The glitz and glamour of hotel dining in the ’20s has come roaring back, as new boutique hotels around the city make food a marquee focus, with the help of well-established Chicago restaurateurs and chefs. Here are three to keep on your radar.
When the 159-room Ace Hotel landed in Fulton Market, the Chicago-based developers knew that finding the right local chef to helm their restaurant would be key to integrating themselves into a community. They tapped Team Giant — Chefs Jason Vincent and Ben Lustbader, and beverage director Josh Perlman — as food and beverage partners for room service, the restaurant and banquet; Vincent in turn brought on Pat Sheerin (Trenchermen) to run day-to-day food operations for the hotel.
The modern, bright and open City Mouse, named for Vincent’s young daughter’s favorite book, serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night grub. (Plus, room service comes directly off the hot line.)
Although it’s different from running the independent restaurants they’re used to, both Sheerin and Vincent are committed to using local products whenever possible. During the day, expect brunch-focused dishes (yes, seven days a week) like the Gas Station Sandwich with egg, American cheese, sausage, grape jelly and a hash brown on a house-made English muffin from pastry chef Angela Diaz ($11). Dinner is more reminiscent of the food you’ll find at the team’s acclaimed Logan Square restaurant Giant, like house-made spaghetti with Calabrian chilis, bacon, feta and breadcrumbs ($16), and the Country Mouse, a cheddar, caramel and caviar shooter ($5).
Opening: Early September
1118 N. State; Viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/chicago
The opening of Nico Osteria in 2013 — One Off Hospitality’s Italian seafood concept in the Thompson Hotel — marked the first change in a long-stagnant section of the Gold Coast; Lettuce Entertain You will reclaim the Pump Room space when the Ambassador Hotel opens later this year and continue the evolution. When Boka Restaurant Group makes its first foray into the Gold Coast this fall as part of the Viceroy, they will perhaps make one of the biggest impacts, turning the historic Cedar Hotel space into AvroKO-designed (Momotaro, Duck Duck Goat) Somerset. The decor is grandiose, with soaring ceilings adorned with an oversized gold light fixture and a yacht-inspired scheme of blues, gold, cream and wood.
The kitchen, helmed by lauded Boka chef Lee Wolen, will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and maintain the same standards you’d expect at the flagship Boka — utilizing local farms and highlighting seasonal ingredients, but on a more approachable level. “A creative place doesn’t always mean fancier and more wild,” Wolen says. “It can mean rustic and less pretentious.” This philosophy is showcased in dishes like
the colorful crudité, a shared dinner plate with raw and pickled vegetables, green goddess and spicy almond dip and seeded crackers. It also shines through in his lunch menu, featuring a variety of soup and sandwich combinations including a slow-cooked lamb pita with feta, cucumber, harissa and pickled onions with lentil soup.
The team will make everything in-house, down to brining and roasting their own Slagel Farms turkey breast for a turkey sandwich and baking the breads, rolls and breakfast pastries. The only exception: deliciously doughy bagels outsourced to Mindy Segal of HotChocolate. Upstairs at Devereaux, the small pool bar on the top floor of the hotel, Wolen will pick and choose elements of the Somerset menu that pair well with poolside drinks created by Lee Zaremba, who will oversee the beverage program at both spots.
Opening: Spring 2018
3630 N. Clark; Hotelzachary.com
When Hotel Zachary opens in 2018, it will bring a true taste of Chicago to Wrigleyville, rivaled only by its next-door neighbors, the iconic Chicago Cubs. The Ricketts family and Hickory Street Capital handpicked some of Chicago’s finest concepts and restaurateurs to post up in and around the hotel, including Big Star, Smoke Daddy, West Town Bakery and more to be announced.
Matthias Merges’ (Billy Sunday) Folkart Restaurant Management will open an original concept inside the hotel — name TBD — featuring craft cocktails and old-school hospitality. “We wanted to do a throwback,” Merges says. “When you think of hotels around the world, they’re really known for superior hospitality and craft. We want to model that historic nature, a tip of the hat to old-school craftsmanship and service.” The two-story-plus-patio space will stock interesting, vintage back-bar spirits and liquors — some dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. Expect tableside activations and special elements incorporated at the bar. “We want to bring something really special to this area,” says Merges, who also recently opened Lucky Dorr, a beer and draft cocktail spot across the street at The Park at Wrigley. His team has been studying historic hotel food and beverage programs and plans to use them as inspiration for the menu, which he describes as “a more modern, lighter and cleaner approach.”