If you read my previous post, you already know i’ve spent a fair amount of time in Chicago. While that time is limited to the area surrounding Millennium Park, i’ve been there enough to have some strong opinions on where to stay as well as a couple of eating suggestions.
There are a lot of hotels in this area. I’ve stayed at the Hotel Monaco, the Hard Rock Hotel, the Fairmont and a few others that i can’t remember off the top of my head. The Fairmont, if you have access to a corporate rate, is hands down the best. The property is well maintained (read: clean, everything works), the beds are comfy and the linens are clean and crisp. The gym on-site is SPECTACULAR and the restaurant, Aria, is also rumored to be excellent and quite the spot for night life.
If you don’t have a corporate account, or prefer a boutique hotel, the Hotel Monaco is terrific. Again, the rooms are clean, the beds are extremely comfy and the linens are generally in good condition. The staff is always unbelievably helpful, like they have actually been trained in customer service. South Water Kitchen, the hotel’s restaurant is great. It’s low-key compared to Aria but you can never go wrong with this place if you need a solid location for a meeting. My only compliant is they don’t have a fitness center.
I’ve stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel on three occasions and have to say, i will never stay here again. I’m old enough to remember when HRC was synonymous with quality and fun. I get the brand is about bringing the ‘rock star persona’ to life but every time i’m here, it falls so incredibly short on just basic stuff. On this occasion, my bathroom smelled like bleach, the shower was in serious need of a sand blast, the walls had scratches and the furniture had clearly seen better days.
Generally, i’m not a complainer especially if i’m traveling at the request of a client. After three stays, i just cannot recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Chicago. IMO, i think this hotel is still in business because guests are staying as part of a conference package, getting a discount. There is just no other reason to stay here.
I did not mention the above complaints upon check in. I figured it was no big deal. However, after complaining about the state of the room for the third time to my S.O., i realized how upset i was. When i checked out, the staff was indifferent to the concerns i shared. Ultimately, this is why i can not recommend this hotel to anyone. If the best the staff can muster is, “oh”, i’ll take my business and my recommendations elsewhere.
On a more positive note, if you are in the Millennium Park area, i suggest heading to Pastoral Artisan for a salad or sandwich. The vibe at this place is great and the sandwiches are delicious.
If you get there before the lunch crowd, there are a few tables in the restaurant. Another place i always find myself at is The Gage. This is a popular destination for happy hour and can get loud. Don’t let that deter you, it’s great for dinner. I’ve taken clients, co-workers or eaten at the bar myself and never been disappointed. My most recent dinner was Mussels Vindaloo with a Pinot Nero. Delicious!