The suite life
We check out the city's latest lodging options. The verdict: Time for a staycation.
(11 E Walton St, 312-646-1300)
Tucked behind a charming courtyard, the 60-story Elysian sits quietly out of sight in the heart of the Gold Coast. But upon entering the lobby, expect to be wowed—from the white marble to the blown-glass and metal chandelier hung from the sky-high ceiling to the massive Grecian-style busts. Hotel employees wear many hats, so the valet guy will likely check you in and tote your baggage (note that tipping is not allowed). A simple palette of black, white, slate gray and chocolate brown (and a few pops of pink) lends a sleek, modern air, but warm touches such as velvet sofas, silk pillows and easy switch-on fireplaces make every room feel just like home (well, in fantasyland).
Dining Compared to the Elysian’s fine-dining (but no jacket required), dinner-only Ria (average main course is $38) , Balsan offers a comparatively casual breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night dining. (Average main course is $20)
Bar scene Take a seat at Balsan’s stunning bar, or get ready to plunk down $14 for a Champagne cocktail at the classic Bernard’s Bar.
Fitness/spa Even if you’re just there to work out in one of the Pilates/Gyrotonics or cardio and weight rooms, you’ll feel pampered freshening up in the sleek white locker room outfitted with a sauna, eucalyptus-scented steam room and whirlpool. Spa-wise, take your pick of a mani, pedi or blow-out in the salon, makeup application in the main room or one of a number of treatments such as a signature massage or a facial.
Room service Not only will you eat well en suite—think burrata cheese and heirloom tomato–preserve omelettes for breakfast, charcuterie for lunch and wood-fired beet salad for a 5am snack—you’ll drink exceedingly well, too. The wine, beer and bubbly list is longer than the one you’ll find at your average bar.
Best for A splurge-worthy occasion (ie: If you’re thinking of proposing, we recommend doing it here).
Room rates Start at $465
(111 W Huron St, 312-447-3440)
This eco-conscious boutique hotel is one of the first in the city to be LEED-certified, but the original 1920s facade fits right in with a contemporary, neutral palette and ecofriendly elements such as bamboo flooring and organic bath products from H2O+. And comfort isn’t compromised. The king-size bed and plush, yet firm pillows in our room provided us with one of the best nights of sleep we’ve had in years. Free in-room Wi-Fi means you’ll have to visit the second-floor business center only if you need to print documents.
Dining The decor at adjoining Elate stays in line with the hotel’s Earth-friendly themes (think tree branches and bamboo). Make sure to order chef Randal Jacobs’s crispy-pork-and-dried-cherry flatbread pizza (average main entree is around $13).
Bar scene The chic lobby boasts a small bar and you can also belly up to Elate’s bar.
Fitness/spa The fitness room is small, boasting only a couple of treadmills and ellipticals (although each are equipped with TVs) and free weights. The in-house Asha spa features three treatment rooms and services such as a signature massage ($50–$165), an age-defying firming facial ($120) and body polishes ($115–$175).
Room service Typical in-room dining fare (such as breakfast selections), as well as items from Elate’s menu come from the restuarant’s kitchen.
Best for A truly ecofriendly weekend in River North Room rates Start at $119
(505 N State St, 312-755-9703)
Ascetic types will find one particularly memorable aspect of a night at the Kimpton hotel chain’s freshly minted Palomar: the Fuji bathtub large enough to easily accommodate two chummy bathers (available in every room except the Deluxe rooms). If it weren’t for the neutral palette—mostly tan, cream and caramel—the deep rouge floral carpeting and zebra- and leopard-print robes might appear outlandish, but the place keeps the flourishes to a minimum. As for the art, the hotel pays tribute to the city’s history, with images from the Chicago World’s Fair. The lobby area greets guests with complimentary coffee from 6–9am, and every evening starts with an hour of free-flowing wine. Internet, unfortunately, costs $10 for 24 hours.
