On November 27, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:Chuan Spa at The Langham, Chicago is designed like its sister spas all over the world, which all pay homage to traditional Chinese medicine. The Asian décor flourishes with delicate lines, gorgeously painted screens, careful attention to light and dark contrast, and stones and waterfalls playing prominently in several areas of the spa. The locker rooms are clean, bright white with a few pops of color from single orchids on the vanities. The reception area, lounge, treatment rooms and post-treatment sensory pods room are all softly enhanced with delicate scents and customary Chinese music permeating the air. The spa’s calming combination of dark woods, clean lines and minimal aesthetics flows across the entire floor, down to the indoor pool with which the spa shares locker room facilities.
On November 27, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:The best way to reserve a table at Travelle is to book it on OpenTable. If you’re a guest at The Langham, Chicago, where Travelle is located, you can snag a prime table through the hotel’s concierge desk. It is located in the check-in area on the hotel’s first floor (one floor up from the false lobby at ground level). Otherwise, opt to book reservations on the Chicago restaurant’s website, www.travellechicago.com. Anyone is welcome to call the restaurant directly to inquire about availability, both in advance and for same-day dining. Reservations are strongly recommended for dinner, and without them, walk-ins on Friday or Saturday nights might result in a wait.
On November 27, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:Travelle is a comfortable but stylish restaurant, with diners stopping in for everything from power luncheons to solo suppers at the bar. Therefore, there is a range of fashion walking through the door at any given time, including women wearing chic separates or dresses, and men sporting shirts and blazers with slacks, or dark jeans and collared shirts. But even with that said, any time other than an early breakfast before the gym, sneakers and sportswear would definitely raise an eyebrow — especially on more formal Friday or Saturday nights. Breakfast and lunch are mostly casual affairs greatly populated with hotel guests, but also locals, and we’ve even seen the occasional celebrity — George Wendt and Alan Alda were spotted during opening day’s luncheon service — dining in a corner booth.
On November 27, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:Travelle is located inside The Langham, Chicago, at 330 N. Wabash Ave. in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago, overlooking the Chicago River. Travelle is on the hotel’s second floor, accessible via the east entrance of the building facing N. Wabash Ave., where valet parking is available. Public transportation is also convenient, as several bus lines and “El” stations are within a half-mile’s reach. The 330 N. Wabash Avenue building (formerly known as the IBM Building) is an iconic tower designed by Mies van der Rohe, and sits within stunning reach of the Chicago River, which means that the view from Travelle’s lounge, overlooking the river, is second to none.
On September 23, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:Filini Bar and Restaurant is located inside Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel at 221 North Columbus Drive in the Lakeshore East neighborhood of downtown Chicago, just blocks from the Chicago River. Filini and its bar have a bi-level design with stylish sight lines of the hotel’s main lobby, which is accessible by the Columbus Drive entryway marked by its bold blue vestibule. Once inside the lobby, Filini’s hostess stand and main dining room are located up one flight of stairs, and its bar is on the ground floor. Valet parking is offered via the luxury hotel’s driveway, or you can arrive via public transportation, as several bus lines have stops within walking distance just in front of the building. There aren’t many close El stations, though, so plan to walk a half-mile if arriving via train. Otherwise, cab it to the Italian restaurant.
On September 23, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:Because Filini Bar and Restaurant is located in both a hotel (Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel) and a residential building (Aqua), it attracts a vivid, eclectic mix of Chicago foodies, neighborhood residents and visitors from around the country and world. They all come out to nosh on artisan pizzas like one topped with prosciutto, tomato, arugula and buffalo mozzarella, or more formal offerings, such as slow-braised beef short ribs with Barolo sauce.
The music, even at lunchtime, has a loungey vibe, which gets turned up on weekend evenings, when reservations are highly recommended. But any other meal is decidedly laid-back, thanks to a generous open-plan dining room whose crowd ebbs and flows as the hours go by.
On September 23, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:If you’re a guest at Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, where Filini Bar and Restaurant is located, your best bet for reserving a prime table is with the hotel’s concierge, which is situated in the check-in area. Anyone is welcome to call the Italian restaurant directly to at 312-477-0234 to inquire about availability, both in advance and for same-day dining. Reservations are strongly recommended for dinner, and without them, walk-ins on Friday or Saturday nights might have to deal with a wait. Those who have Web access can opt to book reservations on the Chicago restaurant’s website, www.filinichicago.com, which in turn is linked with the popular booking site OpenTable.
