A while ago I introduced the idea of making your city, wherever you happened to be, a place where you could explore, the same as if you were on a vacation or trip. Personally I like to call them adventures and adventures that involve food are my kind of adventures.
Just recently I went out to dinner by myself. I was at XOCO in Wicker Park. It was good. I sat on the patio with a book and enjoyed a meal before running an errand and going back home. Not something I do all the time, but something that, when I have the funds, I enjoy doing.
Eating out is one treat that you do allow yourself when you travel. When I travel I have eaten out at fancy spots, as well as gone to the convenience store for the microwave meal and a box of cookies (try cooking a microwave pasta dish with instructions only in Swedish).
Luckily I live in Chicago, and it happens to be one of the best cities to eat out in. Yes I may be biased, but there are too many great places to count. This time, I’m writing about the underrated but very delicious hotel restaurant.
Normally when you go out to eat and you are at home you don’t choose a hotel. And when you travel, choosing the hotel as a place to eat feels like a cop-out. “I want to go where the locals go” you say. “A real, authentic spot, tucked away…with no tourists.” So the hotel doesn’t always win out.
Here are five places that not only have excellent food, but they give off a “tucked away” vibe as well as a “bustling local hot-spot” vibe. And depending on your mood each is equally valuable.
- Pump Room Chicago
- Current Restaurant at W Hotel Lakeshore Drive
- IPO Restaurant at W City Center
- NoMi Garden at Park Hyatt
- Westin River North
Let’s start in the order I discovered these wonderful restaurants. The Pump Room is a favorite among my friends, and is among one of the notable restaurants in the city. It’s made a name as one of the best spots in the city to eat dinner and enjoy cocktails. Any night of the week is a good night to visit Pump Room, you’ll never feel like it’s too early or too late (some restaurants don’t have the right vibe early in the week—others aren’t quite right for a Friday either—not so with Pump Room) and you’ll always get a spectacular meal. I was privileged enough to try some of Chef Ross’s creations at a menu presentation and each bite was more spectacular than the last.
Both W Hotel locations came out of nowhere for me. I’d never been to either hotel up to that point and didn’t know what to expect when I went to eat their new menus but I was pleasantly surprised—or more accurately pleasantly floored by what I tasted. The W Hotel City Center presented a menu inspired by tastes of South America—I still remember the vanilla ice cream and chocolate dessert garnished with tiny woodland mushrooms to this day. It made a refreshing change from the endless iterations of pork belly and bacon and was a menu honed enough to do more than generally claim that it was ‘farm to table’.
The W Hotel Lakeshore location boasts a beautiful restaurant, quiet and perfectly tucked away for when you want that kind of thing. The food is spectacular from the perfectly cooked scallops to the slices of fresh bread that came with a divine concoction of warm house made honey butter. Everything was presented in a way that wasn’t trying too hard and managed to be just enough to make sitting at a hotel looking out over the water on a cool, Chicago spring evening the perfect way to end a Tuesday.
If the W Hotel Lakeshore is where you go to escape, then NoMi Garden and Kitchen is where you go to see and be seen. In the summer especially, the beautiful rooftop is always busy—in Chicago it must be—we make the most of our short, sweet summers before hunkering down for winter. Sushi Heaven. That’s what NoMi Garden is. An oasis of seafood made to perfection.
The Westin Hotel in River North hosted the Windy City Bloggers for a happy hour and their outdoor space is a garden oasis in the middle of the city. It’s also inspired by a Japanese garden and is an amazing terrace space for an event or wedding. The Westin (and I am loathe to give away this secret!!) has a house made limited addition whiskey, as well as the most scrumptious sangria you will ever taste. Stop by the bar on the way home, or better yet an evening get together. This hotel is the perfect ‘rest stop’ for just that—a relaxing experience by the Chicago River in a peaceful space.