Dining The first-floor dining room Sable Kitchen & Bar features gastropub fare along the lines of mascarpone-stuffed brioche French toast for breakfast, an artisan cheese board for lunch and root-beer-glazed bison short-rib sliders for dinner (average main course is $15).
Fitness/spa A short row of cardio machines, a cluster of weights and an indoor lap pool do the job. Spa treatments such as a chamomile mani and pedi and hot-stone massage are available in-room only.
Bar scene Cozy up to the cute coed at the communal tables or sidle up to the bar solo with your book and order from Sable’s extensive drink menu.
Room service During Sable hours (11am–11pm), enjoy the restaurant’s options; otherwise, find similar dishes such as seared scallops and bacon-wrapped dates on the in-room dining menu around the clock.
Best for Shopaholics on a magnificent getaway—Nordstrom and Michigan Avenue is just a block away
Room rates Start at $169
Palmer House Hilton
(17 E Monroe St, 312-726-7500)
Dating to 1871, this hotel is the opposite of new. But thanks to its recently completed, years-in-the-making $170 million renovation, the classy Palmer House isn’t showing its age. Luckily, the renovation didn’t include many major alterations to the timeless and sophisticated gold-hued lobby. The rooms are upgraded with flat-screen TVs, very comfy beds and new, deep bathtubs. Back in the day, the Palmer House was known for its entertaining supper club, the Empire Room, and photos of famous past performers (including Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Peggy Lee and Sonny and Cher) grace the hallways.
Dining Lockwood, located just off the lobby, offers fine upscale dining (average main course is $36), including chef Phillip Foss’s latest obsession: the Asian carp.
Fitness/spa The fitness center has been upgraded to a full-service gym, which now costs guests $10 per day. Spa Chakra includes extras such as complimentary 15-minute footbaths, built-in gratuities, and makeup refreshers in the full-service hair salon.
Bar scene It’s easy to get a drink here. Even if you’re just hanging out on one of the comfy seats in the lounge, someone will come and take your drink order. Otherwise, pull up a seat at the lobby bar or in Potter’s for upscale bar bites in a dark, Mad Men–like bar environment.
Room service The menu includes items from Lockwood.
Best for Kickin’ it old school—in high style
Room rates Start at $129
(201 N State St, 312-467-0200)
When this hotel opened last June, we admit that we were most concerned with the cool new bar options it offered (State & Lake on the lobby level, theROOF on the 27th floor). But now that we’ve been inside and experienced the entire hotel, we can tell you there’s more to theWit than great food and drinks. Doubletree-branded, this venue feels anything but chain-like. (Although guests do get the chain’s signature warm chocolate-chip cookie at check-in.) In the hallways, nature sounds are piped through (think chirping birds and crickets come dusk). The rooms are minimalist-chic and decorated with wood accents and in soothing colors, and the bedsheets are crisp and luxe.
Dining The casual breakfast, lunch and dinner spot on the lobby level, State & Lake, has a great beer list and smart, elevated pub fare (the truffle mac & cheese is addictive). A fancier Italian option is one floor up: Cibo Matto was voted best new hotel restaurant by discerning TOC readers.
Fitness/spa A gym with shiny new treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes overlooks State Street. There’s a yoga studio for sit-ups and such, but no weightlifting equipment beyond a small stash of dumbbells. The small spa offers every treatment under the sun.
Bar scene There’s a reason a perpetual line weaves around the block: theROOF bar on the top level—with its fire pits and well-heeled patrons—is hip, offers a full cocktail menu and has fantastic city views. Hotel guests never have to wait in line—booyah!
Room service Standard fare is available during breakfast, lunch and dinner. And should you prefer watching your DVD on a movie-theater-sized screen instead of in-room, you can nestle into a comfy captain’s chair at theScreen (by reservation), theWit’s screening room, and order food from either hotel restaurant.
Best for Hip foodies looking for a weekend of good eats and fancy drinks
Room rates Start at $159