's developer, Lionstone, has pulled the information referencing the Clubhouse from their website. Boo. But fortunately, the rooftop bar and lounge remains. (They also pulled this rendering of the hotel's entrance which a Virgin rep told us was not accurate at all.)
One of our operatives skipped by the hotel the other month but the Virge was pretty well-covered up. Such a modest Virgin! But still, we hope it won't be much longer before we get some real news out of this joint.
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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.
There's no doubt that Chicago has become quite the hotbed for new hotel action in the past few years. From trendy boutique hotels with a definite artsy edge to names that are synonymous with luxury. Fortunately, we got to lay our very own eyes on a new property that fits into the latter category; the Langham Chicago.
Langham opened in July in a 'soft opening' that elicited lots of "oohs" and "ahhs", including our own when we got a glimpse of what's inside the former IBM building along the Chicago River. To the untrained eye, many people wouldn't take note of the building itself, but design junkies will know the building to be the last of famed architect, Mies van der Rohe. It should also be known that the inside pays as much homage to the designer and his building and we couldn't be more wowed.
Full of little details from hanging Czech glass globes in the lobby, designed by London-based Richmond Group, hand-picked art pieces and the subtle tech-y nod to the building's former glory in Travelle, the upscale restaurant on the lobby level; it would be hard to check-in to this hotel and be underwhelmed. Each of the 316 rooms are so well thought out featuring high-end furniture, plush fabrics and sleek marble, in even the basic of rooms.
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Back in December, the old Sutton Place Hotel in Chicago shut down in order to get Thompsonized by Thompson Hotels. We admit, we were a little worried about when that hotel would open back up. But today our fears have been laid to rest. The Thompson Chicago will show off its seriously foine rooms on October 1.
We found rooms then starting at $263 a night for a 21-day advance purchase rate. Or you spring for a more flexible rate of $329. There's also an AAA rate of $312.55 which should save you some dollars. That rate takes care of a 320-sq.ft. king superior room with a city view, REN spa amenities, 24-hour room service, a fully stocked minibar with Dean & Deluca snacks and what appears to be a velour banquette in your room. Different but totally cool. We're also loving that bed too. And that artwork has us intrigued.
We've been chronicling the story of The Langham Chicago since it was first announced in early 2011. But now that the big opening day is just a little over two weeks away, we thought it best to chat up general manager Bob Schofield about The Best Room to Book.
Fortunately, all 316 rooms at the Langham are good rooms to book. That's because the hotel's Grand rooms start at 516-sq.ft. and feature king or double beds, 55-inch flat-screen TVs (the largest in the city, Schofield said), master lighting controls, both a shower and a tub and a "reveal wall", a glass partition that separates the bathroom from the bedroom but goes opaque at the touch of a button. The rooms also include complimentary amenities such as internet, Nespresso machines, and free overnight pressing for up to three clothing items.
Still, Schofield told us best rooms to book are the Langham Grand River View Rooms, specifically the ones that end in 02 (502, 602, etc.) As you can guess, these rooms have views of the Chicago River but also the lake as well, thanks to their position in the southwest corner of the hotel.
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Nobody does a holiday better than a hotel but the Peninsula Chicago has really gone out of its way for Easter again this year.
The luxury hotel on North Michigan Ave has decorated a MINI Cooper with bunny ears, a pink nose and whiskers and a poofy tail. The bunny mobile will ride around Chi-town with Peter Cottontail and the Peninsula mascot Peter Bear passing out candy and toy Peninsula bears (dressed up in their Easter finest) to kids throughout the city. So parents, if a car pulls up with a bunny and a bear looking to give your kid some candy, it's actually ok to let them.
Back inside the hotel, the Lobby restaurant and The Children's Lounge will feature children's activities and of course, an Easter egg hunt. Looking for a last minute room at the hotel this weekend? Rates start at $350 a night.
Well, apparently a few positive changes have been made since then, as the hotel's doorman made headlines this weekend after helping to rescue a baby.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a couple who lives across the street from the hotel panicked on Saturday night when their baby's lips turned blue and started having breathing problems.