On September 9, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:The best time to visit Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel depends on what draws you to town. Rates tend to be less expensive in January during the height of Chicago’s frigid winter, but even in peak seasons like summer and fall, availability is generally open. Of its total 334 rooms, Radisson Blu aims to fill about half with group sales, leaving the remainder for business travelers and tourists. Potential guests should take note of certain times when availability becomes scarce — such as the weekend of the Chicago Marathon, which historically takes place the in early October — but even then, there is usually plenty of availability when booked far in advance.
On September 9, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel is located in the Lakeshore East neighborhood, just a hop, skip and a jump away from Millennium Park and its famed Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion, visible from the hotel’s south-facing rooms. Occupying the first dozen and a half stories in Jeanne Gang’s famous Aqua tower, which was completed in 2011, the hotel sits on the west side of an elegantly landscaped park for neighboring residences, allowing for generous sight lines toward Lake Michigan, to the east.
Lakeshore East is tucked into the southeast corner of downtown, within walkable distance to the lake and shopping on Michigan Avenue as well as sites like Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building. But the Chicago hotel’s neighborhood is slightly off the beaten tourist’s path.
On July 29, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:Because there are so many amazing restaurants and activities in every neighborhood in the city, the answer to this question begs another: What’s your style?
Classic: Dinner and a Show in the West Loop
I’d recommend nabbing reservations at one of the dozen or so outstanding restaurants on Randolph Street’s Restaurant Row, and then walking to City Winery to catch a concert with cabaret-style seating. I recently enjoyed a West Loop date-night just like this, starting at Executive Chef Paul Kahan’s Avec (go early; this is one of the few that doesn't take reservations and fills up by 6 p.m. nightly) followed by a concert that was underway by 8 p.m. down the street.
Trendy: Al Fresco Dining in Wicker Park
Booking a night out in trendy Wicker Park is a wonderful excuse to explore a neighborhood that comes to live after sunset. Many cafes and restaurants along Milwaukee Avenue offer sidewalk seating for dinner (I like Taxim, specializing in modern Greek fare), and just as things begin to get a little rowdy, it’s time to steal away to darkly lit cocktail den The Violet Hour, where expertly mixed drinks await.
Romantic: Picnic in Millennium Park
If the weather allows it, I love nothing more than a gourmet picnic date under the stars at Millennium Park, whose Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts live music of all stripes through the summer months. If you’re hankering for a nightcap once the concert ends, Henri on Michigan Avenue is a beautiful little French-inspired fine dining restaurant with a perfect little bar. Alternatively, at the north end of the park lies Maison, an often overlooked little bistro with a lovely selection of wines and digestifs.
On July 29, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:Thanks to a growing number of Japanese restaurants that span both fine-dining and casual experiences, quality sake is increasingly available in Chicago. One of the best places to sample a bottle or two is alongside Japanese-inspired street fare is at Yusho, the critically lauded restaurant starring Matthias Merges, a former Charlie Trotter’s chef. Yusho is a full-service restaurant with a casual vibe, and numerous bottles of sake are offered alongside innovative cocktails.
Though I’ve never been, Murasake has been on my to-visit list so long, it’s embarrassing. Located in Streeterville, this is Chicago’s premiere sake (and karaoke!) lounge and also offers a wide variety of otsumami—traditional Japanese small-plates often served at bars.
Arguably the best Japanese restaurant in Chicago is Takashi (named for James Beard–awarded chef Takashi Yagihashi), which is home to a small bar with one of the best sake selections in town. Takashi is a fine dining experience with both tasting menus and traditional kaiseki (multi-course) dinners, but a handful of seats at the bar await those who’d rather slip in for a few rounds of sake.
On July 29, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:My current favorite is Drumbar atop the Raffaello Hotel, just east of Michigan Avenue downtown. It’s smaller than most rooftop bars, but that’s why I like it—it feels exclusive. Top-notch cocktails are on offer as well as bottle service, if that’s your thing.
