Thompson Chicago, housed in a contemporary high-rise in the heart of the Gold Coast luxury dining and shopping scene, was overhauled in 2013 by British designer Tara Bernerd. It offers a winning combination of modern-retro style, a home-away-from-home ambience, attentive service, and value for money. (The building previously was home to the Sutton Place Hotel.) With Thompson Hotels’ arrival, the lobby, dominated by a huge shelved library cube filled with books, curios, and retro bull's-eye mirrors, now strikingly harmonizes industrial exposed brick and dark-wood beams with elements paying homage to Chicago architect Frank Lloyd Wright (think geometric tiles and a cantilevered staircase). Some guestrooms have astounding city and Lake Michigan views, and all are snazzily furnished with asymmetrical velvet couches, enormous showers, framed contemporary art by the likes of Wes Lang. It's a style that impresses without being intimidating.
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Just out the hotel’s front door, steakhouses, bars, and bistros surround Mariano Park; locals recommend Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse (1028 N. Rush St) over the more touristy Morton’s. High-fashion emporiums—Hermès, Prada, Ted Baker, the Chicago branch of Barney’s, Oak Street boutiques, and the Michigan Avenue shopping district—lie within a two-block radius. To the north, the leafy rectangle between Division, North State Parkway, Lake Shore Drive and Lincoln Park is clustered with 19th-century mansions that gave the neighborhood its Gold Coast moniker. Check out the International Museum of Surgical Science (1524 N. Lake Shore Dr.) in the Petit Trianon–styled former residence of a Chicago match manufacturer.
Need to Know
Rooms: 247 rooms; from $150. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options:Nico Osteria, the hotel’s Michelin-starred, perennially booked Italian seafood restaurant created by chef Paul Kahan of Chicago’s Blackbird and Publican, also handles guest room service. Breakfast options go beyond simple scrambled eggs or pancakes with maple syrup: How about some Roman tripe or an olive poached tuna breakfast sandwich? Creative seafood pastas include a saffron corsetti with squid, corn, fresh cayenne pepper, and mint. The Salone Nico lounge off the lobby serves Nico Osteria’s cuisine at booths perfect for a quiet tête-à-tête. Both outlets have comfortable, discreet bar seating for solo diners. Spa and gym details: Although modest in size, the hotel gym is equipped with carbon-fiber FreeMotion exercise bikes, window-facing treadmills, a range of weight balls, and a kickboxing and punching bag. There’s no pool, but guests can use the 25-meter one at the neighborhood Fitness Formula Club (1030 N. Clark St.). Lacking a spa, the hotel arranges in-room massage or sends guests to the Exhale Spa (945 N. State St.) one block away.
Who’s it for: Style- and food-conscious couples and business travelers looking to base themselves in a lively, upscale, residential neighborhood. Our favorite rooms: Of the four bi-level penthouse suites, the two “sky-view” suites have outdoor terraces and killer views. Local highlights: For a lifestyle reality check (or an alternative to $20 continental breakfasts), slip directly across the street to the retro Original Pancake House (22 E. Bellevue Place), a mini chain out of Portland, Oregon. For discounted high-end skin care and makeup supplies, locals skip Sephora and head around the corner to the cash-only Bravco’s Hair and Skin Care (43 E. Oak St.).