But the situation took a turn for the better when Talbott doorman Dwayne Neff spotted them across the street frantically trying to hail a cab. Neff immediately came to their aid, flagging down a nearby squad car (an ambulance would have taken too long), which then sped the couple and their struggling infant to Lurie Children's Hospital. Long story short, the baby turned out fine.
Meanwhile, Neff the doorman, described by the Tribune as a "spiritual man," who "believes the baby's rescue was a 'divine intervention' because everyone was seemingly at the right place at the right time," is now emerging as one of the story's heroes, for his quick thinking and pragmatism. In many respects, he might have been the difference between the baby's life or death.
He told the Tribune simply:
"I could sense the panic."
All in a day's work, we suppose.
Inside the cozy, casual Balsan at Waldorf Astoria Chicago
Ever since chef Danny Grant left Ria at Waldorf Astoria Chicago last July (mere months after being named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2012, we've wondered about the future of the restaurant, which also closed in sync with Grant's departure for "reconcepting." Six months later, and the former Ria remains in an odd sort of limbo.
One would think the deserted dining space would weigh heavily on the shoulders of a hotel just named last year as the #1 Large City Hotel in the U.S by Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards. But as far as we can tell, no one seems to be in a hurry to do anything with Ria. An insider tells us it's currently being used for private events and meetings, and may remain that way indefinitely.
Another idea we caught wind of several months ago was transforming Ria into a partially-enclosed rooftop space, a great move given the Rush Street/Gold Coast views below. But no official word has been released yet from Waldorf Astoria.
Well, the epic day happened last week and we finally got a full tour of the 1,400-square foot luxury designer suite.
We couldn't be more excited to lift the veil and show you everything now. When it first opened, the high-fashion suite high on the 17th floor of the Park Hyatt hailed with news of Bottega Veneta details and decor galore, but first-hand experience and true insider accounts were scarce. Not anymore.
Ready for a look? Go on and click through our photo gallery.
In January, Allium's All-You-Can-Eat specials include a whole day devoted to their delicious fried chicken!
We’ve been covering sweets, champagne and all the places to live it up before the start of the New Year and those promising
dreaded resolutions. But starting January 1, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago is giving us every reason to keep the gluttony fest going, if only for a little while longer, with All-You-Can-Eat weekday specials.
Why not heed their advice? Since the February 2012 opening of the Chicago hotel’s new regional American dining concept, Allium – a rich, totally gourmet display of Americana and locally-sourced fare from chef Kevin Hickey – we can’t stop thinking about their 100% homemade hot dog, deviled eggs, cheese curd whipped potatoes, etc. It's enough to make us send our New Year's resolution's straight to hell.
And now with one look at Allium’s weekday specials, each of which includes three courses, life suddenly seems too short (and that tire around your waist not nearly so bad). You decide:
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Also designed by Tara Bernerd, The Belgraves, London (pictured here), offers clues about the style to expect at the new Thompson Chicago
Back in February when we first shared details that Thompson was taking over the lackluster Chicago hotel, we were a bit stoked. One look at the Thompson Hotels collection and a peek last summer at the LollaShop pop-up rooms, things were looking way up for a hotel that needed a pick me up in a big bad way.
An insider shared that the reno will be massive--right down to the studs--with new rooms available by August 2013 and a new restaurant by December. We were also told that expecting something fashionable, modern and edgy like 60 Thompson NYC would not be far off the mark. Normally we’d call bullsh*t right there, but we know a few things about the new Thompson Chicago that might make this a real possibility:
Chicago woke up to some sad news this morning, with the Tribune reporting that, during the night, 23-year-old Nicholas Wieme fell down and got trapped in the smoke chute of the InterContinental Chicago. Apparently, after he'd fallen, Wieme was still able to text his girlfriend and ask for help, but by the time firefighters got him out of the chute, it was already too late.
A WGN reporter explained:
"The 23 year old man's girlfriend told fire officlals he went up to the rooftop to take pictures at around 1am. That area is not open to the public, and it's not clear how he gained access, or wound up trapped in the shoot about 22 feet down."
It sounds like the rescue team did literally everything they could--the Tribune reports that 125 firefighters and paramedics showed up at the scene, though once the situation had been properly evaluated, it was clear that removing Wieme was not going to be an easy task.