Newly opened in summer 2013 is The dec at the the Star-Rated Ritz-Carleton, a Four Seasons Hotel, which borrows bittes from the property’s deca Restaurant and Bar. Decorated with bold neon lighting and shiny sculptures, The dec is a much talked about hotspot for summer nights.
The north end of Lincoln Park offers one of the prettiest views from the J. Parker, the roomy rooftop bar perched on top of Hotel Lincoln. Sharing some menu items with critically heralded Perennial Virant, on the hotel’s ground floor, the J. Parker specializes in market-fresh cocktails.
On July 29, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:Lincoln Park is a fun, laid-back neighborhood whose watering holes are fairly traditional, which is why beer-and-a-shot bars and Irish pubs are so popular in these parts. But for a bit more sophistication, head to The Barrelhouse Flat, far and away my favorite Lincoln Park bar. Launched by Stephen Cole, a founding bartender at Wicker Park’s impeccable Violet Hour, Barrelhouse Flat is a two-story space that stacks an elevated cocktail lounge on top of a laid-back piano saloon. Come hungry—the bar snacks are great here, too.
Just up the street from Barrelhouse Flat is Delilah’s, a 20-year-old brown-spirits instutiion with which whiskey aficionados may already be familiar. If it’s whiskey—American, Irish, Canadian, Scottish—chances are, it lives somewhere on these shelves.
Though it’s not a stand-alone bar, one of my favorite places to grab a pint in this neighborhood is Duke of Perth, a cozy little Scottish pub located toward the north end of Lincoln Park near Lakeview. This little fireplace-lit taproom boasts the largest collection of single-malt whiskies in town, as well as a wealth of imported beers.
On July 29, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:My Gold Coast go-to is Bernard’s, tucked on the second floor of the gorgeous Star-Awar winning Waldorf Astoria Chicago. With just a few dozen seats covered in luxe leather, and an atmosphere dominated by soft lighting and jazz, Bernard’s looks and feels like the private gentleman’s club to which I've always wanted to belong.
Literally off the beaten path on Rush Street (it’s down a level and underground), The Drawing Room is a pleasantly sophisticated cocktail lounge that’s often overlooked simply because of its out-of-the-way location. With a rotating cocktail menu and food worth staying for, this small bar and comfortable lounge never disappoint.
Opened the day after the repeal of Prohibition in December 1933, Coq d’Or at the Drake Hotel is simply a classic hotel bar that hasn’t changed much over the past 80 years. I’ve never had luck ordering much more than a simple martini here (these old-school bartenders aren’t concerned with 21st century drink trends), but the ambiance and aura are the real reason to stop in during the violet hour.
On July 29, 2013Lauren Viera answered the question:River North is notoriously littered with nightclubs—one reason most locals flee before nightfall unless they’re dressed to the nines and prepared to party. But in recent years, the neighborhood’s bar scene has made progress toward catching up to its club scene. Attached to the well-heeled Hotel Palomar is Sable Kitchen & Bar, which boasts one of the better cocktail menus in town, courtesy head bartender and former chef Mike Ryan. And unlike most quiet hotel bars, Sable is known for high-volume, and was recently recognized as one of the best high-volume bars in the country by Tales of the Cocktail’s prestigious Spirited Awards.
A few blocks from Sable is the brand new Three Dots and a Dash, a tiki-themed joint in the basement of honkey-tonk restaurant Bub City. With decorated mixologist Paul McGee at its helm, Three Dots is a welcome breath of tropical air to a neighborhood known primarily for beer-and-a-shot bars.
I’m a big fan of the cocktails at all of the venues run by local restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff, including Gilt Bar, on the neighborhood’s western edge near the Merchandise Mart. All low lighting and chandeliers, Gilt is an aptly named cocktail haven tucked into an otherwise brassy restaurant row.
If you’re celebrating or simply in the mood for Champagne (and really, is there ever a wrong time to drink bubbly?), Pops for Champagne is a must-visit. Though most of its newer patrons may not be aware, River North's sparkling wine bar has been around for three decades, and still offers fresh, educated service with no pretense. Peruse the more than 200 bubbles on the menu, or simply ask for a recommendation.